Published: March 13, 2012
At Butterscotch Auction Gallery’s February 12 estate auction, a monumental still life painting by the Dutch Golden-Age painter Rachel Ruysch (1664‱750) sold for $2.4 million, setting a new world record for the artist at auction. The painting was signed and dated 1700, and at 44 by 35 inches, is one of the largest Ruysch paintings to have ever come onto the market.
The gallery tracked the provenance back to the historic 1857 sale of Alton Towers: the “princely” seat of the earls of Shrewsbury, which has now been converted into the ninth largest amusement park in the world. Managed by Christie and Manson, the onsite auction took 29 days to complete. Most of the paintings in the collection were purchased in bulk from Madame Bonaparte in 1829, though it is not known whether the Ruysch was included in that sale.
The painting then shows up again in another Christie’s sale in 1876, and then another in 1913, where it was purchased by the grandfather of the present owner’s late husband. For the next 99 years it remained in the same family, moving from Munich to Zurich, and finally to New York in the 1980s.
There were several other fine art items in the auction that sold well: a signed plaster cast of Wilhelm Lehmbruck’s “Kleine Sinnende” brought $31,200, a rare etching by the Chinese artist Zao Wou-Ki (b 1921) sold for $15,600, and an Impressionist oil on canvas by Dietz Edzard (German, 1893‱963) brought $9,000.
Decorative works from the Twentieth Century also fetched big prices: a Louis Vuitton wardrobe trunk, estimated at $4/6,000, sold for $15,600, while a gilt carved and polychromed American eagle, circa 1960, soared far above its $300/400 estimate, selling for $3,600. A collection of mostly American flintlock pistols sold for a combined total $15,600, with two Remington rolling block pistols as the major highlight, fetching $2,300 for the pair. A Buddy L four-car outdoor train brought $2,640, and three early Twentieth Century railway signs sold for $4,200.
Furniture highlights included three pieces by George Nakashima: a single pedestal desk sold at $6,600, a set of five walnut dining chairs brought $5,040, and a pair of flat single bedsteads realized $3,840. A George II concertina-action games table also sold well at $4,320, and a Louis XV serpentine front commode brought $2,760.
Several pieces of garden furniture went well above estimate, including a Nineteenth Century four-piece cast iron garden suite estimated at $500․1,000 that sold for $3,240, and a pair of copper “artichoke” finials that brought $2,400, far exceeding its $200/300 estimate.
The auction featured many pieces of estate jewelry and silver, including more than ten silver flatware services. A 14K yellow gold diamond engagement ring with a 2.5-carat round, brilliant-cut diamond sold for $15,600, while a Tiffany St Dunstan silver service for eight brought $2,160, and an “800” German silver flatware service for 12 made $5,040. A Tiffany silver compote with the Union Square mark sold for $2,280, and a small Gorham Martelé bowl fetched $1,560.
Asian works of art were highlighted by an Eighteenth Century Southeast Asian mixed media painting depicting the procession of a mogul that brought $6,000; a large Japanese silk embroidery sold at $3,080, and a single owner’s collection of netsuke realized more than $4,200.
Collectibles also saw some high prices. A Madame Alexander doll in its original white trunk and with several pieces of “Cissy” clothing realized $1,800, a McIntosh tube stereo system brought $3,840, and a Nineteenth Century carved ivory chess set estimated at $500/700 fetched $2,400.
Notwithstanding the obvious success of the Ruysch painting, owner Paul Marinucci reported that the sale was the most successful in recent years, with a sell-through rate of approximately 85 percent. The auction registered more bidders than any of the last several sales, and there was a general aura of interest that †in conjunction with the amount of items sold †seemed to indicate an improving economy, he said.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For more information, www.butterscotchauction.com or 914-764-4609.
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