A standing-room-only crowd eagerly assembled in the Madison Avenue galleries of Bonhams New York on Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009, to attend the international auctioneer’s 27th annual Dog Art sale. Being the only auction house to present a dog-themed sale during the 2009 Westminster Dog Show, the auction – as well as the proceeding charity brunch known as “Barkfest” – was a true cause for excitement in dog art circles.
Clearly leading the pack were lots featuring sporting and hunting breeds, which made up nine of the sale’s top 10 lots.
“Best in Show” and fetching the highest bid was an exceptional hunting work by John Emms, perhaps one of the most famous creators of dog art. His paintings often center on hounds and terriers; the piece on offered depicted a pack of hunting hounds with one lone terrier seated on a farmhouse bench. A draw for hound lovers, this 1882 work sold for $218,000.
Two large canvases by Percival Leonard Rosseau lived up to expectations. One of America’s premier sporting artists, pre-sale interest in Rosseau’s work ran high and bidding did not disappoint. A work titled Bob Finds a Covey featuring an English setter in the field drew a final price of $42,700, while a second work, depicting two Irish setters working a field, garnered $24,400.
Other sporting dog works appearing in the top 10 lots
Exceeding pre-sale estimates were another English setter painting titled Crossing the Burn by artist Arthur Wardle; it brought $18,300, selling over estimate. An oil on canvas by Herbert Thomas Dicksee featuring a black Labrador retriever titled Old Bridge Bob drew $17,080 against a top estimate of $12,000. Dicksee works are rarely seen at auction.
Despite the interest in sporting pictures, it was actually a pretty portrait which sparked the most competitive bidding within the top 10 lots. A charming painting by William Bruce of a wide-eyed white English terrier sporting a pink bow stemmed from a private New York collection. It fetched $17,080, more than double its top estimate of $6,000.
Also enticing collectors was a lovely 17-inch-high Louis XV style ormolu mantel clock featuring a pair of gilt bronze spaniels which outperformed, bringing more than three times its top estimate, selling for an impressive final price of $15,860.
Further drawing bidders’ attention was a selection of pup-themed jewelry, many of which featured reverse carved intaglio crystals depicting several different breeds. Amongst the lots was a late 19th century mesh-link bracelet with paintings of an Irish wolf hound, a chihuahua and a bloodhound on its strap that sold for $3,660. A 14-karat gold sporting motif bracelet with a rock crystal hound mounted on mother of pearl drew $2,684, neatly over its top estimate of $1,800.
Not to be overlooked was a lavishly engraved Victorian electroplate and leather bulldog collar which fetched more than double its top estimate, selling for $3,355.
“We’re very pleased with the outcome of the sale and delighted with the attendance of our Barkfest charity brunch,” stated Charles O’Brien of Bonhams London. “Even with a difficult and selective market, this year’s sale brought more than $810,000, a higher total than the previous year, and proved that dog art is an endearing field of collecting – one in which we hope to continue to excel.”
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