Fairfield, Maine, August 25-28, 2009. For over 30 years, James D. Julia has conducted a major end of summer auction each year. These sales were conducted at various coastal resorts. This year, Julia’s decided to bring this major auction home, with tremendous results! Originally the coastal venues were used to accommodate the vast offerings put together for the Julia sales but three years ago, a new state-of-the-art auction facility was constructed at their home base and is unquestionably the best auction venue in the state of Maine. The expansive facility provides more space for displaying their offering, the accommodations are more comfortable than any of the facilities that they’ve used in the past and the lighting is superior. In addition to these and many other amenities, is the “free lunch”. The James D. Julia Auctioneers in Fairfield, Maine has become renowned not only for the fabulous offerings of antiques but also the delicious repast to all participants and this sale was no exception. Auction goers were treated to homemade New England seafood chowder, fresh lobster rolls and homemade wild blueberry cobbler. The decision to “come home” was obviously a great move but more importantly was the offering. In consideration of the current economy, Julia’s made a bold move early in the year to approach consignments in a far more competitive manner. Their reasoning was simple: charge less (as little as 0% commission!), give more in amenities to a consignor and as a result, get more fresh goods for auctions. To date, every auction conducted in 2009 has been a resounding success both in offerings and in results; this sale continued to stress the success of this new business model. This was the largest grossing antique & fine arts sale Julia’s has ever conducted at their Fairfield, Maine facility. With 1,225 registered bidders (both live as well as absentee bidders) representing 17 different countries, bidding was very active and proved that fresh conservatively estimated quality goods are still in demand and can fetch strong prices. The capacity crowd along with active internet participation and a telephone bank helped push the final tally to over $3.1 Million against a pre-auction estimate of items sold of approximately $2.7 Million. Long regarded as the biggest and best antique auction in the state of Maine, the recent extravaganza was on par with Julia’s 40+ year reputation of being leaders in the industry for handling quality antiques of the highest caliber. The auction provided a stunning array of over 2,000 lots including early American, Victorian and continental furniture, historical objects, folk art, nautical items, and over 1,000 works of art from choice collections and estates across the country.
Featured was a recent discovery of a fine oil on canvas by Martin Johnson Heade entitled “Apple Blossoms”. This strikingly realistic floating image of a blooming apple tree branch against a variegated brown background made a strong showing. Coming fresh from a New York home and formerly part of the collection of William Mason, Esq. who purchased it from the artist, it made applesauce of its $50,000-75,000 estimate to sell for $126,500.
Another major offering was a truly superior work by George Inness entitled “The Villa Borghese, Rome, 1871”. This Italian scene depicts over 40 individual figures in colorful dress strolling through the park along marble steps beneath a canopy of trees. The piece with its provenance to Stanford White, a famous New York City architect found a buyer at $132,250. From the same collection came a large interior scene by Marguerite Pearson depicting a young woman in a well-appointed room with an Oriental influence. Entitled “The Blue Kimono”, the woman pauses from arranging flowers to acknowledge the viewer. Masterfully executed with wonderful detail, it sold for $37,950 against a presale estimate of $25,000-35,000.
The art portion of the auction continued with a stellar selection of other American works including a marvelous selection of Rockport-Gloucester artists such as Anthony Thieme. His outstanding and colorful harbor scene of a fishing schooner approaching a pier was one such example. Entitled “Entering Port”, it brought $32,200 within a pre-auction estimate of $30,000-50,000. A large oil on canvas winter village scene by William Lester Stevens captured the essence of rural New England and brought $20,125, beating out its $15,000-25,000 estimate. Modern Rockport-Gloucester artist Thomas Nicholas showed the lovely New England countryside during peak foliage season in his work of a farm nestled among a hilly pasture. The piece sold for $14,950 against an estimate of $10,000-15,000. And performing better than expected was Nicholas’ coastal scene of Birch Harbor, Maine showing a string of waterside cottages. It sold for $17,825 versus a $12,500-17,500 estimate.
Also included was a selection of paintings from fellow Rockport-Gloucester artists from the Gruppe family. One by Emile Gruppe was an early work showing a brook with rocks and boulders strewn along the banks in the early morning sunlight. Clearly influenced by Monet with broad strokes and brilliant colors, this piece hit the upper end of its $20,000-25,000 estimate to sell for $24,150. Also selling for $24,150 was Emile Gruppe’s winter forest scene of a winding brook with snow covered banks that found favor beyond its $18,000-22,000 estimate.
