Published: September 14, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Wooten & Wooten Auctioneers
CAMDEN, S.C. – Wooten & Wooten Auctioneers spent Saturday of the Labor Day weekend bringing the gavel down on more than 525 lots in its “Southern Estates” auction. With the sale conducted on two online platforms, in competition with phone bidders, more than 77 percent of the lots trading hands successfully.
When we spoke with Jeremy Wooten on our first day back in the office after the holiday weekend, he was in the process of packing contents from an 8,000-square-foot house for his next sale.
“It was great. We feel really good about it,” he said. He noted that the vast majority of things in the sale had been sourced from sellers in Georgia and North Carolina, in addition to South Carolina. “We were very pleased at how well the carpets did; they were hitting on all cylinders. We’ve seen that over the past few sales.”
Wooten had the right to be happy with the rugs in the sale, and it was one of the dominant categories of the day. An early Twentieth Century Persian Serapi with strong colors and a bold pattern that measured slightly larger than 10 by 14 feet and had provenance to a Charleston, S.C., family achieved the sale’s top price of $10,200, more than ten times its high estimate. Wooten said the rug came out of a home near the battery in Charleston, S.C., that has been selling things through the house “for a while.”
A Persian Mahal carpet of similar vintage but at approximately 9 by 11 feet slightly smaller size and closed at $2,880, quadrupling its high estimate. Another Persian Mahal, this nearly 9 by 12 feet, realized $2,040.
Chandeliers brightened the sale with one achieving the second highest price of the day. Coming in at $9,000 and just shy of its low estimate was a circa 1950 Baccarat 18-light crystal chandelier that measured 44 inches high and 40 inches in diameter; the catalog had described it as “exceptional.” It also came from a Charleston house and sold to a private collection in Washington, DC. A Twenty-First Century chandelier custom made by Dennis & Leen of Los Angeles, which had been consigned from a gentleman in Greenville, S.C., sold within estimate, for $2,280.
Documents – if they were signed by Americans of note or historical significance – exceeded expectations. Leading the category at $5,280 was a Civil War-era military appointment on vellum signed by Abraham Lincoln on May 24, 1864. The document appointed John R. Thompson to the Commissary of Subsistence of Volunteers with the rank of Captain. It came from a private collector whose father had collected them and who Wooten has been working with for at least a few sales.
Another military appointment, this one dated 1789 and signed by Massachusetts Governor John Hancock, appointed Samuel Buffington, Esquire, to be Major General William Shepard’s aide de camp. Hancock’s boldly signed signature featured prominently in the left hand side of the page and it closed at $3,360, more than triple its low estimate. A Georgia land grant survey dated 1794 retained its original wax seal and brought $720, well ahead of expectations.
The sale began with nearly two dozen fine art lots by Southern artists, many bringing strong results. The only work in the sale by South Carolina artist, Anna Heyward Taylor (1879-1956) was a woodcut titled “Rice Fields” led the group and achieved $4,560 from a private collector in Atlanta. It was in good condition with some slight yellowing to the paper consistent with age and slight foxing but was framed in an acid free mat. Wooten had acquired the Taylor woodcut from the same Florence consignor who sold works by another South Carolina artist – and contemporary to Anna Heyward Taylor – Alfred Hutty (1877-1954), who was well represented in the sale with four works, all drypoint etchings. Of these, “Cypress Garden” from 1936 brought the most, $1,200 and within estimate. Bidders took “Southern Pines” to $960 while “Budding Willows” closed at $840. Rounding out the offerings at $180 was his 1933 portrait of Dean Andrew Fleming West, of Princeton University.
Commenting on the market for Southern fine art, Wooten said it was strong. “We have a particular following for some artists.” While he said he has a few collectors of Southern art throughout the United States, it’s “mostly a regional audience.”
The landscape and figure silhouettes of Carew Rice (1899-1971) are perennial favorite and, with five on offer from collections in Tennessee and Charleston, bidders had plenty of choices, but results were a little short of expectations. “Weggetubble Waggin in a South Carolina Lowcountry Town” set the high mark at $840, while a silhouette of a man after a possum hunt and a silhouette of a man working a mule on a sugar cane mill both realized $660. Two of the five did not sell. “I was kind of disappointed those did not do better,” but he acknowledged that the quality of Rice’s works really drives the value.
Among Southern decorative arts, the highest price went for a stoneware storage jar, made around 1850 by Thomas Chandler in Edgefield, S.C., that featured a kaolin swag decoration and a runny glaze. The piece, which had been recently discovered by an Aiken County, S.C., collector, stood 13 inches tall and made $2,400. A Southern Federal walnut bowfront chest, with provenance to a family from both Atlanta, Ga., and Asheville, N.C., rounded out at $1,020, well ahead of a Southern Federal inlaid walnut corner cupboard from a Johns Island, S.C., private collector.
A Federal mahogany cellarette, dated to circa 1820 and attributed to New York City, topped off at $2,760 and led the sale’s selection of period furniture. For $2,040, one bidder walked off with a suite of Arts and Crafts period oak chairs that included two armchairs and a rocking armchair, all with dark leather upholstery. A George III inlaid mahogany brandy board exceeded expectations at $1,080 and a
For reproduction furniture, it would be hard to beat a Chinese Chippendale-style secretary bookcase with a scarlet lacquered and parcel-gilt japanned surface; it dated to the early Twentieth Century and finished at $2,640. A pair of carved late Nineteenth Century English open armchairs followed closely behind, at $2,101 and a George III-style japanned partners’ desk tripled its low estimate when bidders pushed it to $1,561.
Several Asian works placed among the high-flying lots of the sale. The third highest price of the day – $6,600 – was realized for an Eighteenth Century famille verte vase decorated with figures in a landscape. The piece had been acquired in the San Francisco Bay area “several decades ago” and was from the collection of a private collecting couple who maintained residences in both San Francisco and upstate South Carolina. The same consignors sold a Chinese carved jade pendant for $2,040 and a three-piece group of Nineteenth Century famille rose porcelain that included a center bowl and two footed bowls, at $780.
Prices have been strong for silver and this sale was no exception. Making $2,400 was a set of 12 Manchester Silver Company water cups, just ahead of a cased set of International sterling flatware and serving pieces, in the Enchantress pattern, that were neatly boxed up at $2,280. An eight-piece Gorham sterling silver tea and coffee service from a Bluffton, S.C., family, sold within estimate, for $1,560.
If the sale was comprised largely of items one finds related examples of in other auctions around the country, it also featured several lots that are less frequently seen. Among these was a late Nineteenth Century painted child’s sleigh that could have been pulled by a dog or goat. Scrolling runners and a length of bells across the front were among it’s attractive characteristics, not to mention the fox head decoration that was a later addition. It had been consigned by a horse trainer in Camden, S.C., who Wooten said had kept it in his living room. Bidders drove it to $1,440, several times its estimate.
A carved griffon support distinguished a Renaissance Revival carved display stand, possibly made in New York City around 1870. Standing 45 inches tall and estimated at $400/600, it rose to $1,020.
Bidders played a Twenty-First Century handcrafted Hartland 34-string mahogany harp with ivy trellis paint decoration to $780, just a few notes shy of its high estimate. The harp had been custom ordered from the Zirconia, N.C., company by the seller, in 2009.
Remember that collection Wooten was in the process of packing up when we reached him? It will be offered in Wooten & Wooten’s next sale, November 28.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported. For information, 866-570-0144 or www.wootenandwooten.com.
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