Published: October 22, 2002
Sotheby’s Brings in $2.7 Million at Its Fall Americana Sale
By Laura Beach
NEW YORK CITY — Sotheby’s two-session sale of Important Americana on October 10 combined the timely appeal of patriotic memorabilia with the timeless attraction of fine Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century furniture. Altogether, the 335-lot auction garnered $2,678,706.
Session one began at 10 am on Thursday with a miscellaneous selection of folk art from various owners. The tally reached $1,172,355 on 159 lots. Session two achieved $1,506,352 on 136 lots of furniture and miscellaneous appointments.
In the morning round, needlework demonstrated that it is still one of the hottest collecting categories when a 17- by 201/4-inch silk mourning picture crossed the block at $34,655, well over the $8/12,000 estimate. Inscribed to the Waters Chillson, Esq, who died at age 57 in 1806, the silkwork picture was thought to have been made at the Byfield Academy in Newburyport, Mass.
Results for primitive portraiture were more mixed. One bright spot was the likeness of Betsy Brownell Gilbert. It sold for a for a very respectable $89,625 notwithstanding the aggressive $75/100,000 estimate. Attributed to Ammi Phillips, the colorful portrait depicts the pretty Columbia County, N.Y., girl in a frilly white dress and red shawl with a floral edge, a heart-shaped pendant around her neck. The lot was accompanied by a dress, said to be the same as the one shown on the sitter, Betsy’s comb and a photograph of the portrait hanging in situ, circa 1890. Other highlights included a triple portrait on paper, five by four inches, attributed to Ruth Whittier Shute, $19,158; and a watercolor portrait of a child, attributed to Justus Dalee. Enclosed in a gold locket, it sold for $5,676.
A few Shaker artifacts were among property from the estate of Edward Duff Balken, a western Massachusetts collector. Stunningly successful was an assembled set of eight bentwood boxes from the New Lebanon Shaker community, bid to $83,650 ($30/50,000).
Cigar store figures were also a popular rdf_Description. One, a cigar store Indian chief measuring 781/2 inches tall, left the room at $35,850. A countertop figure of an Indian princess, 381/2 inches tall, was nearly as desirable at $29,875.
The morning session concluded with 100 flags and related political memorabilia from the collection of Boleslaw and Marie-Louise Mastai. The well-known collection had been the subject of numerous exhibits and was featured in The Stars and Stripes: The American Flag as Art and History from the Birth of the Republic to the Present (Knopf, 1973). Prices were high, perhaps reflecting the impassioned patriotism of our time.
Not surprisingly, some of the highest bids were for Confederate pieces, among the rarest of all American flags. Top lots included a $71,700 ($60/80,000) Confederate flag bearing the inscription “God Armeth The Patriot.” Known as “Stars and Bars,” the flag was first adopted by the Confederate Congress in 1860. The two-piece, handsewn silk flag was painted with a Federal image on one side and a state image on the other. Another Confederate flag, a seven-star First National example of circa 1861, was hammered down at midestimate, $32,862.
Possibly honoring Brooklyn, N.Y., an 1837 painted flag inscribed “Kings Boro” crossed the block at $35,850. The vibrant textile was decorated with a large, spread-wing eagle poised under an arc of midnight blue sky and 26 stars. A standard from the Light Infantry Regiment of the Washington Guards, Massachusetts Militia, circa 1838, fetched $41,825 ($30/40,000).
A rare revenue cutter service jack flag of appliqued and painted muslin, last quarter of the Nineteenth Century, achieved $35,850 ($15/20,000). The textile was marked “Arctic,” likely the name of the vessel from which this jack flew. A bid of $29,875 took a 34-star National Cavalry Guidon Flag of circa 1861-63. A similar example is in the collection of West Point Military Academy.
After breaking for lunch, the sale continued with furniture consigned by various owners, among them the Williams College Museum of Art. Presale interest had focused most heavily on a figured mahogany roundabout chair from the collection of Mrs and Mrs Laird U. Park, Jr. Twice sold by Israel Sack, Inc, the Queen Anne chair — featuring pierced splats, scrolled arms, cabriole legs ending in pad feet and block-and-trumpet turned cross stretchers — sold for $295,500, slightly less than high estimate. Sotheby’s attributed the piece to the Goddard-Townsend shop of Rhode Island, circa 1750.
A Chippendale pier table that descended in the Holme Family of Philadelphia exceeded it $80/120,000 estimate, capturing a bid of $152,500. John Holme was an Irish Quaker who came to Pennsylvania from England in 1687. The table, which was ornamented with leaf carving and a rope turned skirt, stood on slender cabriole legs ending in ball and claw feet. The marble top was of a later date.
Sideboard prices seem to be on the rise of late, what with a diminutive bow front example exceeding $100,000 at Nadeau’s Auction Gallery just last month. At Sotheby’s, a Baltimore sideboard attributed to Levin Tarr, circa 1795, had no trouble surpassing its $40/60,000 estimate to sell for $77,675. As an added distinction, the sideboard bore the provenance of Leigh Keno American Antiques.
Candlestands with ball and claw feet are rare, so when Sotheby’s came up with a Philadelphia-made stand with birdcage, tilt-top support along with the desirable feet, it was no wonder that the piece handily exceeded its $25/35,000 estimate, bringing $53,775. The last such candlestand to sell at Sotheby’s fetched $173,000 in 1998.
Boston furniture highlights included a slant front desk on high cabriole legs ending in ball and claw feet, $34,655 ($25/50,000). The work was attributed to John Cogswell, whose masterpiece, a signed chest-on-chest, is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Shared features on many Cogswell casepieces include cove and ovolo base moldings, scalloped-edge knee returns, and flattened balls feet with retracted side talons.
From a Michigan collection, a graceful Wethersfield, Conn., area cherry dressing table with scalloped legs ending in pad feet sold for $33,460, a little more than high estimate.
Among two Southern pieces of note was a circa 1740-1760 Charleston, S.C., mahogany chamber table, $35,850 ($30/50,000) in the “neat and plain taste” favored by Charleston patrons. A Queen Anne figured mahogany drop leaf eight-leg dining table achieved $31,070 ($20/40,000). It was thought to be from coastal Virginia or Maryland and date to about 1750.
The session ended with 11 handsome carpets from the Park collection. A circa 1910 Heriz measuring roughly 19 by 12 feet took top honors, selling for $23,900 ($20/30,000).
Sotheby’s has yet to post its full January 2003 Americana Week schedule. Nevertheless, one event to watch for will be the single-owner sale of the contents of Sinking Springs Farms, housing the collections of the Appell family of York, Penn.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm