Published: August 11, 2020
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Brunk Auctions
ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Brunk Auctions has put another COVID-19-era sale behind it, with strong results. Between the Emporium Auction on July 31 and the Premier Auction on August 1, Brunk Auctions offered more than 1,150 lots, with 93 percent selling for a combined sale total of $1,651,620 against an estimate of $997,650-$1,572,625. About 200 potential buyers made appointments to preview in person, and bidding took place on the phones and absentee, with online bidding offered through LiveAuctioneers and Bidsquare as well as Brunk Auction’s proprietary platform, BA Live. More than 4,500 bidders registered online, a 6.5 percent increase from the firm’s previous sale June 18, and the sale welcomed bidders and buyers from 25 countries on six continents.
“I thought the sale was very strong,” Andrew Brunk said, speaking with Antiques and The Arts Weekly by phone two days after the sale closed. “We had lots of action on a lot of different things and there are strong signs of life in the market, which is proving to be remarkably resilient right now.”
Brunk Auctions has a long history of success selling Southern fine and decorative arts; this sale continued that tradition. Bringing one of the top prices in the sale was a plum-pudding mahogany veneered Federal desk-and-bookcase that had descended — with documentation — in the family of its original owner, Benjamin Leigh (1761-1830) of Augusta, Ga. The piece caught the attention of some of Georgia’s top collectors, who all vied for the piece on the phones, with one of them finally taking it for $56,580. “That’s a lot of money for a turned-leg desk-and-bookcase,” Brunk said. “So much of Georgia’s furniture is neat and plain, or painted; the sophistication of this piece suggested an urban origin and it was extraordinary for its documentation.” And, it turns out, it was a discovery, too. “I don’t think it had ever been documented in print; it was not known until we got it.”
“It’s a great example of the form,” Brunk said, in reference to a late Eighteenth Century Charleston, S.C., carved and inlaid mahogany “rice bed,” that had family history in Mobile, Ala., into the Twentieth Century. The bed had been conserved by John Bivins Jr and Russell Buskirk of Charleston. “It had significant restorations that were well-described and it’s always hard to predict what effect that will have, but, in this case, the carving was top notch and the market was willing to forgive the restorations.” The bed, which had been acquired from a Charleston dealer in 1998, relates closely to a bed at Winterthur and sold to an American private collector bidding online for $23,370.
Landing “where it should have,” Brunk said, was an inscribed, dated and signed jug by Dave Drake of Edgefield, S.C., that sold to an American private collector for $15,990. The fairly simple appearance of the piece belied its importance: it had an unusual history of ownership in an African American family. One of only a few of Dave’s wares with such provenance in the late Nineteenth/early Twentieth Century, the jug may “provide a glimpse to how Drake’s work may have been valued in the African American community,” the auction house said.
Southern-interest works came in two-dimensions as well. Bringing what Brunk thought might be a record at $36,900 was a circa 1735 mezzotint copperplate engraving on paper by John Faber (Dutch, 1684-1756), after William Verelst (British, 1704-1752), which depicted Tomo Chaci Mico or King of Yamacraw and Tooanahowi his Nephew Son to the Mico of the Etchitas. It is going to an American museum. An American private collector took a framed hand colored engraving of the Georgia colony of Augsburg to $19,680, almost triple the high estimate. Done by Matthäus Seutter (German, 1678-1757) and Tobias Conrad Lotter, (German, 1717-1777) in 1747 and referenced in William P. Cummings, The Southeast in Early Maps (2014), it also showed a plan of Ebenezer, the German Salzburger settlement on the Savannah River, a map of the coast of Georgia with an inset of Jekyll Island and St Simon’s Island and a plan of a water mill and the town plan of New Ebenezer.
Selling just short of its low estimate, “Haymaking (Haymakers in the Sun) by Julien Dupré (French, 1851-1910) nonetheless brought the sale’s top price of $73,800. The work, which was won by a phone bidder in the United States, remained in what was possibly its original Barbizon giltwood and composition frame and will be included in a forthcoming catalog raisonné to be published by Rehs Galleries, Inc.
Another painting in the sale that will be featured in an upcoming catalog raisonné is “Summer Flowers, Ana Capri,” done by Charles Caryl Coleman (New York / Italy, 1840-1929) in 1901. It went out just under the high estimate, bringing $14,760 from private collector in the United States bidding on the phone.
The sale featured several pieces that were being sold from the Thomasville Center for the Arts, a Thomasville, Ga., institution that does a lot of outreach in their area; proceeds from the sale of deaccessioned items will go to benefit their mission. One of their top results was Richard Evett Bishop’s (American, 1887-1975) “Geese at Sunset, Honey Lake, Monticello, Florida.” It had been exhibited at the National Sporting Library and Fine Art Museum in Middleburg, Va., in the museum’s inaugural exhibition, “Afield in America: 400 Years of Sporting Art,” in 2011. A private American collector bidding on the phone pushed it to $44,280, nearly triple its high-estimate.
The top price realized in the Emporium sale was also sold to benefit the Thomasville Center for the Arts. A West African Chiwara Antelope headdress from the Bambara Tribe brought $9,225 from an international private collector bidding on the phone. Not only did the lot have provenance to noted New York City dealer Mathias Komor but the work had been in the collection of the late Parker B. Poe of Thomasville, Ga.
Provenance continues to attract bidders and bring strong results, as denoted by a monumental Spanish Colonial turkey-form silver incense burner that flew to $17,220 from an American private collector. The piece had descended in the family of Manuel Ortiz de Zevallos y García, a Peruvian lawyer, diplomat, and politician. Manuel Ortiz de Zevallos was married to the daughter of José Bernardo de Tagle y Portocarrero, the IV Marquis of Torre Tagle and President of Peru from 1823-1824. According to the catalog note, the Tagle family is one of Spain’s most prominent aristocratic families, going as far back as the Fourteenth Century. The catalog also noted a series of heraldic works — also relating to the Ortiz de Zevallos family — that Christie’s New York had sold in December 2018.
Brunk Auctions’ next sale on September 12 will be a single-owner auction featuring the Estate of William N. Banks of Newnan, Ga. “There are some wonderful things in it,” Brunk concluded. “It may be one of our best sales ever.”
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
Brunk Auctions is at 117 Tunnel Road. For more information, www.brunkauctions.com or 828-254-6846.
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