Published: May 14, 2019
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog and Onsite Photos Courtesy of Toomey & Co.
OAK PARK, ILL. – When silver authority Paul Somerson passed away in May 2018, his wife, Terry, was left with the collection of Arts and Crafts metalwork and jewelry they had amassed. On May 5, Toomey & Co, Auctioneers sold 500 lots in “The Paul & Terry Somerson Collection of Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Metalwork and Jewelry,” reportedly the first ever single-owner collection limited to American Arts and Crafts metalwork and jewelry to come to auction.
The saleroom had a small crowd, with the majority of buyers bidding online, on the phone or by absentee bid. By the time the gavel came down on the final lot, more than $650,000 had changed hands, with 93 percent of lots selling and 84 percent of those lots selling within or above their estimates. Interest in the sale was global, though private collectors and institutions in the United States were acknowledged by John Walcher, Toomey & Co’s vice president and senior specialist, to have been the ones to predominantly prevail. Walcher went on to say, “It was a little nerve wracking putting up 500 lots of similar material, but I’m extremely pleased with the results, and I credit Paul’s keen sense of collecting and his ability to put together such a collection. Many items set a new standard for American Arts & Crafts, and a few people I have spoken with have commented that the prices seemed very strong.”
After the sale, Terry Somerson commented through email, “I was certain that the collection was in good hands. The decision to part with Paul’s treasured objects was difficult, but I knew it was for the best. I am pleased with the sale results, and I cannot thank John Walcher, John Toomey, Lucy Toomey and everyone at Toomey & Co enough for their hard work in making it happen. I was surprised and obviously pleased by the strong prices that many of the pieces brought. They are an affirmation of Paul’s deep knowledge and discerning eye. I’m especially gratified that some of the objects will be going to museums.”
Somerson’s collection was well-known, and many pieces in the sale had been published in several reference books on Arts & Crafts silver and metalwork; the auction catalog included these citations where they were relevant and will be not only a lasting tribute to Somerson but an invaluable reference for collectors.
Works made by the Kalo Shop of Park Ridge, Ill., comprised a significant portion of the sale – nearly 160 lots – and were many of the top-selling lots. Leading the sale was a Kalo Shop 14K gold and pearl pendant necklace that quadrupled expectations when it sold for $20,000 ($5/7,000). It was closely followed by another Kalo shop necklace, this in sterling silver with a blister pearl, that finished at $13,750, more than three times the low estimate ($4/6,000). Taking top honors among silver lots was a Kalo Shop salad bowl that was closely related to an example in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which finished at $11,250. Also considered rare was a 72-piece Kalo Shop flatware service for eight that sold for $9,375.
With only a few English examples, the collection was almost exclusively devoted to American makers. Somerson had focused his collecting on Chicago-area craftsmen and women, but the collection was comprehensive in its offerings, listing in the index 136 craftsmen or shops in addition to the Kalo Shop. Some highlights from other makers include a 14K yellow gold ladies ring with a yellow sapphire and diamonds made by Susan Oakes Peabody (b 1950) of North Woodstock, N.H., which was the best-selling ring in the sale at $12,500. Two necklaces also caught the attention of buyers. One, a sterling silver, lapis lazuli, black onyx and green jade by New York City craftsman Frank Walter Lawrence (1864-1929) more than tripled expectations to finish at $9,375, while a sterling silver necklace with blister pearl by Matthias W. Hanck (1883-1955) realized $10,000.
A calla lily gravy or sauce boat by Peer Smed (1878-1943) of Brooklyn, N.Y., made more than five times its estimate and closed at $11,250, while a round bowl with chased and enameled floral decoration by Boston artisan Mary Catherine Knight (1875-1956) considerably exceeded expectations ($1,5/2,000) when it sold for $8,125.
Museums were reportedly successful buyers at the sale, though at press time, only one was identified. The Philadelphia Museum of Art acquired four lots in the sale: a sterling silver coffee pot by Isadore V. Friedman (1885-1956) working for the Hull-House shops in Chicago; a sterling silver and blue enamel letter opener by Mildred Watkins (1883-1968) of Cleveland, Ohio; a sterling silver round dish with blue and green enamel by Jane Carson Barron (1879-1942), also of Cleveland; and an abstract Bird brooch by Sam Kramer (1913-1964) of New York City.
This sale was by no means the extent of Somerson’s collection. Plans have not been finalized for the remainder of the collection, though Toomey & Co, said it will offer subsequent items in future sales.
All prices quoted include buyer’s premium, as provided by the auction house. For information, 708-383-5234 or www.toomeyco.com.
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