Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Schwenke Auctioneers
WOODBURY, CONN. – Lucy Jarvis (1917-2020), a groundbreaking producer in television and theater who was especially known for her documentary works, visited China and Russia during the mid-Twentieth Century, receiving many treasures as gifts on her trips from dignitaries and others, and many of those gifts that she brought home with her were being sold in the autumn sale presented by Schwenke Auctioneers on September 20.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, when television’s top producing ranks included few if any other women, Jarvis helped bring about some remarkable programming, including gaining access to the Kremlin for a 1963 television special. In 1957 Jarvis co-founded and created the long-running radio and television series Meet the Press. She started a program for the WOR-Mutual Broadcasting System that year called “Capitol Close-Up,” which profiled powerful figures. Their first interviews were with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Vice President Richard M. Nixon and the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.
A total of 125 lots of the more than 600 lots of estate and collector items that were offered in the Schwenke sale were from the Jarvis estate. And while the Jarvis material was not the value leader for the sale, it was an amazing collection of interesting things, according to Thomas Schwenke, the firm’s owner. “Everybody could tell it was fresh to the market,” he told Antiques and The Arts Weekly after the sale. Originally scheduled to be offered in the firm’s May event, the collection was removed from New York City on the very same day Mayor Bill DeBlasio shut down the city, added Schwenke.
Prior to the sale Schwenke had noted, “We originally scheduled our 11th anniversary auction for Sunday, May 17, but the coronavirus pandemic and resulting mandatory business shutdown in Connecticut on March 20 forced us to cancel and postpone that event.” Almost six months later, Schwenke was bringing to market a diverse offering of fresh estate material. Conducted on two online platforms – LiveAuctioneers and Invaluable – the sale attracted 11,000 registered bidders and a lot of absentee bidding, Schwenke said. “We had a substantial increase over our usual number of bidders and those watching the sale,” he added.
The sale’s top lot, a large Chinese blue/white garden planter decorated with landscape scenes and applied lion mask handles, trounced its $400/500 estimate to leave the gallery at $19,520. The planter stood 17 inches high and had a 24-inch diameter. It sold to a buyer in China.
The sale presented more than 200 lots of fine art in many forms: sculpture, bronzes, engravings, lithographs, other works on paper and oils on canvas, board and Masonite. A Ludwig Bemelmans (American/French, 1898-1962) “Fox Hunt Scene,” a watercolor on paper likely created for Welcome Home, the 1960 Harper & Brothers book after a poem by Beverly Bogert and illustrated by Bemelmans, was bid to $14,640, triple its high estimate, and went to a private collector. It was signed lower right, measured (frame size) 28½ by 22 inches and was from a private Connecticut collection.
Sculpture of note included a bronze bust sculpture of a young African American male attributed to Augusta Christine Savage (American, 1900-1962), with Roman Bronze Works foundry mark to the reverse of the base, 12½ inches high. This lot also outperformed an estimate of $2/3,000, finishing at $9,760 and also going to a private collector.
A Modernist school oil on Masonite scene of a “Harmonica Player” took $4,445 against a $300/500 estimate. It was from the Lucy Jarvis estate, was signed upper left and measured 31 by 22½ inches.
More than doubling its high estimate of $1,500, an original Disney animation cel for Snow White earned $3,965.
Also with Lucy Jarvis provenance and fetching five times the high estimate of $600 at $3,050 was a pair of Chinese square polychrome porcelain vases with scenes of figures at various pursuits, standing 22¼ inches high.
Bidders liked a George III brass bound mahogany wine cooler in two parts, pushing it to nearly seven times its high estimate at $2,684. Partiers beware: the early Eighteenth Century cooler holds just a single bottle. From a Fairfield County collector, it measured 7¾ inches, 12 inches wide and 8 inches deep.
More than 50 lots of sterling silver were on offer, including an Art Deco Gorham octagonal sterling tray, in Fairfield pattern, monogrammed, made by Durgin (part of Gorham) in Concord, N.H., circa 1925, with both Gorham and Durgin marks. Measuring 25¾ inches long and with a weight of 100 troy ounces, it changed hands at $2,440. Another sterling lot of note was a vintage Gorham partial sterling flatware service for 12 in the Chantilly pattern. The total of 113 pieces were housed in a wooden case and total weighable silver approximately 30 troy ounces. The lot sold for $2,684.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. Schwenke’s next auction is scheduled to be conducted around Thanksgiving. For more information, 203-266-0323 or www.woodburyauction.com.