Fine art auction features horse head prop from ‘The Godfather’

FAIRFIELD, Maine – More than 3,000 lots of fine art and antiques are expected to change hands at James D. Julia‘s Aug. 21-24, 2012 auction, the largest in the firm’s history. A massive selection of American & European paintings, folk art, Asian antiques and art, silver, historical documents and letters, and fine antiques of every kind is highlighted by 725 paintings. The estimated value of the sale is $5 million.

Godfather horse head prop

This actual taxidermy horse’s head used during the rehearsals and filming of the 1970s Oscar winner, “The Godfather” Acquired from a former employee of Paramount Studios, it comes with an estimate you can’t refuse of $10,000-20,000.

A historical item of an entirely different nature is the actual taxidermy horse’s head used during the rehearsals and filming of the 1970s Oscar winner, “The Godfather”. The scene is considered by most to be the most notorious and grisly scene in the film in which studio boss Jack Woltz finds the severed head of his favorite thoroughbred in his bed. This scene follows one of the most remembered and oft repeated lines in movie history when Don Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, states “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” In discussions with Paramount, it has 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. Acquired from a former employee of Paramount Studios, it now comes with an estimate you can’t refuse of $10,000-20,000.

Among the fine paintings, a large oil on canvas scene by Daniel Ridgway Knight of a young provincial woman standing in a lush flower garden by a low stone wall. A favored motif for the artist and very popular among collectors, this work is expected to fetch $225,000-275,000. A large interior scene by Abbott Fuller Graves depicting two young women sitting at a table covered in flowers making arrangements comes with a presale estimate of $25,000-50,000.

Also fresh to the market and a rare opportunity are three works by Maine artist Marsden Hartley. Precious few of his works tend to surface as the whereabouts of a good number of his works is unknown. In fact, this will be the first time in over ten years that a work by Hartley has come to market. From the renowned collection of Chris Huntington, the trio includes a colorful oil on board coastal scene of waves crashing against a rocky cliff in the hazy afternoon sun. It comes estimated for $30,000-40,000.

European paintings include stunning oil on canvas portrait of George Third Earl of Ashburnham by British artist John Hoppner is the mate to the portrait of Lady Charlotte Percy, Countess of Ashburnham, which Julia’s sold in February 2010. This painting pictures him in stately robes with a look of arrogance befitting his station, standing in front of an arched window that is draped with a rich red curtain. It comes estimated for $20,000-40,000.

More than 30 folk art weathervanes will make a special focus on the folk art offerings Aug. 23. An important example from the second half of the 19th Century depicting the Goddess of Liberty should garner much attention. Attributed to Cushing and White, she stands wearing a bonnet with a laurel wreath and holds an American flag with pierced stars all with marvelous verdigris patina and a worn gilt finish. From a private Maine collection, it comes with an estimate of $25,000-35,000.

Ottoman Bros presentation jug

This larger than life 32-inch presentation American stoneware advertising jug from the Ottman Brothers & Co. was created to be presented to their top sales dealer, which at the time was Warren & Wood. Consigned directly from an Ottman family descendent, it comes estimated for $85,000-125,000. (Shown with a normal sized jug for scale).

Other items of interest include a monumental, larger than life 32 inch presentation American stoneware advertising jug from the Ottman Brothers & Co. Consigned directly from an Ottman family descendent, it comes estimated for $85,000-125,000. An important J.W. Fiske cast iron and zinc 9 foot garden fountain featuring a cast figure of King Neptune supported by three dolphins being ridden by cherubs comes from an inn in Cherry Valley, New York in the mid-20th century. It hits the block with a $10,000-15,000 estimate.

A 1754 hand colored edition of an exceedingly rare book by Louis Renard is a brilliant and vibrant folio of fantastic images presented as life drawings of deep sea fish ala James Audubon, but to the modern mind looks more like surrealistic drug-induced hallucinations. Believed to be one of only 34 known to exist (only five of which reside in North America) this spectacular object carries an estimate of $20,000-40,000. Another book, the first English translation of the Holy Bible commissioned by King James in 1611 and known as the “She Bible” for its correction of a typo found in Ruth 3:15 in an earlier version is expected to reach $15,000-25,000.

A mammoth consignment from the Harp House in coastal Camden, Maine is sure to impress with such offerings as over 200 pieces of Staffordshire and Historical Staffordshire, approximately 200 pieces of Majolica, 25 ship models and dioramas, paintings, and collection of approximately 100 Black Forest carvings. Seldom does one see so many examples in one place at one time, so this is indeed a rare opportunity that includes a rare carved bear combination plant stand and card holder. It comes estimated for $2,000-3,000.

