(Atlanta, Ga.) – An original oil-on-canvas portrait of Jenny Jerome (Lady Randolph Churchill), by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), is the anticipated top lot in a multi-estate sale slated for Sunday, September 23, by Gallery 63. Sargent is arguably the greatest American portrait artist of all time. However, no record of this finished portrait exists, so it is uncertain just how much it will bring.
“With the right research, this painting could be worth millions – many millions,” said Paul Brown of Gallery 63. “Studies of Lady Churchill are well documented, but not an oil portrait. There is much speculation, however, centered around the fact that the subject was, in addition to being a friend of Sargent’s, a controversial figure of her day who was known to have had several high-profile affairs.”
One of the affairs was allegedly with King Edward of England. The necklace she wears in the portrait is said to have been a gift from him. She is even rumored to have taken Sargent himself as a lover. In any event, she is depicted in the painting in a very revealing (for its time) dress that would have been scandalous in the Victorian era. The portrait was formerly in the collection of Leroy Ireland.
“The person who buys this painting, for whatever price, will then become a detective in determining its true history,” Brown said. “This much we know: Sargent’s renderings of socialites and the techniques he used in grand manner portraiture are singular and definitive. And they’re very much in evidence in this work.” The painting is boldly signed, left middle, “John S. Sargent.” It is undated.
The sale will also feature the American furniture collection of the curator of the Michael Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta. One highlight is an American Aesthetic Movement 5-piece parlor set, executed in the highest Renaissance Revival style by Pottier & Stymus of New York. A nearly identical set is in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Also from the Carlos curator group: a stunning flame mahogany American Empire drop-front bureau; an American Empire scroll-ended sofa in flame mahogany with monopodium feet and cornucopia brackets, circa 1820, made in either New York or Philadelphia; and an American Aesthetic Movement canterbury in black walnut, with ebonized trim and stylized incisions and applications.
Also from the same group: a four-drawer antique Biedermeier chest in birdseye maple, with ebonized columns; a museum-quality Berkey & Gay center table in mahogany and rosewood, inlaid with other secondary woods; an American Neoclassical center table in rosewood; an American Federal period mahogany sideboard, with tapered legs, rounded side cabinets and four center drawers; and an American Baroque R.J. Horner mahogany club chair, heavily carved with signature winged gryphons.
Certain to wow the crowd is a mahogany longcase clock made around 1905 by Tiffany & Co., and once owned by a member of the famous Skull & Bones secret society at Yale University (President Bush was a member). The clock, with elaborate filigreed and moon phase face, is inscribed on the pendulum, “F.W. Wilhelmi SBT.” Wilhelmi was the owner; the “SB” stands for Skull & Bones.
Gallery 63 is fast becoming known for its quality historical consignments, from Civil War to civil rights. The Sept. 23 sale will feature the former, beginning with an important group of letters written by Confederate Generals Jubal Early, George E. Pickett, Phillip St. George Cocke and J.B. Hood – all penned at the height of the War Between the States and worthy of the National Archives.
Also to be sold is an original Civil War veteran’s reunion medal, circa 1908, important because it relates to West Virginia, which became a state during the Civil War (it seceded from Virginia in 1863 and joined the Union); and a rare Confederate knife made by James Westa, Sheffield, a major supplier of knives to the Confederate States through Louisiana. The knife’s blade is four inches.
And how’s this for militaria: two full-size replica cannons — one for the Union and one for the Confederacy. And they actually fire! Someone (Civil War reenactors, perhaps?) invested a lot of time and money in making these surefire conversation starters. Brown estimates they’d cost at least $20,000 each to produce today. Each weighs 1,500 lbs.; they’re mounted on full-size field carriages.
Other notable works of art slated to cross the block include an oil-on-canvas Western landscape attributed to Albert Bierstadt (American, 1830-1902); an original drypoint etching by Louis Icart (French, 1880-1950); an oil-on-canvas marine scene by W. Lester Stevens (American, 1888-1969); and an oil-on-board depiction of a Paris street scene by Antoine Blanchard (French, 1910-1988).
What would a Gallery 63 sale be without vintage automobiles? Several will be auctioned, including a rare and prize-winning 1932 Chevrolet Super Confederate Roadster, of which only 8,552 were produced and only a few are accounted for (this one has twice won the Senior Grand Nationals); and a 1972 Cadillac El Dorado two-door sedan, partially restored, blue, with a huge, 8.2-liter engine.
Rounding out the day’s mix of eclectic offerings will be antique pottery from a prominent Atlanta family; about 20 autographed photos of various pop culture and celebrity figures, each one matted and framed; an exceptional and very fine American Fantasy etagere; an eight-drawer English highboy in mahogany and burl mahogany; and a dazzling array of fine jewelry items and watches, to include a ladies’ ring with 4.20 fancy yellow Ascher center stone, with .77 total carat weight trapezoids.
The sale will start at 11 a.m. and last until around 7 p.m. In all, over 750 lots will be sold. Gallery 63 is always accepting quality consignments for future sales. To consign an item, estate or collection, you may call the firm directly at (404) 252-2555, or e-mail them at [email protected] To learn more about Gallery 63 and the upcoming Sept. 23 sale, you may click on www.gallery63.net