When quality goods come out, so do the bidders. This was the case recently when James D. Julia’s antiques and fine art auction, their largest winter sale to date, grossed nearly $2.9 million. Assembled from various collections and estates from across North America, it featured the Estate of Jane Stradley of Kemblesville, Pennsylvania and Princess Anne, Maryland and selections from the Heldenbrand Estate of South Portland, Maine.
One of the most noteworthy nautical finds to come out of Maine (or anywhere for that matter) in many years was an exceedingly rare American pilot chart book from 1794. The book is one of the first editions produced detailing the Eastern Seaboard from the West Indies to Newfoundland. Single charts from this edition surface on occasion, but an entire chart book is nearly impossible to find. Discovered recently in a coastal Maine home, it created a buzz in the collecting community. It quickly became apparent that its $50,000 to $100,000 estimate was going to be trampled. Then came the seemingly unending bidding war between an attendee and several phone bidders. The unassuming gent in the audience quickly but deliberately advanced the bids to a final selling price of $408,250 amid thunderous applause.
Sometimes it just takes the proper promotion and elegant presentation for which Julia’s is renowned to send something through the roof. Case in point was an English Chippendale painted and carved chest of drawers. Circa 1760, it featured hand-painted flowers on a faux tortoiseshell background with relief carved base and gilt pierced scrollwork feet. The consignor, who was in attendance at the sale, had had it in his shop for nearly half a year without it getting a second look. Offered with an $8,000 to $15,000 estimate at Julia’s, it caught the eye of several American and European collectors, ultimately going to a phone bidder willing to pay $155,250.
This second of three sessions was a fabulous array of folk art, Mid-Atlantic and Early American furniture, Oriental rugs, marine paintings, nautical pieces, and accessories galore. Of the fine furniture, an exceptional Delaware River Valley Queen Anne cherry bonnet top highboy was a beauty. Circa 1770, it featured a molded cornice, three urnspire finials, and central fan-carved drawer. In beautiful condition, it sold for $28,750 against expectations of $15,000 to $25,000. Other highboys included a Massachusetts Queen Anne inlaid burled walnut two-part example of the same vintage. It featured a secret drawer above the upper case, cross-banded drawers with matched figured walnut panels, and bandy cabriole legs. This gorgeous piece was a great buy at $12,650 versus a $10,000 to $16,000 estimate. A professionally and faithfully restored American Chippendale curly maple slant lid desk brought $4,485 against a $2,000 to $3,000
An unusual Continental beech table from the late 18th Century that doubled as a chair with a flip of the top was a surprise. It finished up at more than eight times its $1,500 low estimate to bring $12,075. Of a nautical flavor was a China trade inlaid camphor ship’s desk from a Calais, Maine Estate. Circa 1840, this lovely example of the period, likely made in Canton or Hong King, was expected to sell for $3,000 to $5,000 and changed hands at $5,750. The following day, arts and craft furniture included a pair of signed Gustave Stickley oak Morris chairs. On a mission to reach $4,000 to $6,000, they fetched a phenomenal $20,700.
As with every auction, there were even a few bargains to be had for the astute bidder, just to keep things interesting. A fine Pennsylvania Chippendale pine corner cupboard circa 1840 was a thrilling find for one bidder who was able to get it for a mere $1,725, well below its $4,000 to $6,000 estimate. And a Pennsylvania Queen Anne figured walnut chest on frame was a good by at $4,025 (estimate $5,000 to $8,000). There was even a handful of items that failed to find a buyer such as a magnificent American bronze figural sundial by Edward Berge. Depicting a young boy kneeling to kiss a little doll, it exhibits delightful detail, realism, and a marvelous verdigris patina. Originally acquired in the early 1920’s by a family in Massachusetts, it remained with them until its recent consignment to Julia’s.
The first session was devoted to one of the finer offerings of American and European paintings to hit the market in some time, meeting with great enthusiasm. A fine oil on board Venetian scene by Jane Peterson showing a gondolier leisurely paddling through the famed canals was very well received. This fine piece ignored its $15,000 to $25,000 to sell for $66,125. A large oil on canvas nighttime scene by fellow American artist Mauritz Frederik De Haas depicted various boats docked for the night while several fishermen bring in the evening’s catch under the moonlit sky. This outstanding piece more than tripled its $10,000 to $15,000 estimate bringing $34,500. Robert Gwathmey’s Autumn Bouquet, a still life of dried fall flowers in a silver water pitcher, was once housed in the famed Robert Lang collection. It saw active bidding to the level of $18,400, within its $15,000 to $25,000 estimate.
Other highlights included a marvelous oil on canvas street scene by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Depicting various provincial women in a European flower market in the town square, this piece created by the man whose name is synonymous with “quality” far surpassed expectations of $6,000 to $8,000 to settle in at $39,100. A stunningly realistic scene by Harry Culmer of a rock lined brook winding through the dappled sunlight of a dense forest grabbed one’s attention and wouldn’t let go. Therefore it was no surprise when it hit $23,000 against a $5,000 to $10,000 estimate. And an outstanding oil on canvas landscape showing four figures crossing a tree-lined river in a small boat at sunset sold for $21,850, well exceeding its estimate of $5,000 to $10,000.
European Art also fared well, specifically an oil on mahogany panel scene by 19th-Century Dutch artist Wouter Verschuur. Depicting three stout workhorses being led through a stream, pulling a cart laden with quarry rocks, it sold for $46,000 against a $20,000 to $30,000 estimate. A candidate for careful restoration was an unsigned old master portrait on wood panel. Perhaps depicting the Virgin Mary being crowned by an angel with a laurel wreath exceeded expectations of $1,000 to $2,000 to bring a heavenly $12,650.
