Published: October 12, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Potomack Company
ALEXANDRIA, VA. – Over the course of four days, Potomack Company offered more than 1,350 in six sales including the Jeffrey Milkins Wedgwood Collection and approximately 60 dessert molds assembled by White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier. That was in addition to the usual various assortment that spanned all collecting categories from jewelry and fine art to furniture and Asian works of art. The sales were conducted on just one online platform, without phone bidding. At press time, the sale had raked in more than $1 million, a figure that would likely rise with additional post-auction sales.
“Six auctions in four days were a record for us,” Potomack Company owner and chief executive officer Elizabeth Haynie Wainstein said by phone after the sale. “It was exciting and fun, and we saw young buyers across the board. There’s also still quite a lot of interest. We were pleased with all the results, which were strong throughout.”
Jeffrey Milkins Wedgwood Collection
Arguably, one of the most important groupings to cross Potomack’s block was the Milkins Wedgwood collection, made up of 321 lots assembled by both Milkins and his parents, who first started collecting Wedgwood when they got married. Wainstein said that the Milkins strove to collect the best examples from the Eighteenth through Twentieth Century; some pieces were rare, others were less so.
Melissa Bennie, Potomack’s consultant in porcelain who cataloged the Milkins collection, said, “Potomack is very pleased to see this broad collection of rare Wedgwood enthusiastically received by the market. Included among the highlights were pieces featured in the Mint Museum’s recent exhibition of black basalt, ‘Classic Black,’ iconic examples of Wedgwood late Eighteenth Century blue and white Jasperware and rich samples of Fairyland Lustre designed with fantasy figures by Daisy Maekig Jones.”
Three lots of Fairyland lustre were in the Wedgwood sale; a rectangular plaque titled “The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of,” which had been designed around 1930 by Maekig Jones, brought the top price of the three as well as of the entire collection. It caught the attention of bidders around the world, but a Virginia collector had their dream come true, acquiring it for $28,575.
A 1922 Wedgwood black basalt vase and cover, standing 29 inches tall and described as “monumental,” was modeled by Bert Bentley (1878-1937) and is one of just two extant examples; the other one is in the Wedgwood Museum in Barlaston, England. A bidder paid $24,130 to keep it in the United States.
The intricately entwined serpent handles of a 15½-inch-tall light blue stippled solid jasperware vase were among its desirable characteristics; it was also in really good condition. The Eighteenth Century model had been designed by Lady Elizabeth Templeton and related to a white earthenware example at London’s V&A Museum. It more than quadrupled its low estimate, closing at $17,780.
Roland Mesnier’s Dessert Mold Collection
For 26 years, Roland Mesnier served as a pastry chef at the White House. Hired by Rosalynn Carter, he created desserts for more than 40 heads of state during the administrations of Carter, Reagan, Clinton and George Bush, both senior and junior.
“The unknown factor (on the molds) was the provenance; we did not know how those would do,” Wainstein said. “Most of the molds were bought by buyers in the United States, showing interest and a strength in the market for American patriotic works; even the small ones did really well. The collection brought in a lot of new bidders, including young buyers.”
A late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century pewter bald-eagle two-part ice-cream mold that Mesnier had used to create a centerpiece for George H.W. Bush’s birthday brought the top price of the group – $2,413 from an existing Potomack client living “in the Deep South.”
A lot of six Twentieth Century peach-form pewter sorbet molds used during the White House dinner that President and Mrs Reagan held for Princess Diana and Prince Charles in 1985 brought a good price. The catalog entry noted that peaches were Diana’s favorite fruit; estimated at $400/800, the lot brought the juicy price of $1,651. Another mold made for the same dinner achieving a sweet price of $1,397; a two-sided wooden sugar molds created Prince of Wales feathers from white-colored sugar, which were then used to top the sorbet peaches.
Fine Art, Old & Modern
More than 175 lots of Twentieth and Twentieth Century artworks and furniture were offered on September 29; a mixed media work by living South African/American artist, Peter Sacks (b 1950) led the session. Potomack has been selling works by the artist for a few years and are just about the only auction house to do so. “Ancestor I – Kafka Before The Law,” from 2006 brought $47,625, securing as well the top price of the entire lineup of sales. Though it sold within estimate, Potomack’s director of fine arts, Anne Norton Craner, said she was “very happy with the result.”
Another strong result – nearly a record for the image – was “Morning Haze,” by Louise Nevelson (American, 1899-1988). It brought $13,970 from a buyer in the United States. The same price was realized by “Brite Tulips” from Jim Dine’s “Flowers of Manhattan” series and that price did set a record for the image.
Potomack fielded inquiries from clients in Spain and Italy for a Seventeenth Century oil on canvas portrait of St Jerome ascribed to the Circle of Ribera. Craner noted that despite the international interest, a buyer in the United States prevailed at $25,400, which Craner said was “a good price for a good Circle of Ribera” painting.
A portrait of the three children of Philadelphia-Reading railroad president George Baer, painted by Frederick Spang (American, 1834-1891) had hung in the Reading, Penn., home of the son of one of the daughters. A buyer from Pennsylvania pushed it to $5,715.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.
The Potomack Company’s next sale will take place November 16-18.
For information, 703-684-4550 or www.potomackcompany.com.
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