Published: July 14, 2020
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy of New Haven Gallery
NEW HAVEN, CONN. – Fred Giampietro’s New Haven Auctions ended its two-day sale of antiques from the estate of anthropologists and food historians Michael and Sophie Coe, baseball, sports and historical items on June 28 with an oil on canvas painting by John Martin (1789-1854) titled “The Destruction of the Cities of the Plains” leaving the gallery at $550,000. Signed lower center and dated 1823, the work was purchased in 1965 from Leggatt Brothers – Fine Art Dealers in London, according to catalog notes. Its frame size was 43½ by 66 inches.
Martin was an English Romantic painter, engraver and illustrator known for vast and melodramatic paintings of religious subjects and fantastic compositions, populated with minute figures placed in imposing landscapes.
Michael Douglas Coe (1929-2019) was an American archaeologist, anthropologist, epigrapher and author. He is known for his research on pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, particularly the Maya, and was among the foremost experts in the Mayan culture of the late Twentieth Century. His wife Sophie (1933-1994), with Ukrainian parents, was known for translating from Russian selected chapters from The Writing of the Maya Indians (1967) by Yuri Knorosov, who is credited with originally breaking the Maya code. Sophie Coe’s translation played a major role in legitimizing his previously derided theories. Her further contribution to the field were her studies of native New World cooking, and she became well known for her expertise on chocolate, culminating in her book The True History of Chocolate (1996). She built an extensive collection of books on culinary history, some 1,000 volumes from around the world dating from the Eighteenth Century onwards.
After her death, Michael Coe and others set up the Sophie Coe Prize, a charitable trust based in the United Kingdom, with a prize awarded annually at the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery to an outstanding and original essay or book chapter in food history. The Sophie Coe Prize remains the most esteemed prize for thorough and readable food history scholarship.
The Coe estate was clearly the main event in the two-day sale, but leading up to that on June 27, the gallery presented baseball, sports and historical memorabilia. Topping Saturday’s action was a hall of famer tintype of Cap Anson with his team the Marshalltown Stars, which went out at $15,000. The circa 1868 image shows what are presumably Cap’s father and two brothers, who were Marshalltown Stars (Iowa) team members as well. This exact tintype is documented in Ken Burns’ Smithsonian 1st Inning video series. With no case, the Nineteenth Century tintype measured 3-5/8 by 2-3/8 inches.
An unpresuming cigar box was deemed by the auction house to be “one of the finest examples extant.” Fetching $13,750 was The Bat 5 Cent Cigar box. Chicago, Ill., circa 1880, depicting a baseball pitcher and batter. Of a rare larger size, it measured 3-3/8 by 10-7/8 inches
A two-volume diary started in 1848 through the late Nineteenth Century contained more than 170 Nineteenth Century cartes de visite unmounted images, many by Mathew Brady. Images included Abraham Lincoln, Martin Van Buren, John Quincy Adams, General Grant and William Seward. PT Barnum images included circus freak images, bearded lady, famous Barnum dancers and more. It finished at $9,063.
Two rare women’s suffrage ribbons left the gallery at $5,250. A Votes for Women silk ribbon, 1½ by 4¼ inches, and Woman’s Suffrage silk ribbon, 2-1/8 by 14¾ inches, came from the collection of Laura Mitler and had provenance to patriotic Americana dealer Jeff Bridgman.
On June 28, in addition to the Martin apocalyptic painting, there was a combined $18,313 realized for nine lots of Frederick Catherwood hand colored lithos from the Coe estate. Catherwood (1799-1854) created “Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America Chipas and Yucatan,” of which “Gateway of the Great Teocallis,” a hand colored tinted lithograph was included.
Also from the Coes, Pu Ru’s (1896-1963) “Red Zhong Kui” was bid to $35,000. The ink on paper work was inscribed, signed and dated Duanwu guisi year (1953) with one seal of the artist. In scroll form, it was mounted and framed, 34-7/8 by 16 inches.
Additional highlights of the day included two Chinese snuff bottles for $9,688 and a large sculptural hollow carved swan confidence decoy commanding $4,375.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For more information, 203-777-7760 or www.giampietrogallery.com.
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