Julia’s Marks the End of Summer with Massive Antiques & Fine Art Auction

Fairfield, Maine, August 25-27, 2010. ~ For over two decades in their illustrious 40+ year history, James D. Julia, Inc. has marked the end of summer with the biggest and best antique & fine art auctions the state of Maine has ever seen. Renowned for assembling vibrant, quality sales in a variety of categories, James D. Julia Auctioneers once again presented one of their finest offerings of art, folk art, furniture, and quality antiques to date. This weeklong auction event featured selections from private and prominent collections and estates from across the United States. Auctions remain the best method of marketing collections of quality goods. There is still most certainly a vibrant market for fresh-to-the-market quality antiques that are conservatively estimated as this auction proved.
A truly exceptional and rare grouping of 17 silk trade banners from the Maine Mechanics Charitable Association was one instance of a spectacular find. These special hand painted silk trade banners were made to illustrate the various trade groups represented in the Maine association. The association, which was linked with similar groups in other States, was perhaps the oldest union established in North America. These guilds originated in the late 18th Century in Massachusetts with Paul Revere as the first president. Each year a special parade would take place and members (blacksmiths, shipbuilders, printers, masons, butchers, etc.) would carry these banners representing their trade. Decorated with fabulous folk art depictions of their trade on one side and a clever printed statement about the trade on the reverse, they were true glances into American history. After an active tête-à-tête, the grouping realized $125,350 (just inside its $125,000-225,000 aggregate estimate). The price was exciting news but the buyer and the circumstances of purchase were even more newsworthy. The winning bidder was Richard D’Abate, Executive Director of the Maine Historical Society. D’Abate represented a consortium of many Maine historical institutions. Maine historical institutions are of course experiencing the same financial restrictions that most historical institutions are experiencing across the country. However, to their great credit, over the past years they have become known for their tremendous innovation and creativity. This purchase exemplified the extent of their innovation. D’Abate, together with some of the other institution heads, recognized the significance and importance of these magnificent trade banners, and for weeks prior to the auction hashed out an unprecedented approach to their acquisition. There is strength in numbers and the institutions as a group realized that if they worked together, consolidating their resources, they would have the best opportunity of acquiring and retaining the banners. Their plan included an eventual program that would share the rights to display them amongst the various institutions that participated. Their success met with great adulation among the crowd when it was announced that they had won the banners. It is suspected this may not be the last time this innovative idea is utilized and that institutions in other states may follow suit in the future to compete in this new economy.
Day One of this sale kicked off with approximately 700 works of art including American, European, and Russian artists in a variety of genres. Of particular interest to art collectors the world over was a selection of works from a Boston estate in the manner of the Old Masters. Included was an interior scene showing Caesar visiting the tomb of Alexander. It exceeded expectations of $5,000-8,000 to sell for $39,100. Also hitting the $39,100 mark and likewise well surpassing its estimate was a large oil on canvas scene entitled “Family of Darius Before Alexander” depicting a Roman centurion receiving a family who appears to be showing great appreciation for him. A three-quarter portrait of St. John the Baptist after Guercino with classical styling decapitated its $4,000-6,000 estimate to bring $33,350. And a lot of two monumental religious portraits representing important 16th Century Roman figures, St. Filippo Neri and Pope Pius V, were likely 18th Century renderings after Andrea Sacchi. The pair ascended beyond a $5,000-8,000 estimate to finish up at $12,075.
Other European works included a large trophy scene by Dutch artist Jan Weenix the Younger that shows a young well dressed hunter after a successful day in the forest standing in front of his haul. It sold for $41,400 against an estimate of $35,000-50,000. Sir Henry Raeburn’s “Portrait of Major Robert McGregor” shows the British officer dressed in red waist coat with black lapels and a sword scabbard attached to his belt. It brought $38,525 above expectations of $20,000-25,000. Austrian artist Paul Joanovitch’s portrayal of a Middle Eastern man smoking a pipe outside a stucco building sold for $40,250, just within its $40,000-60,000 estimate. One of the surprises of the day was a pen & ink view of Venice by Giacomo Guardi that resulted in a bidding battle that ended at over ten times its $1,200-1,500 estimate, finally stopping at $14,375. Another surprise was Irish artist James O’Connor’s landscape of a lone fisherman walking away from a small creek. Expected to sell for $1,000-2,000, it found a buyer at $10,062.
