Published: November 22, 2011
“The sale went very well, it was a highly focused sale,” Ron Pook of Pook & Pook, Inc, said, following the two-day auction on November 11‱2 of the collection of Lester and Barbara Breininger of Robesonia, Penn. “In fact,” Ron said, “it went better than we had thought as Lester was a collector and bought with shape and maker in mind, and he ended up with great quantities of redware pottery and pewter.” With premiums, the sale totaled $2,143,328.
In addition to collecting and filling a large home that was once a five-apartment building, Lester was a potter in his own right and his work became very popular and attracted a nationwide audience. He is the only living person represented in the Philadelphia Museum of Art book titled Pennsylvania German Collection .
The Breininger auction schedule included eight days of previews, and the first 300 lots, out of 940, were sold on Friday evening starting at 6. An overflow crowd was in attendance, with every chair in the gallery taken and many of the standing-room-only crowd settled down in some of the chairs to be sold, on top of blanket boxes and on the floor. The gallery provided free food for those who came early and stayed right to the end, as well as drink to wash it all down. “We find that a good auction, combined with food, is a combination that really brings people out,” Ron said. And with his large coffee cup in hand, he took to the podium and started the sale, just a few minutes late. All prices include the buyer’s premium, 18.5 percent in-house or 21.5 percent via Internet.
Lot 1 started things off with considerable interest, a Montgomery County, Penn., sgraffito redware charger, attributed to Henry Roudebush, circa 1810, decorated with a central bird perched on a tulip vine, 13¾ inches in diameter. It had a high estimate of $15,000, and sold for $18,960.
When lot 5 came along, a Pennsylvania redware figure of a gentleman seated on a stump and drinking from a jug with a dog and snake at his feet, Nineteenth Century, a bid from the back of the room won it at $4,977, just under the low estimate. It was hammered down to number 225, belonging to dealer Greg Kramer of Robesonia, Penn., and that bidding number was repeated all evening and again all during the Saturday session. “We liked the material in the sale as well as any avid collector, and I guess we proved that point with the number of lots we bought,” Greg said. In total, he won just over 250 lots, or about 27 percent of the sale.
“Lester and Barbara live just across the street from me and it has been a friendship for 40 years,” Greg said, adding, “I have sold him lots of pottery and other objects over the years and he amassed a very broad range of the material he collected, especially redware.” Greg said he just learned about one of the furniture lots he purchased, number 336, a Pennsylvania painted pine cupboard, 90 inches tall, that retained an old red, yellow and blue surface. “That cupboard was at the old family homestead, out in a shed, and it appeared to be holding up the roof,” Greg said. When it came time to break up the family’s holding, “Lester purchased the cupboard and moved it to his home.”
Five days after the auction, when Antiques and The Arts Weekly reached Greg for comments on the sale and asked not just the number of lots he got, but the number of objects, he said, “We don’t know, we are still unpacking the boxes.”
Among the painting lots sold was a gouache winter scene by Hattie Klapp Brunner showing a red horse-drawn sleigh in the foreground, against a hillside village in the background. It sold for $3,792, just over the high estimate. A Reverend Daniel Schumacher (Berks and Northampton County, Penn., active 1754‱786), ink and watercolor on laid paper fraktur for Christina Margaretha Kunckel, dated 1777, Albany Township, Berks County, with script flanked by tulips and stylized flowers, signed lower right and measuring 8¼ by 13¼ inches, went over the $2,000 high estimate, selling for $5,688 to a Pennsylvania dealer.
A carved and painted rooster by Wilhelm Schimmel, 4½ inches high, just broke the high estimate, selling for $5,451; a Lancaster County walnut schrank, circa 1760, raised panel doors resting on a base with two drawers and bun feet, 80 inches high and 67 wide, went just under the high estimate, realizing $11,850; and a Pennsylvania redware plate, attributed to Joseph S. Henne, Nineteenth Century, green and yellow slip decoration, 6¾ inches in diameter, went well over the high estimate, bringing $4,266 from Kramer.
Two portraits by Jacob Maentel were in the sale, the first a watercolor, gouache, ink and pencil on wove paper birth certificate for Raes Pfeifer, 1831, Tulpehocken Township, Berks County, depicting a young girl holding a flower in one hand and a basket of red berries in the other, standing on a hillock in a landscape, 9¾ by 7½ inches, went for $3,555, under the low estimate of $4,000. It sold to Kramer, as did the second Maentel, the portrait of Anna Seltzeer (pictured).
A Pennsylvania redware goose, Nineteenth Century, 2¼ inches high, sold for $948 to a phone bidder; a Peter Derr, Berks County, copper and iron fat lamp, stamped “P.D. 1842” and measuring 5¼ inches high, went for $4,029 against a $2,500 high estimate; and a Pennsylvania redware Berks County fat lamp, Nineteenth Century, 71/8 inches high, brought $3,018, just over the high estimate, to Kramer.
Another Derr example, this a one brass and wrought iron kettle lamp, stamped “P. Derr 1837,” 10½ inches high, fell just short of doubling the high estimate, selling for $11,850, and a Pennsylvania stoneware batter jug, Nineteenth Century, impressed “Cowden & Wilcox Harrisburg, PA” with cobalt man in the moon and floral decoration, 8¾ inches high, sold to Kramer for $7,703.
