Published: January 26, 2021
Review by Greg Smith, Photos Courtesy New Haven Auctions
NEW HAVEN, CONN. – Just one of the company’s four online platforms saw more than 1,000 bidders watching and bidding live at all times for New Haven Auctions’ January 16-17 sale, auctioneer Fred Giampietro said. More were added into the mix from the other platforms and absentee/phone bidding as bidders pushed the sale to a $725,000 total on 706 lots.
The two-day sale pulled in about a dozen consignors from estates as far as Tennessee and Maine, though the first day focused on 404 lots from the Americana collection of Howard and Nancy Wagner of Ohio. The Wagners were well-known collectors in their area, involved in numerous groups related to collecting and historical study. Among them was the Dayton Antique Study Group, the Beavercreek Historical Society and the Ohio Folk Art Association. The two owned and operated The Yankee Peddler, a home decorating center in Fairborn, Ohio.
“Their estate included two generations of collecting,” Giampietro said. “Howard’s father, Dr Howard Wagner, was a collector and dealer. Howard grew up with antiques and inherited his father’s things as he and his wife collected their own.”
The top lot in their collection, and the entire weekend, was a miniature tiger maple slant front desk from the late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century that brought $31,200. The Wagners had inherited it from his father. It measured 21½ inches high with original brasses, a dovetailed case and drawers and early T and square nails. “Tiger maple is a magic wood,” Giampietro said on the result. “It always brings more money. It was so consistent in the high degree of flaming throughout the piece, typically you’ll see a chest and the sides are plain, but that wasn’t the case with this. It looked like it was carved of a solid piece. The way it was put together was textbook, nothing got lost in the reduced size.” With five phone lines on it, Giampietro said it sold to a collector.
Among Nancy Wagner’s passions was genealogy, a skill she honed and explored on the numerous samplers in the sale, which accounted for four of the top five lots from the collection.
“Her focus was regional,” Giampietro said. “She had several good Ohio samplers, which are hard to find. She did a lot of the research, that was evidently just as important as the design to her. She wanted to dig in. We have files of documentation that she did on many of them.”
Sampler collectors immediately started contacting Giampietro after the estate contracted him to sell the collection. “We got calls from people wondering if certain things were included very early on,” he said.
Two examples rose to $9,000, including a needlework sampler signed Mary Bollt and dated 1796. The sampler featured a stone house above a pastoral scene with two figures under trees and their flock of sheep between them. The text at the top read “Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lonely, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” At the same price was an example signed by Eliza Swain of Dayton, Ohio. It featured a floral border, alphabet at top, a scene of a two-chimney home and a church at bottom and the message “By Christ, my pattern and my guide / His image may I bear / may I tread his sacred steps / And his bright glories share.”
Just one bid increment under those were two other Ohio samplers, though their final price of $9,063 was buoyed above by the higher buyer’s premium incurred through bidding on a platform. These included an example signed by Eliza Jane Dodson of Dayton, Ohio, dated 1834 and attributed to the Waynesville School. The other was a dated 1839 example by Sarah Owens of Newark.
Of note was a needlework picture on paper featuring a large American Nightingale perched in a tree with two dogs on the ground beneath. The work featured the initials C (or G) and H to each side of the tree. It sold for $3,750.
Rising to $6,300 was a fine paint-decorated box measuring 8 inches high and 19¾ inches wide. “That was the best example of that form that I’ve seen,” Giampietro said. “I’ve had several of those boxes. I was always told that they originated in the Southern Massachusetts area, but they are often black or dark green and this was blue. It was an amazing color and condition on all sides was very equal. All the things you look for came together.”
At $6,600 was an early painted two-part Dutch cupboard from Pennsylvania, circa 1810. It featured raised panel doors under three drawers on the bottom section, the top with two arched and glazed doors over five drawers. The firm noted that the red paint with black decoration and yellow highlights was early and probably original.
“I particularly liked the pair of colonial portraits,” Giampietro said, “they had always been in those frames – square nailed into them.” Of paint on laid paper, the pair of American portraits featured individually a man and woman dressed in red and white and dated to circa 1800. They brought $4,320.
Giampietro said that many of the decoys on offer from the collection were inherited from Wagner’s father. Thirty-five examples were spread over 18 lots with two similar shorebirds by George Boyd offered separately selling for $3,375 and $3,300. A goose by Boyd in an old working repaint brought $1,440. Selling for $2,520 was a large carved flat goose decoy spanning 36¾ inches long.
The sale’s second day saw offerings in broader categories and notable among them was a brisk taste of goods from the estate of New Hampshire dealer Nancy Sevatson, who passed away in 2020, as well as works from Maine dealer Robert T. “Bob” Foley. Both of those dealer collections will be offered in more robust proportions in the firm’s March sale, though certain categories made appearances here where it would support other material.
The day’s leader was an Illions carousel horse that sold for $18,600. From a Millbrook, N.Y., estate, it had reportedly once been in the collection of artist Larry Rivers, who is said to have used it in some of his artworks. Giampietro said the horse was underbid by a museum.
Selling for $9,062 was a Stickley coal scuttle in copper and wrought iron. From a Maine estate, Giampietro said, “They’re rare and this one had never been on the market before, it was in as found condition. It just had that feel of never being touched. The handle was oxidized and the inside was a little dirty, we just left it. It was a real honest thing.”
Leaders in fine art included a 23½-by-31½-inch oil on canvas by Wilfredo Lam (1902-1982) featuring a bird in the foreground and a fish behind. It sold for $11,250. Giampietro said the work unexpectedly walked into the gallery one day from a local consignor. Behind at $8,750 was a well-executed Nineteenth Century oil on canvas featuring a harbor scene with various sail boats before a dim, glowing sun whose light was reflected off the water and the clouds overhead. It was a sleeper for the firm, estimated only at $150/250, and sold after 58 bids.
From Foley’s collection came a harbinger of things to come: gameboards. The sale included 11 examples, with the top price of $4,375 paid for a circa 1895 parcheesi/checkers board. Both sides featured a dark red and black paint, though the parcheesi side featured light blue targets around it. Giampietro said that Foley’s collection of gameboards numbers to nearly 100, which will be released in future sales. “I put a few out there to get people looking at them,” Giampietro said. “Bob has a quirky eye and he has an incredible, instinctive feeling on what to buy. The boards naturally relate to modernism, it’s been great working with him.”
Giampietro said that New Haven Auctions will be moving to a new 10,000-square-foot location off I-95 in Branford. The space is currently undergoing renovation though he anticipates holding his next March sale in the new location.
All prices reported include buyer’s premium. For more information, 475-234-5120 or www.newhavenauctions.com.
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