FAIRFIELD, Maine – Tipping in at nearly $4.5 million, James D. Julia Inc., is still celebrating the success of its latest summer auction. Not only is the sale the largest in its history, the auction resulted in one of the highest grossing sales ever. More than 3,000 lots changed hands over a four-day period. Julia praised his staff: Bill Gage, Tony Greist, Martin Willis, James Callahan and CEO Mark Ford by calling it the “the best auction team in North America.”
Callahan alone procured approximately 1,200 lots of Asian art and artifacts including portions of the collections of P.Y. Wang included pieces ex-Eu Tong Sen and Jenny Eu collections, which constituted almost two full days of the auction.
Highlights included a unique jade composition lamp attributed to Edward I. Farmer. The shade consisting of four white jade immortals set within gilt carved scrolling floral framework rested on a figural jade base and was topped with a jade finial of an adult and child. Once housed in the collection of the one and only Edsel Ford it saw action beyond its $20,000-30,000 estimate to sell for $69,000. Also receiving much attention was a rare and fine pair of embroideries picturing 100 birds, housed within highly elaborate carved and pierced rosewood frames. The pair far surpassed its $20,000-30,000 estimate to bring $86,250. Other rarities included a marvelous double gourd shaped covered jar from the Tao Quang period (1821-1850). A brilliant lemon yellow background, decorated with stylized lotus flowers, traditional enamel vignettes and two jeweled red curved scepter handles went out at $37,375 against an estimate of $15,000-20,000.
Carved stone was a hot ticket in this auction as evidenced by an outstanding offering of jade items. Highlights included a lot of three diminutive white jade carvings representing various fruits. Estimated for $600-800, the trio went out at $9,200. A carved white jade covered incense box with a coral colored finial changed hands at $13,800 versus expectations of $3,000-5,000.
The sale featured a vast array of folk art in a variety of genres. A monumental, larger than life 32” presentation American stoneware advertising jug from the Ottman Brothers & Co. It was created to be presented to their top sales dealer, which at the time was Warren & Wood. This trophy would have been used as an advertising statement in their office or store window and showcased the company’s exceptional talent. Consigned directly from an Ottman family descendent, it sold for $103,500 against an $85,000-125,000 estimate.
The sale also included more than 30 weathervanes. An important example from the second half of the 19th Century depicting the Goddess of Liberty garnered much attention. Attributed to Cushing and White and modeled after a design by A.L. Jewell, she stands wearing a bonnet with a laurel wreath and holds an American flag with pierced stars. From a private Maine collection, it sold for $32,200, near the upper end of its $25,000-35,000 estimate. A Fiske weathervane in the form of a full bodied leaping stag being chased by a hound sold for $14,950, just short of its $15,000-25,000 estimate. A Cushing fox & hound weathervane sold for $11,500 (est. $10,000-20,000) while an unusual copper and zinc example with gilt finish depicting a man riding a high wheel bicycle sold for $12,650 (est. $8,000-12,000).
Other folk art included tobacconist figures such as an outstanding carved and painted Native American maiden wearing a feather headdress with a bundle of cigars and a flower in her hands. A captivating example that surely enticed patrons to enter the smoke shop, it went out at $31,050 against an estimate of $7,000-10,000. And a hand painted double sided game board with vibrant paint decoration sold for $8,682 versus a $2,500-4,500 estimate.
One of the most significant and fascinating lot of this auction was a treasure in the literal sense that was one of the most noteworthy losses of the 17th century and one of the most noteworthy finds of the 20th century. In 1622, the Spanish ship Nuestra Señora de Atocha, part of a fleet of ships laden with gold, silver, and personal treasures, along with armored war galleons hit a reef off the Florida Keys during a hurricane and sunk. The fleet was scattered over a fifty-mile area, losing eight ships in all and nearly half the men aboard. A salvage mission shortly thereafter recovered much of the sister ships’ cargo, but efforts to recover the Atocha were met with another hurricane. The cargo was scattered even further and efforts were abandoned. Fast-forward more than 300 years when a group of wealthy investors led by Mel Fisher banded to revive the search. They worked for nearly a decade and a half before finally finding the Atocha’s remains in 1985 and of course the tons of gold and other precious metal, much of which had become fused and encrusted with the re-growth of coral. Over the next several years, portions of the treasure were separated, cleaned and sold off or distributed in some fashion. This auction contained an as-found fused cluster of three gold bars and a long gold chain encrusted in coral consigned by one of the original investors. Weighing in at over 115 troy ounces, the lot sold for $172,500 against expectations of $150,000-200,000. This lot was joined by several non-encrusted coins from the same collection including a single coin from the find that sold for $9,200 against an estimate of $2,000-2,500. In addition were several gold and silver coins not associated with the Atocha for the numismatist including a 1798 $5 half eagle gold piece that brought $11,500 against expectations of $5,000-8,000.
A historical item on the more bizarre side was the actual taxidermy horse’s head used during the rehearsals and filming of the 1970s Oscar winner, “The Godfather”. It was utilized in what is considered by most to be the most notorious and grisly scene in the film when studio boss Jack Woltz finds the severed head of his favorite thoroughbred in his bed. In discussions with Paramount, it had been determined that this head was ordered by the prop department and used during rehearsals, but Coppola didn’t feel it was realistic looking enough for the final filming. As a result, a real horse’s head was secured from a New Jersey dog food plant and used for the scene. Upon completion of the scene, this second head was immediately given to the SPCA for disposal as there was controversy regarding its use. Acquired from a former employee of Paramount Studios, it was a piece of cinematic history they couldn’t refuse. It went out at $11,500 within expectations of $10,000-20,000.
Julia’s upcoming sales include a firearms and military memorabilia auction taking place in October. Following will be Julia’s toy & doll auction as well as their rare lamp & glass auction in November. Their next antiques, fine art, and Asian artifact auction will take place in February 2013.