Published: March 5, 2019
CINCINNATI, OHIO – After setting the record for Andrew Clemens (American, 1857-1894) sand bottles and then breaking it in back-to-back lots in October, Cowan’s once again crossed the $100,000 mark for a bottle in its February 23 premier auction of fine and decorative art, including Americana. The Clemens bottle was one of several lots that soared past its estimate in a sale that was conducted in front of a near-capacity audience. The four-hour sale attracted more than 850 bidders competing in person, over the phone, absentee, or on one of three online bidding platforms and totaled $615,570.
“Winter auctions can sometimes be sluggish, but we had a good crowd and eager bidders for this one,” said Sam Cowan, Cowan’s director of fine and decorative art. “We’re always pleased to see our returning customers, but we were very proud to see that nearly half of the buyers in this auction were bidding with Cowan’s for the very first time.”
The $102,000 sale price for the Clemens sand bottle marks the third highest price at auction for the artist. The patriotic, spread-winged eagle was a typical motif for Clemens, but this particular bottle was larger and far more vibrant than some of the other examples that have come to market.
“I’ll never forget the day I first came across a Clemens bottle,” recalled Wes Cowan, Cowan’s founder and principal auctioneer. “I was sitting at the folk art table on Antiques Roadshow in Hot Springs, Ark., and the guest hands it to me and I had no idea what it was, but was totally stunned at the detail and artistry. I was at the table with experts from Christie’s and Sotheby’s and none of us had heard of Clemens. In 2004, we were the first national auction houses to bring his work to market, and we still had only scratched the surface of understanding the value of his work. I estimated it at $3,500 to $4,500 and we sold it for over $12,000. Fifteen years later, we’re selling his work for $100,000 a bottle. I think it’s safe to say, Clemens’ remarkable work is no longer a secret.”
The story of Andrew Clemens the man is just as remarkable as his sand bottles. Clemens came down with encephalitis at the age of five causing him to lose his hearing and subsequently the ability to speak. In the late 1800s there weren’t a lot of opportunities for a deaf person to make a living, but Clemens’ sand bottles became coveted works of art in his home state of Iowa. By the time of his death, he was making upwards of four bottles a week and living a comfortable, if modest, life.
A painted Shenandoah Valley blanket chest painted by Johannes Spitler was the top furniture lot of the day and brought $43,200. Made sometime between 1790 and 1800, this paint-decorated blanket chest in yellow pine is typical of Spitler’s exuberant painting.
Other furniture highlights include a New England Queen Anne highboy, circa 1740, that sold for $10,200; a John Belter & Co. armchair for $7,380; a Louis Vuitton steamer trunk for $7,200; a Pennsylvania or Maryland inlaid bowfront chest of drawers for $7,200; and an Italian slant front bureau for $6,000.
A Theodore Clement Steele (American, 1847-1926) landscape, likely of Brookville, Ind., was the top fine art lot of the day, selling for $33,210. The oil on canvas, signed and dated 1900, depicts a vibrant scene and is a quintessential piece of the Indiana impressionist.
Other fine art highlights include an unusual Charles Wysocki (American, 1928-2002) oil on canvas titled “Fond Memories” that sold for $6,765; a John Hauser (American, 1859-1913) gouache titled “Circling” for $6,000; an Italian Renaissance portrait of a woman on panel for $5,700; and a portrait of a boy with pastries attributed to Pierre Mathurin Pétraud (French, 1807-1880) for $5,700.
An Italian Gothic-style giltwood triptych topped the decorative art category selling for $13,200. Likely late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth century, the triptych icon depicts the Virgin Mary and her child in the center panel, flanked by two attendants on each side panel.
Other highlights from the decorative art category included a fine pair of Minton pate-sur-pate moon flasks that sold for $10,200; a South German renaissance bone inlaid casket for $8,400; and a copper pig weathervane, circa 1880, for $4,920.
Other highlights included a George III sterling chinoiserie coffee pot by John Swift that sold for $13,200; a Meissen blue onion porcelain service for $6,000; a Robert Todd Lincoln silver presentation flask by Tiffany & Co. for $6,000; and a George III sterling cake basket by William Tuite for $4,500.
All prices include buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. Cowan’s next Fine & Decorative Art: Premier Auction will be on June 8. For information, www.cowans.com or 513-871-1670.
September 19, 2023
September 19, 2023
September 19, 2023
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