Published: January 29, 2002
Sotheby’s Important Americana:
By Laura Beach
NEW YORK CITY – Highstyle American furniture from the Copeland Collection. Blue-chip folk art from the Palley and Kanter consignments. Precious church silver. There was much to dazzle bidders at Sotheby’s Americana Week sales, but it wasn’t at the various owners sale. What the three sessions on January 17 and 18 lacked in sizzle, however, they made up for in solid sales: $3.6 million on 442 lots. The buy-in rate was about average, twenty percent.
The auction opened on Thursday morning with roughly 140 lots of porcelain, most of it Chinese Export, the first 90 lots of which were from one collection. A garniture of five blue and white Kangxi vases and one cover left the room at $18,000, and an Imari “Governor Duff” charger, dating to circa 1720 and 16 ¾ inches in diameter, sold in the room for $13,800.
From another consignment was a 16 ¾ inch figure of a Dutch lady, her cape flying. The figure elicited a bid of $52,500. The most expensive piece of Chinese Export porcelain was catalogued as the property of a European lady. Consisting of a plaque painted with a nude bather attended by her maid, along with the French 1781 engraving from which the plaque was copied, the lot sold for $214,750 ($200/300,000.)
The morning session concluded with one hundred lots of prints. Featured was Amos Dolittle’s “Display of the United States of America,” a hand colored engraving of 1791. Probably the largest engraving executed, printed and published in this country before 1800, it sold under estimate for $29,500.
A circa 1800 stipple engraving of Thomas Jefferson, engraved by Cornelius Tiebout, left the room at $27,200, well in excess of its $8/10,000 estimate. The impression is thought to be the only known portrait printed on silk.
Eleven hand-colored lithographs from George Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio were also a hit, selling for $31,800 ($10/15,000). In the Audubon category, “Pileated Woodpecker (Plate CXL),” 38 ¼ by 25 ½, was knocked down at $23,750; “Hooping Crane (Plate CCLXL),” 38 ¼ by 25 5/8 inches, sold for $42,150; and “Great Northern Diver or Loon (Plate CCCVI)” went out at $29,500.
The afternoon session got going with folk art. One of the first pieces off the block was a redware bowl stamped S. Bell & Son, Strasburg, Va. It sold in the room to New York dealers Garrison and Diana Stradling for $5,700.
Americana Week saw some extraordinary prices for weathervanes. A galloping horse weathervane of copper and zinc, stamped J. Howard & Co., and measuring 21 inches long, sold to the phone for $98,500, underbid by New York dealer Leigh Keno. A Cushing zinc and copper sheep weathervane, 25 inches long, retailed by Marna Anderson, brought $43,875, but a J.W. Fiske weathervane, Maud S. And Sulky Driver, passed at $27,000.
A pair of 27- by 22-inch portraits attributed to Sturtevant Hamblin sold on the phone for $16,800 ($6/8,000) while another pair of portraits, William and Lucinda Mabie Cook, attributed to Joel Parks, were hammered down at $31,800. Wayne Pratt of Woodbury, Conn., snapped up Ralph Cahoon’s “Mermaid and Sailors Playing Violins and Cellos” for the bargain price of $16,800. A phone bidder claimed a charming watercolor, pen and ink double portrait by J.H. Davis of Olive and Lucy Chaney, aged seven years and ten months, for $30,650.
Forty-two lots consigned by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation from its collection of 60,000 objects realized nearly $400,000 including buyer’s premium. Most prized was a Philadelphia Chippendale dressing table of circa 1760. It sold in the room to a private collector for $61,125. A New England maple tea table with scrubbed top and red-painted legs sold to Massachusetts dealer Elliott Snyder for $49,050. The following lot, a Philadelphia Chippendale side chair, sold in the room for $30,650. A cherry sideboard, probably from Connecticut, closed at $21,450 while a child’s New England chest of drawers in old red paint fetched just under low estimate, $19,150.
Consigned by various owners, other major lots included a Massachusetts block-front bonnet-top desk-and-bookcase, sold to the phone for $115,750; and two Philadelphia dressing tables, sold for $75,500 and $61,125.
The most romantic piece was the so-called “Wedding Cake” table, a lyre-based drop-leaf table made by Duncan Phyfe and Son around 1840. Owned by the New York cabinetmaker’s grandson, Duncan Phyfe Whitlock, the table is shown in a photograph at Whitlock’s marriage in the parlor of the family home in Southbury, Conn. Estimated at $30/50,000, the table sold in the room to Rick Patrick for $78,375. The Michigan collector was successful in his bid the next day for a piece of Milford Church silver.
Nineteenth Century wares dominated the small selection of silver that concluded the auction on January 18. Legendary New York maker Tiffany & Co., took top honors. A sumptuous, Japanesque silver and mixed-metals compote of about 1880 went for $75,500 ($32/38,000). Its hammered silver surface imitating water, a Japanese-style mixed-metal punch bowl, 11 1/2 inches in diameter, brought $52,500; and a pair of Japanese-style mixed-metal vases formed as cylinders cuffed with a patterned band and resting on robust pad feet garnered a bid of $46,750.
From earlier in the century was a cup and cover made by James Thomson of New York. Chased with the figures of Liberty and Justice, and engraved with the arms of New York, it was presented to Congressman John McKeon in 1838. The weighty centerpiece, fully 24 inches tall, commanded a bid of $32,950.
A handful of Eighteenth Century pieces included a tankard by Samuel Vernon of Newport, circa 1720. It sold for $46,750.
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