Published: September 19, 2023
Review & Onsite Photos by Rick Russack; Catalog Photos by W.A. Smith
PLAINFIELD, N.H. — September 8 was in the middle of Brimfield week, perhaps an unexpected time for W.A. “Bill” Smith’s Important 56th Post Labor Day Auction. Prior to the sale, Smith said “I think it’s actually a plus. There are more buyers in the area, and we had a good turn-out during the previews. With phone bidding, internet bidding, as well as the absentee bids, buyers could be at Brimfield and still participate. It also made it simple for buyers not from the immediate area to come by and pick up their purchases.” He was 100 percent right, and the sale grossed $1,167,360. Not only were there more than 75 bidders in the room, and they bought a lot, but the other methods of bidding were also utilized, and the results were fine. Only 15 lots out of more than 550 were unsold.
The sale offered a collection of Karl Drerup (1904-2000) enamels, American paintings which included the sale’s second highest price, art glass, high-quality gold and diamond jewelry, along with Nineteenth Century Southern and New England furniture. Several items, including furniture, were from the collection of Wendell and Betsy Garrett.
Unexpectedly leading the day and earning $190,000, although estimated at $2/3,000, was a Republic period set of four rosewood framed Chinese porcelain plaques. They depicted elders and children, and each was signed Zhu Shan Ba Yu. Another set of three Republic period plaques earned $6,600. A Nineteenth Century Chinese bronze iron bowl with a carved white jade handle brought $4,500. A Nineteenth Century or earlier embroidered silk robe realized $3,480 and a Qian Long celadon vase with a carved and incised design led the Chinese ceramics, bringing $3,360. There were over 40 lots of Chinese material, nearly all of which sold.
No one would argue that the market for “brown” American furniture has been weak recently. Weak does not mean non-existent; when the right “A-level” material is offered, the market responds in a positive fashion. Smith’s order of sale got bidders warmed up for that category. The eighth lot in the sale was a circa 1800 cherry inlaid sugar chest, probably from Kentucky. It sold for $19,200. The top portion of the two-piece chest had a two-section interior, the dovetailed case had line inlay, and the lower section had a single inlaid dovetailed drawer. Smith’s catalog descriptions include condition statements, and for this sugar chest, included the interesting comment that the “lower sections of the legs are darker due to bug repellant used to keep bugs away from the sugar.” A set of six circa 1780-1800 Philadelphia Chippendale mahogany side chairs with carved crests and pierced splats reached $16,800. There was a half dozen inlaid card and Pembroke tables, some of which were exceptional. A circa 1790 Baltimore mahogany card table, with an inlaid panel of a griffin, conch shells and bellflowers on each leg realized $14,400. It was accompanied by a receipt from dealer who initially sold it to the consignor who paid $20,000 for it 20 years ago. One of two Portsmouth card tables, this example with a matched flame-birch inlaid apron and reeded tapered legs, sold for $3,360. As Smith was selling a bowed end circa 1800 New York Pembroke table with bellflower inlay for $8,400, he suggested, “Folks get out your ‘Good, Better and Best’ on this one.” He was referring to Albert Sack’s classic reference work on American furniture, Fine Points of Furniture: Early American, first published in 1950, commonly referred to simply as “Good, Better, Best” as it points out differences between similar pieces of furniture.
Two American paintings created a lot of presale interest. Leon Rogers, Bill Smith’s associate, said that there were more than 250 people “watching” one of them, a striking early Twentieth Century profile portrait of a Native American. It sold for $54,000, the second highest price of the sale. Rogers said, “I don’t think we’ve ever had more than 90 people watching a single item.” Neither the sitter, wearing a feathered headdress, nor the artist were identified. The portrait had been in the family of the consignor since at least the 1940s and had hung in Camp Wawokiye, a summer camp on Peconic Bay in Cutchogue, N.Y., which they operated from the mid-1930s until they sold it in 1964. After that, it moved around a bit, always staying in the family, who all referred to it as “The Chief.” Until consigned, it was owned by Alec and Michelle Adams. They brought it into one of Smith’s free appraisal days earlier this year and Rogers recognized its potential value. It carried an estimate of $5/8,000.
