Published: February 5, 2008
Considered by many to be the auction house’s most popular sale of the year, Nadeau’s annual New Year’s Day auction was once again conducted on January 1 in a gallery filled with enthusiastic bidders. With a huge number of phone bidders and a record number of people participating via the Internet, activity at the sale was lively throughout the day.
“We were very pleased with the turnout and happy with the results of the sale overall,” stated auctioneer Ed Nadeau after the auction. The auction once again eclipsed the $1 million mark, grossing an impressive $1,113,007.
Fresh-to-the-market merchandise is one of the trademarks of Nadeau’s major auctions, as the auction house put items away throughout the year specifically for this sale.
The vast majority of the items in the auction were consigned directly from estates throughout Connecticut, and merchandise included a plethora of paintings and a huge assortment of Tiffany jewelry. Other items came from local homes, as did the top lot of the auction, a Tiffany floor lamp. And there was a smattering of merchandise that had been picked locally, such as a Tiffany table lamp.
Other items just “walked through the door,” said Nadeau, alluding to a local woman who brought a desirable Frederick Mulhaupt painting into the gallery just in time for it to be added to the sale. There was also the usual assortment of custom furniture by the likes of turn-of-the-century Hartford-area cabinetmakers, such as Margolis and Fineberg.
Nadeau reported strong interest in the sale, with the preview well attended during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Numerous absentee bids were executed with strong interest expressed in a wide variety of items, but especially the jewelry.
The first 65 lots of the auction comprised jewelry, with a huge cache of Tiffany gold and diamond pieces attracting serious attention. The majority of the pieces had been consigned from a local estate and most were accompanied by paperwork that indicated when the items had been purchased and what was paid for them at Tiffany’s.
Nadeau reported a large crowd on hand for the jewelry and bidding was spirited. The first lot of the auction was a Southwestern silver and turquoise squash blossom necklace with matching earrings and ring that nearly quadrupled the low estimate, bringing $977.
A pair of platinum and diamond earrings from the Tiffany assortment followed, with the lot selling at the high estimate for $6,325, while a white gold and diamond lady’s Tiffany watch brought $6,037. The top lot of the jewelry came as a Tiffany platinum ring with a one-cushion brilliant cut diamond weighing 2.7 carats was sold. Originally purchased in 2004 at Tiffany for $47,200, the ring hammered down at $27,025. A platinum pendant with a 1.8 carat diamond, purchased in 2005 at Tiffany for $26,400, sold for $13,800.
It took about 45 minutes to dispense with the jewelry and then without hesitation Nadeau moved right into the eclectic mix of antiques. The first lot to be offered was a Victorian rosewood armchair with the arms terminating in ornately carved lion’s heads that sold for $1,725.
The top lot of the auction came as a Tiffany floor lamp with a leaded glass dragonfly shade in nice pastel colors was offered. Nadeau spotted the lamp while on a house call that yielded little in the way of antiques. Disappointed and about to leave the house virtually empty-handed, the auctioneer casually commented as he passed the room where the lamp was being used, “Jeez, too bad the lamp isn’t real.” The homeowner stopped and told Nadeau that it had belonged to his grandfather and after looking it over, it was determined that it was in fact an original.
Estimated at $30/50,000, the auction house started getting calls about it as soon as the ads broke. By sale time, 12 phone lines were active and as Nadeau asked for an opening bid of $40,000, several hands shot up in the air. Bids bounced back and forth for quite awhile, with the lot eventually selling to a Midwestern private collector for $115,000. When Nadeau contacted the consignor two days after the auction, he said there was an audible pause when he told them what the lamp realized, and then the consignor commented, “Good, we are doing some renovation and are running short on money.”
Sold immediately after the floor lamp was a Tiffany table lamp on an “acanthus” base with a mottled green leaded glass shade with an irregular yellow and green band running around the middle of the shade, and then repeated at the rolled-in edge. Also from a Hartford home, this lamp was found by a picker as it sat on a table on a back porch with an overhanging roof. “It was filthy,” stated Nadeau, “It must have been sitting there for the past 20 years. We cleaned it up some, but left a lot of the grime on it.”
Estimated at $30/40,000, the lot was actively pursued by many of the same phone bidders, with it selling at $51,750.
Several lots of Tiffany desk sets and individual accessories were also offered, with a nice pine needle pattern set selling well above estimates at $7,475, despite some damage to the letter holder. Nadeau commented that the set was complete and featured a couple of rare items such as the magnifying glass.
Another Tiffany lot that proved to be a surprise was a lot of three amber iridescent shades with pulled feather decoration. The gallery estimated the lot at $300/400 due to chips on each of the shades, yet bidding culminated at $2,415.
A large cache of paintings had been consigned from a Mason’s Island estate and they all generated a good deal of interest. It was a painting that walked through the door just two weeks prior to the auction, however, that captured the limelight. Nadeau commented that he had received a phone call a while back from a local woman describing a painting that she had that depicted a harbor scene. The auctioneer was pleasantly surprised when the woman walked through the door with the painting in hand, just in time for inclusion as an addendum lot in the New Year’s Day sale. “I guess this guy is kind of hot right now,” stated Nadeau of Mulhaupt.
