Review by W.A. Demers; Photos Courtesy Sarasota Estate Auctions
SARASOTA, FLA. — Sarasota Estate Auction’s January 20-21 sale, which featured art from the late Twentieth Century all the way back to Old Master works, saw robust action on both days. Leading the sale on the second day was an Old Master painting cataloged as by the Rembrandt School, which was estimated $300/600 and started at an opening bid of $200. It rapidly advanced to its final price of $62,720 after a LiveAuctioneers bidder and an Invaluable bidder tangled, Invaluable ultimately victorious. Now heading to Switzerland, it had a California consignor who was offering it from the collection of a doctor residing in Italy, who in turn had three authenticated Rembrandt paintings. This painting bore a Christie’s P stamp in black ink within a rectangle on the upper stretcher verso with overall size of 26¾ by 23 inches.
A Thanksgiving Day Proclamation by George Washington, too, was estimated $300/600 but soared to $47,360 with an Invaluable bidder from New York winning the lot.
Owner and auctioneer Andrew Ford featured art from many recognized important artists of the past few centuries in this sale. William Sontag (1822-1900) was first working in the Ohio Valley, then Italy, but by 1856 he was among the founders of Hudson River School, working primarily with landscapes. His work in this sale was a New Hampshire landscape, an oil on board titled “Sunset, Presidential Range Near Pinkham Notch.” Signed in the lower left, it bore a Vose Gallery label on the back and was estimated $6/8,000 but did much better finishing at $16,000.
Associated with the Hudson River School, Sonntag’s reputation was built on his wilderness landscape paintings, which were often allegorical in nature. Born near Pittsburg, Penn., he defied parental objections to pursue a career as an artist, moving in the 1840s to Cincinnati where it is believed, according to catalog notes, he studied at the Cincinnati Academy of Fine Arts under Godfrey Frankenstein. From the early 1840s to the mid-1850s, he had a studio in Cincinnati and made numerous painting trips in the Ohio River Valley and into the mountains of West Virginia and Kentucky. An interesting side-hustle described in the catalog notes tells of his store-front gallery exhibition getting the attention of a Baltimore and Ohio Railroad executive, who commissioned Sonntag to paint a series of landscapes along the B&O railroad route. Sonntag seized on the opportunity, combining his railroad painting trip with his honeymoon.
Felix Varla (1903-1986), his surname shortened from Varlamishvili, was born in the Republic of Georgia, the son of a prominent financier and public figure. A skilled painter, his works were described in a 1959 newspaper in Montreal as exhibiting the “fairy tale colors of Byzantine romance and icons.” His subjects included harvest/farm scenes, bathers, fishermen, woodmen and other rural peoples at their crafts, ports and still life. In this sale, a figural oil on canvas farm painting that was purchased at Galerie Drouant in Paris in 1960 made six times its high estimate, selling for $12,800.
More fine art crossed the block. Hughes Claude Pissarro’s (b 1935) Impressionist oil on canvas, “Workshop in Ireland,” depicting a small pond with a swan and small wooden boat, brought $7,040. Pissarro is the grandson of the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro and son of Paulemile Pissarro. Born in Neuilly-sur-Seine and surrounded by an artistic environment, he inevitably spent his childhood and youth with a paintbrush in his hand. Painting excursions in the company of his father and artist friends carried on the family tradition established by Camille Pissarro, and these proved formative for him.
French Impressionism was also front and center in an impasto oil on canvas by Yolande Ardissone (b 1927) depicting a garden. With overall size of 40¾ by 51½ inches, the painting earned its low estimate of $6,400.
Additional paintings in the sale that were notable included a gouache by Marie Laurencin (French, 1883-1956), an ethereal portrait of a woman in pearls at $5,760, nearly triple its high estimate; an oil on canvas by Junius Ralston Sloan (American, 1827-1900), a luminous Hudson River painting titled “The Hudson and Kickout Mt From Hyde Park, 1871,” also exceeding its estimate $1/2,000 estimate, going out at $5,120; and an oil on Masonite by Ray Strong (American, 1905-2006) of a fertile California landscape realizing $4,800.
As well as the art there was early furniture from the English craftsman Thomas Sedden, Chinese porcelain from Qing and Republic periods, an early Greek krater and two ivory elephant tusks with export paperwork from Malawi government in East Africa. Such paperwork is important to have these days as trade in ivory, especially elephant ivory, is severely restricted. These tusks were recovered from poachers. Measuring 37 by 5 by 4 inches, they sold for nearly triple their high estimate for $14,720.
Asian material was led by a rare Wang Yeting porcelain plaque going out at $12,800. The famille rose, underglazed porcelain painting bore an inscription at the top left corner reading, “Sailing Along on a Distant River,” followed by the artist’s signature, “Painted by Wang Ping Yeting of Mt Zhushan.” Under the signature was the artist’s name seal “Elder Ping” in carving script. With an open foreground, the landscape progresses towards the mountainous background; a forest of trees on the left side of the riverbank in the foreground corresponds to the trees and village at the foot of distant mountains.
The ancient Greek column krater deaccessioned from the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco was a black figure terracotta wine vessel. It had a museum inventory number on the base and dimensions were 14½ by 15 by 11½ inches. It sold for $6,080.
Also from ancient Greece were an amphora selling for $5,760 and an aryballos in the form of a leg, which was used as a flask to contain perfume. It surpassed its $200/400 estimate to realize $4,480.
Rounding out the sale’s notable results were a final price of $5,120, more than double the high estimate, for a pair of Minton pâte-sur-pâte vases and the $4,160 paid for a History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For additional information, call 941-359-8700 or visit www.sarasotaestateauction.com.