Published: August 10, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Helmuth Stone Gallery
SARASOTA, FLA. – With life slowly starting to return to normal after more than a year in pandemic lockdown, auction houses are carefully watching to see if the trend of increased buying activity continues. Judging from Helmuth Stone Gallery’s August 1 Fine Art, Important Asian Antiques & Illustration auction, co-owner Austin Helmuth saw no sign of business returning to the pre-pandemic normal.
“It was a very good sale, and we were very pleased. We had bidders signed up from 62 different countries, so the sale had a great reach, globally. We’re also getting a lot of offers on some of the unsold things.”
Helmuth noted that the total came in between $425,000 and $450,000, with the sale attracting more registered bidders than they had ever had. He attributed some of the interest to what he deemed less competition from other auction houses, some of which have traditionally operated on a scaled-back summer schedule.
A collection of maritime and nautical paintings from Orlando, Fla., proved to be a gold mine for the auction house, providing three of the top-ten selling lots, including the sale’s leading piece, a luminist work by Edward Moran (American, 1829-1901) that depicted a tall sailboat leaving New York harbor against a rising sun. Helmuth said the entire collection spurred competition on the phones and online, with the Moran bringing $32,000 from a private collector in Nashville.
Several of the works from the Orlando collection had been acquired from the Vallejo Gallery in Newport Beach, Calif., which undoubtedly enticed bidders. One of these was the Moran, as well as “Honfleur Harbor” by Edward Brian Seago (British, 1910-1974), which sold to a buyer in the United Kingdom for $18,150. It seems the Orlando collector had an eye for luminist works, evidenced in the atmospheric blue-gray sky and staccato-like brush strokes of the Seago. Irving Ramsey Wiles’ “The Whaleship Wanderer, New Bedford” not only had Vallejo Gallery provenance but it had been exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1988. A buyer from New England took it to $9,680.
The second highest price of the sale went for Dulio “Dube” Barnabe’s (Italian, 1914-1961) portrait of a harlequin, which sold well past its estimate and closed at $27,830, to a buyer in New Jersey. Barnabe studied with Giorgio Morandi in Bologna, Italy, and he was also influenced by Pablo Picasso; the work demonstrated the influence of both artists. The price realized is now the third highest auction result achieved by the artist. Helmuth said it came from a Daytona Beach, Fla., collection.
With “Asian Antiques” in the title of the sale, it is not too surprising that the section saw good results, particularly some of the higher valued pieces. A pair of aubergine and green porcelain bowls with dragon motifs roared into third place, bringing $21,175 from a phone bidder from China. A Chinese Song dynasty longquan celadon covered jar topped off at $2,299, the same price realized by a pair of Eighteenth Century porcelain Chinese vases with gilt-bronze candelabra mounts. Capping the most noteworthy results on Asian works of art was a lot of two pairs of Chinese porcelain scroll ends that made $1,936.
For early documentation, it would be difficult to beat a portrait of Mrs Daniel Webster, Grace Fletcher, which was painted by Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755-1828) around 1816. Fletcher had been Webster’s first wife and died in 1828; in 1829, Webster gave the painting to his deceased wife’s sister prior to his second marriage. It descended in the family to Webster and Fletcher’s son, Daniel Fletcher Webster before it came into the collection of Frank Bulkeley Smith; Smith’s collection was sold in 1920 by American Art Association. Helmuth Stone had the original hard-cover 1920 auction catalog, which accompanied the lot. It sold to a buyer in New York for $19,965, a price Austin Helmuth felt was one of the better prices recently realized for works by Stuart.
Only two of five works from a private Boca Raton, Fla., collection sold but what did sell achieved significant prices, namely a painting of figures in a landscape by Narcisse-Virgilio Diaz de la Pena (French, 1807-1876) that nearly doubled its estimate and closed at $18,150, while a landscape attributed to Arthur Ernest Streeton (Australian/English, 1867-1943) made $15,125.
Results for four works from the Orlando estate collection of Dr John Schaeffer did quite well, with three of the lots soaring past presale expectations. Leading the group was a Fifteenth Century Old Master portrait of a woman that sold to a private collector in New York – and underbid by a museum – for $7,563. A Massachusetts buyer snapped up an antique carved and hand-painted wooden Egyptian bust for $2,420.
Jewelry and vertu lots in the sale saw particular strength in a 14K gold mesh coin purse with diamond and ruby clasp that bidders swung to $7,865; an 18K gold, onyx and diamond bangle bracelet by European Jewellery at $6,050, the same price paid for an 18K gold woven pattern cigar case by Boucheron.
Decorative smalls were led by a pair of palatial 41-inch majolica vases with floral and vine motif decoration that sold to a buyer in Tennessee for $12,705. Proving Helmuth’s point about the global reach of the sale, a pair of Baccarat-style urns or vases with twin-handled gilt-bronze swans sold for $2,904 to a new buyer from Qatar. Helmuth said they had seen an ad for the sale and bought a few more lots as well.
Helmuth Stone Gallery’s next sale will take place on Sunday, September 26.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For additional information, www.helmuthstone.com or 941-260-9703.
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