Published: January 14, 2020
Review and Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
WINDSOR, CONN. – Nadeau’s Auction Gallery’s annual New Year’s Day sale – now in its 38th year – attracted bidders from throughout New England for a 658-lot sale that totaled $1.6 million, with 94 percent of the lots selling. The 719 lot sale the year before raked in $2.3 million, suggesting that the average value per lot went from nearly $3,200 per lot in 2019 to just above $2,400 per lot.
“The sale was a very good sale…perhaps not the best we’ve had but we were very pleased. The past few years have been strong years in the auction business. 2019 was a record year for us and we look forward to continuing that trend,” Edwin “Ed” Nadeau said in a follow-up phone conversation with Antiques and The Arts Weekly during which he commented on the sale and business in general. “We are adding staff, including looking for a full-time cataloger who can help us keep up with the volume.”
Fine art made up approximately one-quarter of the sale but accounted for seven of the top dozen prices, including the most expensive and second place lots in the sale. Leading the sale was Giorgio de Chirico’s “Cavalli in Riva al Mare,” which was not only signed by de Chirico but was accompanied by a letter from de Chirico to the painting’s first owner, William Wyler. Priced at $50/80,000, the lot sold to a phone bidder for $54,900. Coming in at 33,550 was Sol Lewitt’s “Wavy Brushstrokes,” which was dated 1995 and was accompanied by a receipt from the artist to the Beth Shalom Congregation in Deep River, Conn., which paid $8,000 for the work. It sold to a phone bidder as well.
The entrance to the salesroom was dominated by two late Nineteenth Century Steinway and Sons grand pianos, an ebonized one that included a disc player, and a plum pudding mahogany example. Both were from the Greenwich, Conn., estate of Deborah Black and both were estimated at $10/20,000. The player piano brought the third highest price in the sale – $28,060, while the other grand piano finished a few notes short of that, bringing $19,520. The two successful buyers of the pianos were both bidding on the telephone.
If one is a buyer, the upside of attending a sale is it gives one the advantage of knowing where your competition is coming from, be it in the room, on the phones or online. There are few instances when bidding in the room leaves one at a disadvantage…unless the video screen goes down making it difficult to tell which lot is “on the block.” That exact scenario happened for about 100 lots towards the beginning of the sale. Auctioneer and president, Edwin “Ed” Nadeau Jr kept the pace of lots up and the staff coped as best they could, holding up pieces of jewelry as they were selling but which were difficult to see if one was seated farther back than the first few rows. The salesroom erupted in applause once the video was back on and the sale proceeded at full steam.
The jewelry category was led by a men’s Rolex 18K gold GMT master wristwatch that went home with a phone bidder for $22,570, nearly double its high estimate. Other highlights among the jewelry and watch lots were a 2.14-carat emerald-cut diamond and platinum ring that almost tripled its low estimate to close at $14,640, selling to a phone bidder. Bringing $20,400 was a platinum bangle-style bracelet set with 58 European diamonds totaling 15-carats that saw competition in the room and on the phones before going home with a bidder in the room. A different buyer in the room paid the same price for a platinum ring with diamonds, sapphires and emeralds that had one of the higher estimates among the section: $18/22,000. A 3.83-carat diamond and platinum ring estimated at $20/30,000 that a phone bidder snapped up for $14,860 seemed like a good buy.
The sale featured little period American furniture though there were several reproductions on offer. Among the selections were four lots of Chippendale-style furniture made by Charles J. Post from the Bloomfield, Conn., estate of Hyla Berson, all of which Nadeau’s had handled in 1989. The offerings included a dressing table ($3,600), a pie-crust tea table ($960), a pair of armchairs ($1,440) and a highboy ($5,100). An Eldred Wheeler tiger maple highboy brought $2,562, while a D.R. Dimes two-part hutch in the Pennsylvania style realized $3,050.
Bringing $2,200 was a Margolis shell-carved blockfront chest, which did much better than a similar chest by Fineberg that did not sell. Another lot by Margolis was an oak “Sunflower” chest that did not quite meet the low estimate when it sold for $1,200. Of the period American furniture in the sale, a Renaissance Revival sofa attributed to Herter Brothers brought $1,342 and a Victorian laminated rosewood gentleman’s chair by Belter in the Rosalie pattern sold for $550.
