Published: February 4, 2020
Review and Onsite Photos by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy Doyle
NEW YORK CITY- About 50 people engaged the auctioneer in the gallery on January 23 as Doyle sold a 404-lot single owner collection in a dedicated sale titled “Cherished: American Folk Art & Toys from the Estate of a Private Collector.” As the title suggests, this collection was centered around historical childhood objects: theorems, samplers, folk art watercolors featuring children, mechanical and still banks, an assortment of tin and metal toys, and a healthy dose of carved and fashioned American folk art objects. In prior years, Doyle had schedule English furniture and decorative arts sales during Americana Week in New York, and bidders seemed pleased for the auction house to break back into the Americana offerings.
The sale would go on to produce $924,069, between estimate, with a 91 percent sell-through rate and 90 percent sold by value. Phone, absentee and internet bidding were particularly active.
The auction began with 154 lots of toys split between seven categories: mechanical and still banks, pull toys, bell toys, balance toys, tin or metal toys and miscellaneous. At the top of this section was a Girl Skipping Rope cast iron mechanical bank, J&E Stevens, that sold for $10,000 to an absentee bidder.
In tin toys, an American Tin Gig Broadway & 5 Avenue two-horse pull toy with stenciled decoration sold for $4,063 to dealers Steven and Leon Weiss. The Weiss brothers, of Gemini Antiques, Oldwick N.J., who were exhibiting in a booth just down the street at the Winter Show, were featured in a number of provenance lines throughout the catalog. And like any good dealers, the brothers did not miss the opportunity to buy up a storm from the collection they sold into. The dealers would buy 82 lots that day, about one-fifth of the sale, in categories across the board.
Flying above its $1,500 estimate was a Rocking Horse with Trainer tin toy by Althof Bergmann, in excellent paint, that sold for $3,125 to the trade. In pull toys, a cast iron Model of a Rowing Crew, featuring eight rowers and a coxswain, the body of the boat painted orange and green, all on a chassis with red wheels, sold for $3,125. At the same price was a mechanical tin platform toy with a girl behind two large white swans that went well above the $400 estimate.
“It was a nice group of American toys, some had some restoration, but a lot of them didn’t,” Leon Weiss told us. “There were some opportunities in there. We had been selling into the collection for more than 20 years. We were very happy with what we bought.”
The Weiss’ would also purchase the top lot of the sale, a circa 1831 portrait of two children of the Prescott family of Portsmouth, N.H., painted by Ruth Whittier Shute and Samuel Addison Shute, that brought $100,000. Weiss related that they bought it for a client. “This is the third time we’ve owned it,” Leon Weiss said. “It’s an iconic image of American folk art.”
Other dealers in the gallery included sampler and needlework dealers Carol and Stephen Huber and Amy Finkel, both of which were often referenced in the provenance lines, in addition to Pat Bell, Grace Snyder, Judy Milne and Sandy Jacobs, among others.
Nearly tripling its $20,000 estimate was a silk-on-linen needlework sampler that was worked in 1785 by Polly Smith of Mary Balch’s School, Providence, R.I. It brought $59,375. The mood in the gallery quickened with activity when this lot opened, four bidders actively pursuing it until it was hammered down to Amy Finkel. “The Polly Smith sampler was the best one in the collection and, having owned it previously, I was delighted to buy it again,” Finkel told us. “Balch school samplers – especially fully worked ones – rarely become available and the condition of this one is excellent.”
Other needleworks included a $34,375 result for a silk-on-silk example, circa 1790, the auction house writing it was probably from Fredericksburg, Va., and that a needlework of similar composition was wrought by Mildred Gregory Washington (1777-1805), the niece of George Washington.
The Hubers pulled in a few lots they had owned in the past, including a silk-chenile, metallic thread and paper on linen pictorial sampler, worked by Melancia Bowker, Rindge/Fitzwilliam, N.H., dated 1817. They paid $25,000, square between the estimate. It was underbid by the Weiss brothers, who had also owned it in the past. Another take for the Hubers was a silk-on-linen pictorial sampler worked by Martha Mortimer Starr, Middletown, Conn., in 1791. It sold for $20,000 and was depicted in the exhibition and book With Needle and Brush: Schoolgirl Embroidery From the Connecticut River Valley, 1740-1840.
Other folk paintings included an Eliza Ann Robeson watercolor and gold collage on silk laid down on canvasboard work, titled “Aurora,” that took its low estimate of $20,000 to a phone bidder. Another phone bidder snatched up another Robeson work, “Major Jonas Robeson and Family at the Tomb of his Wife, Betsy,” for $11,250, right under the high estimate.
Behind the Shute, folk portraiture found a $13,750 result in a pair of oil on heavy paper paintings featuring a boy holding a book and a girl with a flower, attributed to Jane Anthony Davis. An oil on board attributed to William Matthew Prior, “Portrait of a Young Child in a Red Dress Holding a Hammer and Tacks,” circa 1845, caught $12,500 to the Weiss brothers. The second highest estimate in the sale, placed at $30/50,000 for an American school portrait of twins in green dress, with extensive exhibition history, would pass at $12,000.
A number of hooked rugs would generate interest. Top among them was a yarn-sewn wool on cotton pictorial rug, New England, circa 1810, featuring a central basket of flowers on a tripod table in a valley between hills with a tree atop each and small lambs walking throughout, that took $13,750. It had been illustrated in American Hooked and Sewn Rugs: Folk Art Underfoot, by Joel and Kate Kopp. Also featured in that book was a yarn sewn and shirred pictorial hearth rug, circa 1835, depicting two houses with a vine border, that brought $11,250.
For additional information, www.doyle.com or 212-427-2730.
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