Published: November 30, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates
MOUNT CRAWFORD, VA. – Fireworks in November? With the dynamic bidding – and numerous subsequent results – witnessed over the course of four days (November 17-20) in the salesroom of Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates (JSE&A), one might be forgiven for thinking it was early July rather than a week before Thanksgiving. American flags, folk art and painted furniture were just some of the highlights of the auctions, which achieved results company president and principal auctioneer, Jeff Evans, said were “the strongest in the firm’s history. The White Collection and the Hunter Collection were the highlights, and the caliber of the material offered across all categories was very appealing to a broad swath of collectors. Levels of online participation in our auctions continue to expand dramatically for us – a real indication that there is increased market demand for a diverse range of Americana and folk art.”
The firm rarely releases sales totals, so it was noteworthy when Evans announced $3,133,045 was realized across the four days of auction.
Eighteenth & Nineteenth Century Glass & Ceramics
Leading things off were 603-lots of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century ceramics and glass on November 17, of which nearly 130 lots were from the collection of Nick Routson of Phoenix, Ariz., coupled with an additional 180 lots from the Maplewood, N.J., collection of Doug Reed. The first part of the cup plate collection of Kenneth and Bernice Simpson also had 180 lots and is the first grouping from that collection that Evans will be selling for the Acton, Mass., collectors.
A pair of free-blown leaded glass vases or celery glasses had a thistle-form bowl with wheel-engraved log cabin, American flag, a cider barrel and five-finger husks on the neck. Part of a small group of glass articles created for the 1840 presidential campaign of William Henry Harrison, the pair was a new discovery and sold to Colonial Williamsburg for $10,158; it was the highest price achieved on the first day.
“A lot of the historical American transferware is regionally driven,” vice president and department head, Will Kimbrough, said when we spoke with him two days after the sale wrapped. “‘The ‘Arms of Georgia’ is pretty rare and there were two bidders from Georgia who wanted it.” The strength of the Routson collection was historical American transferware Staffordshire, which topped off at $7,768 for an 1826-38 ceramic platter with the “Arms of Georgia,” an arch marked “Constitution” supported by pillars representing “wisdom,” “justice” and “moderation.”
Just in time for the winter holidays, a rare sleigh-form pressed open salt from Doug Reed’s collection slid into third place at $6,573. Cataloged as “extremely rare” and attributed to Boston & Sandwich Glass Co., the piece had been extensively published and had previous auction sales and private collections in its provenance.
The top lot from the Kenneth and Bernice Simpson Collection, also rare, and from the Boston & Sandwich Glass Co., was a Lee/Rose cup plate, number 619-B model, with allover silver nitrate and amber staining that was embossed “Benjamin Franklin.” Measuring 3-7/16 inches in diameter and estimated at $500/800, it brought $4,481.
“We feel the single-owner sale model is by far the most effective method for dispersing a serious collection,” Evans said. The results the firm achieved for the Important American Folk Art Collection of Jan and Watt White on November 18, followed the next day by the Important Americana Collection of Barbara M. and the late Charlie Hunter of Staunton, Va., underscore the effectiveness of that strategy.
Collection Of Jan And Watt White
The White’s collection was assembled over many years at antiques shows, auctions or from some of the most prominent antiques dealers in the business, with color and form being a driving factor for the Stamford, Conn., collectors. In the introduction to the auction catalog, Jan White described being “particularly drawn to figural objects” that were often combined with dazzling painted surfaces, especially the “technicolor world of Pennsylvania decorative arts.” Painted furniture and carvings, and dynamic weathervanes, including vernacular examples, were the anchor of the collection and attracted interest from both near and far.
“Obviously, it was the star of the White Collection, and of the weekend. It was a surprise and is a world record for an American folk art portrait of a cat.” Kimbrough did not pussyfoot around in his enthusiasm for a portrait of a black and white cat with a ball of orange-red yarn on a gray windowsill. The 17¾-by-14¼-inch oil on board picture had been published previously and sold to a trade buyer bidding online for $155,350. It was underbid by a private collector in France whose collection leans towards modern and contemporary art.
“I’ve always thought there is an affinity between American folk art and modern art; that painting just typifies it to me. There is a strong line and elemental design. We joked that it could be called ‘Cat with Orange Orb;’ it shows that American folk art can coexist in different decorative settings. It also demonstrates the diverse levels of interest in the material,” Kimbrough said.
The White’s collection offered a plentiful supply of boxes in various shapes, sizes, colors and functions, seemingly with something for everyone and realizing prices across a broad spectrum.
An East Coast trade buyer paid $50,788 for a painted trinket or dresser box made in 1850 by Jonas Weber, possibly for Maria Weber; it was a price Kimbrough said was “very respectable.” In the auction catalog, it was described as “arguably the finest small Weber box known; is further enhanced by its Weber family history and its distinguished collection provenance.” Among the hands through which the diminutive 3-1/8-inches-high mustard yellow painted box with landscape decoration had passed were Dr and Mrs Donald A. Shelley, Mary Thornton and Titus Geesy. It had also crossed the block at Pook & Pook.
A private collector from Virginia, who was bidding from the salesroom floor, took a New England bentwood pantry box from a $1/1,500 estimate to $11,950. A trade buyer paid $11,353 for a New England carved and painted candle box with rosettes, crosses, a rising sun device and sawtooth borders. It was underbid by a West Coast private collector – and new client for JSE&A – who flew in for the sale.
“They bid aggressively” Kimbrough recalled of the new client, noting they underbid several boxes – and prevailed on others – in the White Collection.
One of Kimbrough’s favorite lots, and one he admitted being a little disappointed in the result for, was the $17,925 realized for a folk art carved and painted train conductor whirligig. It retained its original polychrome painted surface and had been with Baltimore, Md., collectors Dr and Mrs Ed Hoffman, Barry Cohen in New York City and Betty Stirling in Randolph, Vt., as well as several dealers.
“It slipped through the cracks. I thought it was one of the best pieces in the White Collection and one of the best ones we’ve ever had, certainly the best I’ve ever handled. It was definitely a good buy,” he said.
The highest price achieved in a baker’s dozen weathervanes in the White’s collection was $16,730 for a cut-out sheet iron stag weathervane that sold to a private collector in New England. The minimalist aesthetic of the piece exuded power and movement and denoted the vernacular effort the White’s gravitated towards. It had been published in Bishop and Coblentz’s book, A Gallery of American Weathervanes and Whirligigs as well in several other ads in The Magazine Antiques and the 1977 Winter Antiques Show catalog.
Vibrancy of color and originality of surface drove the result on a carved and painted pine eaglet figure by Wilhelm Schimmel, which sold to a trade buyer from Pennsylvania for $14,340, more than double its high estimate. The same factors were behind the price achieved by a parrot attributed to Schtockschnitzler Simmons (Berks Co., Penn., active 1885-1910), which also topped expectations when it flew to another trade buyer, for $11,353.
Collection Of Barbara M. & The Late Charlie Hunter
In introducing the Hunters, the auction catalog described “the hunt” as driving both Charlie and Barbara, whatever their interests. Passionate collectors who bid aggressively for “just the right piece,” their collection featured some superlative examples across several collecting categories, including painted furniture, flags and political textiles, Southern objects, antique and vintage shotguns and guitars, both vintage and contemporary.
“The Hunter collection was diverse, and the quality was top-tier in each category they collected under; that’s always a recipe for success,” Kimbrough said.
JSE&A offered the Hunter collection without reserves, a strategy that saw a 99.7 percent sell-through rate on the day of the auction.
Of the 365 lots in the Hunter Collection, 54 were flags and it was the undisputed star category of the day. Evans had sold flags from Hunter’s collection in 2016 and will offer more flags from the collection in March. Most of the flag lots in the sale sold to Dillsburg, Penn., flag dealer, Jeff Bridgman, who was buying for stock and saw stiff competition from a private Southern collector.
