Fairfield, ME ~ August 21-24, 2012. For over two decades James D. Julia, Inc. has marked the end of summer with the biggest and best antique & fine art auction in the state of Maine. Numbering over 3,000 lots it went down as their largest and most diverse summer antiques auction to date. Over a four day period, bidders were treated to a massive selection of American & European paintings, folk art, Asian antiques and art, silver, historical documents and letters, and fine antiques of every kind brought together by department heads Bill Gage and Tony Greist.
In their last 40 years in the business the company has shown consistent growth, adding even more firepower to what Julia calls “the best auction team in North America.” In addition to the recent addition of new C.E.O., Mark Ford, Julia’s opening of their satellite office in Woburn, Massachusetts earlier this year brought on board two exceptional forces, Martin Willis and James Callahan who bring with them decades of experience in the auction business. The latter, Julia’s new department head of Asian arts, whose expertise in Asian artifacts and appearances on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow helped to amass this massive offering of art and antiques, which constituted almost two full days of the auction. These approximately 1,200 lots of Asian art and artifacts including portions of the collections of P.Y. Wang included pieces ex-Eu Tong Sen and Jenny Eu collections. The genre is enjoying tremendous popularity of late both here and abroad. The prices realized reflected this notion again and again as pieces consistently outperformed expectations.
With over 100 scrolls, over 400 pieces of jade, over 200 pieces of ivory as well as paintings, glass, cinnabar, needlework, 18th and 19th century Chinese & Japanese silver, etc., this sale saw a full house of bidders in attendance as well as a constant flow of phone, absentee, and live internet bids that contributed to the total tally for the four days of just under $4.5 million!
Highlights included a unique jade composition lamp attributed to Edward I. Farmer. The shade consisting of four white jade immortals set within gilt carved scrolling floral framework rested on a figural jade base and was topped with a jade finial of an adult and child. Once housed in the collection of the one and only Edsel Ford it saw action beyond its $20,000-30,000 estimate to sell for $69,000. Also receiving much attention was a rare and fine pair of embroideries picturing 100 birds, housed within highly elaborate carved and pierced rosewood frames. The stunning pair far surpassed its $20,000-30,000 estimate to bring $86,250. Other rarities included a marvelous double gourd shaped covered jar from the Tao Quang period (1821-1850). A brilliant lemon yellow background, decorated with stylized lotus flowers, traditional enamel vignettes and two jeweled red curved scepter handles went out at $37,375 against an estimate of $15,000-20,000.
From an earlier era, an ivory seal from the Ming Period (1368-1644) carved with a crab like figure atop a square pedestal was a surprise when it shot past its $1,500-2,000 estimate to sell for $47,150. Other ivory from this period included a carved figure of a Taoist immortal set within a carved rosewood base representing rocks and bamboo that sold for $24,150 against expectations of $1,000-1,500. Other ivory included a fine pair of carved ivory covered urns with foo dog mask handles and carved figure and floral decoration. The pair exceeded its $1,500-2,500 estimate to sell for $14,950. A lot of two honey amber colored soapstone seals from the 19th century and from the P.Y. Wang collection, one of which was topped with a carved foo dog sold for $23,000 against a $200-300 estimate.
Carved stone was a hot ticket in this auction as evidenced by an outstanding offering of jade items. Highlights included a lot of three diminutive white jade carvings representing various fruits. Estimated for $600-800, the trio went out at $9,200. A carved white jade covered incense box with a coral colored finial changed hands at $13,800 versus expectations of $3,000-5,000.
It is difficult to comprehend the level of rarity exhibited at this auction with so much of it being offered in one place at one time. Bidders at this auction were floored by such singular opportunities as seeing three exceedingly scarce and elaborate rhinoceros horn ceremonial libation cups hitting the auction block within moments of each other. These horns are highly sought after as 17th and 18th century works of art. Julia’s has sold examples in past years for as much as almost a quarter million dollars. However, recent enforcement of strict Chinese laws pertaining to the sale and ownership of these horns overseas has dried up the market. One example in this recent sale still sold, hitting $34,500 within its $30,000-50,000 estimate.
