Fairfield, Maine, February 3-4, 2011 ~ There is little doubt the economy is on the upswing. Optimism and energy so real you can almost touch it. Such was the atmosphere at Julia’s recent antiques & fine art auction. Despite a chilling “Nor’easter” two days prior that dropped another foot of snow on the already blanketed state, Julia’s facility was packed to the brim with eager auction goers. Many in the standing room only crowd were clearly in awe as many lots reached prices reminiscent of pre-recession. The two-day event presented a marvelous array of nearly 400 American & European paintings together with a full day’s worth of furniture, folk art, and accessories from collections and estates from across the country. Of particular note, the sale marked the final installment from the famed Woolworth Collection, from which Julia’s has sold innumerable objects from their immense compound on the shores of beautiful Cobbossee Lake in Monmouth, Maine. During the late 19th and early 20th Century the Woolworth Department Stores were one of the most famous names in department stores both here and in Europe. Since the early 20th Century, the family has owned an expansive compound on the lake consisting of twenty-six buildings that were filled with elegant antique furnishings and superb paintings. A few years ago, the family began to downsize their holdings. As the homes were sold, the antiques therein were consigned to Julia’s. Recently the final remnants of the compound were sold and Julia’s was once again called in to handle the balance of their vast antique collection.
In addition were selections from the museum and private collection of Dorothy-Lee Jones. Mrs. Jones’s husband is a direct descendent of the famous Revolutionary War General Artemas Ward and both she and her mother during their lifetime had amassed a formidable collection of glass and ceramics (some of which were sold in Julia’s recent glass & lamp auction). Some years ago, Mrs. Jones started a glass museum and research center in Douglas Hill, Maine and her collection and the regular presentations that took place were well known throughout North America. One such piece from her collection was a rare and highly desirable Marblehead Pottery vase. Consisting of stylized flowers with applied slips on a beautiful matte finish green body, it was originally estimated at $1,000-1,500 but after the catalog was published, Bill Gage learned this was a very rare piece of Marblehead pottery. In fact it was one of only six known by sale time. There were nearly 20 phones in play and the fight was on. After a dramatic bidding battle, the vase brought a final price of $86,250!
European art made a strong showing, highlighted by a busy town scene by Dutch artist Andrianus Eversen. Showing a cobblestone avenue lined with shops and townspeople milling about, this stunning piece brought $56,350 against expectations of $3,000-5,000. From the Woolworth collection were numerous important paintings such as an oil on canvas scene by British artist Heywood Hardy showing a group of fox hunters on horseback congregating in front of a tavern in preparation for a hunt. This work exceeded expectations of $10,000-20,000 to sell for $29,325. Belgian artist Bernard Pothast’s interior scene of a provincial mother tending to her young children exuded charm and elicited emotion as good paintings do. It surpassed its $9,000-12,000 estimate to finish up at $20,700. Also hitting the $20,700 mark was English artist Walter Sickert’s oil on masonite studio nude. Exceeding its $8,000-12,000 estimate, his impressionistic rendering shows there’s artistry in every body type.
From a Florida estate was Russian artist Frants Roubard’s depiction of an Arab man holding a large red flag while the horse on which he rides gallops away from a distant town toward the viewer. This handsome painting done with stunning realism sold within an estimate of $25,000-40,000 for $31,625.
Across the pond to America’s shores, Julia’s presented a marvelous grouping of Rockport-Gloucester art. Highlights included a generous and fresh selection of Emile Gruppe paintings. Included was a superb oil on canvas winter scene of a stream winding through a sunlit forest. A departure from his usual harbor scenes, it sold for $16,100 against a $10,000-15,000 estimate. Another winter scene, Gruppe’s “Vermont Village” shows a small group of rustic buildings nestled below a tree lined mountainside. Estimated for $10,000-15,000, it sold for $13,800.
Other American art included a small oil on board landscape of a small mountain waterfall by John Frederick Kensett that sold for many times its $5,000-8,000 estimate for $40,250. An unstretched canvas panoramic landscape showing several boats on calm water against a mountainous backdrop by Robert Duncanson sold for $22,425, exceeding a $5,000-7,000 estimate. Not to be confused with the aforementioned Belgian artist Bernard Pothast, American Edward Potthast’s harbor scene of a small schooner moored dockside sold above its $5,000-7,000 to settle in at $14,950. And Leon Kroll’s delightful small coastal scene of a rocky coast surrounding deep blue water exceeded expectations of $800-1,200 to bring $10,062.
Day Two of the auction consisted of nearly 800 lots and showcased a variety of folk and nautical art. Of particular note was a rare and important Cushing & White steam locomotive and tender weathervane. Hailing from the late 19th Century, this recent estate discovery, constructed of zinc, copper, and tin was an exciting find. Modeled with precise details and still retaining its original metal plaque and remnants of an early painted surface, it sold for $43,125 within an estimate of $35,000-65,000.