Fresh to the market was William Edward Norton’s harbor scene showing numerous boats against a backdrop of the New York City skyline. The piece centered on a two-mast sailboat cutting through the whitecaps heading out into the open water. It sold midway through its estimate of $15,000-25,000 to bring $20,700. Representing further inland, Paul Bernard King’s oil on board autumnal scene of birch trees over a river valley nearly tripled its $3,000-5,000 estimate to sell for $8,050. An outstanding panoramic view of verdant valleys of the western United States by William Wendt surpassed expectations of $8,000-10,000 to sell for $18,400.
Other American art included a very captivating portrait entitled “Three Women” by Stuart Davis. It depicts three well dressed society ladies in coats and hats. Once housed in the Portland Museum of Art it exceeded its $8,000-12,000 estimate to sell for $22,425. And modern artists saw strong prices as well. A collage piece centered on a photo of late New York City graffiti artist Keith Haring was a surprise success. The artist had drawn one of his trademark stylized dancing characters atop the photo of him painting on a wall, appearing as though he was painting the character. The piece brought $9,085, far surpassing its $800-1,200 estimate. A framed lot of three first day issue envelopes augmented by original illustrations by comic artist Charles Shulz also fared well, bringing $7,475 against expectations of $1,500-2,500.
European and other international art included British artist Edward Seago’s “Morning Mist, Pin Mill”. This beach scene shows a small flock of seagulls passing two moored sailboats in the early morning hours as the sun begins to peak through the haze. It saw a phone bidding battle that resulted in a final selling price of $59,800, far exceeding its estimate of $15,000-25,000. From the Woolworth Family came two brilliant works by Russian artist Ivan Choultse. The winter scenes showed snow covered evergreen trees along frozen streams. The first depicted a setting sun reflecting orange in the puffy clouds. The other was a daylight rendering after a fresh snowfall. They sold for $57,500 and $46,000 respectively, each within estimate.
Other artwork included a number of prints and lithographs. One such example was Thomas Hart Benton’s lithograph inspired by a Mark Twain novel. His portrayal of Huck Finn with his trusty friend Jim showed the pair on a nighttime raft ride with a paddle wheeler in the background. This rare print sold within its $8,000-12,000 for $11,500. Other prints included James Whistler’s image of a house along a canal with city buildings in the distance. It quickly surpassed its $1,000-2,000 estimate to finish up at $4,600.
The focus of Session III centered on folk art, nautical antiques, and an array of historical and political items. An American pictorial hooked rug by Nancy Shippee circa 1851 of a floral arrangement saw very active bidding. It brought $32,200 against an estimate of 10,000-20,000. Another one of the amazing finds in recent memory was a rare diorama consisting of nearly 60 linen panels with watercolor scenes or vignettes depicting historical scenes sewn together in a panorama. Beginning with the Boston Tea Party and ending with the Civil War era, it measured a total of over 50 feet in length. This stunning piece of Americana was found recently in a Massachusetts home and sold for $11,500 within an estimate of $10,000-30,000.
Of historical interest was a rare and important crossover piece for collectors of folk art. An extraordinary Washington family silk embroidery wrought by Mildred Gregory Washington, niece of General George Washington depicted a young woman and man holding haying implements beneath a large willow tree with a small farmhouse in the background. This rare folk art rendition, a superior example of 18th Century folk art needlework, was a bargain at $16,100. Speaking of Washington, a small enamel locket containing hair from both George and Martha Washington was once a gift from the Washingtons to friend and aide Tobias Lear then to the Stephen Decatur family, and now to the present buyer. It exceeded an estimate of $2,500-5,000 to sell for $7,475. A silk print of Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural speech that had been passed down through the family of the consignor was discovered in the will case of James A. Sharpe of Augusta, Kentucky. A true rarity, it brought $6,900 against an estimate of $2,000-4,000.
Other folk art included several 19th Century figural copper weathervanes. An outstanding bull and a full bodied codfish headed the selection, each with great verdigris patina. They sold for $10,350 apiece against estimates of $12,000-16,000 and $8,000-12,000 respectively. This was followed by a massive life sized zinc statue of an Indian warrior in traditional garb and holding a bow and arrow. Standing atop a rock and stump plinth, he was acquired from the Smithfield Mansion where he once overlooked the boxwood garden. The piece changed hands at $28,750, surpassing a presale estimate of $15,000-25,000.
Also included was the largest collection of Lawrence Irvine fish carvings ever to come to auction. This Winthrop, Maine carver is considered the best of the genre and coming from the Marie and Don Stone collection, highlights included a salmon mounted to a backboard carved in the shape of the State of Maine. It brought $4,300 against a $3,000-5,000 estimate. A 26” char brought $2,800 (est. $2,000-3,000) while a fat brook trout on a birch bark State of Maine plaque sold for $4,100. One of only two known examples of stringers in existence, a piece which depicts a day’s catch of five fat brook trout strung together and mounted to an oval plaque failed to find a buyer.
