Fairfield, ME ~ February 4-7, 2014. Few companies these days can report significant growth several years running. Going on a business model built on honesty, customer service, top shelf presentation, and a consistent high quality offering, James D. Julia Auctioneers seem to have perfected a working formula that has enabled them to gross $46 Million in sales in 2012 to $47.5 Million in 2013. Not to rest on their laurels, they have just completed the first sale of their 2014 auction season with a resounding success. The four-day blockbuster auction event boasted their largest winter antiques auction to date (both in volume and value) with a final tally of over $4.7 Million!
Comprised of over 1,300 lots of Asian antiques, over 1,100 lots of early American and Victorian furniture, antiques and accessories, roughly 600 paintings, bronzes and other artworks, the sale also featured some very significant historical items that commanded the attention of museums and private collectors. One of the most impressive finds of late was an archive of Civil War era letters, medals, and other military effects of Captain Luis F. Emilio of the 54th Massachusetts. The 54th Regiment was immortalized in the movie “Glory” and he was a respected captain of a black regiment that saw much action and was noted for several brave acts. Respected authority John Sexton referred to the find as “among the greatest letter groupings of the Civil War ever to come to market.” Bidders agreed and this cache that was sold in two separate lots brought a staggering $207,375 against expectations of $120,000-180,000.
Continuing to perform admirably at Julia’s auction is the category of Asian art and antiques. The auction featured over 1,300 lots including consignments from several small private collections from the eastern United States. Julia’s Asian department has been extremely active and successful recently and the addition of well-known Asian specialist James Callahan as department head has helped in attracting some truly special offerings. Some of the many highlights included an array of cloisonné such as a massive pair of censers from the 19th century. With detailed decoration of lotus leaves across their bodies and matching bases, their appearance was enhanced by marvelous supports in the form of three cranes and repousse gilt dragon handles. These spectacular censers saw a lengthy and spirited bidding battle well beyond the pair’s $6,500-7,500 estimate. It ended with a gentleman in attendance beating out several phone bidders to the tune of $248,850 amid applause and congratulations. Other Chinese cloisonné worthy of mention included a bronze scepter decorated with imagery of the immortals, among bats and fruit trees. It likewise exceeded its presale estimate many times over to land at $29,160.
This segment of the auction showed great diversity of genres, style and subject throughout. A large offering of painted scrolls was all over the map and some performed better than others. From the first half of the 20th century, a hand scroll attributed to Xu Beihong depicting a pack of horses against a rolling landscape sold for $154,050 against an estimate of $1,200-1,800. A bamboo brush pot finely carved with a woman and attendant being guided to a sedan chair against a mountainous backdrop was also a hot ticket, changing hands at $35,550 (est. $800-1,200). Other scenic pieces included a massive porcelain plaque from the 1700s in a rosewood frame that depicted various aspects of silk production. The classical scene also went out at $35,550 versus its $9,000-12,000 estimate. Likewise bringing $35,550, and surpassing a $2,000-3,000 estimate was a fine pair of antique Chinese Huanghuali horseshoe back armchairs from a private collection in Great Britain. And a monumental celadon bottle vase from the Ching dynasty showing a dragon amid pearls and clouds sold above its $2,000-3,000 estimate for $19,440.
Figures, icons and images were clearly appealing to advanced collectors and fetched jaw dropping prices again and again. A Tibetan gilt bronze figure depicting Amida Buddha seated in the lotus position notched above its $50,000-60,000 estimate to sell for $65,175. And a bronze image of Quanyin, the goddess of mercy, in elegant draped robes sold for nearly 100 times its $400-600 estimate for $37,920.
Antiques of American origin included a wide variety of folk art, early furniture and accessories. The selection brimmed with quality, freshness, and a primitive craftsmanship that is most appealing to collectors. Of particular note was an expansive array of over 30 figural weathervanes that included some rather unusual forms not typically found. Case in point was a marvelous molded and gilded copper example depicting a centaur. Attributed to A.L. Jewell the half man, half horse with his bow drawn was removed from a house in Illinois in the 1960s and was sold to its most recent owner. Only a handful of these are known to have been created and this example brought in $53,325, topping its $30,000-50,000 estimate. Separating man from beast was a fine horse and jockey molded copper steeplechase weathervane. With a nicely rendered zinc head and a separately crafted rider, it sold for $20,145 against a $5,000-6,000 estimate. A full-bodied grasshopper with great verdigris patina and nice overall condition jumped past its $12,000-18,000 estimate to land at $21,870.
Defying category or peer was an important and rare 13th century gilt copper and enameled Limoges reliquary chest from a Kentucky estate. Consisting of a footed vessel with a front hinged compartment and decorated with jeweled cabochons between enameled depictions of saintly figures, it was once used to hold and transport sacred religious relics. This breathtaking piece saw very active bidding beyond its $50,000-150,000 estimate to reach a celestial $183,675.
