Fairfield, ME ~ August 19-22, 2014. It’s not every day an auction hits about a million dollars over low estimate, but again, we are talking a Julia auction here. In over 45 years in the business, the firm has seen its share of stellar auctions, be it in their renowned firearms division, their antique toy & doll division, their fine glass & lamp division, or their fine art, antique & Asian department. This last division recently surpassed all expectations with a four-day auction extravaganza that grossed a massive $5.7 Million against a low estimate of approximately $4.8 Million. Bidders were treated to a massive selection of American & European paintings, folk art, Asian antiques and art, silver, and fine antiques of every kind. These fresh-to-the-market offerings saw some of the strongest interest the market has seen in some time.
Day I started things off with approximately 400 paintings highlighted in part by over 25 works by Waldo Peirce that had descended through the family of the artist before making their public debut at Julia’s. This renowned free spirited and prolific artist was good friends with Ernest Hemingway and shared many an adventure with the author. One such fishing excursion in Key West was captured on canvas, picturing a shirtless Hemingway holding a sizeable catch. Entitled “Don Ernesto Con Una Bonita”, it reeled in $53,325 against a pre-auction estimate of $2,000-4,000. Another scene of Key West picturing a group of sailors enjoying some R&R at a local jazz club saw action to the tune of $48,585 against expectations of $4,000-6,000.
The day continued with a whole host of regional and other American artists as well as a select grouping of European works. Fellow New Englander Emile Gruppe was represented by such works as his rendition of Smith Cove in Gloucester showing various fishermen preparing their nets for a day on the water with numerous boats comprising the background. It sold for $13,365 within an estimate of $10,000-15,000. William Lester Stevens’ “Towering Trees” showing a foreground of gnarled birches and a distant church steeple peeking through went out at $13,035 within its $12,000-14,000 estimate. California artist Marguerite Zorach, who summered in New England, was represented by a bold oil on board of a waterfall amid tall evergreens that sold above its $10,000-15,000 estimate for $31,995.
Other Northeasterners included William Trost Richards. This renowned New Yorker with a deft hand whose landscape of a lake in the Adirondacks saw tremendous interest. From a private Long Island collection, it beat out its $10,000-20,000 estimate to bring $41,475.
An outstanding and large oil on canvas scene by Edmund William Greacen entitled “In a Giverny Garden, 1909” pictured the artist’s wife sitting in her lush country garden. The work’s provenance indicates Greacen gave this painting to his good friend and fellow artist Theodore Earl Butler who was Monet’s son-in-law. This exceptional work sold within its $30,000-50,000 estimate for $35,550.
Also worthy of note were three works by Ralph Cahoon. This 20th century artist known for his whimsical works that combine fantasy and folk art sensibilities saw mixed results. “Susannah & The Elders”, an octagonal form oil on board of a group of pilgrim elders being ferried along the shore when they happen upon a smiling mermaid grooming herself. This charming work sold for $20,145 against an estimate of $10,000-15,000.
The selection of art continued with some international examples such as two works from a Long Island collector of Philippine artist Fernando Amorsolo. One, a marvelous oil of laborers working the rice fields in the shadow of a distant volcano sold above its $50,000-80,000 estimate for $100,725. The other was a market scene of townspeople buying and selling produce in the village square. It sold within the same presale estimate for $53,325.
French artist Edouard Cortes’ busy Parisian street scene “Place Bastille” captures the square during a chilling autumn rain as pedestrians and drivers bustle about. This lovely work brought $26,070 within expectations of $20,000-30,000.
A little closer to home, Canadian art made a strong showing with two works in particular. Cornelius Krieghoff’s touching scene of a pioneer father bidding farewell to his family before what appears to be a long hunting trip sold within its $30,000-50,000 estimate for $47,400. From roughly a century later, Canadian artist Lawren Harris’ portrayal of barren trees during the spring thaw above Lake Superior sold well above its $5,000-10,000 estimate for $42,600.
