Southern samplers surge at Brunk Auctions

ASHEVILLE, N.C.—In a sale heavy with ornate oriental carpets and elegant English and Tiffany silver, two humble Southern samplers topped all at Brunk Auctions’ sale on July 11.

The textile leader was a 17-line sampler by Buncombe County, N.C., resident Orry A. Alexander. Orry was 11 years old when she completed the 17-inch by 17 1/2-inch sampler in 1835. Her artwork opened strong at $3,000 and sold to a phone bidder for $21,850 (all prices include 15 percent buyer’s premium). The presale estimate on the Alexander sampler was $3000 to $6000. The Alexanders were well known to Brunk staff members. In 1997, Principal Auctioneer Robert Brunk edited a collection of original essays on Western North Carolina decorative arts. The book, May We All Remember Well,  included a history of the Alexander family and described a sampler completed by Orry’s sister, Harriett.

At $18,400 (estimate $1,000-$2,000), a 16-inch by 17-inch New Market, Va., silk on linen sampler was the second highest sale of the day. Stitched at the bottom was the name and date of the student artist: “Virginia Miles Age 12 years New Market March 8th 1844.” Virginia stitched six lines of letters, numbers and verse and a yellow house, trees and picket fence. Yellow house samplers are discussed in Kimberly Smith Ivey’s book In The Neatest Manner: The Making of the Virginia Sampler Tradition. Popular from 1824 to 1845 in the New Market area, the yellow house may have been the home of a prominent printer or a design suggested by a teacher.

A large collection – 102 pieces – of Tiffany Persian sterling flatware earned top dollar among the 135 silver lots in the sale. The elegant place settings include a number of pierced serving utensils. With various monograms, the set opened at $2,000 and escalated to $6,900.

Although Oriental carpets with no to low pile do well at Brunk Auctions – a 10-foot 7-inch by 15-foot 7-inch worn Heriz sold for $4,830 – bidders chose a modern carpet in excellent condition for the highest priced Oriental. The 7-foot 11-inch by 11-foot 7-inch silk Tabriz in ivory with blue, olive and burgundy highlights brought $6,900 (estimate $1,500-$2,500).

Southern furniture was well represented. Included in the collection were a walnut and poplar Southern Chippendale corner cupboard from either North Carolina or Tennessee ($2,185) and a Southern walnut serving table, probably North Carolina ($4,830).

Brunk allocated a half-page in the color catalog to a 19th century North Carolina walnut cellaret. It warranted the attention. In excellent condition with its original locks, hinges, inlaid escutcheons and possibly the knobs on its single drawer, the bottle case sold for $12,650 (estimate $5,000-$8,000).

Brunk Auctions’ next sale, scheduled for Sep. 12-13, may prove to be “one of the most important rugs sales of the last few years,” said Robert Brunk. In the 1950s, when conservators at Tryon Palace in New Bern, N.C., began restoring the first permanent capital of the Colony of North Carolina, they bought some of the finest 17th century Oriental carpets available. In succeeding years, when scholars learned that carpets did not cover the floors in colonial North Carolina, the Tryon carpets were removed from exhibition, stored and are now deaccessioned. Included is a rare 17th century Kirman Shrub carpet, a 17th century Ottoman Cairene medallion carpet and a 31-foot by 11-foot 17th century Indo/Isfahan carpet. Catalogs for the sale will be available in late August.

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Photos courtesy Brunk Auctions.