Other antiques included an array of Chinese scrolls. Highlights included an ink and light color paper example depicting a mountainous landscape with cottages beneath a high waterfall. Signed and sealed, it delivered at more than twice the upper end of its $8,000-12,000 estimate to sell for $28,750. An earlier example in the style of Huang Gongwang depicting a recluse in a pavilion among a traditional mountainous landscape went out at $24,150, midway through its $20,000-30,000 estimate.
China trade and export porcelain was well represented. A pair of rectangular form porcelain vases adorned with herons and water dragons among foliate decoration. Ignoring a $400-600 estimate, the pair went out at $19,550. A porcelain Ku vase from the 1600-1700s with sapphire blue decoration of Tao Tie masks and cicadas sold above its $300-500 for $10,350. A miniature porcelain double gourd snuff bottle with red stylized lotus scrolls sold for $20,700 against a $400-600 estimate.
Other highlights included a rare bronze figure of the God of War. This Chinese sculpture depicted a seated figure with drawn sword and surfaced in red and gold lacquer. Estimated to bring $1,500-2,500, it went out at $23,000. And a gilt bronze statue of a 6-armed Tibetan diety standing on a supine figure sold for $6,900 against a $500-700 estimate.
Personal adornment items in this session included a natural color jadeite and diamond necklace with GIA certification that went out at $63,250 against a $6,000-8,000 estimate. Non-Chinese jewelry in the auction included a Tiffany & Co. gold, platinum and diamond brooch in the form of a crescent set with 23 diamonds totaling approximately 6.45ct. Elegant beyond words and having descended through the family of the original owner who received it as a gift in 1903, it performed well above its $8,000-12,000 estimate to sell for $22,425. A 14kt white gold and diamond necklace with 135 graduated stones approached mid-estimate to finish up at $8,050.
The focus of much of Day Two was on a vast array of folk art in a variety of genres including over 30 weathervanes. An important example from the second half of the 19th Century depicting the Goddess of Liberty garnered much attention. Attributed to Cushing and White and modeled after a design by A.L. Jewell, she stands wearing a bonnet with a laurel wreath and holds an American flag with pierced stars. From a private Maine collection, it sold for $32,200, near the upper end of its $25,000-35,000 estimate. A Fiske weathervane in the form of a full bodied leaping stag being chased by a hound sold for $14,950, just short of its $15,000-25,000 estimate. A Cushing fox & hound weathervane sold for $11,500 (est. $10,000-20,000) while an unusual copper and zinc example with gilt finish depicting a man riding a high wheel bicycle sold for $12,650 (est. $8,000-12,000).
Other items of interest included a monumental, larger than life 32” presentation American stoneware advertising jug from the Ottman Brothers & Co. It was created to be presented to their top sales dealer, which at the time was Warren & Wood. This trophy would have been used as an advertising statement in their office or store window and showcased the company’s exceptional talent. Consigned directly from an Ottman family descendent, it sold for $103,500 against an $85,000-125,000 estimate. An important J.W. Fiske cast iron and zinc 9 foot garden fountain featuring a cast figure of King Neptune supported by three dolphins being ridden by cherubs came from an inn in Cherry Valley, New York. It sold within its $10,000-15,000 estimate for $10,925. An important pair of abalone mirrors by Bishara Zughbi & Sons, nearly identical in construction with minor differences in detail elements, featured oval mirror plates set within a conforming pierced surround. Having a look of simulated marble overlaid with various floral rosettes, the pair well surpassed its presale estimate of $15,000-25,000 to bring $34,500.
Other folk art included tobacconist figures such as an outstanding carved and painted Native American maiden wearing a feather headdress with a bundle of cigars and a flower in her hands. A captivating example that surely enticed patrons to enter the smoke shop, it went out at $31,050 against an estimate of $7,000-10,000. And a hand painted double sided game board with vibrant paint decoration sold for $8,682 versus a $2,500-4,500 estimate.
