Published: June 2, 2020
WOLCOTTVILLE, IND. – As usual, folk art surprises led the first day of Strawser Auction Group’s May 20-23 sale, overseen by a curious watercolor silhouette portrait of a young gentleman, circa 1830, that sold for $6,500, ten times its high estimate. Housed in its original paint-decorated basswood frame, 5½ by 4½ inches, the lot held a surprise bonus for its buyer, with an extra lady silhouette found folded behind the gentleman.
There was not a lot of additional information available about the watercolor portrait. Michael Strawser told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that it had come from an estate in Pennsylvania and later Washington, DC. “We got a lot of nice material from that estate,” he said.
At the time of the sale, Strawser added, Indiana restricted gatherings to a maximum of 100 people, but to be safe his firm decided to host the sale online only, with additional phone and absentee bidding. The four-day event attracted nearly 6,000 registered bidders, and overall it posted a total that was 30 percent higher than the previous year.
The first day’s lots were also led by a labeled L&JG Stickley Arts and Crafts double-door bookcase with 16 panes, standing 55 inches high, that fetched $3,800 and a North American Indian pipe tomahawk with leather beaded sash that struck $1,650.
Homespun values were espoused by a classic white porcelain butter platter display from a general store, 16¼ inches, advertising “Pure Butter” and attracting a $1,400 winning bid. And just ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, a US 13-star flag, circa 1876, machine sewn with minor wear, was hoisted to a final price of $1,400. The 48-by-30-inch patriotic survivor housed in an oak frame was from the family of Booth Tarkington (1869-1946), an Indiana American novelist, and was signed Tarkington on hoist side with two brass grommets.
American brilliant period cut glass is a staple at Strawser, and the firm’s second day showcased a collection of more than 200 pieces of the category as well as carnival glass, 200 pieces of Fenton, lighting and more. Topping the day was a pair of four-light candelabras, 16 inches high, which garnered $5,900, followed by a Tiffany & Co American brilliant period pitcher that took $3,500.
A carnival glass highlight was an iridescent Elks bowl, 7½ inches, marked “Detroit 1910.” It went out at $1,900, a twofold premium over its high estimate.
And a face-off between two teal blue “fighting cocks,” standing on the cover of a Greentown covered dish, 5¼ inches wide, found favor with a bidder willing to pay $1,525.
Two lots vied for top selling status in Strawer’s third day, which dispersed more than 500 lots, including oyster plates, Staffordshire figures, Rose Medallion, art pottery and more. Each commanding $5,300 were a whimsical George Ohr pottery two-handled bisque vase, signed in script “G.E. Ohr,” 4½ inches high, on which the “Mad Potter of Biloxi” had affixed two asymmetrical handles, and a Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) Madoura “Face” pitcher, 1969, standing 12 inches high.
A monumental Minton majolica four-tier revolving oyster server, 11 inches high, swung to $3,825, while a series of six Royal Vienna beehive plates with winsome female portraits found favor at $2,950. Also highlighting the day’s action was a Weller rare garden crow with spike that commanded $2,000.
Strawser saved the best for last – best, that is, if one is a majolica collector. Crossing the block on day four, the firm’s spring majolica auction, were more than 550 lots of the category, including many pieces by George Jones, Minton, Holdcroft, Wedgwood, Etruscan and more.
The sale produced notable results, including the day’s top lot, a rare George Jones majolica pineapple tea set with 17-inch tray, tea kettle, cream, sugar and four cups/saucers. All told, the rare grouping set its buyer, a private collector, back $12,100. “We’ve sold individual pieces of this set before, but this was the first time we’ve been able to offer a complete set,” said Strawser. “It was what I’d call a fair price.”
Born in 1823, Jones began as a potter’s apprentice in the Minton factory in the 1830s. He opened his first pottery in 1862, initially producing utilitarian cream ware and toilet items. After a fire in early 1866 devastated his pottery, he rebounded by setting up his own majolica work, and in just four years later developed a reputation for producing high-quality majolica.
Majolica pedestals do not come in more exuberant form than a recently discovered example – its 35-inch-high column festooned with three large, stylized dolphins, cattails and foliage between each dolphin. Standing on six feet with lily pads and flowers molded above, all in high relief and displaying outstanding color and detail, the circa 1875 piece attributed to T.C. Brown Westhead Moore, went out at $9,350.
The same price was attained for a Minton majolica heron walking stick stand, 39½ inches high.
Fetching $4,100 and cataloged as a “great set” was a Wedgwood majolica seafood service with 25-inch serving tray and 12 9-inch matching plates, turquoise basket ground with shells and coral.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
The firm’s four-day sale comes around again in the fall, probably October, according to Strawser. The next sale on the calendar is a two-day Fiesta auction set for June 19-20.
For additional information, www.strawserauctions.com or 260-854-2859.
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