FREDERICK, Md. – Ask any regular who attends auctions conducted by Mosby & Co., and they’ll tell you what the Maryland-based company is best known for: everything. Owner Keith Spurgeon makes a point of personally selecting only the most interesting, best-quality pieces from dozens of collecting categories for his well-attended sales.
Spurgeon’s April 28, 2012 Spring Antiques Auction features 550 lots that range from sculptures, clocks and an old collection of Chinese soapstone to toys, historic Americana and a spectacular assortment of 19th- and early 20th-century posters.
The approximately 100 pieces of soapstone, to be apportioned into 30 lots, are from a single-owner collection that was started 60 years ago. “It’s a completely unpicked collection. It hasn’t been touched in 30 years,” said Spurgeon, who regards the contents as a buying opportunity for dealers or those who may be seeking a way to get into the Asian art market.
Sculptures from multiple consignors represent both European and American artists. Among them are three Frank Polk Western bronzes, including one of a cowboy and horse titled “Two Old Timers.” A bronze depicting a male archer is signed “Schwatenberg, Germany,” likely referring to Spiro Schwatenberg (1898-1922). Another noteworthy sculpture was created from wood by the Lithuanian artist Romas Kvintas.
The auction features several paintings and prints by listed artists, including a late 18th-century French religious genre painting of the Holy Family and John the Baptist; and a Dutch oil on canvas depicting a man praying before a meal. A small collection of mantel and wall clocks, mostly American in origin, are entered in the sale, as are a dozen pieces of fine porcelain, including a large Rosenthal nude with horse.
Around 110 lots are reserved for toys. The lineup includes Easter Parade toys (new/old stock), a turn of the 20th-century Buster Brown and Tige cast-iron pull toy by Watrous, a near-mint/boxed Popeye Express with circling airplane, and an Effanbee Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist doll that is part of a small collection of McCarthy toys, including automotive types. Also in the mix are a Lionel 2271 train set with GG1 locomotive, and a collection of Punch and Judy toys, books, inkwells and cap guns, including an American-made figural example by Ives. A collection of toys simulating insects includes examples from as early as the 1890s.
A full set of 12 carved wood folk art figures, probably from the 1970s, portrays the cast of characters from the Popeye cartoons. They include some of the more offbeat characters, such as Sea Hag, Alice the Goon, and The Three Birds, with the largest figure standing 89 inches tall.
More than 50 original animation cels will be offered. Most originated at Warner Bros. Studios, and some date to the 1940s.
The highlight section of the sale is the posters. Among the top lots is an untouched 1899 Alphonse Mucha poster of Sarah Bernhardt in La Tosca. The consignor, a Hollywood producer, purchased the poster in Paris in the 1950s and has owned it ever since.
A complete set of Richard Avedon Beatles posters published in 1967 by the German magazine Stern will be offered as one lot. Each of the now-famous, vibrantly hued psychedelic posters measures 19 x 27 inches.
A tremendous variety of posters will be auctioned: circa-1890 Buffalo Bill Wild West Show promos from the showman’s French tour, a circa-1895 La Marque Georges Richard poster with artwork by “PAL” of both a bicycle and early auto, and many others with a circus, magic or transportation theme. An 1896 two-sheet panoramic published by Strobridge for Barnum & Bailey is a scrupulously detailed and colorful depiction advertising a traveling Indian village whose home life and occupations are “revealed to Christian eyes in living groups of strange and curious people.”
Among the best of the magic posters is an 1870s three-sheet that came from a Florida collection. The woodblock print advertising Samri S. Baldwin, a k a “The White Mahatma,” measures 81 x 42 inches.
Lithographed by Friedlander, a 1910 Wheel of Death motorbike-racing poster presents a bizarre scene of a skeleton holding a wood-slatted velodrome with three riders going full throttle around its inner sides.
The sale also includes a large selection of black Americana, including slave collars and shackles; a 19th-century faro gambling set, complete with a Moore’s patented Derringer; and a Virginia Confederate ballot for the election of Jefferson Davis. An Indy 500 “Pacemaker” medallion awarded to driver Paul Russo will be auctioned, as well. These medallions are presented exclusively to drivers who have led laps at the famous car race, and it is known that Russo qualified for the award both in 1956 and ’57.
Mosby & Co.’s Spring Antiques Auction will be held April 28, 2012 at the company’s gallery at 5714-A Industry Lane, Frederick, MD 21704. Preview hours are noon till 5 p.m. on April 27 and by appointment during the week prior to the sale.