One of the most significant and fascinating lot of this auction was a treasure in the literal sense that was one of the most noteworthy losses of the 17th century and one of the most noteworthy finds of the 20th century. In 1622, the Spanish ship Nuestra Señora de Atocha, part of a fleet of ships laden with gold, silver, and personal treasures, along with armored war galleons hit a reef off the Florida Keys during a hurricane and sunk. The fleet was scattered over a fifty-mile area, losing eight ships in all and nearly half the men aboard. A salvage mission shortly thereafter recovered much of the sister ships’ cargo, but efforts to recover the Atocha were met with another hurricane. The cargo was scattered even further and efforts were abandoned. Fast-forward more than 300 years when a group of wealthy investors led by Mel Fisher banded to revive the search. They worked for nearly a decade and a half before finally finding the Atocha’s remains in 1985 and of course the tons of gold and other precious metal, much of which had become fused and encrusted with the re-growth of coral. Over the next several years, portions of the treasure were separated, cleaned and sold off or distributed in some fashion. This auction contained an as-found fused cluster of three gold bars and a long gold chain encrusted in coral consigned by one of the original investors. Weighing in at over 115 troy ounces, the lot sold for $172,500 against expectations of $150,000-200,000. This lot was joined by several non-encrusted coins from the same collection including a single coin from the find that sold for $9,200 against an estimate of $2,000-2,500. In addition were several gold and silver coins not associated with the Atocha for the numismatist including a 1798 $5 half eagle gold piece that brought $11,500 against expectations of $5,000-8,000.
Historical items of a different nature included an original hand drawn map of Norfolk, Virginia. Referred to as the “Samuel Boush Plan of 1762” the pen and watercolor on sheepskin, it showed the proposed development of the borough of Norfolk. Descended directly through the Boush family, this map was on loan to the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk from 1945 to 2012. It met expectations of $15,000-25,000 to finish up at 23,000. An important six page letter written and signed by renowned composer Richard Wagner dated February 5, 1885 concerned a number of topics including the impending visit of his wife, various performances and successes, marking the completion of the Walkure, and giving an account of Schopenhauer’s life and his philosophy. Considered one of the finest of its type in existence, it came estimated for $5,000-10,000 but went out to the tune of $11,500. The auction continued with other letters and documents including a document appointing one Joseph Green to Navy Captain signed by Abraham Lincoln that sold above its $4,000-6,000 estimate for $6,900. And an important three volume signed and bound account of a 1909 expedition to the Antarctic by E.H. Shackleton sold for $17,250 against an estimate of $10,000-20,000.
A historical item on the more bizarre side was the actual taxidermy horse’s head used during the rehearsals and filming of the 1970s Oscar winner, “The Godfather.” It was utilized in what is considered by most to be the most notorious and grisly scene in the film when studio boss Jack Woltz finds the severed head of his favorite thoroughbred in his bed. In discussions with Paramount, it had been determined that this head was ordered by the prop department and used during rehearsals, but Coppola didn’t feel it was realistic looking enough for the final filming. As a result, a real horse’s head was secured from a New Jersey dog food plant and used for the scene. Upon completion of the scene, this second head was immediately given to the SPCA for disposal as there was controversy regarding its use. Acquired from a former employee of Paramount Studios, it was a piece of cinematic history they couldn’t refuse. It went out at $11,500 within expectations of $10,000-20,000.