Also enjoying popularity these days and seeing strong prices are those from and/or depicting California and other regions of Western United States. Contemporary artist Gerald Jones’ “City Lights”, depicting a night time winter scene of a Wild West downtown was strikingly rendered. It headed off into the sunset for $46,000 within its $40,000-50,000 estimate. From a Maine estate was a panoramic Texas landscape by Porfirio Salinas in which the viewer looks across low hills and valleys to a distant horizon. It neared the upper end of its $25,000-35,000 estimate to fetch $32,200. And even further west was Sydney Laurence’s “Mount McKinley from My Camp in Peter’s Hills, Alaska”, which portrayed a river valley leading to North America’s highest peak in the distance. A stunning panorama, it exceeded expectations of $15,000-25,000 to sell for $28,750.
Back on the East Coast, a selection of New Englanders included a recent discovery in a Central Maine home of Hayley Lever’s vibrant Massachusetts harbor scene entitled “Sailing at Marblehead”. Depicting a number of colorful sailboats navigating the choppy waters, it more than quadrupled its $8,000-12,000 estimate to sell for $37,950. One of eight works by Thomas Nicholas was his portrayal of a New England sugar shack amongst tall maple trees. A delightful work in an eye catching autumn palette, it changed hands at $9,775 against an $8,000-12,000 estimate.
Fellow New England artists, those of the Rockport-Gloucester School included a fresh-to-the-market selection that had never before seen the public marketplace. Anthony Thieme’s oil on board scene of Rockport Harbor and Bearskin Neck, which served as studios for several known artists, was purchased directly from the artist and has been in the same family ever since. It quickly surpassed its $7,000-10,000 estimate to bring $14,375. His “New Castle, Delaware, 1938”, a large oil on canvas tree lined street scene with a church resting behind a stucco wall, was an unusual subject matter and a departure from his usual harbor scenes. From the same collection, it sold within its estimate of 15,000-25,000 for $18,400.
The auction continued with over 60 works by Maine artists from antique to contemporary. Highpoints included Frederick Waugh’s “Sunlit Surf” showing early morning waves crashing on to a coastal ledge. It saw active bidding to $12,075 versus expectations of $7,000-10,000. William Hart’s coastal scene of Mt. Desert dated 1864 shows the ascending sun casting light across a steep cliff and incoming waves. It brought $12,650, within its $12,000-15,000 estimate. And Jack Gray’s coastal fishing scene of two men in a green hulled boat hauling three dories behind them, originally a gift from the artist to the family of the consignor, sold for $9,775 against a $9,000-12,000 estimate.
Other highlights in the American art category was William Louis Sonntag’s panoramic landscape with the Adirondacks in the distance, which sold for $18,975 versus an $8,000-12,000 estimate. Gifford Beal’s carnival scene of a man leading a show horse through a crowded early 20th Century midway brought $13,225, more than doubling its $5,000-7,000 estimate. Thomas Dewing’s ethereal portrait of a young woman in a sheer green dress brought within expectations of $10,000-20,000 for $16,100.
The offering likewise consisted of a half dozen sketches by Charles Gibson that descended through the artist’s family and were new to the market. His “Gibson Girls” became the epitome of beauty in the early 20th Century, and for obvious reasons. An ink and black wash sketch depicting an attractive young woman seated at a desk writing a letter while her dog looks on sold above its $2,000-4,000 estimate for $8,050.
A selection of sporting and wildlife works by some of the most prominent names in the genre included the renowned Lynn Bogue Hunt. His masterful oil on canvas scene of a flock of ducks coming in for a landing in a grassy marsh brought $9,200 against an estimate of $4,000-7,000. His gouache and watercolor scene of a pair of ruffled grouse among a leaf covered outcropping is considered one of the best works the artist ever created. It was a good buy at $8,050.
