Published: December 9, 2003
– A Martin Johnson Heade landscape painting recently discovered in the attic of a local home by auctioneer John McInnis hammered down at more than $1 million during McInnis’s December estates auction this past Sunday, December 7.
“It was quite the theatrical auction,” stated McInnis, who was ecstatic that his gallery had not only eclipsed the $1 million mark for a single rdf_Description sold, but had done so during an auction that was conducted in the middle of a blizzard.
“There were more than 140 registered phone bidders for the sale, hundreds of absentee bids and we had an absolutely full house despite the fact that there was two feet of snow on the ground and it was still snowing like crazy,” said the auctioneer.
The auction was filled to the brim with great estate merchandise, but the Heade painting was one of the biggest draws of the sale. The condition of the Heade was reported as being “so dirty, it was literally black,” after having spent at least the last 60 years in a dust riddled attic, and there was also paint loss along the left side of the work.
Bidding opened on the Heade at $100,000 with 16 phone bidders active and at least six bidders in the gallery pursuing the lot. Bids advanced at a rapid pace with half of the phone bidders dropping from the action as the lot neared the high estimate at $400,000. The remainder of the phone bidders, however, plus two persistent bidders in the gallery, pushed the price for the rare painting onward. Eventually competition was narrowed to the two bidders in the gallery with the lot finally selling to New York City gallery owner Michael Altman at $1,006,250, including premium. Altman was reportedly representing a client.
Film crews from the new PBS television series Find, which stars the Keno brothers, Leigh and Leslie, as sleuths, extensively documented the auction. The Kenos will be depicted in a future television show making the attic discovery, having the painting authenticated by Heade expert Theodore Stebbins, Jr, and ultimately watching the painting sell at McInnis’s gallery.
Other top lots included a Baltimore Classical paint decorated game table that sold at $135,125 and an oil on canvas portrait of the ship “Mary,” by William York, which realized $67,850.
A complete review of the auction will appear in a future issue.
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