Published: February 9, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Bonhams
LOS ANGELES – Bonhams’ semiannual sales have, in recent years, largely featured English and Continental furniture, fine and decorative arts, with American furniture and folk art objects making less frequent appearances on the block. When the firm had a sizeable section of more than 50 lots of American furniture and decorative arts, including 21 weathervanes from the estate collection of equestrian champion, Luann Beach, it opted to feature the grouping in its January 26 Home & Interiors sale, largely timed around the Americana sales and shows taking place on the East Coast. The sale of almost 450 lots netted a total of $882,000 with more than 76 percent of lots selling.
“We had a really good sale,” furniture and decorative arts specialist, Anna Hicks, said by phone. “We’ve been having really good sales in general recently, despite the pandemic.”
The top price of $37,812 was achieved by a Chippendale carved cherry and walnut block-front slant-lid desk attributed to the workshop of John Shearer, who was working in Martinsburg, Va., in the early Nineteenth Century. The desk had crossed the block previously – in 1987 at Sotheby’s, at Christie’s in 1991 and then again at Sotheby’s in 1996 when it brought $28,750 but it had been in a private collection for 25 years. A hidden document attached to the interior face of the rear tambour partition belied Shearer’s Tory sympathies and read “Made by me John S– When the British — Capital of America. God save the King — amen — the worst and greatest vill — in Loudoun County Virginia By — e Torrys on — ard.” It is believed this referred to the burning of Washington DC in 1814. “We had a lot of interest and there was competitive bidding between private collectors and the trade. We were really pleased with the result we got for it,” Hick said, confirming that the desk would be returning to the East Coast, the purchase of a phone bidder.
The weathervanes from Luann Beach’s estate were the clear star of the sale and reflected her passion for horses; many had been purchased at auction since 2000 and prior sale information was included with the catalog. All 21 lots offered found buyers and the group totaled $108,871, ahead of a cumulative low/high estimate range of $59,200/89,100. Hicks said the majority were going to buyers on either the East Coast or in the Southwest. The first lot of the group – a 30-inch-long gilt-copper molded jumping horse and hoop example, attributed to A.L. Jewell & Co., of Waltham, Mass., sold to an online bidder for $20,312, double its low estimate. It had been purchased at James Julia’s Auction in 2014, where it had been offered with an estimate of $8/10,000 and brought $17,775. A buyer in the American Southwest paid $10,200 for an Ethan Allen sulky weathervane attributed to W. A. Snow.
A private collector who was new to Bonhams paid the same price – $10,200 – for a molded copper horse weathervane attributed to J. Harris & Co., that had crossed the block at a James Julia sale in August 2013, when it sold for $3,555 against a $2/4,000 estimate. Beach had apparently gone on a shopping spree at that same Julia’s sale, buying a Harris & Co., copper and zinc prancing horse example for $7,110 and an unattributed prancing horse and rider weathervane for $5,333. The two vanes both saw an improvement in value, with the prancing horse by Harris bringing $8,287 and the unattributed example riding to $7,650, both ahead of their estimates.
A weathervane that had lost value since Beach acquired it at Skinner’s in 2019 was a molded gilt-copper and zinc rearing horse weathervane attributed to J. Howard & Co., which was the last of the weathervanes to charge across the block at Bonhams. Beach had paid $14,760 at the time but at Bonhams, it sold to an unidentified buyer within estimate, for $9,562.
A Los Angeles estate with East Coast roots was the source of 22 lots of American furniture and fine art that preceeded the weathervanes across the block. Notable results from that collection include a Federal inlaid mahogany tall case clock with a dial inscribed S. Willard Warranted for M Elisha Hall, which sold to a buyer on the East Coast, for $15,300. A portrait of an officer of the Philadelphia Artillery Regiment, painted by John Neagle (American, 1796-1865) topped off at $5,100.
“People were going crazy; a lot of people hadn’t ever seen one,” Hicks said of an American carved parcel-gilt and ebonized walnut and maple “extra grade” desk made by the Wooton Desk Manufacturing Company in Indianapolis, Ind., in the second half of the Nineteenth Century. It was from a local collection that had featured French furniture and Vienna porcelain that Bonhams sold in November; they withheld it to be sold alongside other pieces of American furniture and the decision paid off; it exceeded expectations and brought $8,287.
The bulk of the remaining items in the sale were European or English and were led by a pair of French gilt-bronze breche violette marble urns. The pair had come from an estate in San Diego, Calif., and will be staying in Southern California, going to a buyer in Los Angeles for $14,025, nearly ten times the low estimate. A lot of two late Seventeenth or early Eighteenth Century Flemish Baroque verdure tapestries were in apparently good condition with vibrant colors. Hicks said the pair had been hung in a prominent place during the sale preview, but a buyer outside of Southern California won the two for $10,200.
The sale featured a few lots of marble statuary, headed by a figure of “Charity as Educator” after the model commissioned from Lorenzo Bartolini (Italian, 1777-1850) by Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany for the Villa of Poggio Imperiale in Florence and which is now at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The copy Bonhams was offering was from a local estate and exceeded expectations, bringing $8,287. A 39-inch-tall marble sculpture of Prudence or Vanity, signed “Germains” was from the same estate and sold for $7,012. A late Nineteenth Century Italian carved marble figure of a reveling Columbine, done by Paolo Crisconio (Italian, Nineteenth Century), made $7,650 to round out the marble statuary offerings.
More than 75 lots of silver – American, English and European – got the sale off to a strong start, including $8,287 paid for a partial Danish flatware service for 12 by Georg Jensen; a pair of Swedish sterling silver candlesticks by Anders Fredrik Weise, dated 1792, that heated up to $7,650; and a sterling silver centerpiece bowl by Georg Jensen that rounded out to $6,375. Bringing $6,120 was a Tiffany sterling silver flatware service, while an early Twentieth Century American sterling silver repousse ewer, by Jenkins & Jenkins of Baltimore topped off at $5,737.
Bonhams’ next Home & Interior sale in Los Angeles will be April 27.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
Bonhams is at 7601 Sunset Boulevard. For information, 323-850-7500 or www.bonhams.com.
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