Published: November 17, 2015
Review and Onsite Photos by W.A. Demers;
Catalog Photos Courtesy of Nadeau’s Auction Gallery
WINDSOR, CONN. — American art dealer Russell Burke is a “head-hunter” of sorts. He is not on a search for management and executive-level candidates; rather he has been engaged by an educational institution to seek out and acquire for its art collection portraits of the people who have forged America’s industrial might. So it was that on November 7, Burke was sitting in the gallery at Nadeau’s Auction Gallery waiting for a couple of choice lots from the Credit Suisse Americana collection to come up.
Bidding on behalf of the Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, Penn., Burke successfully snared Daniel Huntington’s (1816-1906) “Portrait of Cornelius Vanderbilt” for $45,600 and Thomas Waterman Wood’s (1823–1903) “Portrait of Andrew Carnegie” for $30,000. “I was hoping to get the Carnegie portrait for less,” said Burke, “but I was competing with the Carnegie Institution,” which became the underbidder.
Both portraits of the American industrialists were part of the property from Credit Suisse’s Americana collection that was assembled by predecessor investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (DLJ) in the heyday of corporate art collecting.
The Vanderbilt (1843–1899) portrait shows the American railroad and shipping magnate seated by a window with a view of crashing waves. In his right hand he holds a Metropolitan Museum of Art annual report by trustees of the association, 1898. Huntington painted the portrait in 1900. The 50-by-40-inch oil on canvas is signed and dated bottom right “D. Huntington/1900,” and the frame bears a plaque that reads “Cornelius Vanderbilt, Member of the Chamber of Commerce 1876–1899. Presented by Mrs Vanderbilt, painted by D. Huntington.”
Carnegie (1835–1919) was painted from life in 1892 by Wood. The 30-by-25-inch oil on canvas is signed and dated lower left “T.W. Wood/1892.” A plaque affixed to the American frame, circa 1880–1890s, reads “Andrew Carnegie, Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce 1900–1904, Presented by Andrew Carnegie in response to a resolution adopted by the Executive Committee of the Chamber May 1st 1900, Painted from life in 1892 by Thomas W. Wood.”
These two choice portraits were just the tip of the iceberg in a consignment of some 3,500 lots, according to Edwin J. Nadeau Jr, the firm’s president. “We were offering a portion of the property in this sale, probably another 300 or so items divided into 75 lots in our November 14 sale and then many more in a two-day New Year’s auction that we’re planning,” said Nadeau. On a brief tour through one of his firm’s side galleries, Nadeau pointed to piles of framed prints, maps and fine art stacked up like cordwood against the walls, some still in boxes.
In headier days, all of this artwork was housed at the DLJ’s opulent US headquarters on Park Avenue in New York City. The US investment bank was founded by William H. Donaldson, former chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Richard Jenrette and Dan Lufkin in 1959. It was acquired in August 2000 by Credit Suisse First Boston for $11.5 billion.
Paintings from the collection included several portraits by Huntington in addition to the Vanderbilt; among other subjects were Abraham Alfonse Albert Gallatin and William Cullen Bryant. There additionally were maps, such as a colored map of North America by Henry Popple, many Currier & Ives prints and a “Four American Flags” quilt from 1890.
Beyond the Credit Suisse Americana, the sale featured a variety of American antiques, more than 100 paintings and prints, Chinese and Japanese art and antiques and a collection of decorative accessories.
The Asian items added their own fireworks to the sale as an oblong Chinese bronze cloisonné censer or brush washer resting on four foo dog head feet took off from a $200/400 estimate to settle at $21,600 from a phone bidder, eliciting this quip from Nadeau — “Our estimate was off.” A Chinese white crackle glazed globular vase was getting much attention during preview and it surprised on the upside as well, taking $3,480 against a $500–$1,000 estimate. And fetching a solid above-estimate $8,750 was a pair of Chinese Ching dynasty blue and white sleeve-form vases depicting landscape, warriors and scholars that had been made into lamps. They had provenance to Vallin Galleries and came from the estate of Sylvia Leven.
There were more than 100 paintings featured in the auction, including works from renowned marine artists, such as Antonio Jacobsen (American, 1850–1921), whose “Benares,” also from the Leven estate, portrayed the British four-masted ship under full sail and sold for $17,400. “Skiff Leading to the Clipper Ship,” a watercolor by Montague Dawson (1890–1973), made $4,800. Other noteworthy paintings offered were a primitive oil on canvas of “Old Fuller Homestead, built 1722, Lebanon, Conn.,” the 20-by-30-inch work taking $9,600 against a $300/500 estimate; and an Antonio Rivas (1845–1911) oil on panel still life of fruit, insects and flowers, which went to a bidder in the gallery for $3,480.
Antique furniture was in the mix. A bright red Federal camelback sofa, circa 1790–1820, with rolled arms and serpentine seat went out at $3,600. A Chippendale cherry chest on chest in two parts brought $4,200.
Two decorative arts items came with Israel Sack provenance — two Bilbao mirrors, one surmounted by a tall flower filled urn crest flanked with scrolling floral vines, circa 1790–1800, and the other a gilded wood and marble veneer example, again with flower-filled urn crest flanked by scrolling vines, circa 1790–1800. The mirrors realized $2,880 and $4,200, respectively.
The overall auction took in just under $500,000, better than expectations, according to Nadeau, who stated that he was pleased with the way the offering was accepted. “Furniture was reasonable, and paintings, prints, Chinese items and decorative arts all did very well,” he said. “We are very pleased to have been chosen to handle the sale of part of the Credit Suisse Americana collection, and look forward to continuing to offer items from the collection in subsequent sales throughout 2016.”
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.nadeausauction.com or 860-246-2444.
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