Also included was a late addition to the auction, a highly desirable Ansel Adams signed gelatin silver print of a southwest village entitled “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico 1942”. No one does black and white like Adams. One look and you know you’re looking at a master. It changed hands above its $25,000-35,000 estimate for $43,845.
The focus of Day II and the first part of Day III was on a vast array of folk art in a variety of genres. It also included a fine array of marine and nautical art, American furniture and accessories of every kind. Highlights included the largest collection of weathervanes Julia’s has handled in recent memory. An important copper example from the late 19th Century showed a quill pen breaking a sword blade and once belonged to American publishing magnate Cyrus H.K. Curtis whose credits include the Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal. Curtis, who was born in Portland, Maine in 1850, had it created as a logical extension of his profession as a publisher and to represent the old adage, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” The vane was acquired in the 1930s by the present consignor’s father who received it as partial payment for some demolition work he was doing on the building on which it stood for many years. It proved to be mightier than its $20,000-40,000 presale estimate and sold for $47,400. Other examples included an exceptional molded copper pig weathervane with evenly worn gilt surfaces that sold well above its $12,000-18,000 estimate for $32,587. A large copper grasshopper attributed to L.W. Cushing & Sons of Waltham, Massachusetts with delightful verdigris surfaces came fresh from a Midwest collection with an estimate of $15,000-25,000 and sold for $26,662. Among the list of other animals both wild and domestic was a hollow bodied trick horse jumping through a hoop. Attributed to A.L. Jewell & Co. of Waltham, Massachusetts, it sold for $17,775 against expectations of $8,000-10,000.
Other folk art included a generous selection of primitive portraits, most of which depicted children with their toys or pets, making them even more desirable. One in particular from the mid-19th century when it was traditional to dress young girls and boys alike pictured a blond boy in a gray dress and bloomers holding a garland of flowers with his dog resting beside him. Charming beyond words, it sold at the upper end of its $15,000-25,000 estimate for $23,700. Another standout was an example attributed to William W. Kennedy of a young boy holding a cane. With a very distinctive expression, this classic portrait went out at $11,850, nearly doubling the top end of its $4,000-6,000 estimate.
A selection of folk art quilts included a fine appliqué album quilt from the 19th century that featured 25 large squares depicting floral motifs. From a fine private Long Island collection it maintained brilliant color throughout and sold above its $5,000-8,000 estimate for $10,665.
Folk art of a more nautical flavor included ship models, portraits, accessories, and so forth. Marine art included works by the commodore of ship portraits, Antonio Jacobsen. His depiction of the black hulled steamship “The Commonwealth” sold for $7,702 versus its estimate of $5,000-7,000. But it was Montague Dawson’s vertical portrait of an oncoming three-mast tall ship in full sail cutting through the sun reflected in the white tipped green waves that stole the show. In a seemingly unending bidding battle that went well beyond its $20,000-40,000 estimate, it ultimately went to the buyer willing to go to $74,062.
Other items of interest included a nice assortment of American furniture from a private Long Island collector. Highlights included a fine Chippendale carved mahogany block-front slant-lid desk. From the third quarter of the 18th century Boston, this exceptional piece ex-Louis Appell collection is fitted with an arrangement of valenced pigeon holes and blocked drawers accentuated by bold period brasses and ball & talon feet. It sold for $14,220 against a $10,000-15,000 estimate. From the same collection was an exceptional Chippendale tiger maple corner chair with delightful pierced and scrolled splats reminiscent of owls alternating with ring turned pilasters. It more than quadrupled the low end of its $8,000-12,000 estimate to land at $35,550.
From the renowned Norm Flayderman collection was a selection of exceedingly rare Civil War recruiting posters. Flayderman was an astute businessman, scholar and military collector who helped revolutionize the price guide. While there were firearm and other price guides, his became the bible used most often and were respected above all others for their information, honest assessments, and accuracy. Julia’s sold Flayderman’s firearm collection earlier this year and his personal collection of Civil War recruiting posters and broadsides that by sheer miracle survived these 150+ years found favor in this auction. Of particular note was a massive recruiting broadside for the Manhattan rifles picturing a Zouave soldier. Color recruiting posters were exceedingly rare and this particular poster was believed to have been the first original example ever offered at public auction. It did not disappoint, seeing much action by those in attendance and bidding by telephone. It sold beyond its $2,000-3,000 estimate for $14,812. A massive seven foot recruiting broadside from Boston believed to be the largest Civil War recruiting poster in existence went out at $7,702 against a $1,500-2,500 estimate.
