|By Susan Emerson Nutter
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Who knew a groundhog could cause such a ruckus on any other day than Feb. 2? At Cowan’s Winter Cleveland Auction held Jan. 26, a plethora of groundhogs crossed the auction block; groundhogs in the form of candlesticks all from Cleveland’s exclusive Rowfant Club.
The groundhog acts as the mascot for the Rowfant Club; an organization founded in 1892 and according to Cowan’s, “is Cleveland’s premier bibliographic society celebrating the art of the book including paper making, bookbinding, and printing. With the Shakespearean motto of ’Light Seeking Light Doth Light of Light Beguile,’ members meet annually on Groundhog Day and each member receives a candlestick featuring a groundhog. Members then use these sticks throughout the year to reserve their seats at dinner at their weekly meetings.”
The Rowfant Club is a men’s only organization. Membership in this group is by invitation only and Rowfanters eschew publicity. According to www.currentsnews.com “Women are invited as guest speakers and to events where spouses are welcome, but the Club remains loyal to its origins as a place where men can indulge their passion for books.”
Ten Rowfant Club candlesticks (eight featuring a groundhog) sold through Cowan’s Cleveland this day collectively making $25,005, but one example was without question the stand-out of the group. Achieving the record price of $20,400 (est. $5,000-$7,000) was a rare Tiffany Studios bronze candlestick; just one of 100 examples made. Prices include a buyer’s premium. Standing 8 ¼ inches tall, this candlestick depicts a groundhog seated on an open book.
The other Rowfant candlesticks ranged in price from $154 for a 1992 bronze candlestick made for the 100th Anniversary of the Rowfant Club by Sandro Bonaiuto, depicting a flame coming out of the center of an open book, impressed THE ROWFANT CLUB / 1892-1992 / Cleveland, Ohio; to $984 for a Cowan Pottery candlestick depicting a groundhog holding a branch in one arm and an open book in the other. This candlestick was designed by Frank M. Wilcox (American, 1887-1964) and was marked Rowfant Club / 1925 / #14 of 156 copies / R.C. Cowan on the underside.
Groundhogs aside; let’s talk jade; white jade specifically. And tiny cat figurines, many a mere three-quarters of an inch in size. According to Carrie Pinney, Cowan’s Cleveland business manager, “We were told by those interested in the jade figurines, that the most desirable were the pieces done in white jade. And these pieces were made of fine quality white jade which also was a factor.”
A group of 21 tiny jade cat carvings, most in a light green or white-green shade and one in pink, including eight double cat carvings and 13 single cat carvings shocked when they sold together for $20,400 against an estimate of $300 to $500. A group of seven jade cat carvings in various shades of light green and white soared to $18,000, while another set of seven jade cat carvings went to $14,400, both lots coming to the auction with the same $300 to $500 estimate.
A single owner collection of five bronze statues by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth (American, 1880-1980) all did very well. Collectively the group realized $47,198 with the statue bringing top dollar being Extase done in 1920 and signed and marked on the base Roman Bronze Works, Inc. N.Y. This figure stood 19¾ inches tall and sold for $14,760. “We will have four more statues from this same collection by this same artist for sale at our Cincinnati office’s March 10 auction,” Pinney said.
Furniture also made up a major portion of this January event. “Furniture did much better than we anticipated which was wonderful,” Pinney said pointing to a lot of three British circa 1905 Cottier & Co. golden ebony throne chairs which went to $3,360 (est. $500-$800).
This Jan. 26 auction was split into two sessions with the second part featuring mechanical banks, teddy bears, and shaving mugs. The top selling bank of the event was the J. & E. Stevens acrobat mechanical example which made $2,250. When the lever at right was pressed, the gymnast would kick the clown upside down and the coin would deposit into the bank.
Of the teddy bears, a 1905 Steiff center seam cinnamon teddy bear having mohair and being fully jointed went to $2,829. This bear was 15 inches tall and had been greatly loved.
“We were very pleased with this sale,” Pinney said. “We had a fantastic turnout for each session both in-house and online resulting in a 94 percent sell through rate and a $305,454 sale total.” The next Cowan’s Auction to be held at their Cleveland gallery will take place March 10 and again feature fine and decorative arts.