Published: January 15, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
WINDSOR, CONN. – What started 37 years ago as a fluke sale on New Year’s Day with a single-owner collection in Colchester, Conn., has become Nadeau Auction Galleries’ premier annual sale. In 2018, the New Year’s Day sale set a benchmark for the firm when it sold its first $1 million work and a sale total of $3.3 million. While the sale on January 1 did not exceed the totals realized a year ago, the annual New Year’s Day sale at Nadeau’s Auction Gallery did not disappoint, achieving a combined total of $2.3 million, with more than 98 percent of the 719 lots selling. Three full days of preview, not to mention some time before the sale started for a final chance to look, brought in a capacity crowd, which spilled out of the designated seats, and bidders were sitting on furniture lots throughout the gallery. The sale took more than ten hours to sell and finished around 9 pm, to a crowd that had thinned considerably.
Speaking before the sale, Edwin “Eddie” J. Nadeau III said that this sale had exceeded even the interest generated in the sale the year before. According to Nadeau, the firm had received 40 percent more phone bids from the 2018 New Year’s Day sale, with similar increases in absentee bids. Nadeau reports that every sale brings new buyers but that this sale showed a particularly large increase, with 307 of 681 registered bidders being first-time bidders with Nadeau, a figure that does not include the thousands of bidders who registered to bid online through various websites.
The top price in the sale was $60,325, brought by Francis Barraud’s “His Master’s Voice, Nipper,” which made nearly ten times its high estimate. For anyone who thinks the best lots sell early, this lot disproved that as it came more than 650 lots into the sale. According to Nadeau, the painting had been one of several that had been made by Barraud, which eventually became the trademark for Edison Phonograph. It had been estimated at $3/5,000 and generated such interest that it had received online bids to $27,000 by the time the sale started. Speaking after the sale, principal auctioneer, Edwin “Ed” Nadeau Jr, said there was competition from both phone lines and internet bidders, but when the phone lines dropped out around $35,000, it was carried to the final price by online bidders.
The second highest price in the sale went to the cover lot of the sale’s catalog. “Merry Ride (horse-drawn wagon with peasants)” by Alfred Von Wierusz-Kowalski (1849-1915) achieved $57,150 against an estimate of $30/60,000. It, and four additional works, two others by Wierusz-Kowalski, came from the Manchester, Conn., estate of Stanislaw and Anita Milewski. Commenting afterwards, Ed Nadeau said there would be additional works from the Manchester estate in upcoming sales, including more works by Wierusz-Kowalski.
On September 22, 2018, Nadeau’s conducted an onsite sale in the Harold Brown Villa in Newport, R.I., where the firm dispersed the estate of Brown’s granddaughter, Eileen Slocum. Unsure of how the onsite sale would perform, many of the better things from the estate were withheld for sale in Nadeau’s Connecticut galleries on October 27 and this sale. Selling works outside of a dedicated single-owner sale, when buyer interest in a collection is consolidated, can be a risky gamble, but in this case, the gamble paid off, with nearly 60 lots crossing the block and all but one lot failing to sell and 46 lots selling at or exceeding their high estimates. Highlights from the Slocum estate included the third lot in the sale, a ten-piece 18K gold dresser set by Tiffany & Co., from the estate of Eileen Slocum in the Harold Brown Villa. Estimated at $20/30,000, the lot received considerable interest and finally closed to an internet bidder for $41,910. Ed Nadeau said after the sale that he had an offer pending on the pair of Louis XIV gilt console tables that failed to sell during the sale.
The six lots of gold objets de vertu from the Slocum estate that kicked off the sale were followed by approximately 150 lots of jewelry and watches. Nadeau’s obtains G.I.A. reports for the pricier diamonds they offer to reassure buyers of the quality of the pieces they sell. A 2.70-carat diamond engagement ring that had an estimate of $25/40,000 had a sufficient estimate that Nadeau opened bidding – and sold the ring – for $44,400, the third highest selling price in the sale. One of the last jewelry lots in the section was a 2.65-carat emerald cut diamond that sold for slightly more than its estimate, finishing at $22,800. Other top jewelry lots were a 2.46-carat platinum and diamond ring that brought $27,940 from an online bidder, a Cartier platinum and sapphire bracelet that went to a buyer in the room for $13,800 and a 14K gold necklace that also sold in the room for just more than the high estimate $25,200. The sale included a larger than usual selection of pocket and wristwatches, a total of 42 lots, the highest selling of which was a Paul Dupin bloodstone gold and diamond pocket watch that made $12,000 against an estimate of $1/2,000.