The day continues with a selection of nautical paintings like Antonio Jacobsen’s portrait of the Laomene done during the artist’s finest period showing the three-mast schooner cutting through the choppy green waters. It weighs in with a $15,000-20,000 estimate. This segment also includes ivory, chronometers, accessories, and items with a maritime connection. The most significant and fascinating lot of this session is an as-found fused cluster of three gold bars and a gold chain with a total weight of over 115 troy ounces from the famed Spanish ship Nuestra Señora de Atocha that sunk off the Florida Keys in 1622. Consigned by one of the original investors led by Mel Fisher who found the treasure in 1985, it comes with a presale estimate of $150,000-200,000.

Rhino horn libation cup

Rhinoceros horn libation cups are highly sought after in certain Asian circles for their professed medicinal qualities. This sale will feature not one, not two, but three of these rare horn cups, highlighted by a 17th/18th century example which has a deeply carved relief scene of a mountainous landscape.

Julia’s new department head of Asian arts, James Callahan, has assembled an outstanding array of objects including approximately 1,200 lots of Asian art and artifacts including portions of the collections of P.Y. Wang, which includes pieces ex-Eu Tong Sen and Jenny Eu collections. Bidders will be treated to over 100 scrolls, over 400 pieces of jade, over 200 pieces of ivory including netsukes, paintings, Peking glass, cinnabar, needlework screens, 18th and 19th century Chinese & Japanese silver, and much more.

Highlights include three elegant and elaborate ceremonial libation cups made from rhinoceros horns. These horns are highly sought after in certain Asian circles for their professed medicinal qualities. One such example is one from the 17th/18th century which has a deeply carved relief scene of a mountainous landscape. It is expected to sell for $150,000-225,000. Other rarities include a unique jade composition lamp attributed to Edward I. Farmer. The shade consists of four white jade immortals set within gilt carved scrolling floral framework. It rests on a figural jade base and topped with a jade finial of an adult and child. Once housed in the collection of the one and only Edsel Ford it comes estimated for $20,000-30,000.

China trade and export porcelain are highlighted in part by a marvelous double gourd shaped covered jar from the Tao Quang period (1821-1850). A brilliant lemon yellow background is decorated with stylized lotus flowers and further enhanced by traditional enamel scenes in vignette across the body with applied with two jeweled red curved scepter handles. It carries a presale estimate of $15,000-20,000. Trade items include an unsigned oil on canvas scene from the mid 1800s of Hong Kong. The island and busy port comprise the background with several British and American ships anchored in the harbor as well as Chinese ships and boats dotting the foreground. It is expected to bring $30,000-50,000.

Spanish gold bars

One of the most noteworthy losses of the 17th century and one of the most noteworthy finds of the 20th century pertained to the Spanish ship Nuestra Señora de Atocha that sunk off the Florida Keys. A group of wealthy investors led by Mel Fisher searched for nearly a decade and a half before finally finding the Atocha’s remains in 1985. This auction contains an as-found fused cluster of three gold bars and a long gold chain encrusted in coral consigned by one of the original investors.

From another corner of Asia’s vast continent are two unique and magnificent highly detailed embroidered silk work tapestries that were ten years in the making. Privately commissioned, they were originally on display at the Ivory Palace, a commercial outlet in Delhi, India. The first is a rendering of the Taj Mahal and surrounding gardens done in gold and polychrome thread enhanced by jeweled flowers and highlights set with 10 sapphires, 680 emeralds, and 1,070 rubies. The second is a relief tapestry done in the same fashion of a sacred white peacock perched on a tree branch above a water landscape. The long flowing tail is set with 72 large emerald cabochons of varying sizes, totaling approximately 3,000 carats. This is all within an elaborate arabesque floral border with each flower centered with alternating rubies and opals (nearly 80 in all). They now come to Julia’s auction block estimated for $50,000-100,000 and $40,000-60,000, respectively.

The auction is rounded out by over 75 lots of silver including 7 tea sets, 15 flatware sets, hollow ware, and even some early silver such as a coin silver spoon by renowned patriot and silversmith Paul Revere that is expected to sell for $3,000-5,000. An outstanding pair of coin silver sauce boats with under trays by Thomas Fletcher (ca. 1820) carries an estimate of $15,000-20,000. And a selection of jewelry includes an exquisite 18kt gold lady’s double diamond ring set with two Old Mine cut diamonds weighing 3.25ct and 3.40ct. It comes with an estimate of $30,000-50,000.

For more information on the auction, visit James D. Julia.

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