The day continued with a huge volume of furniture representing several different eras. Included were numerous Gustave Stickley items from a New York home. Highlights included a wonderful L & JG Stickley double door china cabinet. Retaining its original label, glass, and hand hammered copper hardware, it was an exceptional example of arts & crafts furniture. It sold at the upper end of its $8,000-12,000 estimate for $11,850.
Of an earlier vintage, a diminutive Chippendale serpentine front walnut five drawer chest with ball & claw feet and a pedigree a mile long sold just above its $5,000-8,000 estimate for $8,295. A Connecticut Queen Anne cherry bonnet top highboy from the late 1700s with lovely carvings went out at $7,110 against a $2,000-4,000 estimate.
Complementing the above were several tall case clocks including a spectacular and rare Simeon Jocelin Connecticut example. Its massive and imposing mahogany case houses an ornate brass face with both Roman and Arabic numerals and highlighted by applied vine fretwork. Dated 1771, this beauty sold for $20,145 against an estimate of $12,000-18,000. On the more ornate side was an example by Tiffany & Co. that featured a highly carved walnut case with an elaborate scene of artisans at work and works set with eight graduated bells. It exceeded its $8,000-12,000 estimate to also sell for $20,145.
Quality antiques, accessories and the like were great in number and very well received. An important set of four leaded glass windows depicting an American eagle and each emblazoned with patriotic messages of Liberty, Truth, Equality and Justice resulted in a battle between two phone bidders. The price soared above its $3,000-5,000 estimate until one dropped out, allowing the other to take the windows at $20,737. A monumental 26-1/2” hand carved North American Woodlands burled bowl did not go quietly into the sold column. This time the bidding battle took participants beyond its $2,500-4,500 estimate to the winner willing to pay $21,330. And a rare antique R.S. Prussia covered chocolate pot decorated with tigers was believed to be a unique form and sold above its $2,500-4,500 estimate for $11,257.
A generous offering of early English silver from the 17th and 18th centuries included a fine 18th century handled pedestal bowl with flared fluting and decorated band rim. It sold above its $2,000-3,000 estimate for $4,858. In simpler form but no less elegant but was a Britannia silver tankard with a tapered body and low domed cover that exceeded its $1,500-2,200 estimate to bring $5,628.
The massive auction was completed by approximately 600 paintings, portraits, and bronzes that met with varied results. While there were certainly those that performed better than expected, there were some that did not find buyers and for which Julia’s is now fielding post auction offers. Of those that saw strong activity, buyers seemed to favor European artists such as Hedwig Mechle-Grossmann whose charming oil on wood panel depicted a well dressed young Victorian era girl during playtime with her favorite doll. With perfectly captured joy and innocence, bidders were captivated and brought the piece well above its $5,000-7,000 estimate to finish up at $31,995. Fellow German artist Hugo Darnaut’s outdoor scene of a duck pond in spring appealed to other sensibilities and was also an evocative work. It sold for $23,700 against expectations of $12,000-18,000.
Not to say that the Europeans held a monopoly on fine artwork in this auction. A duo of winter city scenes by 20th century American artist Guy Wiggins was well received. His storm scene with New York’s Flatiron Building serving as the focal point sold above its $10,000-15,000 estimate for $22,515 while his “Snowstorm Over the Plaza New York City” brought $18,960 versus its $8,000-12,000 estimate. Blanche Lazzell’s woodblock print of a stylized single tulip in a bulbous vase was able to best its $15,000-20,000 bracket to sell for $22,515. And Alfred Hutty’s watercolor of a worn down Charleston, South Carolina street speaks volumes with so little. It sold within its $15,000-20,000 estimate for $17,775.
Other outdoor works included contemporary New England artist Thomas Nicholas’ “Harbor at Port Clyde” that used a vibrant palette of blues and greens to show the tranquil scene. It sold for $8,887, nearing the top of its $6,000-9,000 estimate while his rendering of Monhegan Island in winter sold for $7,110 against a $4,000-6,000 estimate. And Carl William Peter’s oil on canvas winter scene of a wooded stream went out at $7,702, surpassing a $5,000-7,000 estimate.
Modern art also made a strong showing. The auction featured a collection of over 30 lots of works by the late James Rizzi, whose almost cartoon-like work during the mid-1990s has been compared to that of Keith Haring. Using a bold palette and built-up levels for his layered collages, the collection was consigned by the family of the artist’s then companion. Highlights included his acrylic on canvas work entitled “Be My Valentine” of two lovers engaged in a kiss. It sold for $3,199. His work showing a scatter of yellow birds among the flowers sold for $3,792. And his Picasso-esque “This Way, That Way” brought $3,140. Each was estimated for $1,000-2,000.
Julia’s upcoming auctions include their phenomenal firearms and military memorabilia auction taking place in March. Following will be Julia’s toy & doll auction as well as their rare lamp & glass auction in June. Their next Antiques, Asian & Fine Art auction will take place in August 2014. Julia’s is currently accepting consignments for these and other upcoming auctions. Call immediately for inclusion in these exciting sales. For more information or to place offers on unsold items, contact their offices at 207-453-7125. James D. Julia, Inc., P.O. Box 830, Dept. PR, Fairfield, ME 04937. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.