The largest estate in the sale was that of jeweler, Kenneth Jay Lane, New York City which provided approximately 60 lots. Lane’s collection was diverse but particularly strong in Orientalist works of art, and the sale featured 35 lots of Middle Eastern manuscript pages, drawings and original paintings. Ed Nadeau said they had priced most lots less than $1,000 and received inquiries on these lots from around the world, including England, Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. He anticipated they would exceed expectations…and they did. The highest selling work of the Orientalist works group was Carl Haag’s “Portrait of an Orientalist Child,” which Lane had acquired for $25,000 from Bonhams, Dubai in 2010; Nadeau’s estimated it at $8/12,000 and sold it for $16,800. Ed Nadeau said there was more of that kind of material that would be offered in upcoming sales.
The sale included six lots from the estate of Peggy and David Rockefeller, whose estate Nadeau’s had offered in June 2018. As the lots crossed the block, Ed Nadeau made a point of noting the Rockefeller provenance of the lots. While the name recognition added value to two of the lots, three of the lots sold within or below estimates and one lot – a Christofle silverplate page turner – failed to sell. A particularly nice set of four 1730-40 famille rose Cornucopia 9-inch plates only brought $5,490 despite an estimate of $8/12,000.
The Yale University Art Galleries consigned lots for sale at Nadeau’s, all to benefit future acquisitions. The consignment of 30 lots was comprised primarily of English silver, though there were also three maguey fiber Bon Art tapestries after Alexander Calder. Each was estimated at $3/5,000, with the first to cross the block bringing the strongest price of $13,200; subsequent ones went for $6,600 and $7,800, respectively. A tankard by Paul de Lamerie, which was not only the highest estimated silver lot in the sale at $40/60,000, but it was also the only lot consigned by Yale not to find a buyer during the sale. After the sale, Ed Nadeau confirmed that he had sold it in a post-auction sale for $24,000. The biggest surprise and also the highest achieving price among Yale’s silver was a pair of circa 1713 candle sconces by Anthony Nelm (1681-1722) that generated considerable interest and sold for $36,600 against an estimate of $5/8,000. Works by Nelm are apparently rare and this rarity helped drive the final sale price.
Antiques and The Arts Weekly reached out to Patricia Kane, Yale University Art Gallery’s Friends of American Arts Curator of American Decorative Arts for some insights behind the decision to sell these works. Kane confirmed that none of the works being sold were duplicates to anything in the collection. She further explained that the silver, most of which came from a single early gift to the university, was never displayed and, as it was English, did not align with the rest of Yale’s collection of early American silver.
The Calder tapestries had been on display in campus offices and other spaces but with no plans to exhibit them, the decision was made to include them in the deaccession, which would free up storage space and benefit future acquisitions at the same time. When asked if Yale had deaccessioned at Nadeau’s before, Kane indicated that they had and further added that the University felt very comfortable working with a local auction house that had a good internet presence and international reach.
This was the first sale to include nearly 30 lots from the Lake George, N.Y., estate of Stephen M. Serlin. The estate provided the majority of American furniture in the sale, primarily pieces made in the late Nineteenth Century. The top selling lot from the Serlin estate was a Renaissance Revival center table attributed to Herter Brothers that finished at $12,600, three times its estimate of $4/8,000. Other highlights from the Serlin estate was a Gorham seven-piece sterling silver tea and coffee service, which sold for $5,795 ($2,5/3,500). The remainder of the estate will be sold in at least a few subsequent sales, with approximately 150 lots of Victorian furniture, wicker, decorative arts and rugs, among other things, being offered in Nadeau’s next sale.
Bidders responded well to the European fine art in the sale. A sentimental work of a mother and child in an orange grove by Virginie Demont-Breton was bought by a bidder in the room for $25,620 ($10/20,000). Three phone bidders competed against interest in the room and online for Cornelia Toe Boecop’s “Portrait of a Gentleman.” In the end, a phone bidder prevailed at $16,800, more than five times the lot’s estimate ($3/5,000). One of the sleepers in the sale was a small half-length portrait of a gentleman with a flower and skull. With an indistinct signature, Nadeau’s estimated the work at $400/800 but at least two bidders recognized something in the work and it closed – after heated bidding – at $13,200 to a phone bidder.