In an entirely different genre was an offering of Oriental rugs and Chinese Export porcelain from the William Hoeschle Estate including a pair of classical style urns in the Lowestoft taste. Each urn was fitted with a pierced cover and onion finial and decorated in blue and gold drapery and floral sprays. Mounted to square plinths with geometric patterns, the pair sold above an estimate of $6,000-8,000 for $9,487. From a different collection came a fine semi-antique Peking Oriental carpet in colors of indigo and ivory with beautifully woven exotic birds and trees over the entire piece. Bids mounted past its $3,000-5,000 to $8,050.
Nautical art included two outstanding works by Percy Sanborn from a Searsport, Maine home. A portrait of the ship C.B. Hazeltine was a stunning three mast schooner in full sail beneath a billowy cloud sky. It found a buyer at $20,700 within an estimate of $20,000-25,000. This was complemented by a number of other marine paintings such as a marvelous work by Roy Cross of the U.S.S. Constitution cutting through the whitecaps under fair weather skies. Bids hit $15,525, above an estimate of $7,000-10,000. A work by Derek Montague of a three-mast ship passing an iceberg under slightly less favorable conditions sold for $18,400 within a $17,500-22,500 estimate.
Early American furniture included an outstanding smoke and paint decorated Maine Sheraton stand. On nicely turned Sheraton legs and in original red paint, it exceeded its $8,000-12,000 estimate to sell for $12,075. Other period furnishings consisted of a variety of New England pieces such as a Fred Wingate tall clock of Augusta, Maine, signed and numbered 171. Featuring brass spindle finials, decorated dial, and gorgeous wood case, it had never been out of the family since the day it was first purchased. This fresh to the market piece hit mid-estimate to bring $13,800. A pair of classical mahogany card tables by Anthony Quervelle of Philadelphia began with strong animal feet on casters leading to a solid column pedestals, finishing in hinged tops that expand to a full surface. Quality through and through, the pair fetched $6,325 within expectations of $6,000-9,000.
The sale was rounded out by a great diversity of accessories and other fine antiques such as marble and bronze statuary, jewelry, Northwest Indian items, as well as an unbelievable selection of buttons. Offered in large lots, they contained some very sought after examples. A lot of 27 show cards including enamel, brass, glass, and other types of buttons sold for $10,522 versus a $500-1,000 estimate. A lot of 80 uniform and pant button cards sold for $4,485 (est. $1,500-2,500) and a lot of 140 picture button cards brought $5,692 (est. $1,000-2,000).
A variety of bronzes included a lovely example by Harriet Frishmuth depicting a nude woman with outstretched arms. From a Maine home, it sold for $11,787 against an estimate of $5,000-8,000. A small bronze by William Zorach depicting a seated woman with her child seeking her attention brought $4,600, above its $2,750-3,250 estimate.
Miscellaneous items included an interesting botanist’s scrapbook containing what was originally believed to be watercolor representations of different types of algae. It turned out that they were actual examples of algae pressed on to individual pages. The collection sold for a solid $9,200, far above its $3,000-5,000 estimate. An outstanding carved Northwest coast cedar oil dish in the form of a bird was a showstopper, bringing $39,100, well above its estimate of $8,000-12,000. Other miscellaneous items included a set of four Loring Andrews repousse candlesticks that were heavily decorated with fruit and flowers, which sold for $5,175 against a $2,500-4,000 estimate. Jewelry included a platinum, pink sapphire and diamond ring that sold near the top end of its $3,000-5,000 estimate for $4,945.
Over the years Julia’s has frequently included in their auction offering a lot of their past auction catalogs; the entire proceeds of that sale (including the buyer’s premium) have been donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Two years ago, a doctor attending the sale, thought that was a terrific idea and never forgot it. Months prior to this auction, he called up and indicated that he had produced a new health product, Arctic Fresh Omega 3 Fish Oil and would like to donate an entire case of this health product to the auction with the idea of selling it to the highest bidder and again, the entire proceeds being donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Julia’s agreed and the case was well competed for and finally sold for $1,650 – the entirety of which is to be donated happily to the very worthy St. Jude’s Hospital!
Julia’s upcoming auctions include their phenomenal firearms and military memorabilia auction billed as the most significant auction of its type help anywhere in the world in recent years, it will take place October 6 & 7 includes Phase 2 of the Doc Murphy Colt Collection, spectacular sporting arms, rare Confederate and Civil War items, Class 3, historical items, and much more. Julia’s toy & doll auction as well as a rare lamp & glass auction will follow in November, and their next antiques & fine art auction is scheduled for January 2010. 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 bids 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: email@example.com.