A wonderful oil on board depicting a Rockport Harbor scene, the Mulhaupt retained a paper label on the verso from the National Arts Club and carried a presale estimate of $20/30,000. Substantial interest was expressed for the painting, measuring 12 by 16 inches, and by sale time all of the phones were occupied by anxious bidders. Several in the room chased the lot, and there was action from the Internet as well on its way to a selling price of $46,000.
The top lot of the Mason’s Island estate paintings was an Ernest Lawson Impressionist scene depicting a landscape with river and mills that sold for $37,375.
Other art in the sale included an Auguste Rodin pencil and watercolor depicting a seated nude that was hammered down at $9,200, as was a Joseph Rusling Meeker oil on canvas depicting a landscape with mountainous background.
Two monumental oil on canvas paintings that had been executed for a local commercial institution attracted a good deal of interest. Each depicted a Hartford industrial scene, one with the railroad and the other a view from behind Capitol Avenue. By Richard C. Harden, the paintings measured approximately 40 by 91 inches and sold for $3,162, and $3,450.
Also consigned from the Mason’s Island estate was a prime selection of wrought iron folk art by Wilhelm Hunt Diederich. Purchased by the owner of the estate in the 1950s, the lots included a bronze sculpture and three lighting devices. Probably the earliest of the Diederich pieces was a large bronze of a jockey on horseback that appeared to be executed in a restrained style that alluded to the stylistic progression of the artist’s later works. Accompanied by the original bill of sale from 1955, the collector had purchased the bronze from the New York City’s Grand Central Art Gallery for $500. With a host of phone bidders on the line, Nadeau offered the lot estimated at $25/40,000, with it selling at $34,500.
The best of the pieces was a candleholder embellished with a large “classic-Diederich” stylized horse on a wrought iron base. Paperwork indicated that the piece had been purchased from LeRoy Ireland in 1955 for $115. Measuring 42 inches tall, the proud prancing horse was affixed to a horizontal bar with a candleholder at the front of it. Further embellished, the candleholder had a staircase bar descending from under the horse’s front hoof, extending down and back though the center post and arching up on the other side to form a nice curl.
Measuring almost 2 feet long and more than a foot tall, the horse was impressive. Cataloged as circa 1925, the rare piece carried a presale estimate of $15/25,000 and, as it crossed the auction block, there was an air of excitement in the gallery. With the phone bidders poised for action, the rare and desirable piece ended up selling at $60,375.
A Diederich wrought iron floor lamp with a shade for an electric fixture sold at $5,175, and a simple standing floor candleholder went out at $2,875.
A good selection of custom furniture and antiques were offered throughout the day, with the top lot coming as an Alexander Roux heavily carved center table. With a pietra dura top comprising about 20 different stones and a center medallion featuring a micro-mosaic rendering of the Roman Coliseum, the table carried a presale estimate of $25/40,000. The ornate table, marked with the Roux paper label, sold at $23,000.
A Seventeenth Century Jacobean four-drawer chest on ball feet did well, selling at double the high estimates at $4,887; an Aesthetic Movement cabinet by Allen Brothers went out at $9,200; and a Herts and Sons Renaissance Revival center table with inlaid marquetry top brought $4,600.
Victorian furniture continued to bring increasingly soft prices, especially for middle-market items, as demonstrated by a golden oak dining set consisting of a pedestal base table with heavily carved legs capped with roaring lions and a set of six carved chairs with heavily carved top crest flanked by lion’s head. Sold individually, the table went out at $920 and the chairs brought only $550.
Further demonstrating the decline in price structure, this time for high-end Victorian, was a carved walnut sofa with tufted upholstery that Nadeau’s had cataloged as “the finest example.” The auctioneer revealed the history of the sofa, commenting that he had purchased the piece 25 years ago for his personal collection. “This was probably the best walnut sofa that I have ever seen †anywhere,” stated Nadeau of the wonderfully carved piece with three-dimensional fruit and nuts across the back and repeated over the scrolled sides. “We are downsizing and I just don’t have room for it anymore, and it is really too bad that I have to sell it in this market.”
Estimated at $1,5/2,500, bidding on the lot opened well below estimates and topped out at $2,300. “I hated to see it go,” he said, “especially since it sold for less than I paid for it 25 years ago †and that doesn’t include what I paid to have it reupholstered. But that is where the stuff is at today,” he reasoned.
A couple of the smalls offered created quite a stir, with an 8-inch Dedham luncheon plate decorated with an owl border with alternating stars and moons between the spread winged birds bringing a surprising $5,750, while a Moorcroft pottery vase with stylized trees realized $5,462.
Another lot that sold well above estimates was a large bronze outdoor sculpture of a cougar nursing her young that brought $10,925.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium charged. For information, 860-246-2444 or www.nadeausauction.com .
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