Published: April 12, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy New Haven Auctions
BRANFORD, CONN. – Just one lot – a painting that was offered without reserve – was the only thing standing between Fred Giampietro and “white glove” status for New Haven Auctions’ April 2-3 sales. During the course of the weekend, he offered 415 lots from the Scarborough, Maine, collection of Stephen & Patricia Center, and on the following day, an additional 345 lots of property from various owners. Giampietro said the sale exceeded expectations, raking in $1,250,000.
“I think there are a lot of new buyers out there; there’s no question about that,” Giampietro said when Antiques and The Arts Weekly caught up to him after the sale. “Many of the names who are buying are ones I’ve never heard of before. In at least three cases, they were younger people who were just starting to buy and wanted guidance. One young guy who was interested in a table was asking about investment value and usability. It’s a reeducation process: that group of buyers is using a different set of metrics, including the cost for new stuff. They’re also very conscious that one of their most precious commodities is time so they scour the internet looking for an auction house they can build trust with to buy from and that’s brought more people into the marketplace.
“On the other side of the coin, there are collectors that, when a market rises, and falls makes room for anomalies. In this market, some collectors are looking for things with no problems.”
Making his first point, the top lot of the weekend was purchased by a buyer who had never purchased from a sale at New Haven Auctions. “Golden Mushroom” by Andy Warhol (1928-1987), a color on silk screen print, numbered 206 from an edition of 250, surpassed its high estimate and achieved $46,875. The print had been consigned for sale by a collecting couple who recently started buying in Giampietro’s sales.
“[It was] the first thing I took from the Center’s house. It was just incredible,” Giampietro said, referring to a paint-decorated spice chest that had been estimated at $1/2,000 but realized $16,250 and scored the highest price from the first day of sales. Created in Maine, circa 1850, the piece had only some very minor touchups and one replaced knob.
Also, from the Center’s collection and one of the surprises of the sale was an early turned and painted bowl, dated to Nineteenth Century New England, that measured 6¼ inches high and 20¼ inches in diameter. Not only did it retain its original gray exterior paint and white-wash interior, but it was without damage. Estimated at $250/500, bidding on the piece opened at $100 but escalated quickly, finally rounding off at $12,500.
Giampietro considered a folk art peacock, carved as if standing on a book and attributed to Biddeford, Maine, carver Bernier, to be “masterpiece category. It fits into a small group of his most ambitious carved works, all on books. It’s great that we know who made this; in the scope of American folk carvings, there are really very few. The rarity is unbelievable.”
Consigned from an anonymous seller and crossing the block on the second day of the sale, the 26½-inch-long piece achieved $17,500, more than doubling its low estimate and bringing the second highest price of the weekend.
Flying high in the Center’s sale were birds in a variety of media and sizes. Most noteworthy of these was a Canada Goose decoy carved by Frank Finney (American, b 1947), which was described in the catalog as in “fine original condition.” It landed at $10,000, more than 12 times its high estimate and was one of an even dozen birds by Finney in the sale, all of which sold, for prices ranging from $1,125 to $4,688.
Sharing the second highest price of the weekend at $17,500 was a large horse and sulky weathervane, made of cast zinc and iron that retained an exceptional verdigris surface. Consigned from an anonymous seller, it quickly surpassed its $10/15,000 estimate.
Weathervanes were also a category the Centers collected with enthusiasm, as there were a total of 14 on offer, most in either horse or bird form, with a couple of fish vanes and bannerette thrown in for good measure. Bringing the most in the single-owner sale at $10,000 was a molded copper gilt wingspread eagle vane with arrow directional that was attributed to J.W. Fiske of New York City, circa 1890.
Boxes, a perennial favorite among folk art collectors, came in a variety of forms – wall, rectangular with or without feet and oval with lids. All in the sale shared one common theme: decoration, whether carved or painted. The highest price for a carved box was $8,750 for a late Eighteenth Century wall box with hearts and pinwheel decoration; it had an early patina and only one small repair. Following at $1,875 was a lidded rectangular box with similar embellishments, as well as stars.
Of the painted variety, a small Lancaster, Penn., example by Jonas Weber, circa 1850, also topped expectations and traded hands at $6,875. A slightly earlier New England example, painted white with turned feet and stylized foliate decoration, rounded out at $3,750.
For framed art, the sessions were led, respectively, by a painting of a fish from the Center collection that splashed out at $4,375 against an estimate of $300/800, and a pair of portraits of William and Ester Powers by C. Hartt of Buffalo, N.Y., circa 1840. William is depicted holding a top while Ester clutches strawberries in her hand. Rendered in oil on canvas and measuring 23¾ by 19-1/8 inches in giltwood frames, the pair found a new home for $15,000.
On January 8-9, New Haven Auctions offered two sessions of property from the collection of David Good but there was more property that had not previously been offered that crossed the auction block on Sunday, April 3. Noteworthy results from Good’s collection were a tricolored slip-decorated bowl that spun to $10,625, a Nineteenth Century folk art theorem with house decoration from the Shenandoah Valley in its original frame bidders pushed to $13,750, and an iron diamond-blade spatula engraved E.P. Sebastian on its neck that flipped to $8,750 from an estimate of $1/2,000.
The April 3 also featured nearly two dozen lots from Limington, Maine, dealer Bill Kelly. His lots topped off at $5,000 with a pair of brass circa 1600 Northern European candlesticks.
New Haven Auctions will conduct a two-day sale in June. One session will include part two of the Center collection, the other will present a collection of American folk art from Salisbury, Conn.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For information, 475-234-5120 or www.newhavenauctions.com.
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