Published: October 26, 2021
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy New Haven Auctions
BRANFORD, CONN. – Americana from estates and collections, including folk art, outsider art, period furniture, paintings and accessories, were the main attractions at Fred Giampietro’s New Haven Auctions on October 16 and 17, which hit $1 million, with only two minor lots of the 750 offered passing. Just a little more than 8,000 bidders lined up to vie material over the two days, with three online platforms, phone and left bids and in-person gallery bidding. The first day’s surprise was an important Southern slave journal that was taken from its $500-$1,000 estimate to finish at $32,400. The journal, which is going to a Georgia institution, was titled “Tracking 264 Negroes between Swift Creek, Bibb County, Georgia, Sumter County, Georgia, Spring Creek, Georgia and Cowarts, Georgia,” and dated 1859.
Ashleigh Oatts, education coordinator for the T.R.R. Cobb House in Athens, Ga., said the historic home was notified by someone at the Georgia Museum of Art that the journal was coming to auction. “They know the family connections,” said Oatts. “The journal belonged to John B. Lamar, who was the brother-in-law of the older brother of Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb, who owned the T.R.R. Cobb House and managed all of the plantation for himself and his brother-in-law. And some of the enslaved were moved around to various homes, some of them ended up in Athens and some of them may have ended up working at the T.R.R. Cobb House. That’s what we’re hoping to find out.” During the American Civil War, Lamar (1812-1862) served as an aide to Confederate States Army General Howell Cobb, his brother-in-law and close friend. He was wounded during the Battle of Crampton’s Gap in Maryland trying to rally Cobb’s Brigade. He died within a day on September 15, 1862.
“The year that this journal was created was the period when Howell Cobb served as secretary of the treasury under President James Buchanan,” said Oatts.
Although the T.R.R. House is currently closed to the public for renovations, Oatts said the museum is reviewing the 160-page journal page by page -thankfully, it’s been digitized – and hopes to have it available for exhibition in 2022.
A rare early countertop cigar store Indian attributed to Thomas Brooks, New York, circa 1870, was bid to $20,000. Standing 33½ inches high on a 10-by-9¾-inch base, the sculpture was in original condition with a historic Nineteenth Century painted surface. Minor condition issues, such as some loss to the back of the feather, may have held back the final price. Brooks (1828-1895) was a leading American wood carver who was well known for carving ships, trade signs and shop figures. The cigar store Indian was an advertisement figure, in the likeness of a Native American, used by early tobacconists, but today has entered the realm of folk art.
What the auction house described as a “museum-quality” American hanging cupboard, circa 1760, found a buyer at $18,750. With robust column and cornice architectural details, it featured a raised panel door with HL hinges and was finished in original blue and oyster white paint. American, circa 1760. It stood 35 inches high 37½ inches wide.
There were several of those staple folk art items – weathervanes – that were notable on the first day. Leading them was a crisply cast leaping stag. American, late Nineteenth Century, the molded copper form featured a cast head and antlers, stretched to 30 inches in length and carried a natural verdigris patina with remnants of original gilding and sizing. It cleared its $10,000 high estimate to land at $16,875.
Similarly, a large horse and sulky weathervane of molded copper, probably J.W. Fiske, N.Y., circa 1890, jockeyed its way to a final price of $12,500, thanks in part to its natural verdigris surface.
And fetching $11,875, a Hamburg rooster weathervane by Cushing and White, circa 1880, presented a natural historic surface with a couple generations of weathered paint on its molded copper form, 28 by 27½ by 4 inches.
It wasn’t a weathervane, but a monumental architectural eagle, circa 1870, swept down to capture $13,750. Of molded zinc with a historic gold painted surface, it stood upon a cast iron base that appeared to be original and had a wingspan of 94 inches.
Another folk art icon – the whale – made its appearance in a couple of different mediums. The first was a whaling scene painting from New England, circa 1870, which surfaced to $13,750. With ships, whalers in longboat and a merrily spouting whale, the framed 23-by-46-inch canvas exhibited some old relining using the original stretcher.
The second leviathan sighting was a full-bodied carved whale by Clark Vorhees Jr (1911-1980), 18 inches long and ready to suspend from original, tiny metal hooks, which brought $8,750. Voorhees, the son of renowned American Impressionist Clark Greenwood Voorhees (1871-1933), lived and worked in Weston, Vt. He is known for his whale sculptures, styled in the ornamental manner of New England decoys and weathervanes.
A choice American needlework in the sale was an example that included both needlework and stumpwork limning out a stately colonial house in a country landscape bordered by a foliate surround surmounted by an American eagle. The early Nineteenth Century work, frame size 22-1/8 by 18-7/8 inches, left the gallery at $12,500.
A Gustav Dentzel outside row stander carousel horse outfitted with a cherub saddle and double eagle cantle was in excellent condition with a combination of original and early park paint. It earned $8,750.
On the sale’s second day, a session that included antiques, Native American and fine art from estates and collections, a leading highlight was a Chamber Barrel Organ – Monkey Orchestra automaton that sold for more than triple its high estimate at $30,000. It came from the estate of Americana collectors Bernard and Florence Zipkin, which Giampietro has been dispersing over the years.
Fine art also figured on day two of the sale with a dark landscape painting by Jean Baptist Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875), signed lower right, 28-5/8 by 24-5/8 inches, achieving $25,000 and an Old Master drawing snapped up by someone in the know, taking the 21-5/8-by-15¼-inch work from its $200/400 expectation to $11,875.
Finally, bidders liked a good Louis Vuitton trunk, and Giampietro will be shipping it out to the buyer who paid $13,750, nearly triple its high estimate.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
Giampietro is planning a Discovery sale for mid-November, and the collection of David Good will be offered on January 8-9. For additional information, www.newhavenauctions.com or 475-234-5120.
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