Published: November 9, 2010
After a week of well-attended exhibitions, the much anticipated auction of the collection of Richard and Joane Smith took place on Saturday, October 30, at Pook & Pook, with a full gallery ready to bid for choice pieces of folk art, pottery and furniture.
The Smiths, both New Englanders, met while attending the Yale University School of Fine Arts and married in 1948. His design career took them to Providence, R.I.; St Louis; Ames, Iowa, and finally to Lancaster, Penn., where they bought an early Mennonite farmhouse and began to furnish and fill it with local furniture and folk art. Years later, they discovered a large stone miller’s house, built in 1752, in the little village of Millbach. They kept that house in its original condition and built a home on land across the street. In 2000, the Smiths donated the House of the Millbach and 13 acres to the Millbach Foundation.
Richard Smith died in 2001 and his wife Joane in 2010. Their son Peter wrote in the catalog that his father always said, “We don’t really own these things. We’re just caretakers for a brief moment in time and are lucky enough to enjoy them for that moment.”
“The collection has some of the best things we have ever sold,” Ron Pook said prior to the sale, “and we think it will do very well.” And it did, with a piece of redware selling for just shy of $60,000, the schrank called the “finest example left in private hands” bringing $818,500, and small folk art wood carvings selling in the $20,000 range. In total, the 451 lots brought in $2,314,226, including the 18.5 percent buyer’s premium. All prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.
A printed and hand colored fraktur with a large depiction of Adam and Eve flanked by parrots and script, 16 by 13 inches, Johann Henrich Otto, active 1762‱797, sold for $7,110, well over the high estimate of $1,500, and a Pennsylvania redware figure of a lion, Nineteenth Century, orange and green glaze and standing atop an oval base with floral decoration, 4¾ inches high, went just over estimate, selling for $13,035.
A Peter Derr copper and iron Betty lamp, impressed “P.D. 1834,” 5¾ inches high, went just twice the high estimate for $5,925; a Pennsylvania watercolor fraktur bookplate dated 1787 of a mermaid, 6½ by 4½ inches, sold for $14,220, well over the $4,000 high estimate; and a Berks County redware pie plate decorated with green and yellow potted flower, 8 inches in diameter, Nineteenth Century, went over the high estimate of $2,500, selling to Pennsylvania dealer Greg Kramer for $6,517.
There was a large selection of wallpaper boxes, including lot 92, a small, round Pennsylvania example, mid-Nineteenth Century, with yellow and red acorn pattern on a blue ground, 2¾ inches high, 3¾ inches in diameter, that sold for $4,029, well over the $800 high estimate.
Large pieces of furniture were not as strong as choice smalls, as witnessed by a Pennsylvania Dutch cupboard in two parts, walnut, ogee bracket feet, original brass H hinges, two six-light doors over three drawers over two recessed panel doors, that had a low estimate of $30,000 and sold for $22,515. The piece dated circa 1780 and measured 85½ inches high, 54 inches wide.
A Berks County hanging cupboard, circa 1780, with a yellow and green molded cornice above a raised panel door with tulip tree on an ivory ground, wrought iron strap hinges, dark blue and red half columns and sides decorated with a star and four tulip birds, all above a base with a single drawer, sold for $23,700, well below the low estimate of $50,000. It measured 27¼ inches high and 21½ inches wide.
The $12,000 high estimate was left in the dust when a Deco-Tex carved and painted maple song bird on pedestal, late Nineteenth Century, 5½ inches high, sold for $28,440. It was inscribed “Frank L. Smith 1872.” Greg Kramer continued his winning streak with the purchase of lot 189, a large redware sander, Nineteenth Century, in the form of a seated man with a dog at his feet, 6 inches high, that sold over the high estimate of $20,000 for $35,550.
Several Joseph Lehn, Clay Township, Lancaster County, pieces were in the sale, including a turned and painted egg cup with strawberry decoration on a blue ground, that sold over the $1,200 estimate for $7,702. A chalkware figural group of a fireman and his wife, dated 1860, both standing with arms embraced, 11 inches high, went for $16,590, and a Pennsylvania round wallpaper box, Nineteenth Century, with bright yellow and orange floral pattern on a blue background, 2 inches high and 3 inches wide, soared over the $400 high estimate, selling for $4,503.
A second Jonas Weber painted pine trinket box, circa 1850, the lid and sides adorned with stylized flowers and the front with a house, lawn and trees, all on a yellow ground, bracket feet, 4¾ inches high and 7¼ inches wide, sold for $35,550, $10,000 over the high estimate.
The best piece of stoneware, a John Bell harvest jug with applied loop handles, extensive cobalt floral decoration, the neck stamped “John Bell” and the reverse inscribed “Waynesboro PA May 12th 1860,” sold to a Pennsylvania collector for $59,250, well exceeding the $40,000 high estimate. The catalog notes that “this is one of the most important pieces of Bell stoneware to come on the market in recent years.”
A Pennsylvania Compass Artist slide lid box, circa 1800, decorated with red and white stylized flowers on a blue ground, 3 inches high, 7 inches wide and 5 inches deep, more than doubled its $20,000 high estimate, selling for $54,510.
The sale concluded with a selection of about 50 lots of later things, including early Twentieth Century carpets, carvings by Daniel and Barbara Strawser and John Bastian, contemporary redware by Lester Breininger, James Nyeste and Ned Foltz, contemporary furniture and a collection of Santa figures and Christmas decorations.
The next auction at Pook & Pook is the Smithsonian sale featuring firefighting-related material on November 19. For information, 610-269-4040 or www.pookandpook.com .
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