CINCINNATI – Rare and unique pieces of folk art and Americana drew intense interest in Cowan’s March Fine & Decorative Art Auction, which was held March 10, 2018. It was also a good day for the antique furniture, and Asian art. In addition to patchwork examples, and fine silver categories, all of which saw several lots soar past their estimates.
Patchwork Pictorial Leads All Lots
The top lot of the day was a rare 1831 English intarsia patchwork pictorial table cover. The piece sold for $25,200 (including a 20 percent buyer’s premium). The broadcloth cover features a central round medallion decorated with 12 birds surrounded by 14 pictorial panels. Most notable among the panels was a scene of a giraffe accompanied by three men in Middle Eastern dress. It is a depiction of an 1827 gift of a giraffe from Muhammad Ali of Egypt. It was a gift to King George IV of the United Kingdom. The animal died after just two years in England. This was likely due poor health exacerbated by the long journey and the English climate. However, it became a symbol of the disliked British monarch among the commoners.
“Most intarsia pieces that still exist today are in the hands of institutional collections and textile collectors couldn’t wait to try to add this incredible piece to their collection,” said Leah Vogelpohl, Cowan’s decorative art specialist. “Most intarsia pieces favor a consistent theme of birds, animals, or flowers. It’s extremely rare to find one with the variety of figural details in this cover. This is especially ones that feature so many humans. Unlike traditional appliqué, intarsia requires every minute detail to be hand sewn. So this piece likely took several years to finish.”
Uncommon Engraved Horn Beaker Finds New Owner
In the realm of folk art, the top lot of the day was a Timothy Tansel (American, 1809-1852) engraved horn beaker. It's finishing price is $16,200. The Tansel family was well known for their engraved powder horns that featured patriotic motifs such as the spread-winged American eagle. While several dozen Tansel powder horns exist, beakers are far rarer with most known examples residing in private collections. Collectors were clearly excited at the prospect of getting their hands on the beaker as eight phone bidders sent the lot well above its $5,000 estimate.
Other folk art and Americana highlights included a China Trade carved patriotic eagle plaque that sold for $8,400; a rare Sweet Orr & Co. tin lithographed advertising sign in near mint condition for $6,150; a Paul Revere engraving of Boston from Royal American Magazine, circa 1774, for $4,613; a set of cast iron pheasant-form andirons for $3,240; and a chip-carved folk art crooked knife with coffin and tintype inlay for $2,520.
Chinese Square Vases Lead Asian Art
For the second time in 2018, Cowan’s saw excellent prices in the Asian art category, headlined by a set of Chinese square vases that sold for $11,685. Likely from the 19th century, the pair of porcelain vases with flare necks and square, tapering bodies appearing in blue, organic motif ground with reserves depicting figure and birds in landscapes. In addition, Asian art highlights included a Chinese Export silver tea service, caddy and shaker by Hung Chong and bowl by Cumshing that sold for $6,600; a spinach jade bowl for $3,000; and a Chinese flambé vase for $2,952.
The furniture market continues to show signs of a rebound as several pieces exceeded their estimates. An exceptional Massachusetts Queen Anne highboy was the top lot of the category selling for $10,200. The walnut highboy made in the North Shore region of Massachusetts ca. 1760 was the crowned jewel of an impressive furniture collection from Colorado featured in the sale. Other highlights from the collection included a federal mahogany camelback sofa that sold for $3,690, and a George III tilt top tea table for $3,000.
Other furniture highlights included a Philadelphia Chippendale highboy, which sold for $3,998; an American William and Mary carved side chair illustrated in Wallace Nutting’s Furniture Treasury, Vol. II for $3,998; a Kentucky cherry sugar chest for $3,900; and a New England Sheraton sewing stand, possibly the work of Thomas Seymour for $2,880.
Regional Art Deco Chandelier Soars
Three lots with a special significance to Cowan’s hometown of Cincinnati sold for more than $10,000 on the day. An Art Deco chandelier imported from Austria in the 1920s to hang in the home of prominent Cincinnatian Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer (1873-1948) sold for $11,070. Well-known Cincinnati-born painter Henry Farny (American, 1847-1916) produced the top fine art lot of the day, with a portrait of a Native American selling for $24,000.
Finally, a coin silver pitcher by Northern Kentucky silversmith Edward Kinsey presented to Miles Greenwood, who was Cincinnati’s first fire chief overseeing the first professional fire department in American history, sold for $10,455.
Other highlights from the auction included a portrait of George Washington after the famed Gilbert Stuart Lansdowne version that sold for $10,200; a Buccellati sterling tureen for $6,600; an Arcadia model Ansonia swing clock for $6,150; an American landscape of a shore scene for $6,000; and a Serapi rug for $5,400.
For more details about the auction and to view all prices realized, visit Cowans.com.