Published: November 20, 2007
“The sale did far better than we anticipated,” commented auctioneer Ed Nadeau in regard to the annual Americana auction that Nadeau’s regularly schedules to coincide with the Fall Hartford Antiques Show. Consisting of more than 500 lots, the Important Annual Fall Antiques and Fine Art Auction conducted on October 20 came in well above estimates.
“We were very pleased overall,” commented the auctioneer. Despite the success of the auction, Nadeau added that there were “bargains in many different categories,” especially early American furniture. Although some of the pieces fell short of estimates and sold cheaply throughout the day, the vast majority of the lots soared past expectations, bringing substantial prices.
As always, the selection at Nadeau’s was filled with estate-fresh merchandise, including the top lot of the auction, consigned directly from a summer cottage in Vermont. Merchandise from numerous other estates from throughout the region was offered as well.
The auction got off to a quick start with 50 lots of jewelry, and as the auctioneer opened the first lot for bidding, fireworks erupted immediately. A small box lot, estimated at only $100/200, apparently contained a couple trinkets that had gotten by the auctioneer. Numerous absentee bids caused the lot to open for bidding at $1,400, and it quickly sold to a smiling bidder seated in the gallery for $1,840.
A smile also crossed a lady’s face as the gentleman she was seated with executed a winning bid of $25,300 for a 3.14-carat diamond ring, surrounded by an additional 1 carat of baguettes. Another ring with a 2.08-carat diamond brought $17,250.
The Nathan Hale bronze was another item that would bring about a rousing flurry of bids as it crossed the auction block. Nadeau had sold a version of the bronze during his Americana auction earlier this year in April, with the lot bringing $74,750. The auctioneer reported getting a phone call over the summer from a person that claimed to have a similar Hale bronze and wished to consign it. “They had seen the report in The Bee and gave us a call,” said Nadeau.
The bronze had reportedly been an overlooked item stored in an unheated Vermont cabin for decades, which left the piece with an unusual patina. The patina did not seem to bother anyone, however, as the bronze remained untouched and in original condition.
Several phone bidders were lined up and ready to bid on the lot, as was Nathan Liverant and Sons associate Kevin Tulimieri, seated near the rear of the gallery. Tulimieri, coincidently, had underbid the Hale bronze that Nadeau sold back in April,
The rare bronze, inscribed on the base “Nathan Hale,” was cast by the Roman Bronze Works and measured 35 inches in height. It depicted Hale, a Revolutionary War hero from Connecticut, with his coat blown open and one hand behind his back. Sculptor Bela L. Pratt had been a contemporary of Augustus Saint-Gaudens and had studied with William Merritt Chase prior to continuing his studies in Paris. Bidding quickly progressed past the $40/50,000 presale estimate as the lot was offered, with Tulimieri once again underbidding the Hale bronze as it sold to a telephone bidder for $77,625.
One of the biggest surprises in the sale came as an unassuming silver coffee pot resting in a matching ribbed silver shallow bowl was offered. “We cataloged the lot as ‘near Eastern,'” stated Nadeau, “and we only estimated it at $1,2/1,800. But as soon as the ad in The Bee came out, we started getting calls from all over the place,” said Nadeau.
“One guy called and placed a left bid of $10,000 on the lot, he called back a couple days after and raised his bid, and then raised it again a few days later. A couple days after that, he called back and cancelled the left bid and wanted to be on a telephone. His reaction to the piece, along with a bunch of other people, gave us a good idea that we were way off with the estimates,” said the auctioneer.
After some sleuthing on the web and gleaning information from various people inquiring about the piece, Nadeau determined that it was a rare Turkish rose water pot that had more than likely been made for the Eastern market. The 18-inch ribbed pot and bowl opened for bidding at $11,000 with a flurry of activity from the telephones, with the lot hammering down moments later for $21,850.
Paintings in the auction included two Guy Wiggins New York City winter street scenes with the first depicting Columbia University with several people headed toward the building in the midst of a snowstorm. The painting, executed in 1955, measured 20 by 24 inches and featured an American flag blowing in the wind. Nadeau asked for an opening bid of $50,000 for the painting, estimated at $40/60,000, then reduced the bid to $40,000, where it was hit by a phone bidder. A bidder in the gallery jumped into the action and the painting ultimately sold his way for $48,875.