A collection in Noank, Conn., was the source for two drawn portraits done by two of the Nineteenth Century’s most prominent portraitists. The first to cross the block, done by John Singer Sargent, was a charcoal on paper portrait of Ethel Sanford. Estimated at $20/40,000, it sold for $42,700. The other portrait, executed in pencil and chalk by Giovanni Boldini, came up a little short, selling for $3,900 against an estimate of $4/7,000.
Traditional furniture, whether period or reproduction, still brings modest prices, and Nadeau’s estimates things conservatively in recognition of this continuing trend. An Eighteenth Century George II burlwood chest sold for $793, more than doubling its estimate of $300/500. A period Louis XV bombe commode from a Park Avenue estate sold to an online buyer for $4,128 ($2/4,000), but a period Louis XV fruitwood commode priced at $1,5/2,500 closed at only $1,143.
One of the higher prices paid for Continental furniture was $8,255 that an online buyer paid for a Dutch walnut tall clock with dial marked Otto Van Ahevry Amsteldam ($3/5,000). A pair of American Renaissance Revival gilt-metal mounted rosewood tables attributed to Pottier & Stymus nearly tripled its estimate ($2/4,000) when it went to an online bidder for $5,715.
Three pieces of boulle furniture from the Kenneth Jay Lane estate generated considerable interest. Did the quality of the pieces warrant the strong results or did the name value and low estimates generate additional interest? Regardless of the reason, the results were impressive, with a writing table selling for $27,450 ($500-$1,000), a desk for $27,000 ($3/5,000) and a cabinet that closed at $13,420 ($2/5,000).
Three lots of E.J. Victor dining room furniture came out of the same house in Rhode Island. The dining table with eight chairs sold for $9,150, the breakfront finished at $2,745 and the sideboard closed at $1,220. The set may be reunited as it was bought by the same retail buyer bidding in the room.
Silver lots seemed to carry realistic estimates, with the majority of lots selling close to the estimates, though there were some exceptions. Five consecutive lots of English or Continental chalices all outperformed expectations by several fold, with four of the five lots going to online buyers.
Modern and contemporary fine and decorative art lots were proportionally fewer throughout the sale, and interest was varied. A Philip and Kelvin LaVerne “Chan Li” cabinet with an estimate of $20/40,000 opened at $22,000 and after competition from the room and the phones sold to a buyer in the room for $37,200. A few lots later, a pair of stoneware bird-form cachepots by Francois Xavier Lalanne (1927-2008) more than tripled their estimate ($1/3,000) when they went to an online bidder for $10,000.
Robert Rauschenberg’s screenprint, “Enough is Enough One Way” made $2,413 ($1/2,000), while Milton Avery’s “Young Artist” finished at $31,750 ($15/30,000); both went to online bidders. Michelle Stuart’s abstract mixed media “Earth Garden” made more than four times its high estimate to finish at $8,255. Picasso’s Madoura pottery woman-owl figural vessel/pitcher sold within estimate ($5/10,000), going to an online buyer for $9,525. A contemporary table by Ivan Navarro on an x-form base with fluorescent light bulbs sold for slightly more than the low estimate, at $3,000, to a buyer in the room.
Accessories are currently enjoying strong market appeal, a trend that was reflected in this sale. A Hermes black leather Kelly bag in like-new condition, with a certificate of authenticity, was carried off by an online buyer for $5,625, more than five times its estimate ($1/2,000).
Louis Vuitton pieces are perennial favorites wherever they are offered and the two examples at Nadeau’s were no exception. The first to cross the block was a trunk that lacked its interior tray and was missing one handle but that did not deter bidders who pursued it; it finally went to an online bidder for $5,080 against an estimate of $1,5/2,500. The second trunk had one missing handle and the other handle was described as “as-is” but despite the condition problems, the second trunk finished well ahead of its estimate ($2/3,000), also going to an online bidder for $9,525.
As it has for the past several years, Nadeau’s offered a selection of works from the Credit Suisse Americana Collection. The approximately 35 lots were comprised primarily of groups of prints of Native Americans, birds or botanicals, though there were several single-item lots. Speaking after the sale, Ed Nadeau Jr said they have just received another 600 works from Credit Suisse, so future sales will continue to include works from the corporate collection.
All prices cited include buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. Nadeau’s next sale will take place on January 26 and will include property from the Kenneth Lane estate, the Serlin Estate and Credit Suisse, among property from other consigners.
Nadeau’s Auction Gallery is at 25 Meadow Road. For information, www.nadeausauction.com or 860-246-2444.
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