In comparison, the selection of English and Continental furniture was more robust, with some of the loftier prices being paid for works with marble tops. Bringing the top price among furniture was a Louis XV japanned marble top commode by Francois Reizell that achieved more than four times its low estimate to finish at $12,200. Of similar taste was a pair of Louis XV japanned marble top commodes, the cases marked F. Dorey. Priced to sell at $500-$1,000, the pair brought $6,985, nearly seven times the high estimate.
Nadeau’s makes the most of the history of a lot, specifying in the catalog that a Louis XVI marble top table a ecrire by George Jacob had been the cover lot when it was offered by Sotheby’s Parke Bernet in 1973; the strategy paid off and the table, which was placed at the front of the salesroom, exceeded all expectations to bring $5,490. The same treatment is given to lots that have been featured or published in reference books, as was the case with a George III mahogany, tulipwood, wenge, kingwood and plum pudding burr veneered supper table attributed to Ince and Mayhew that had been illustrated in Nickerson’s English Furniture of the Eighteenth Century. Condition issues kept the estimate low – just $500-$1,000 – but it garnered enough interest to close out at $2,540. Of decidedly different taste was a 13-piece Gothic revival dining set that included eight chairs, extending table, hutch and sideboard more than doubled expectations when it sold for $9,525.
The fine art section generated a few surprises, most notably a portrait of Maria Leszczynska who married King Louis XV; the painting had crossed the block at Christie’s in 1999 and there was speculation that it might have been painted by Andre-Claude Martin Lefevre D’Orgeval (fl circa 1740-1760). Estimated at just $3/5,000, it received extraordinary interest and closed – selling to an international phone bidder – for $24,400. It was immediately followed by a lot on the sale addenda, a portrait of King Louis XIV that was attributed to Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743), that had provenance to a Sotheby’s sale, bore the same estimate and sold for $8,255. Johann Berthelsen’s winter landscapes are perennial favorites with bidders regardless of the season and the sale offered four works, all of which sold, within or above their estimates.
Previous connections to a museum can boost value and the sale featured several works that fit that bill. These included a seascape by Felix Francois Georges Philibert Ziem (1821-1911) once in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts that doubled its estimate to close at $15,860, paid for by an international bidder on the phone. Two of six still life pictures by Charles Ethan Porter had connections to the New Britain Museum of Art and one of them titled “Rambling Roses” brought $10,795, the highest price of the group.
Modern art offerings were topped by Robert Rauschenberg’s set of three “Star Quarters Panels,” screen print in colors that were from the Credit Suisse Americana Collection that rocketed past its $5/10,000 estimate to sell to a phone bidder for $18,300. A whimsical work from the estate of Kenneth Jay Lane by Bridget Tichenor (1917-1990) titled “Sibila,” brought $12,810 while Edward Gorey’s playful ink and watercolor “99 Puppies Wearing Orange Knitted Caps” charmed its way to bidders’ hearts, finishing beyond expectations at $8,540.
Small decorative works remain popular with bidders -Tiffany, Steuben, Quezal, Meissen, Sevres, Buccellati, Royal Worcester, Webb, Weller, Herend, Royal Vienna and Gorham, all represented. Several lots of sterling silver Judaica – all by Ludwig Wolpert (1900-1981) from the same consignor – were offered towards the end of the sale with a circular form matzoh holder bringing nearly ten times its low estimate when it sold for $13,970. Topping seven lots of flatware was a 77-piece Buccellati sterling silver set that realized about $110 per piece, or $8,540.
Paintings were not the only lots to have museum provenance, as demonstrated by a pair of Louis XIV gilt-bronze and bronze dore andirons that had been exhibited at the Louvre that crossed the block early in the sale and almost quadrupled the high estimate when the pair sold for $10,980. Tripling expectations was a group of seven Louis Comfort Tiffany opalescent green and gold floriform shades that sold for $10,200. Bringing $7,500 and the midpoint of the estimate was a Meissen porcelain dinner service in the Indian pattern. Falling just shy of that price was an eight-piece Belleek tea set with a first period black mark that quickly outpaced expectations to close at $6,985.
In the fall of 2018, Nadeau’s conducted an onsite sale at the Slocomb Brown Villa in Newport, R.I.. The dozen lots from the villa that were included in this sale were not passed lots but were fresh to the market, sent to Nadeau’s by the family after the onsite sale had concluded. The best of those lots was a group of “Four Seasons” figural bronzes that realized $12,000.
All prices cited include buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For more information, www.nadeausauction.com or 860-246-2444.
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