In today’s economy, not everything sells at auctions, and such was the case here. One of the greatest disappointments of the day was perhaps the lack of sale of an outstanding N.C. Wyeth work. Wyeth was one of the greatest illustrators of all time, and this painting originally used in a Collier’s magazine article was indeed a striking example of his work. The image featured a handsome Canadian mounted policeman dressed in full traditional regalia including his vibrant red coat. The painting had never before been offered for public sale and was consigned directly from a family who owned it since the early 20th Century. It carried a conservative estimate of $175,000-275,000.
Also included was selection of original hand colored engravings by James Audubon, the undisputed emperor of the aviary whose study, cataloging, and descriptions, and images of the feathered friends became the standard the world over. Another good buy was an outstanding large folio print of the male and female great horned owl perched on a tree branch. It sold for $11,500 versus a $13,000-19,000 estimate.
Other folk art included a marvelous trotting horse weathervane by A.E. Jewell Co. at the latter part of the 19th Century. In untouched original condition, it sold for $12,075 against a $7,000-10,000 estimate. An unusual folk art watercolor portrait of a child holding a key and flower while a cat pounces on a mouse brought $6,037 above expectations of $1,500-2,500.
The auction continued with a selection of nautical and seafaring related antiques. Among them, ship portraits included a portrait of the “H.H. Boody” (also consigned by the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association). This outstanding oil on canvas, though unsigned was unquestionably by British artist Duncan McFarlane, a renowned and respected ship portraitist. Fascinating and certainly unusual is the fact the artist gives three views of the same ship in one flowing seascape, the central broadside view flanked by views both of it coming toward the viewer and heading away, all set against a background scene of Liverpool Harbor. This outstanding painting ignored a presale estimate of $15,000-25,000 to settle at $39,100. A portrait of the “Golden Rule” attributed to American artist William Gay Yorke shows the black hulled ship in full sail navigating right to left through a well defined choppy green sea. It, too, carried a $15,000-25,000 estimate, but sold for $21,850.
A marvelous collection of nine carousel animals from a Pennsylvania home included an important Dentzel flop-eared rabbit with highly ornate carvings and great animated features that brought $17,250. Other highlights included a Dentzel jumper horse with elaborately carved mane and trappings that sold within its $8,000-12,000 estimate for $11,500. And a polychrome carved leaping lion by Friedrich Heyn sold above its $2,000-4,000 estimate for $6,037.
A nice assemblage of furniture, clocks, and accessories helped add to the diversity of the sale. Heading the list was a rare Federal inlaid mahogany Aaron Willard shelf clock featuring a rectangular bonnet with three brass finials, figured mahogany panel, and contrasting string inlays. Expected to bring $5,000-10,000, it finished up at $13,800. An exceptional New England federal grain painted and decorated tall case clock featuring an arched concave molded cornice bonnet beneath three spire finials, alternating with pierced fretwork, it was boldly decorated overall with its original blue, ochre and mustard sponge decoration. It brought $12,650 against an estimate of $12,000-16,000. Local Augusta, Maine clockmaker Benjamin Swan Federal was represented by two birch tall case clocks including a last minute addition, a marvelous inlaid example with an arched bonnet surmounted by fretwork and two brass ball finials above an arched glazed door centering a birdseye inlaid panel. The other was a Swan Federal mahogany and birch version; each sold for $9,200. And a massive Renaissance Revival oak tall case clock with J.C. Jennens & Son movement and exquisite hand carved caryatids, leaves, and masks was an exceptional example. Chiming in with a $3,000-6,000 estimate, it found a buyer at $7,475. Furniture and accessories included a highly carved pair of French Renaissance Revival oak bookcase cabinets similar in style and level of carving to the aforementioned tall case clock. Estimated to bring $3,000-5,000, the pair brought $12,075.