One bidder in the room said, “A client of mine told me to go to $8,000, but I don’t think I’ll get it.” Craig and Pam Jewett, who eventually bought it, said they had planned to stop around $20,000. But Jewett was competing against one phone bidder and continued, pausing when his bid of $40,000 was topped by a bid of $42,500. Rogers, at the podium, encouraged Jewett to try “one more bid” and that was successful, hammering down at $45,000. Jewett later said, “I said to myself there’s only one and if I don’t get it, I know I’ll regret it.” It was the consensus of the consignor, the buyer and others in the salesroom that it had been painted by John Henry Sharp (1859-1953). Sharp founded the Taos artists’ colony and was known for his portraits of Native Americans, some of which are in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The second American painting that exceeded expectations was an oil on canvas scene of a train passing through New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch. Painted by Frank Lucien Heath (1857-1921), it was titled “‘Looking Down The Crawford Notch White Mountains NH ‘89.” Heath painted a few scenes in the White Mountains, and was far better known for his landscapes of the West, including Yosemite. It realized $16,800. The painting was one of the several items in the sale which had been in the Garrett collection. Wendell Garrett was long-time editor of The Magazine Antiques and senior vice president of the American decorative arts department at Sotheby’s. Another painting that did well was a large abstract oil on canvas, illegibly titled on the reverse, by Texas born Dorothy Hood (1919-2000), which finished at $22,800.
Two pieces of jewelry brought five figure prices and one just missed. An attractive yellow diamond Art Deco platinum ring, with a 2-carat old European cut fancy yellow diamond of VVS2 clarity (slightly included), flanked with eight smaller round cut diamonds brought $15,600. A 14K yellow gold ring with a approximately 2.53-carat (approximate) VS2 (slightly included) and L color (faintly colored) diamond, in a Tiffany & Co-style ring set with two additional smaller diamonds, sold for $14,400.
Glass included examples made by Tiffany, Stueben, Mount Washington, Durand and others. But the piece bringing the highest price, $4,500, was a signed and dated Dale Chihuly two-piece purple and lavender/pink sculpture with an abstract spiral representing a blossoming flower and bud. A Durand “Heart and Vine” design covered ginger jar in a deep blue iridescent finish sold for $2,160. Tiffany Favrile offerings included a lot with three pastel compotes which sold for $1,680 as well as a lot with two tall stem wine glasses which brought the same amount. Sandwich glass was represented by a deep blue tulip vase, circa 1850, which sold for $3,000.
The collection of 14 midcentury enamels by Drerup was divided into eight lots, including enamels on copper and other metals, ceramics and paintings. Born in Germany, emigrating to the United States in 1937, the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased its first of his enamels in 1940. By the 1950s, he had achieved a national reputation. In 1945, his wife and he moved to the Plymouth, N.H., area, where he founded the art department of what is now Plymouth State University and taught there until 1968. Drerup continued to exhibit his enamels nationally and was the recipient of many awards. The highest price achieved at the sale was $1,140 for a framed enamel plaque with colorful blossoms, flora and butterflies.
An enameled bowl just under 10 inches diameter realized $780, a still life oil painting realized $660 and a lot with two small, enameled bowls with mythological scenes realized $300. Plymouth State University has a large collection of his works.
A few days after the sale, Bill Smith commented, “It was the kind of a sale I like. We satisfied our consignors with the prices and a lot of the stuff went to dealers who can still make some money. The good card tables were appreciated and brought good prices. So did the regional furniture like the sugar chest. We grossed well over a million dollars, better than I expected, and didn’t pass much. The set of four Chinese plaques were a pleasant surprise and so was the set of three plaques, which sold for $6,600.
There were several very good Oriental carpets that did well. I guess the only soft area that stands out would be the mid-market Nineteenth Century European paintings. We didn’t see a lot of interest there this time. All in all, we’re all quite pleased with the sale.”
Prices quoted with buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. W.A. Smith’s next online timed auction, Contents of Historic Baileys Mills, Reading, Vt., will take place on October 12. For information, www.wsmithauction.com or 603-675-2549.
December 5, 2023
December 5, 2023
December 5, 2023
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