Published: May 6, 2003
PHILADELPHIA, PENN. – Results from Freeman’s Saturday, April 12, Americana sale demonstrated once again the maxim that dominates the auction industry today — “Fresh sells.”
Furniture from private homes, portraits from institutions, and samplers from longtime collectors all exceeded estimates in a sale that benefited well from exposure to the many private collectors and dealers in Philadelphia for the Philadelphia Antique Show at the Armory.
The 290-lot sale was better than 80 percent sold and brought a final total of just under $550,000 against a low estimate of $465,000. Four hundred and eighty-seven bidders were registered for the sale, more than 25 percent of them on the Internet.
The top lot of the day was a Massachusetts Chippendale bonnet-top chest-on-chest, made circa 1775. Coming to Freeman’s from the suburban Philadelphia home, the chest sold to the trade for $51,700, well over the high estimate of $30,000.
This same consignor benefited from the sale of a late Eighteenth Century needlework sampler also from Massachusetts. Consisting of an alphabet, pious verse, flowers and birds in trees above a house flanked by couples, “Nancy Bent’s work wrought in the seventh year of her age” sold for $17,625 against an estimate of $6/8,000.
The most-anticipated lot of the day, however, with more than a dozen phone bidders lined up and numerous other competitors in the room and online, was the portrait of Henry Clay that was featured on the cover of the catalog.
Two versions of the portrait were painted by the early Nineteenth Century artist John Neagle. The first, commissioned by a group of prominent Philadelphia Whigs as a campaign piece for Clay’s unsuccessful 1844 run at the presidency, now hangs in the Union League of Philadelphia; the second now hangs in the United States Capitol.
Given to the Free Library of Philadelphia in 1928 by the Philadelphia lawyer, philanthropist and collector John Frederick Lewis, this slightly smaller (70 by 52 inches) version of the painting is believed to be a copy made by one of Neagle’s contemporaries. The first of the five portraits consigned to the sale by the Free Library of Philadelphia Foun-dation was the subject of very heated bidding in the room and on the phones, ultimately selling to a private collector for $35,250 ($8/12,000).
All five portraits from the Free Library performed solidly, led by a portrait of Andrew Jackson attributed to Emanuel Leutze ($6,462 against a $2,5/3,500 estimate) and a Nineteenth Century American School portrait of Abraham Lincoln ($5,875 against a $4/6,000 estimate).
The day’s surprises began with lot one, as the miniature portrait of a young woman signed and dated by the granddaughter of Charles Wil-lson Peale, “Mary Jane Simes 1834,” soared to ten times its high estimate at $11,750.
Other notable results from the day included: a pair of brass candlesticks by William Lee of Birmingham, England, circa 1770, $4,994; a pair of classical mahogany marble-top pier tables; Mid-Atlantic States, second quarter of the Nineteenth Century, $23,500; a Queen Anne walnut arm chair attributed to William Savery (1721-1787), Philadelphia circa 1750, $19,975; and a federal carved mahogany extension table, Philadelphia, early Nineteenth Century constructed with an unusual wooden accordion extension mechanism, $12,925.
Original finish played an extremely important role in the stellar performance of two pieces in particular. The first, a classical mahogany and mahogany veneer card table (New York, circa 1815) sold for $10,575 against a $½,000 estimate. The second piece was a late Eighteenth Century Chippendale tall-case clock which, despite a mechanism believed by most to be English and despite having no feet, sold for $7,050 ($1/1,500) on the strength of its great Philadelphia case with old surface.
All prices include a buyer’s premium of 17.5 percent on the first $50,000 and ten percent thereafter.
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