“There were no really weak areas in the sale,” said Principal Auctioneer Robert Brunk regarding his Sept. 6-7 auction. Hammer price with buyer’s premium on 1,073 lots was $2,469,755. Strong winning bids from 12 countries elevated prices for British and American furniture, cobalt decorated stoneware, Asian art, oriental rugs, Danish Modern and Japanese pottery, bronzes and paintings.
Tennessee furniture from the collection of Jack and Frances Overall, Greenville, Tenn., did well. The Overall’s late 18th/early 19th century Tennessee Chippendale tall chest brought $18,400. That price was double its high estimates, a trend followed by many other pieces in the Overall collection.
It was widely expected that the larger items from an important Danish Modern pottery collection would go overseas. Like rumors of Dolly Parton’s death, those reports were greatly exaggerated. A private collector in the United States fended off international competition to snag the top two pottery lots – both by Axel Salto (1889-1961).
Although Brunk based the pre-sale estimates for the Salto lots on recent sales, they were way off. The 19-inch ovoid vessel with budded surface and a glossy, runny brown and green glaze with marks for Royal Copenhagen sold for $55,200 (estimate $5,000-$10,000). The larger (21-inch) vessel with three tapered spouts over a budded circular base sold for $50,600 (estimate $6,000-$12,000). Royal Copenhagen supplied Salto with a studio as a way to raise the artistic standards at the venerable manufactory. Salto was potter in residence from 1934 until his death.
No other Danish potter came close to the prices commanded by Salto, but he was challenged by the work of friends and business associates Bernard Leach (British, 1887-1979) and Shoji Hamada (Japanese, 1890-1966). Leach’s 14-inch stoneware jar with tenmoku glaze and incised leafy sprigs was claimed by the same American collector who bought the two large Saltos. The winning bid of $18,400 tripled the pre-sale estimate ($3,000-$6,000). Hamada’s 9 3/4-inch square-shaped stoneware vase with curved sides and neck in ocher, green and black glaze sold for $6,900, the top of its pre-sale estimate.
At noon on the second day, the sale’s top lot, a painting by Arturo Ricci (Italian, 1854-1919), proved to be a visual lunch-time bonbon. Le Jeu Du Coussin (The Game of Cushion), a 24 1/2-inch by 33 7/8-inch oil on canvas could not have depicted a more appealing, happier scene. Cushion was a game like musical chairs. A cushion was passed from person to person and the one holding it when the music stopped had to endure a playful punishment. The presale estimate of $50,000-$100,000 proved low. The painting sold to the phones for $172,500.
Another painting, this one a portrait of a young woman in a blue gown by Paul-Jean Flandrin (French, 1811-1902), was an audience favorite. “Many commented on her peaceful, kind and lovely expression,” said Brunk. The large (45 7/8-inch by 35 1/4-inch), signed and dated (1861) oil on canvas opened at $1,500, its low estimate, and then soared to $20,700.
Sculptor Isidore Jules Bonheur (French, 1827-1901) was noted for bronze dogs, sheep, bulls and horses. Three horses were in this sale. Riders on polo ponies, one depicting an upswing, the other a downswing sold as a pair at their reserve price, $25,300 with buyer’s premium. A bronze of a jockey in the saddle titled Retour Au Pesage (Return to the enclosure) crossed the finish line with the same winning bid as the polo horses. Both were consigned by the estate of the late Samuel G. Allen, a former hospital administrator from Pinehurst, N.C.
The next sale at Brunk Auctions is Nov. 8-9 and will feature coins, Audubon prints, American furniture, and a collection of toys deaccessioned by the Toy Museum of Old Salem, N.C. For more information, visit www.brunkauctions.com or call 828-254-6846.