This session was rounded out by a selection of early American, English and Mexican sterling silver as well as American and continental coins and Russian enamel pieces such as a superb and large silver kovsh with matching spoon by Maria Semyenova. From the early part of the 20th century, it featured delicate shading and robust colors with allover foliate and flower decoration. Residing in the same family since it was brought over from Poland in the 1930s it sold above its $6,000-9,000 estimate for $28,440. A set of four mid-18th century British sterling silver candlesticks went out at $10,072, ignoring an $800-1,200 estimate.
Much of Days III and IV were devoted to approximately 1,200 lots of Asian art and artifacts, some of which came from an estate collection of a renowned Taiwanese diplomatic family with ties to Robert Frost and T.S. Eliot. The collection consisted of a variety of carved figures, scrolls, seals, censers, jade, porcelain, and more. Of particular note, were the wonderful collection of seals. Many of which performed admirably. Lot #4247 was a soapstone seal of Tien Huang, early 20th century, estimated at $800-1,000; it saw a fierce bidding battle which resulted in it selling for approximately $32,000. Another lot also a soapstone seal, Tien Huang Shih, estimated at $300-400 also produced fierce bidding which resulted in a final sale price of $23,700.00. A set of four album leaves by Huang Junbi (1898-19991) were estimated at $4,000-6,000 and finally topped out at $19,550.00. A beautiful Jadeite pendant and pair of earrings were estimated at $12,000-18,000 but topped out at $35,500.00.
The collection was further highlighted by a large offering of fine jade in a variety of forms. Of particular note was an important jade scepter. This sea green celadon stone carved as Ling Chih with lotus flowers and allover foliage was accompanied by a pierced and carved rosewood stand. Estimated for $30,000-50,000, it sold for $35,550. A set of six white jade pendants in a presentation box, depicting gourds, mushrooms and archaic dragons; and these diminutive carvings far exceeded an $800-1,200 estimate to bring $28,440. An intricately carved jade belt buckle ignored a $300-500 estimate to sell for $8,295.
The auction continued with a grouping of Asian porcelain including Ming as well as a select grouping of Chinese Export including a rare Carlos Maria de Bustamante armorial crest pitcher. The porcelain helmet pitcher decorated in gold with a crest and flowers honors the ascension of Ferdinand VII in 1808 who later became a noted figure in Mexico’s War of Independence. It went out at $4,147 against an estimate of $300-500. A porcelain shallow bowl from the early Ming period (circa 1400) decorated with lotus plants and stylized scrolling was highly sought after and brought a solid $47,400 within its $40,000-60,000 estimate. Each estimated for $200-300 and each selling for $11,850 was an early Ming style porcelain vase from the 19th century with beautiful red scrolling vines and flowers as well as a pair of yellow porcelain bowls with green painted characters.
Also included was a large offering of Chinese and Japanese figural bronzes. One of the many highlights was a fine bronze of a windblown figure from the Meiji period Japan. Brilliantly cast with realistic billowing folds, the robed gentleman with gilt highlights seems to be taking it all in stride. From the Norm Flayderman collection, it multiplied its $10,000-20,000 estimate to sell for $43,845. A bronze figure of Buddha seated in the lotus position atop an ornate golden throne sold for $23,700 against a $1,000-2,000 estimate. An 18th century Chinese bronze image of the 11-headed Quanyin likewise saw active bidding. It went out at $9,480 against a $400-600 estimate.
Julia’s upcoming auctions include their phenomenal firearms and military memorabilia auction taking place in October. Following will be Julia’s toy & doll auction as well as their rare lamp & glass auction in November. Their next antiques, fine art, and Asian artifact auction will take place in February 2015. 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: email@example.com.