Various American schools were represented including Hudson River, Rockport-Gloucester, and others. Major draws at Julia’s art auctions have long been works by fellow New Englanders, particularly those of the Rockport-Gloucester school. Artists like Anthony Thieme and Emile Gruppe consistently realize strong prices. From the latter was an oil on canvas scene titled Covered Bridge in Vermont, a winter village scene of a river winding through a field and under a covered bridge. Expected to sell for $16,000 to $20,000, it changed hands at $23,000. His oil on canvas titled The Clamer showing two men and a small motorboat landing on a beach brought $14,950 against an
estimate of $12,000 to $16,000. And a three-quarter view portrait of the schooner Henry Ford in full sail by Gruppe sold for $17,250, above expectations of $12,000 to $16,000. Anthony Thieme’s “Motif #1” showing Rockport harbor in the foggy morning hours sold at the upper end of its $20,000 to $30,000 estimate for $28,750 while his oil on masonite scene of Saint Augustine, Florida, brought $13,225 (estimate $6,000 to $8,000).
Works of Maine scenes by Cape Anne artists included a large harbor scene by William Lester Stevens showing a fishing shack, several boats, and lobster traps. Representing one of this artist’s finest works, it sold for $19,550, surpassing its estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. Also included was Thomas Nicholas whose outstanding “Harbor at Port Clyde, Maine,” depicted two men working on a red skiff among various lobster traps, outbuildings, and other seaside elements. Commissioned by Robert Slack, it fell within its $8,000 to $12,000 estimate to bring $10,350. From the Heldenbrand Estate, Maine, artist Thomas Nadeau’s oil on board illustration of a weathered barn was the original work for a Downeast magazine cover from 1974. Combing provenance with the global yet quintessentially Maine publication, it sold for $8,337 versus a pre-auction estimate of $3,000 to $4,000.
The selection of modern art continued with great diversity and included some important finds. From a private Portland, Maine, home came a limited edition print by Pop Art icon Andy Warhol of the Mobil Gas Pegasus. It sold for $29,900 within its $22,500 to $32,500 estimate.
Charming folk art once again proved to be popular. Highlights included an outstanding oversize copper eagle weather vane from the Dr. Ladd Heldenbrand Estate. The full bodied weather vane, depicting a graceful and very detailed spread-winged eagle perched on a large ball, was a prized possession of Dr. Ladd Heldenbrand who rescued it from the raising of the Morrill House in Portland, Maine. Being the largest weather vane of its type Julia’s has had the pleasure to offer, it sold for $23,575, exceeding its estimate of $10,000 to $20,000. Other noteworthy folk art pieces included an important and rare Captain Hosea C. Wyman Civil War Baltimore Album quilt. Decorated with fourteen border square panels and a large central panel having a five-pointed star along with various military and naval images, it was a good buy at $13,800, selling within its $10,000 to $20,000 estimate. Made by the Captain’s wife in 1863 and handed down through the family to the present consignor, it remained in outstanding condition with strong brilliant color. A delightful pair of folk art portraits of two Rhode Island children that descended through the family came to the block with a $600 to $800 estimate and ultimately brought $4,887. And a pastel and crayon bust portrait by David Miller of a Sioux brave from around the mid-20th Century was apparently a must have for the bidder willing to pay $2,300 against expectations of $100 to $200.
To complete one’s lavish décor, Julia’s offered one of the best selections of Oriental rugs the firm has handled in many years. Of the various Persians, room size and scatters, tribal and Caucasians, the group was highlighted by an exceptional Lavar Kirman room size Persian carpet with dense polychrome floral and cypress tree decoration in a pleasing muted palette. Circa 1900 and in very fine condition, it sold at the upper end of its $12,000 to $15,000 estimate for $14,375. And a fine Sarouk prayer rug from the same period showing a large central floral spray flanked by vertical columns and a floral border. It brought $5,175 versus a $2,000 to $4,000 estimate.
Miscellaneous items included an exceedingly rare and important Yale Wonder Clock. Combing elements of coin-op arcade, gambling, trade stimulators, with a disc-playing music box, it is one of precious few in existence. Coming from a private Maryland collection, having spent the last 30 years there, it was fresh to the market and sold for $86,250 within an estimate of $75,000 to $125,000. Other miscellaneous items included a marvelous Currier & Ives lithograph depicting the great fire of Chicago in 1871. Filled with breathtaking imagery and vibrant colors, it made ashes of its $2,000 to $4,000 estimate, ultimately selling for $18,400. Hard to believe it was originally purchased in 1914 for $25! A 1958 Jaguar Mark I sedan from a Rhode Island estimate with only 8,200 original miles was a great find and perhaps even a better buy. This beauty sold for $13,225 within a $12,000 to $16,000 estimate. And speaking of finds, a wonderful Black Forest figural carved bear smoking stand from the late 19th Century was purchased in a local thrift shop for a mere $80 and managed to realize $2,070, giving hope to all those out there hoping for that great find.
Julia’s next antiques and fine arts auction will be in May. Also on deck is a fine lamp and glass sale, and a toy, doll and antique advertising auction in June.
Julia’s is currently accepting consignments for these and other upcoming auctions.
Call immediately for inclusion in these exciting sales.
For more information, contact their offices at (207) 453-7125. James D. Julia, Incorporated, Post Office Box 830, Department PR, Fairfield, Maine 04937. E-mail: [email protected].