Earlier American furniture included a State of Maine grain and paint decorated blanket chest from the mid-19th Century. It sold for $6,900 against expectations of $2,000-4,000. An early pine two-door cupboard in its original robin’s egg blue paint had great presence and marvelous patina. It brought $4,600 within a $3,000-5,000 estimate. On the smaller side was a Pennsylvania Chippendale figured maple spice chest. Its understated elegance only added to its charm. Bidders agreed, taking it to $10,925, surpassing its $6,000-9,000 estimate.
Other accessories and decorative items included a monumental Craddock & Reid silver serving tray. A wide scalloped edge with masks representing each of the four seasons frames delicate allover “C” scroll engraving. The piece sold for $10,925 within expectations of $10,000-12,000. A large KPM porcelain plaque depicting a well-to-do young woman descending a staircase sold within its $8,000-12,000 estimate for $10,925. And no one predicted that a set of six signed woodblock prints from the early part of the 1900s would perform the way they did. Depicting rather mundane activities like men moving a rock, the set brought $15,525 despite a $400-600 estimate.
The sale was rounded out by an interesting selection of miscellaneous items worthy of mention. A local collection of photos from renowned slice-of-impoverished-life photographer Margaret Bourke-White saw much active bidding. Predominantly from the 1930s, the collection included the original photograph of a woman and her four children that appeared on the cover of her book “You Have Seen Their Faces”. Estimated for $10,000-15,000, it brought a solid $13,800. Also up for bid were several of what are believed to be unpublished photos that were taken in the same session as those that appear in her book, but for one reason or another were not included. Her ability to capture despair and hope in the same photo is remarkable, evoking emotion in the viewer. Her image of a young man resting against a wall did just that, ultimately selling for $10,925 against a $2,000-3,000 estimate. Her shot of a bearded older man gazing off into the distance showed a lifetime of experience as well as some pain, and sold for $4,715 against a $2,000-4,000 estimate.
A remarkable bronze fountain figure by Bessie Vonnoh entitled “Water Lilies” depicting a nude forest nymph with arms extended, with one hand clutching a flower blossom. Standing atop a naturalistic rock plinth, it will make a great centerpiece for someone’s lawn fountain. It sold for $23,000.
An offering of classical six-string guitars included a rosewood and mother of pearl example by Ignacio Fleta & Sons, considered to be one of the finest makers of classical and flamenco guitars in the world. Consigned from the family of the founders of Pepperidge Farm with a $5,000-10,000 estimate, it found a new owner at $28,750.
A 1951 Indian Blackhawk Chief motorcycle (est. $12,000-16,000) sold for $12,075. Also included were various Native American artifacts, a collection of estate gold coins, a large estate collection of buttons, lots of early marbles, and other objects d’art that also performed well. Completing the auction was a selection of items from the Lee Marvin Estate. Up for bid were several awards, scripts, costumes, original movie posters, and personal items from the late Oscar winning Hollywood tough guy. Highlights included a lot of three presentation coffee mugs given by John Wayne to Lee Marvin as souvenirs from movies they worked on together. All personalized with the inscription “Lee from Duke”, one can imagine these rare pieces of Hollywood memorabilia do not come up for sale too often. As a result, this was a $7,475 opportunity over a $1,500-3,000 estimate. Marvin’s Best Actor Golden Globe for 1965’s “Cat Ballou” was a good buy at $3,450, while his International Berlin Film Festival award for the same film brought above its $600-1,000 estimate for $2,587. A pair of cufflinks Marvin used in the movie “Gorky Park” sold for $1,150 (est. $300-500).
It is standard policy at Julia’s, immediately after the sale to post a list of any item that failed to sell, allowing prospective post-auction buyers to make offers on no-sales. This and other details of the sale can be accessed via their website: www.jamesdjulia.com.
Julia’s upcoming auctions include their phenomenal firearms and military memorabilia auction that will be held in October. Their next toy & doll auction as well as their rare lamp & glass auction will follow in November. Julia’s next antiques & fine art auction will take place in February 2011. 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: info@jamesdjulia.com.