“The market is really strong,” Bridgman told Antiques and The Arts Weekly. “These are the strongest prices I’ve ever seen at a flag sale.” He acknowledged he had been the underbidder on several flags that Hunter had purchased or sold him others that he took the opportunity to buy back.
Among the lots Bridgman acquired was the top lot of the sale, a 34-star flag banner from the 1864 Lincoln-Johnson presidential campaign that was described as extremely rare, if not unique. The catalog noted that the presence of just 34 stars suggests the flag may have been made just before West Virginia achieved statehood in 1863, with the Lincoln and Johnson slogan added after it was made. Estimated at $10/15,000, it brought $131,450.
Of comparable rarity and selling for $101,575, also to Bridgman, was a 26-star Native American Party political parade flag banner that dated to circa 1849. The flag’s blue canton featured a wingspread eagle flanked by flags above a ballot box inscribed “Twenty-One Years,” and three white stripes marked with the slogan “Native Americans. / Beware Of / Foreign Influence.”
A top-selling flag that did not sell to Bridgman was an early hand sewn linen 13-star American flag, with unusual coloring, that dated to the early Nineteenth Century and measured 14½ by 26½ inches. It brought $89,625 from what Kimbrough described as “a private buyer, intimately connected with presidential politics,” who is an existing JSE&A client.
Folk art and furniture in the Hunter Collection also dazzled. A Shenandoah Valley paint decorated yellow pine blanket chest by Johannes Spitler (1774-1837) sold for $77,675, just shy of an aggressive estimate. It had provenance to the Don and Faye Walters collection and is included in MESDA’s object database files.
“In retrospect, it fell where we thought it would. There are examples out there, and most of the serious collectors for this have one if not two. It was a solid example, just not an exceptional one. We might have been a little more conservative in the estimate but it’s still a respectable price,” Kimbrough reflected.
A Parker Bros (Remington) DH grade side-by-side double-barrel shotgun brought the biggest bang of more than two dozen guns on offer and sold for $20,315, the same price realized by a 1933 Martin natural acoustic guitar, one of nine in the auction.
Various Owners Americana
Bidders still had money to spend by the time the fourth and last session of Americana from various owners crossed the block on November 20. Rarities and discoveries abounded in the session and saw considerable competition.
The session was led by a Shenandoah Valley paint-decorated bentwood oval box that related to other examples including one at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one formerly in the Shelley collection, and one illustrated in Nina Fletcher Little’s book, Neat and Tidy: Boxes and Their Contents Used in Early American Households. The offered example was a recent discovery and saw competition from several private collectors before it closed at $34,655.
Another discovery was a watercolor and gouache on paper landscape of Chattanooga, Tenn., done circa 1870 by Harry Fenn (American, 1845-1911) for his two-volume tome, Picturesque America. It sold to a private Tennessee collector, underbid by a Tennessee institution, for $6,573.
A woodblock print of a cassowary by Solomon D. Henkel (1777-1847) of New Market, Va., is the largest print produced by the Henkel Press and one of just two known hand-colored examples. It flew to $7,768, the same price realized for a Richmond, Va., area tooled and cut-out leather key basket that had been recently discovered in a Southwestern Virginia thrift shop for $5.
What is made in Virginia often stays in Virginia, at least when Jeff Evans is involved. Such was the case with a Chippendale walnut desk and bookcase, made in Mecklenburg Co., Va., and with connections to the Bruton Parish Church of Williamsburg that sold to a Virginia private collector for $25,095 ($3/5,000). A mid-Eighteenth Century yellow pine diminutive turkey-breast corner cupboard, attributed to the Eastern shore of Virginia, will also be staying in state, going out at $7,170. Rounding out the leading Virginia pieces was a Shenandoah Valley punched-tin paneled yellow pine pie safe that was another fresh discovery. It nearly doubled its high estimate, bringing $5,676 from a private in-state collector.
Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates will sell Americana March 3-5, including Part II of the Hunter Collection, with Fine and Decorative Arts on April 21-23 and Americana on June 23-25.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, www.jeffreysevans.com or 540-434-3939.
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