ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Brunk Auctions’ timing could not have been better – a Christmas painting by Grandma Moses with the holiday just over a month away. Grandmother’s House We Go, a 1940 oil on Masonite by self-taught artist Anna Mary Robertson Moses (New York and Virginia, 1860-1961) depicts a horse-drawn sleigh on a snowy lane, skaters, leafless trees and snow-covered homes. It sold Nov. 14 for $115,000 (estimate $60,000-$90,000). All prices quoted reflect a 15 percent buyer’s premium. The 19 1/8-inch-by-23 1/8-inch painting in a hand-carved wood frame had been in the consignor’s family for the past 50 years.
A label verso included a price of $50, possibly from a local competition that Moses entered for prize money in 1940, when she was 80 years old. The painting pre-dated her first exhibition at the Galerie St. Etienne in New York City. It was once part of the personal collection of artist Leon Salter and is no. 24 in the 1973 Grandma Moses catalog raisonné by Hildegard Bachert and Otto Kallir.
The sale’s second highest lot, a 13 1/4-inch Tibetan bronze, was as far from Grandma Moses’ G-Rated winter landscape as one could get. It depicted the god Guhyasamaja and a consort engaged in yab-yum, the union of female wisdom with male compassion. The multi-arm figure with inset coral and malachite stones sold for $92,000, 10 times its high estimate. Another bronze, a seated Guanyin, a Chinese bodhisattva associated with compassion, was the sale’s tenth highest lot. It brought $18,400, twice its pre-sale estimate.
Tiffany Studios, New York City, produced the sale’s third and fourth high-dollar lots. A six-socket 77 1/2-inch acorn floor lamp with a 24-inch amber brickwork shade supported on a circular base with ball feet went to a phone bidder for $50,600. The very next lot, a 22 3/4 inch wide Tiffany Studios dogwood stained glass shade, quickly met its $10,000 reserve and sold for an above-estimate $46,000.
Tied with the dogwood shade was a half-portrait of Edward Burd by Charles Willson Peale (1741-1829). It sold within estimate for $46,000. Burd was related to Peale by marriage. The circa 1820 oil on canvas, once listed as “unlocated,” descended in the families of Rubens Peale and Anthony Morris.
Estimate-jumping surprises continued for the sale’s sixth, seventh and eighth highest lots. The most dramatic shift came when four books associated with J.P. Martin, a Revolutionary War soldier, crossed the block. Martin’s 1830 war memoir, his journal from 1832-1835, his father’s 1795 journal and his daughter’s 1868 diary skyrocketed from a $1,000 opening bid to a sale price of $23,000 (estimate $1,000-$2,000).
An elegant Chippendale child’s chair from Petersburg, Va., opened at $6,000 and escalated to $35,650 on an $8,000-$12,000 estimate. The final surprise was lot 403, a William and Mary highchair with its original painted surface probably from New England in the early 18th century. It finished at $26,450 on a $3,000-$5,000 estimate.
In the 29 lots related to George Washington, there was a clear standout: a signed and dated letter from Washington to Sam Hodgdon of Philadelphia. Dated, “Mount Vernon Decr. 29th. 83.” In the letter Washington requested compensation for the late arrival of a stagecoach bringing important papers to his home. The 9-inch by 15 3/4-inch hand-written letter on laid paper sold for $16,100.
Rounding out the sale’s Top Ten lots is a pair of French flintlock pistols, circa 1740 with gold inlaid barrels, finely carved stocks and a lockplate marked “Pierre Peyret” (French, 1712-1776). Like the William and Mary highchair, the Burd portrait and many other fine items, the pistols descended in the family of Anthony Morris of Philadelphia. The pair sold within estimate for $18,400.
Total sales including buyer’s premium for Brunk Auctions’ Nov. 14 sale was $2,542,190.
For more information, visit www.brunkauctions.com or call 828-254-6846.
Photos courtesy Brunk Auctions.
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