Published: May 12, 2020
Review by Greg Smith, Photos Courtesy Ralph Fontaine’s Heritage Auctions
CANAAN, N.Y. – Cast iron in all of its outdoor forms provided the brawn for Ralph Fontaine’s Heritage Auctions Inc.’s May 3 sale. The 459-lot auction passed only eight lots for a 98 percent sell-through.
If a bidder called up Fontaine’s gallery and got the voice mail, they would have heard the auctioneer’s voice, in a slightly disappointed tone, tell them that there would be no in-person preview or live gallery bidding for the auction. It was all bid online, by phone and absentee.
Ralph Fontaine said it’s the first auction in 50 years of selling where he hasn’t had gallery bidders.
“It’s just a computer and a bank of phones,” he said. “We had more than 1,500 people signed up from all over the world, with 800 people watching it live on auction day.”
“The sale did fabulous,” Fontaine continued. “I think everyone is kind of stuck in their house and they’re all looking for something to do.”
Most of the sale came unreserved from a 50-year collection out of Niskayuna, N.Y., as well as a Pittsfield, Mass., collection. The offerings included art glass, pottery, toys, clocks, lamps, rugs, paintings, furniture in oak and walnut, midcentury items and a large group of cast iron and garden pieces.
Coinciding with the spring season, Fontaine offered a good selection of outdoor garden pieces and they all found interest. Chief among them was a two-tier cast iron garden fountain featuring a boy holding a fish atop and three repeating Pan figures blowing horns below. It weighed tons, according to Fontaine, and measured 104 inches tall. The fountain sold for $9,225. Behind at $7,995 was a 56-inch-tall bronze fountain featuring a boy holding a koi and a turtle at his feet. A massive Victorian cast iron fountain, 7 feet tall, featuring the three graces sold for $4,920.
Among furniture, a Baker two-piece inlaid breakfront with bowed glass doors sold for $3,900. Victorian pieces followed, led by a “Man in the Mountain” oak grandfather clock with profuse carving that sold for $3,075. Exceptional carving continued on through two $1,845 results in a chair with winged eagle finials, lion carved posts and urn carved back; and a Victorian desk with griffin supports.
“The phone was ringing nonstop for a week and a half,” Fontaine said, speaking to the presale interest. “We had piles of phone bids, piles of left bids, there was a lot of interest in the sale.”
He said the auction attracted a large amount of new registered bidders and buyers, 430 were new to the auction house this sale.
“We had an unbelievable amount of retail customers who bought things; it’s really good for the business.”
All prices quotes include buyer’s premium. For information, www.fontaineheritage.com.
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