Published: January 25, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Pook & Pook
DOWNINGTOWN, PENN. – Pook & Pook, Inc., started 2022 off well, with nearly 600 lots offered in its January 13-14 Americana & International Auction. Of the 588 lots offered, 581 sold for a sell-through rate of more than 98 percent. The firm went into the sale with a low/high estimate of approximately $800,000-$1.2 million and tallied $1,778,105 in sales, selling to buyers in the room, online, on the phone, and by absentee bid.
Pook keeps up a rigorous annual auction schedule; no sooner does one sale end than work begins on the next. So, it was perhaps no surprise that Jamie Shearer was tired but happy when we reached him after the sale.
“It’s great that we’re busy; it’s definitely better than the alternative,” he said.
The title of the sale was particularly apt, with the top three lots alternating between either Americana or International interest; the latter took home top-lot honors. A portrait of a Russian priest reading a book by Russian artist Vasily Petrovic Verestchagin (1835-1904) sold to an American trade buyer for $79,950. Though the work wasn’t signed, the reverse bore a Verstchagin collection stamp; it was being deaccessioned from the Reading Public Museum, which consigned a total of 30 lots to the sale – all fine art that crossed the block in the second day of action.
“The Russian art market is still pretty hot,” Shearer observed, noting there had been surprisingly high interest in the painting prior to the sale. While that gave him and James Pook an inkling that it would do well, the result nonetheless surpassed their expectations.
Making a resoundingly solid second place finish at $59,520 was a late Eighteenth Century fruitwood bracket clock made in Charleston, S.C., with a face signed Jas Jacks. According to the catalog, few clocks by Jacks survive, who initially worked in Jamaica, around 1777. He moved to New York, then worked in Charleston and eventually Philadelphia. The clock was consigned to the sale from a private collector and sold to a trade buyer who was not familiar to Shearer.
“Rumor has it, it’s going back to South Carolina. The rarity of works by the maker drove the price. He worked in a few places; of those locations, Charleston would bring the most money. Anything Southern is usually rarer, which typically means a higher price.”
Third place went to an international lot. Rounding out the leaderboard was a patinated bronze Midas head by Dame Elisabeth Frink (British, 1930-1993). Reminiscent of an archaic helmet, it sold to a buyer in New England for $47,120, nearly twice the low estimate. Signed and numbered 3/10, the 11¼-inch-tall piece had provenance to Beaux Arts in London. It was the second sale in which Pook has offered one of her works; her bronze “Bird (with an attitude)” realized $36,900 when it was offered in September 2021.
From there, the top lots, on either day, were mostly Americana. A pair of oil on board oval still life paintings of fruit on slab tables by Severin Roesen (American, 1815-1872) showed little interest prior to the sale but ended up realizing $47,120 from a Pennsylvania private collector. The still life paintings each measured 16 by 20 inches and were signed; they were the top selling lot of a selection of nearly 60 lots from the Philadelphia collection of Jack and Mary Louise Krumrine that kicked off the first session. Shearer mentioned that there were a few people at the sale who remembered when the Krumrines had been collecting about 30 years ago.
The sale featured another lot by Roesen, an unusual coincidence particularly because it was being sold on behalf of another seller. The rectangular-format work of comparable subject was larger at 30 by 25 inches but sold for less: $22,320. Like the pair of oval examples, it will be staying in Pennsylvania, with a local private collector.
Other highlights from the Krumrine collection included a Berks County, Penn., painted pine dower chest that was the first lot of the sale. It was decorated with spread-wing eagles, birds and roosters and dated to 1806; the catalog described it as an “especially fine example…in a remarkable state of preservation.” A trade buyer, bidding in the room, won it for $42,160.
Two of Shearer’s favorite pieces in the sale were from the Krumrines, both of them fraktur. Christian Alsdorf’s birth certificate fraktur for Judith Alsdorf, born in 1799, was made in Lancaster County, Penn., and sold to a local collector for $37,200. The other, which Shearer admitted he coveted, was a birth certificate fraktur for Jacob Brunngart, born 1814, done by Daniel Otto, the “Flat Tulip Artist.” It, too, will be staying in Pennsylvania, with a collector, bidding in the room, who pushed it to $22,320.
Good things come to those who wait. A private Hagerstown, Md., collector who missed out on winning a copper horse and sulky weathervane 15 years ago finally had the opportunity to acquire it, which he did, for $44,640. Shearer said there had been competition up to $8,000, at which point it was just the buyer and an unidentified underbidder.
Nearly two dozen tall case clocks stood sentry during the preview, with nearly nine examples from the estate of Charles West Wilson of Red Lion, Penn. Wilson had more clocks in his collection, but Pook & Pook made the decision not to sell all at once; another half-dozen will be offered in the upcoming Spring 2022 sale. Of those in this sale, an example by John Wood of Philadelphia brought $39,680, the highest price of the group. It went to a Central Pennsylvania private collector.
The opportunity for a ready-made collection for anyone so inclined presented itself in a mid-Eighteenth Century tiger maple shelf with scalloped sides that came with a selection of small objects gradually accumulated over time, with additions made by some of the previous owners, who Shearer said, “read like a who’s who in American decorative arts.” Among the hands in which it previously passed were Barry Cohen, Mr and Mrs Paul Flack, Joel and Kate Kopp and David Schorsch. A trade buyer from the Mid-Atlantic took it for $17,360, within estimate.
Sellers often bring high expectations that are not always possible to meet, so when a seller is thrilled with the price realized, it is particularly rewarding for the auctioneer. Such was the case with an oil on canvas illustration by Clara Elsene Peck in its original Art Nouveau frame, which had been estimated at $1,5/2,500 but which sold to a trade buyer for $16,120.
“It was sold by a Pennsylvania Educational Institute, which had a few other things in the sale. When I called them, they were hooting and hollering; they’d watched the sale online,” Shearer said.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium but may not include additional online bidding surcharges.
Pook & Pook’s next Americana & International sale will take place in early April.
For additional information, www.pookandpook.com or 610-269-4040.
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