Published: July 26, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Brunk Auctions
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Southern works of art and antiques were a powerhouse component of Brunk Auctions’ July 14-16 Emporium and Premier Auctions, which saw nearly 1,100 lots cross the block. The sale witnessed a sell-through rate of 93 percent and achieved a total of $1,382,693, lead by a signed and dated jug made in 1852 by the enslaved potter Dave Drake (b circa 1800s, d after 1873) for the Lewis Miles Stoneware Manufactory in Edgefield, S.C. After inspiring competitive bidding from both private collectors and institutions, it sold the Newark Museum of Art in New Jersey for $73,800, underbid by another institution.
Antiques and The Arts Weekly also spoke with Corey Johnson, Brunk Auctions’ specialist in Southern Pottery, to ask his thoughts on the jug and how he felt about the result.
“We didn’t know where it would end up but thought the $25/45,000 estimate would hit the sweet spot. It did much better than that and I’m ecstatic with how much it brought and where it ended up. It had only one apology in the fact that it had been restored but the museum interest really drove the result.”
The 14½-inch-tall ovoid form jug had a light olive-green runny glaze overall with thinly glazed contrasting reddish brown areas, three fingertip marks at base edge and was dated in script “March 14, 1852,” signed in script “Dave,” and “LM;” the applied strap handle had an impressed finger mark. It had been listed in the article “Beneath His Magic Touch: The Dated Vessels of the African-American Slave Potter Dave” by Arthur F. Goldberg and James P. Witkowski, which appeared in the 2006 volume of Ceramics in America.
“It was exciting to see so much interest across the board,” Andrew Brunk said. “Southern pottery and furniture were really solid, and we got some very strong numbers.”
The sale had a notably strong component of Southern furniture, including two pieces that filled out the second and third place finishers for the sale. Bringing in $67,650, from Middleburg, Va., dealer Taylor Thistlethwaite who prevailed against three Baltimore area bidders, was a Federal inlaid mahogany sideboard, attributed to the Baltimore firm of Bankson and Lawson, circa 1785-92, which relates to examples featured in the article, “The Genesis of the Neoclassical Style in Baltimore Furniture” by Sumpter Priddy, Gregory Weidman, and Michael Flannigan, which was published in the 2000 edition of the Chipstone journal, American Furniture.
“It’s a true masterpiece of Baltimore furniture,” Thistlethwaite said when we reached him after the sale. “Bankson and Lawson were not in business very long. With its highly developed inlay, combined with its great size and spade feet, it had all the bells and whistles. I was just blown away by it.” He confirmed he bought it for stock.
In third place at $49,200, and selling to a private collector bidding on the phone, was a rare Federal inlaid walnut chest of drawers, attributed to the Piedmont area of North Carolina and the shop of John Swisegood; additionally, the chest is documented in the archives of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA). Andrew Brunk said few similar examples come to market and this example had “all the bells and whistles – including barber pole and comma inlay – that buyers want.”
Another chest that had the desirable elements was a relatively simple chest of drawers that featured an unusual lightwood panel depicting cotton plants also brought the noteworthy price of $24,600, from a private Southern collector on an absentee bid.
In May, Brunk Auctions set what may be the auction record for Henry Lawrence Faulkner (American, 1924-1981), when it sold “Cat Carrier” for $36,900. Good results beget consignments, and a private collector from Faulkner’s home state of Kentucky sold five works by him in the sale. Led by “Sailors in Key West,” which brought $19,680 from a trade buyer, all the other works exceeded expectations and ranged in price from $7,380 to $12,300.
Another artist with multiple representative examples of their work were five painted Western bronzes by Dave McGary (American, 1958-2013). All five bronzes were from the estate of Peter Tillou, whose estate Brunk Auctions will be selling at the end of September. According to Nan Zander, Tillou’s collection had too many McGary bronzes to sell at once and they wanted to test the market by offering a few in the summer auction; it was a successful venture, with all selling and led at $24,600 for “Last Stand Hill,” a 2004 maquette from McGary’s Warrior Series.
A local Asheville estate had several photographs by German American photographer, Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995), which Nan Zander deemed “iconic.” Sold in eight lots, several of his most famous works were available, including “V-J Day, Times Square, New York City,” “Farewell of Servicemen, Clock at Pennsylvania Station, New York City,” and “Drum Major and Children” but it was his “Children at a Puppet Theater, Paris,” which brought the most and sold for $19,200 to a private photography collector bidding online.
A large selection of guns – both pistols and rifles – as well as powder horns and edged weapons closed out the sale. Making the biggest bang of the section was an engraved Revolutionary War-era powder horn dated 1783, inscribed “The Property of Jona(tha)n Tillinghast” and featuring several era-specific details, including images of both George and Martha Washington, the British royal coat of arms, and cityscapes of New York City and Berlin, Md., (modern-day Brunswick). The horn was being sold by the same seller of the Dave Drake jug; according to specialist Greg Capps, it sold for $18,450 to a trade buyer who was successful in acquiring all of the five top powder horn lots.
The highest price realized on the first day of the Premier sale, July 15, was $8,320; it was shared by two lots, the first of which was a portrait of Queen Anne, attributed to the School of Sir Godfrey Kneller (British, 1646-1723), which was being deaccessioned by the Colonial Wiliamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Va., with proceeds to benefit the Collections Acquisitions Fund. A trade buyer, bidding online, had the top bid. Another trade buyer, also bidding online, paid the same amount for a Spanish Gothic or Gothic style wrought iron and velvet coffer that might have been from the Fifteenth Century and relates to a similar example at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
About 200 lots of perfume bottles were also offered on the first session of the Premier Auction, all from the collection of Janice and Joel Boyd. The group tallied an impressive $107,040 with an equally notable sell through rate of 94 percent; it was led at $5,760 by a rare Ercole Varovier Primavera amphora form bottle with “spider webbing” that sold to a European buyer bidding online.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. Brunk Auctions will hold its next Emporium and Premier sale September 15-17, and will sell the Estate of Peter Tillou on September 30. For information, 828-254-6846 or www.brunkauctions.com.
August 9, 2022
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