Published: October 12, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Hindman
CINCINNATI, OHIO – Hindman marched more than 800 lots across its block in a two-day American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts sale September 30-October 1 that saw records fall by the wayside. With a sell-through rate of 83 percent and a total of $2,189,781, the sale significantly exceeded the $840,000 low estimate.
“We are delighted with the results of the sale,” said Wes Cowan, vice chair of Hindman and founder of Cowan’s Auctions. “The sale was a true testament to the expanded reach of Hindman’s American Furniture, Folk and Decorative Arts Department. There are excellent collections in the Midwest, and the remarkable bidding engagement from across the country illustrated how this category has developed under the leadership of Ben Fisher, Hindman’s director of Americana.”
The star of the sale, by pretty much any yardstick one cares to measure it by, was the portrait sand bottle by Andrew Clemens, which topped off at $956,000. Of the roughly 100 known bottles by Clemens, it is the only one known to exist that features a portrait among the geometric flourishes that distinguish his hand. It handily beat the previous record for a Clemens sand bottle, which was set at $275,000 on December 8, 2020.
While Hindman was not able to identify the buyer of the bottle, Americana director Ben Fisher perhaps said it best after the sale, “There are only a handful of bidders for this high-level of Andrew Clemens’ sand bottles. They were all eagerly bidding on this exceptional example of Clemens’s work. It’s unlikely that we will ever see a portrait bottle again. This sort of thing – portraiture – was atypical for Clemens.”
The image on the bottle was that of Orrin T. Fuller of Savanna Ill., depicted as a young boy whose likeness was probably captured in a circa 1860s carte de visite that Clemens used in the late 1880s to make the bottle. Like most of the Clemens bottles that have come to market in the last 20 years, it descended in Fuller’s family and was offered for sale by his granddaughter, Ora Lee Wiseman of Twin Falls, Idaho. Wiseman had supplied Hindman with a folder of documentation that included remembrances, newspaper clippings that showed a photograph of the bottle and two photographs of Fuller that accompanied the bottle.
The documentation for the bottle also included articles about Fuller’s sister, Angeline “Angie” Fuller Fischer (1841-1925), who was nationally known and prominent in the deaf community, having herself lost her hearing and becoming nearly blind following a childhood illness. She would undoubtedly have known about Clemens, a deaf-mute working in McGregor, Iowa, less than 100 miles up the Mississippi River from the Fuller family. It is probable that Fischer commissioned Clemens to make the bottle for her brother in the late 1880s, when she married and left home.
The survival of Clemens’ bottles is astonishing given how fragile they are. That is underscored by Wiseman’s memory of playing with the bottle in the Fuller home when she was a young girl. “It amazes me that the bottle survived more than 100 years being handled by many people – including children!”
But there was more to the sale than just the bottle.
A marble bust of Benjamin Franklin, possibly done by Giuseppe Ceracchi after Jean-Jacques Caffieri (French, 1725-1792), more than doubled pre-sale expectations and sold for $53,125, to a buyer making their debut purchase at Hindman. It led a small group of sculpture in the sale, followed by a carved wood pair of Mr and Mrs Devil, attributed to Francesco Toso (Italian, active late Nineteenth Century), which came from the Manchester, Ky., collection of Dr James Dawson. It realized $34,375, more than 15 times its high estimate. Rounding out sculpture highlights was a 24-inch-tall cast metal equestrian sculpture of Andrew Jackson, cast by Cornelius and Baker in Philadelphia in 1855 that rode off to a buyer in the South who paid $21,250.
A pair of portraits of Moses Michael Hays (1739-1805) and his wife, Rachel Myers Hays (1738-1810) that was attributed to Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755-1828), led the fine art section, closing at $40,625, squarely within estimate. Far exceeding expectations was a painting attributed to Susan Catherine Moore Waters (American, 1900) that depicted three young girls, all in white dresses with pantaloons, two holding pink roses, the third holding a red badminton racquet. Consigned by the estate of Dean Lower of Lanark, Ill., the painting was done in oil on tin and measured just 9-3/8 by 11-7/8 inches. A private collector in the Midwest took it from an estimate of $2/4,000 to $11,875.
Lower was an avid collector of toys and regional pottery. Highlights from his estate were a group of four pressed and painted tin figural pull toys pulled in $6,875, the same price for a Noah’s Ark with a large number of paired animals. “Tally Ho’ cast iron toy made in 1893 by Carpenter Mfg. Co, that rolled out the door at $9,375 came from another collection
Thirty-one pieces of Galena glaze redware pottery vessels from Lower’s estate were offered in six lots, achieving prices from $625 to $7,500. Fisher thought that the result on the Galena redware was stronger than usual, noting that the lots were sold to buyers in Illinois and other parts of the Midwest.
Furniture saw nice surprises in both painted and formal furniture. A Fulton County, Ohio, painted blanket chest by Jacob Werrey (1838-1893) had been exhibited at the Ohio Decorative Arts Center in Lancaster, Ohio, in 2015, and had, at one time, been owned by Wes Cowan. According to the catalog note, of the known Werrey chests painted in that style, it is “generally acknowledged to be the best preserved, retaining most of its original vibrant paint.” Fisher said it would be staying in the Midwest, perhaps eventually going to an institution.
For formal furniture, a Classical figured cherrywood scallop-front sideboard had a strong result at $16,250. It had been attributed to the shop of Robert Wilson of Lexington, Ky., based on its similarities to one in the Speed Museum collection. It exceeded the $13,750 paid for a Chippendale plum pudding mahogany slant-front desk attributed to Newport, R.I., cabinetmaker, John Goddard that had provenance to collections in the Midwest and New York, as well as New York furniture dealers, Bernard & S. Dean Levy.
A few pieces of English and European furniture populated the sale briefly. Bringing $28,125 was a paneled and molded oak chest of drawers, Seventeenth or Eighteenth Century and probably English. A circa 1730 English William and Mary chest of drawers with birds and flower marquetry inlay illustrated in F. Lewis Hinkley’s A Directory of Queen Anne, Early Georgian, and Chippendale Furniture: Establishing the Preeminence of the Dublin Craftsman flew to $16,250, more than eight times its high estimate.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.
Hindman’s next Americana auction will take place March 10-11.
For information, 312-280-1212 or www.hindmanauctions.com.
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