Published: December 1, 2020
Review by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy Keno Auctions
NEW YORK CITY – Leigh Keno of Keno Auctions offered up 387 lots of estate fresh merchandise, including a distinguished creamware collection, in an online-only sale November 18.
Keno said he had about 21 consignors for the auction, which found bidding interest from just as many countries around the world.
The creamware collection came from a New York state couple who astutely used Josiah Wedgwood’s 1774 The Queen’s Ware Catalogue as their guide on acquisitions.
“They were looking for the forms, acquiring pieces that matched those in the catalog,” Keno said.
“Well-known ceramics collectors and dealers of both yore and present are found within the provenance lines, including Diana Stradling of Stradlings Antiques, who aided in the cataloging of the sale. The collectors were buying largely from the late 80s through the turn of the century,” Keno continued.
Many of their pieces were undecorated, though some sported green highlights.
“They focused on creamware, including and focusing on undecorated Wedgwood, so whiteware,” Keno said. “They didn’t have underglaze or overglaze pigment decoration. To many purists, that’s the purest design.”
The top lot of the sale was a circa 1780 creamware epergne surmounted by the Neoclassical figure of Plenty, which sold for $23,040. The three-tiered English form offered up reticulated receptacles on each level, the bottom featuring condiment canisters. Keno noted that an identical epergne is illustrated in Joseph Kidson’s 1892 title Historical Notices of the Leeds Old Pottery. The piece had provenance to the private collection of dealer Wynn Sayman, a noted source for European ceramics in the Twentieth Century.
Also with Sayman provenance was a circa 1770 creamware “asparagus pan” that took $5,120. Earl Buckman, president of the Wedgwood International Seminar, related that he had never seen another. Keno referenced Wedgwood’s 1774 catalog for an illustration of the exact form.
Wedgwood’s catalog illustrated a collection of 35 pieces that were commissioned by his most important patron, Queen Charlotte. Among them were his “useful” wares, or those used in the act of food preparation or service. They stand opposed to “ornamental” ware. Anything created for the queen was exhibited and gained renown from the moment of its manufacture, inspiring further sales to a more modest class that could afford his creamware, which was produced and sold as a more affordable option to porcelain. Josiah Wedgwood is credited with being a master marketer.
Also in the Wedgwood 1774 catalog was a “croquant” or “sweetmeat” dish in the form of a lidded basket with a pierced, dome top with large daisy finials, $2,176; a pair of egg cup dishes for poached eggs, each with impressed “Wedgwood” mark to the bottom, $544; and a pair of creamware basketweave fruit baskets on stand, $448.
Produced by Wedgwood circa 1770 was a creamware “friezed egg cup,” that brought $960. In Robin Reilly’s 1989 Wedgwood, a reference is listed that Josiah sent “six friezed egg cups with plinth feet and nob on cover” to London.
Taking considerably more at $9,472 was a pair of creamware vegetable tureens with stands, circa 1780. Each had cylindrical tub-like receptacles with bands of reticulation and twisted rope side handles and finials in the form of a convolvulus. These were purchased from the Stradlings by the collectors. They were without repairs.
On the collection, Buckman related that he hadn’t known of it and was delighted when it popped up.
“I thought the prices were strong,” he said. The creamware did quite well. It gives one a little hope for the future.”
A direct descendent of painter Archibald Willard (1836-1918) purchased a recently discovered work by the artist that has relation to one of the painter’s most famous paintings, “Spirit of 76,” which he created for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. This 15-1/8-by-12¼-inch work was painted on academy board and sold for $14,720. Its subject centered on a waist-up portrait of the fife player from the “Spirit of 76.” Willard was a Civil War veteran who used a fellow veteran, Hugh Mosher, as the model for the fife player.
The sale also saw a few notable results in Chinese porcelain.
Keno said of the category, “It’s a fascinating area and there’s so much to learn everyday. I’m a sponge for it.”
Top among the results for it was a flambe Hu-form vase with apocryphal incised mark of Yongzheng Emperor, 15-3/8 inches high, that sold for $15,360. Keno said it was a rare large size and was consigned from a collector who was unaware of its value. At $14,080 was a 17-inch-high black glazed baluster vase with period Kangxi six-character mark. It had sold at a Christie’s 1991 sale and remained in that collection ever since. From the late Nineteenth Century was a pair of Chinese famille vert “antiquities” palace vases that sold for $9,088. They are named for the decoration within the glazed panels, featuring archaic bronze vessels and similar decorative arts.
In American furniture was an intact set of six Philadelphia Chippendale walnut shell-carved chairs that brought $15,360. Keno dated them to 1770 and wrote, “Intact sets of American Colonial chairs are very rare. The fact that this set has survived in such excellent condition is remarkable.” They were once handled by C.L. Prickett Antiques. Also handled by that dealer was a Boston, circa 1770, Chippendale mahogany reverse-serpentine chest of drawers that sold for $7,040.
Three works from Swedish/American artist Carl Folke Sahline roused interest. Sahline was a world traveler who made his final call of port in Miami. His obituary from the Miami Herald remarked, “Sahlin…once trekked to Latin America to paint the natives and found himself in the middle of a revolution, which he also painted.” A number of his works are held in the Smithsonian.
“Florida artwork is particularly collectable and there are several collectors focusing there,” Keno said. “He was based in Miami and this was consigned by a Miami consignor. They’re fresh to the market and his work doesn’t come up much.”
Top among them was a lot of two watercolors depicting images of the Floridian indigenous people, the Calusa. “Caloosas Visiting The Tequesta Indian Creek Club” and “Caloosas Watching European Ships Arrive at the Shore,” sold for $7,680. A single watercolor on paper featuring a Latin American seamstress brought $5,376.
Keno related that post-sale offers were plenty and he was particularly pleased with the auction.
For additional information, www.kenoauctions.com or 212-734-2381.
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