Published: August 1, 2023
Review By W.A. Demers; Photos Courtesy Richard Stedman Estate Services
TAMPA, FLA. — Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitneys bronze “Arlington Fountain” from her studio garden consigned by her heirs sold at the opening bid of $200,000 for a total of $250,000 on July 22 at Richard Stedman Estate Services summer auction of the Vanderbilt Gardens and archive. The bronze nude male garden sculpture, approximately 4 by 4 feet, is one of the most iconic garden statues in America and the centerpiece of the studio and grounds, widely illustrated and celebrated. Three nude males support a garland-rimmed bowl, stylized floral banded basin, exhibiting lots of verdigris outdoor garden patina. Simulcast online from Tampa Bay on LiveAuctioneers and Invaluable with additions from eight estates, the fountain surpassed the record set by the auction house for her “Shepherd” sculpture at $137,500 in January.
The fountain was kept by its creator Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Two other examples are at McGill University in Montreal and in Lima, Peru. In situ, the fountain linked the swimming pool via an aqueduct and was surrounded by Roman antiquities.
The sale exceeded $600,000 with a more than 90 percent sell-through rate and more than 1,000 registered bidders, according to the firms director and gallerist R. Van Stedman. “The Arlington Fountain really took off,” he said. “The heirs had not planned to offer it in the sale but keep it with the property, but when they saw how well the ‘Shepherd’ sculpture did in the January sale, they decided to include it.” Several interested parties surfaced, but in the end it was won by a single bid by a person who owns million-dollar properties.
Bookending the vista at the studio entrance was a monumental pair of bronze Chinese Qing or Japanese Meiji 56-inch-wide lotus urns. The pair sold for $78,125.
There was a second fountain of note on the estate, an 81-inch-high pedestal basin fountain by John Bateman of a water nymph, which went out at $53,750. Relatively unknown, Bateman also created monumental sculptures for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition where he exhibited alongside Whitney.
A guardian presence at the far end of the garden was Whitney’s large stone sculpture “Youth.” Sitting atop a dated a Roman stone urn dated “DIV” for 504 CE, the two were displayed together for many decades, and the heirs insisted they remain together for their next owner. They were bid to $43,750.
The estate further contributed a pair of identified Roman copper or bronze tall fountain urns, 39 inches in diameter, which found a new home for $20,000.
The auction additionally offered several lots from eight other partial estates. These included a great example of Pennsylvania folk art from the estate of an Americana collector who had retired to Florida in the form of a blue decorated stoneware Cowden Wilcox 3-gallon jug with cornucopia bouquet or root vegetable decoration at $28,125. A Pablo Picasso Madoura pottery, 1955, terre de faience ceramic vase “Femme” from an edition of 200, from a north Midwestern doctor’s estate, had been broken and reglued by the family some years ago. It earned $11,563; and Charles Rollo Peters’ “The Hut Lands End,” 1923 an oil seascape nocturne from a St Petersburg art collector, realized $10,625.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. More from the Vanderbilt Whitney estate, a trove of ephemera and memorabilia, will be offered in January. For additional information, www.museumappraisers.com or 212-327-2616.
September 19, 2023
September 19, 2023
September 19, 2023
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm