|By Susan Emerson Nutter
CINCINNATI, Ohio — When Cowan’s Auctions Inc. puts together a decorative arts event, it’s guaranteed to be an interesting affair. These are the kinds of auctions that collectors love to attend. Sure, those with a theme are a great time, as well, but when an auction includes lots from a wide range of genres, buyers know anything can show up and usually does.
Live salesroom auctions such as Cowan’s two-day Winter Fine and Decorative Art Auction held Feb. 14-15 continue to draw seasoned collectors and those new to this unique pastime of acquiring pieces of the past.
The top lot of this day was an oil-on-canvas of a horse race, a match race to be exact, at Newmarket by Francis Sartorius (British, 1734-1804). This 18th century painting that sold for $22,800 includes a rider wearing the colors of the Earl Fitzwilliam.
Cowan’s notes that the “Sartorius family were the leading equine artists in England for several generations. Francis, son of John Sartorius, made his career painting for the aristocratic families in English racing. A few of his clients were the Dukes of Grafton, the Marquis of Rockingham, the Dukes of Cumberland and the Earls Fitzwilliam.”
Other artwork that sold included a lovely watercolor titled Off The Rocks at Camp Nelson by American artist Paul Sawvier (1865-1917). This 13-inch by 19 1/2-inch work brought $14,400. Apple Pickers in Penn. by Charles Wysocki (American, 1928-2002) also did well at $10,800. This 30-inch by 40-inch oil-on-canvas painting was executed in rather heavy impasto and is a great example of Wysocki’s nostalgic rural views.
A wide range of decorative items from rugs to toys filed through this Cowan’s event. An early 20th century, palace-sized Persian design Agra rug sold for $9,225. Featuring small medallions overlaid on a deep indigo blue field with an overall repeating design of floral forms in various shades of blue, green, yellow, tan, rose, russet and ivory, this rug measured an impressive 27 feet, 6 inches by 15 feet.
A wonderful English or German 19th century Noah’s Ark toy made of pine with paint-decorated details was a winner at $9,225. The ark had many features, including a front door, 14 windows and bands of multi-colored trim, all below a red, arched roof highlighted with a dove holding an olive branch in its beak. One side of the ark slid open to reveal a hollow interior. Most impressive were the 350 wood and gesso decorated animals and insects – many in pairs – that sold with the ark, a vessel that measured 14 inches high, 9 inches wide and 29 1/4 inches deep.
An Andrew Clemens (American, 1857-1894) sand bottle, the epitome of undefinable craftsmanship, crossed the auction block this day. Clemens, sand artist extraordinaire who hailed from Iowa, became known for the artistry he created using simple, home-made tools to create images within chemist jars by compressing natural colored sands to create his works of art.
The circa 1880 example sold by Cowan’s this day featured an American spread-winged eagle underneath a flag of 37 stars on one side of the bottle with the other side having a floral garland and a dedication in colored sand that read “Presented by / Matt / to / His Aunt Elen.” Other features included layered, colored sands in geometric borders. And importantly, the label on the bottom was almost entirely intact. This Andrew Clemens sand jar was 7 inches high and sold for $19,800.
Unusual furniture examples also made a showing. A U.S. House of Representative chair attributed to Bembe and Kimbel (New York), circa 1857, realized $18,000. This carved oak, Renaissance Revival style armchair retained its original finish and featured a three-star Federal shield surrounded by oak leaves on the upper crest, a squared and padded back, scrolled supports, guilloche seat rail with star-carved ovolo corners, carved lotus legs with notched feet on casters, and original black leather upholstery stuffed with horse hair. The chair’s overall height was 40 1/4 inches.
And an American (possibly Maryland or Kentucky) two-piece Southern secretary bookcase, circa 1790 to 1800, a gorgeous piece of cabinetry, sold for $12,000. Made of cherry and cherry veneers, with poplar as its secondary wood, the secretary had dark and lightwood barber pole and chevron line inlays. The upper section with a molded cornice over two doors, each outlined in barber pole inlay set in mitred cherry veneer, opened to reveal adjustable interior shelves. The lower section had a top drawer with fall front, a fitted interior of drawers and valanced pigeon holes, and a central opening with a large eagle and shield inlay.
When a mix of high quality consignments results in such a well-balanced decorative arts auction, when one interesting lot begets another, the sale’s final total cannot help but impress.
Cowan’s Auctions Inc. live salesroom Winter Fine and Decorative Art Auction sales total reached $811,000. And just as important, both buyers and consignors were pleased with the outcome.