A Pennsylvania redware covered bowl, mid-Nineteenth Century, with reticulated geometric decoration and punched pinwheels, 6½ inches high, 10 inches in diameter, more than doubled the high estimate, selling for $14,220. The following lot, sold to a phone bidder for $37,920, was a Pennsylvania redware crock, dated 1816, attributed to Solomon Grimm, Rockland Township, Berks County, decorated with a large tulip springing from a heart flanked by two stars with crosshatching and dotted decoration. It was 9½ inches high and estimated at $10/15,000. The second painting by Ben Austrian, an oil on canvas titled “Puss ‘n Boots,” signed lower right and dated 1906, 14 by 16 inches, went for $49,770 against a high estimate of $15,000.
A Pennsylvania redware two-handled jar dating from the early Nineteenth Century, 6¼ inches high, 8¾ inches wide, with vibrant yellow and green tulip decoration, the handle terminals with punched stars, sold for $15,405, just over estimate, to 225, Kramer. A Bucks County sgraffito decorated redware loaf dish, attributed to Conrad Mumbauer, early Nineteenth Century, with bird, tulip and pinwheel flower decoration, 15¾ by 11 inches, sold just over high estimate for $4,977, and a Pennsylvania iron and brass spatula, early to mid-Nineteenth Century, with cutwork pinwheels and hearts, the handle with inlaid brass and wrigglework tulip, 18¾ inches long, went to $8,888, well past the $2,500 high estimate.
Second to the redware were the number of lots of pewter, and bidding was brisk on some of them. A Philadelphia pewter mug, circa 1775, bearing the touch of William Will, 4¼ inches high, went below estimate, selling for $7,703 to Melvyn and Bette Wolf of Flint, Mich. The Wolfs bought the next lot, $1,541, again below estimate, a Philadelphia pewter basin, circa 1775, bearing the touch of William Will. It was 1½ inches high and 6¼ inches in diameter. Added to the Wolf purchases was a pewter challis, Lancaster County, attributed to Johann Christoph Heyne, circa 1760, 85/8 inches high, at $5,688.
The sale went from lots of pewter to several pieces of furniture, including a Pennsylvania painted poplar chest of drawers, early Nineteenth Century, matchstick cornice over four drawers flanked by carved pinwheels and half columns with floral vine. It had cabriole legs, trifid feet, and retain the old red finish. It sold for just over the high estimate at $13,035, to 225, Kramer, who bought two lots of furniture in a row to break up his pottery purchases.
Fourteen lots of cookie cutters, tin and sold in lots as small as four and up to 11 objects, in the form of ducks, birds, horses, trees, hearts, human figures and a coffee pot and pitcher, sold for as low as $59 to a high of $444. The cutters were followed by a painted Noah’s Ark, circa 1900 with 41 animals, Noah and his wife, that sold for $2,370. A Conrad Trevits, Rockland Township, Berks County, ink and watercolor on laid paper fraktur birth certificate for Juliana Heffner, 1804, went four times the high estimate, selling for $8,505.
A Bucks County redware two-handled crock, circa 1800, decorated with large green and yellow floral sprays, 8 inches high, had a high estimate of $7,000, and ended at $16,590 to Kramer. A good number of quilts and coverlets were in the sale, including a Pennsylvania green, red and tan jacquard coverlet inscribed “Manufactured by Jos. Klar, Reading 1884” that sold for $1,067, over the $400 high estimate. Another Pennsylvania coverlet, green and white jacquard woven coverlet, inscribed “Henry Keener, Womelsdorf, 1844” measuring 101 by 86 inches, went for $1,896, well above the $500 high estimate.
The Blousy Angel Artist was represented with a Berks County ink and watercolor fraktur birth certificate for Georg Michael Hollebach, 1789, 13¼ by 15¾ inches, that had a $1,500 high estimate and sold for $4,977, and a Pennsylvania redware plate, attributed to Diehl Pottery, Nineteenth Century, with yellow and green decoration, 8 inches in diameter, brought $10,665.
An Abraham Lincoln signed military appointment for Edward H. Leib to captain in the Fifth Regiment of Cavalry, dated April 13, 1863, together with an Andrew Jackson signed appointment for Leib to lieutenant colonel, dated April 1, 1865, went for $5,688; a Johann Heinrich Otto, Ephrata Cloister press printed and hand decorated haussegen circa 1785, on laid paper with hearts, parrots and stylized flowers, 16¾ by 13¼ inches, went for $8,888, four times the high estimate; and a Schtockschnitzler Simmons carved and painted can with bird grip, 34¾ inches long, the bird in yellow and black, went for $3,081, with a high estimate of $2,000.
An Odd Fellows Lodge parade staff, with heart in hand, brought $1,215, a Masonic painted silk apron, Nineteenth Century, sold for $273, and a silk lodge banner, late Nineteenth Century, with two skeletons, one holding a scythe under an outstretched hand, made $3,318. The sale ended with lots of framed arrowheads, triangle points, knives and trade beads, with bids ranging from several hundred dollars to $2,600.
“This is not the end of the Breininger collection,” Ron Pook said, announcing, “there is more to come.” The timing has not been set yet, pending plans the family has for offering more. For more information on this sale and future sales, www.pookandpook.com or 610-269-4040.
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