Other folk art included a recent discovery of an unframed oil on panel primitive folk art panorama of Boston area’s Chelsea, Massachusetts that showed how much the area has changed since 1827 from rural farmland to its present sprawl. Found in a coal bin in the cellar of a Boston area home, it has descended through the family for its first ever public appearance. This spectacular piece exceeded an estimate of $12,500-22,500 to sell for $25,300.
Folk art trade signs included a lot of five figural examples from the Barbara Thornsjo collection that consisted of a carved mortar & pestle, a carved tooth for the local dentist’s office, a hat maker’s sign and others that sold for $5,520 against a $400-600 estimate. A cast and molded tin bull’s head trade sign also from the Thornsjo collection in its original gilt surface saw very strong action. It well exceeded expectations of $500-800 to sell for $5,922. Other folk art included several carousel figures from the early 20th Century. The grouping was highlighted by a rare Herschell-Spillman carved and paint-decorated carousel frog. Depicting a fanciful crouching green spotted frog inspired by “Wind in the Willows”. In old paint, he sprang to $10,350, within his $10,000-15,000 estimate. And a grouping of several carved Black Forest pieces was highlighted by an unusual owl umbrella and cane stand. Consisting of two detailed hollow body owls with open tops flanking a branch trellis center for a charming way to store and display, it went to an overseas phone bidder for $6,325 versus an estimate of $1,500-2,000.
The auction continued with a wide variety of furniture and accessories including painted furniture, Victorian, Arts & Crafts, Continental, and early American. Standouts included a fine pair of English Hepplewhite carved mahogany open armchairs from the Woolworth Collection. With overstuffed upholstery and original wood surfaces with crisp carving, the pair, with prior provenance to Stair & Co. of New York, quickly surpassed a $5,000-10,000 estimate to ultimately sell for $52,900. Also from the Woolworth Collection was a Regency rosewood inlaid console table that emanated class and elegance. It sold for $9,775 against a $2,000-3,000 estimate. Early American furniture included a rare Pilgrim Century Massachusetts carved oak palm-panel chest attributed to the Savell Shop in Braintree. The highly carved quartersawn oak case by one of New England’s revered furniture makers is considered exceedingly rare. This example brought $33,350 against an estimate of $12,000-18,000.
Other highlights from Day Two of this auction included a collection of over 50 lots of silver from the private collection of Dorothy-Lee Jones. In quality and freshness to the market, this sale represented one of the finest collections of early Tiffany and English silver Julia’s has had the pleasure of offering. It was obvious from the beginning there would be no bargains in this segment of the auction. An outstanding covered footed serving bowl by Dominick & Haff featuring hand hammered finish highlighted by detailed insect and floral decoration helped to set the tone. It blasted through its $2,000-3,000 estimate to sell for $22,425. Others included a Tiffany & Co. sterling syrup with overall relief berry & vine decoration, a flying bird finial, and C-scroll handle that hit $3,680 (est. $800-1,200), a remarkable 18th Century egg shaped London tea urn with delicate vine handles that sold for $3,737 (est. $1,500-2,500) and a fine 4-piece combined lot of repousse tea service items by various makers brought $3,450 (est. $1,500-2,500). And an enameled silver hinged round box, which was covered in a geometric enamel pattern and a lid decorated with a detailed enameled scene of a man and woman taking a winter stroll. From the private collection of Dorothy-Lee Jones, it surpassed its $1,000-1,500 estimate to sell for $16,675.
The offering of fine metals continued with a collection of coins. Included was a rare 1807 2-1/2 dollar gold piece picturing a woman wearing a cap facing right (while most U.S. coins show a figure facing left). It brought $9,200 within its $8,000-10,000 estimate. An 1805 five dollar gold piece with similar orientation brought $5,750 against a $2,800-3,500 estimate. And an unusual find that “made the papers” nearly a decade ago was one located with a metal detector near a Revolutionary War battle site. This 1652 Oak Tree schilling is one of those instances that keeps the metal detector manufacturers in business. The coin changed hands at $3,737, surpassing an estimate of $2,000-3,000.
A diverse offering of miscellany included a scattering of estate rugs and American Indian objects such as a Navajo serape from the mid-1800s that sold for $17,250 (est. $4,000-6,000) and a Navajo silver and turquoise bracelet with fanciful motif that brought $5,980 against a $750-950 estimate. A fine Aubusson allegorical tapestry depicting a well attended royal being drawn in a chariot also performed well, bringing $24,150 against a $10,000-15,000 estimate. Another attraction was a classic 1947 Chrysler Crown Imperial limousine that embodies old money luxury. Used in later years as a local parade favorite, it sold at the upper end of its $4,000-7,000 estimate for $6,900. And an offering of Currier & Ives prints was highlighted by a very colorful large folio lithograph of a bird’s eye view scene of a busy train stop in a mountain valley. This piece sold for an unexpected $14,030 versus a $1,000-2,000 estimate.
Julia’s upcoming auctions include their phenomenal firearms and military memorabilia auction that will be held in March. Their next antiques & fine art auction will take place in August. Julia’s next toy & doll auction as well as their rare lamp & glass auction will follow in May & June, respectively. 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.