A smaller Wiggins painting, 9 by 11 inches, depicted what appeared to be Fifth Avenue when it was still a two-way street with cabs and buses negotiating a snowstorm. Estimated at $15/20,000, the lot opened at $10,000 and sold to a phone bidder for $16,675.
Two C.E. Porter paintings were also among the selection, although the subject matter proved to be less desirable than previous offerings by the artist at Nadeau’s. A smoky still life with a glowing pipe, matches and a stoneware stein with its top flipped up sold between estimates at $18,400, while a small painting depicting a bouquet of roses realized $8,050.
A Grafton Tyler Brown watercolor on paper, 10 by 14 inches, turned into one of the surprises of the sale. Depicting a man and his dog in Yosemite National Park at the Old Faithful geyser, the painting carried a modest estimate of $2/3,000. Bidding on the watercolor was active, with several telephone bidders chasing the lot to a selling price of $16,100, going to a Western museum.
Other paintings included a small Lee Lufkin Kaula oil on canvas, 8 by 10 inches, that depicted two young and well-appointed girls playing in a summer meadow. Estimated at $1/2,000, this lot also caused some commotion as it was bid to $14,950.
A Eugene Verboeckhoven oil on mahogany did well, with the farmyard scene with sheep and chickens selling at $10,925, and a Dutch Old Masters painting also attracted attention as it soared past the $1/2,000 estimates, bringing $7,475.
Also sold was an Emile Gruppe autumn landscape that hammered down at $8,625.
Furniture was all over the boards, with good prices offset by some true bargains. Perhaps the bargain of the sale, a Chippendale cherry slant front desk on an ogee bracket base with a nice old finish, was sold for $575.
The top lot of the furniture came as a very unusual country Queen Anne harvest table was offered. Deaccessioned from the Connecticut Historical Society, the unusual table had an elaborate cutout skirt that ran the length of the table and turned legs. Retaining the original red paint on the base, and the original single-board scrubbed top, the table was thought to have been from northern New England.
“I’ve never seen another one quite like it,” stated Nadeau during preview as he and an associate flipped the table over for inspection. Construction was unique, with foot-long corner braces serving as blocks, attached behind the skirt and connected to a rabbeted area on the leg. Measuring more than 6 feet in length, the table carried an estimate of $4/7,000 and opened to the floor at $3,000. Bids came from several in the gallery, with it selling at $14,950.
“It would have been interesting to have seen it cross the block 20 years ago when some of those old-time dealers were still around,” mused Nadeau as he openly speculated that it probably achieved only half of its previous worth.
A cherry Chippendale circular tilt-top table with birdcage mechanism was another of the furniture lots to attract attention. With a gracefully formed shaft with suppressed ball turning and cabriole legs terminating in pad feet, the table was thought to have been associated with the Chapin school. Estimated at $2,5/3,500, the table opened for bidding at $600 and took off, with several in the gallery chasing the lot. Bids bounced back and forth around the room, with the lot selling to Nathan Liverant and Son for $8,625.
A Norwich, Conn., serpentine front four-drawer chest with later Hepplewhite hardware hammered down with a single bid at $6,900, while a Hepplewhite serpentine four-drawer chest with French feet brought $6,325. A nice set of six cherry Chippendale chairs with shell carved crests and pierced vasiform splats sold reasonably at $6,900.
A Daniel Burnap cherry tall case clock with a swan’s neck pediment ending in carved pinwheels and turned finials did well. The silvered face of the clock was inscribed Burnham and marked East Windsor. It sold at $16,675, while a Silas Howell Chippendale tall case clock with a painted dial went reasonably at $3,450.
The next auction at Nadeau’s will feature custom modern and contemporary furnishings. Nadeau’s New Year’s Day auction is scheduled for January 1.
Prices include the 15 percent buyer’s premium charged. For information, 860-246-2444 or www.nadeausauction.com .
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