Published: May 7, 2019
Review by Anne Kugielsky, Photos Courtesy Horst Auctioneers
EPHRATA, PENN. – Brent Horst of Horst Auctioneers said, “We did have a great sale this past weekend [April 26 and 27]. The auction was for the Estate of Clarke Hess of Lititz, a well-known local historian and collector of Southeastern Pennsylvania decorative arts. The auction was well-attended and items, particularly fraktur and folk art, sold especially well.”
Clarke Hess was a historian and collector with a one-track focus on the history of Southeastern Pennsylvania. He had a deep and abiding appreciation for the Plain people, because many in his family had also once been Plain, Horst said.
Hess restored the family homestead near Lititz and turned it into a historic house museum; he left instructions that the homestead and its collection should eventually be offered at auction, and many local organizations will directly benefit from some of the proceeds of the auction of the Hess Estate.
Hess authored the book, Mennonite Arts; he was on the board of directors of the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society and donated an important collection of objects to that organization, although the vast majority of his collection was included in the Horst Auction.
Hess curated several museum exhibits on Mennonite antiques and was an active member of the American Folk Art Society. He received various awards for his contributions to historical research, including a lifetime-honor award as Fellow of Lancaster History.
So, it is no surprise that the auction was well-attended by collectors and others who appreciate the folk arts of the Plain people and that many lots sold extremely well.
A good example is the top lot, a Lancaster County sampler quilt, initialed HW and dated 1860, that sold after much competition at $30,000. In Hess’s catalog notes, he states that this quilt, which Gene Rappaport at Renningers said he thought was the greatest quilt to come out of Lancaster County, was made by Hess’s great-great-grandmother, Fanny S. Bucher (1841-1909), thus the FSB sewn in script on a piece of fabric attached to the back.
Frakturs were among the top lots led by an Ephrata Cloister Fraktur Memorial for Brother Obed, which realized $29,500. Another fraktur, this one depicting the Prodigal Son by Frederich Krebs, brought $22,500; two frakturs brought $15,500 each: one with religious writing made by Hans Jacob Brubacher and a fraktur Vorschrift (a model for writing exercises often drawn by schoolteachers), made circa 1790 by Christian Alsdorff.
Most of the lots from the Hess collection had extensive research attached, so buyers were assured the history and attributions were accurate, something extremely difficult with folk art and furniture.
Many furniture highlights were included in the top lots, such as a Sulphur-inlaid walnut schrank, dated 1769 and made by Peter and Ada Swarr of Lancaster that sold for $21,000; a Sulphur-inlaid walnut tall case clock, dated 1785 and made by John George Hoff of Lancaster, crossed the block at $16,000; and another tall case clock, this a Samuel Stauffer in a Chippendale case made in Manheim, Lancaster County, sold at $10,000.
Rounding out the top lots were a carved wood horse by Peter Brubacher of Clay Township, Lancaster County, Penn., with a dark coat, light-colored legs and a blaze that sold at $26,500; and another fraktur, this a bookplate make by Johann Adam Eyer for Johannes Denlinger of Strassburg Township, Lancaster Co, Penn., going to $10,500.
Prices, with buyer’s premium, as reported by the auction house. For further information, www.horstauction.com or 717-738-3080.
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