A mammoth consignment from the Harp House, a renowned mansion estate in coastal Camden, Maine caught the eye of many a bidder with such offerings as Staffordshire and Historical Staffordshire, Majolica, ship models and dioramas, paintings, and collection of approximately 100 Black Forest carvings, which having so many at one time was unprecedented at Julia’s. Collectors were delighted by the selection of carvings both large and small that included a rare carved bear combination plant stand and card holder that sold for $3,162, just above its $2,000-3,000 estimate. A carved bear umbrella stand estimated for $800-1,200 brought $2,242. In addition to the traditional bear carvings were also such pieces as a magnificent carved Black Forest shelf clock featuring a full bodied stag rendered with glass eyes, appearing alert for potential predators. Its $2,000-4,000 estimate was taken down by the bidder willing to pay $5,865. Other fine carvings included a unique Black Forest figural log holder in the shape of a bundle of kindling. Realistically rendered, it sold above its $1,500-2,500 estimate for $3,737. Also hitting the $3,737 mark was a pair of Black Forest walnut trophy plaques carved with a naturalistic brace of pheasants.
Traditionally a significant portion of Julia’s end of summer auction is a grand selection of art. This sale was no exception having approximately 725 works to choose from, allowing for a mix of strong prices along with some occasional bargains. Highlights included an outstanding oil on board scene by William Bradford of a large harbor with several large icebergs in the distance bathed in late afternoon sunlight. Estimated for $40,000-60,000, it sold for $57,500. A lovely autumn scene of the Adirondacks by Jasper Cropsey captured the essence of the location and the eye of more than one bidder. It went out at $29,900 within expectations of $25,000-35,000.
Perennial New England favorite Emile Gruppe was represented by his autumn scene entitled “Vermont Farm House” showing a country home behind barren trees. It sold within its estimate for $11,500 while Anthony Thieme’s slice of life Cape Ann street scene showing two women walking down a quiet neighborhood sidewalk saw bids beyond its $4,000-6,000 estimate to $10,350. A favorite subject matter by American artist Guy Wiggins is snowy New York City scenes. His portrayal of The Stock Exchange was another beauty, finishing up at $37,375, just shy of its $40,000-60,000 estimate.
European art included a stunning oil on canvas portrait of George Third Earl of Ashburnham by British artist John Hoppner. It was the mate to the portrait of Lady Charlotte Percy, Countess of Ashburnham that Julia’s sold in February 2010. This painting pictures him in stately robes with a look of arrogance befitting his station, standing in front of an arched window draped with a rich red curtain. It sold midway through its $20,000-40,000 estimate for $34,500. An oil on canvas pointillist scene attributed to Henry Cross of stylized waterside trees with twisted tree trunks was hotly fought for, ultimately selling for $25,300, well above its $3,000-5,000 estimate. A watercolor scene by Paul Signac showing several sailboats in a tranquil harbor setting brought $20,700, exceeding a pre-auction estimate of $10,000-20,000. British American artist John Thomas Peele’s casual yet captivating portrait of a well-to-do family sold for $18,400 against a $9,000-12,000 estimate.
Miscellaneous items included a fabulous Louis Vuitton wardrobe steamer trunk, complete with its dividers, drawers, original labels, and brass handles. Another treasure from the Harp House, it was something for the advanced collector/traveler, sailing well beyond its $1,500-2,500 estimate to land at $34,500. Another rare opportunity came with an outstanding near record polar bear rug that was harvested in Alaska in 1959. At the time, it was the third largest ever shot and recorded in history. Captured by Dr. Richard White while on a hunting expedition with Colonel Philip Neuweiler, it measures 95” from nose to tail and 95” from front paw to front paw. It sold for $7,475 against a presale estimate of $4,000-6,000.
The auction was rounded out by over 75 lots of silver including several tea sets, flatware sets, hollow ware, and even some early silver such as a coin silver spoon by renowned patriot and silversmith Paul Revere. Expected to sell for $3,000-5,000, it shined at $6,900. An outstanding and elaborate English sterling silver fishing trophy by James Dixon & Son from 1861 likewise exceeded its estimate to also net $6,900. A popular price for silver, a six-piece tea and coffee service by Reed & Barton in the “Devonshire” pattern sold for yes, $6,900 (est. $6,000-8,000).
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 2013. 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.