The Auction Block

Weschler’s “Fan Fire IV,” 1970 Sam Gilliam (b. 1933) Estimate: $100,000 – $150,000 Auction Date: September 15 Having relocated to Rockville in June, Weschler’s, the D.C. area’s oldest auction...

The Antiques Addict: Staffordshire Portrait Figures

Here in Georgetown, we live in the mother lode of antiquities, an antique community where relics are everywhere we look. Since Georgetowners interact with history every day in our 18th- and 19th-century homes and on our cobblestoned streets, it’s easy to stop actually seeing the objects and places that inform our daily lives. So it’s interesting to delve a bit into the what and why of the old things that surround us, everyday household items or fine rarities from a century or more ago: a colorful vase that a favorite aunt left, an old bottle found under a floorboard during renovations, yellow ware bowls, glorious old silver, colorful tins that once held everything from soup to opium. A dealer in antiques for most of my adult life, I am drawn to old things and old places. I still like to imagine the people who lived in my early 19th-century home and how they lived in it. They loved, lost and raised their families within the quotidian realities of the age. Just as certain smells can flood us with memories, antiques can provide a powerful connection to our own personal histories. A familiar object spotted at an antiques shop can be an emotional bridge with our past, a childhood moment or a loved one. Many collectors’ fascination with the things of the past reflects a profound desire to connect to a time when life was more predictable. True collectors don’t buy to resell. They buy for that enduring link to the past, a sense of history, the thrill of the hunt or to furnish a home. My penchant for collecting Staffordshire portrait figures (1837-1901) stems from all of the above. They are decorative and have a wonderful naïve charm. The figures were the Victorian version of People Magazine; made to communicate the “news of the day” to everyman, they had a broad appeal across social classes. Many a politico, murderer, actress, soldier and historic event of the time were portrayed in Staffordshire. Victorian portrait figures are generally titled, but not always. The quality of the workmanship varies tremendously. Some were quite primitively rendered, making the characters impossible to recognize (likely the result of basing the portrait on a bad engraving in a periodical of the day). Yet all are historically interesting and, amassed, make up a visually pleasing and thought-provoking collection. Prior to 1840, most figurines were made to imitate porcelain and finely worked. Starting in 1842, the “flat-back” design made them easier to reproduce in earthenware. The Crimean War (1854-1856) was the heyday of this form. There was intense popular interest in Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the allied leaders and their war commanders, and a profusion of figures were made in the new style. One of the chief attractions in collecting Staffordshire figures is the great number of variations within a type. Each potter created his own version of a well-known contemporary subject – a famous battle, performer, literary character or royal personage – hence the profusion of similar subjects that look extremely different from one another. Some collectors specialize in certain themes, like Little Red Riding Hood (a popular subject). Others may collect circus figures, politicians, sporting figures or any of the hundreds of variations available. By the start of the 1880s, the art was beginning to decline. Finally, with the death of Queen Victoria, fewer figures were produced. Although a few figures were made to commemorate World War I, they were in a different, more sophisticated style, lacking the former rustic charm. For me, the fun is in buying whatever strikes my fancy. Since the figures are ubiquitous, I am almost always able to find company for the others in my collection. An antiques dealer for more than 25 years, Michelle Galler owns Antiques, Whimsies & Curiosities, located in Georgetown and in Washington, Va. Contact her at to suggest a topic for a future column.

The Auction Block: Impressionist and Modern Art Special

BRINGING THE HAMMER DOWN Final selling prices for noteworthy items at recent auctions  

The Auction Block Sept. 12, 2018

THE POTOMACK COMPANY  8.21 CARAT DIAMOND SOLITAIRE RING ESTIMATE: $150,000 - $180,000 AUCTION DATE: OCTOBER 2 This impressive ring, with a diamond solitaire set in a platinum band...

The Auction Block

Bonhams 1931 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Estimate: $120,000 – $160,000 Auction Date: September 2 This exquisite Rolls-Royce Continental Touring Saloon is part of Bonhams’ Beaulieu Sale in the south...

Auctions: A User’s Guide

In the Internet age, auctions might seem outdated and irrelevant. Yet auction houses continue to be effective marketplaces for everything from fine art to gourmet wine to bejeweled dog collars. For those unaware, auction houses are intermediaries between buyers and sellers -- the original eBay. If, for example, you want to sell a diamond-encrusted Barbie, you could contact a house and arrange for the doll to be auctioned. These arrangements involve setting your minimum selling price, transporting your item to the saleroom, settling on the commission amount to be taken by the auction house, and signing a contract. Or, if you wanted to buy an original Steve Jobs’s Apple computer, you could work with a specialist from the auction house to find your dream work. Then, when the auction takes place, you would bid in-person, over the phone, or online and pay. This specific example is actually on auction through Christie’s until July 9. Some of the most prominent auction houses include Weschler’s, Potomack Company, Sotheby’s, Bonham’s, and Doyle New York. Weschler’s and Potomack Company are the only ones located in the Washington area. The other companies have sales rooms in New York City and across the world. To become an auction buff, here are the key words to know: Auctioneer – the trained professional who conducts the auction Lot – an object or group of objects being exhibited in the auction Sale number – a lot’s identification code Provenance – the history describing the object’s chain of ownership since creation Chattel – the physical goods of an estate, such as furniture and cars Auction block – the object currently being auctioned Paddle – the instrument bidders use to communicate their bid to the auctioneer Bidder number – a bidder’s identification number used on the paddle Reserve price – the pre-established, minimum amount the owner will accept Hammer price – the amount of the winning bid Buyer’s premium – the amount paid between the hammer and total purchase prices Ring – the auction location Whether you’re searching for that perfect Roman sculpture to complete your living room or Moscato to complement your favorite dessert, these terms will help you raise that paddle confidently. Check out a few upcoming events for the summer and happy auctioning. Sotheby’s London Château Pétrus 1967 Auction Date: June 20 Estimate: $10,000-$14,000 Sotheby’s London will offer a unique day for wine lovers to experience a taste of the Finest and Rarest Wines. This sale will feature extraordinary collections from Bordeaux and Burgundy to the Spanish Vega Sicilia. Wine lovers can enjoy a tour of wines from the 1960s, all the way to the 21st century. These exquisite wines will be available in bottles and magnums. Don’t forget to look out for the Château Pétrus 1967, a wine that will leave you wondering and wanting more. This wine is known by experienced wine tasters, who recognize it by its rich, sweet and complex taste. It has a lingering “sweet” taste with a low concentration and density. Christie’s Tubogas “Serpenti” quartz wristwatch by Bulgari Auction Date: July 17 Estimate: $3,050 - $4,575 (£2,000 - 3,000) This jewelry sale at Christie’s is sure to be huge. There are 262 lots in the sale, with pieces from designers, such as Tiffany & Co and Chanel to Van Cleef & Arpels. In particular is the “Serpenti” wristwatch from Bulgari that expresses the elegance that Bulgari stands for and is a design that is being revived by designers today. The specialists at Christie’s explain the watch has a silver dial with Roman numerals and a bezel set with diamonds. There is a pink sapphire crown with a five-jewelled quarts movement to a sprung bracelet and 22mm wide case. The dial, case and movement are all signed Bulgari. The wristwatch is an iconic model from the Bulgari collections and would be a perfect addition to one’s own collection. [gallery ids="119049,119062,119058" nav="thumbs"]

The Auction BlockJune 6, 2013

As summer rears its fiery head, many auction houses close their doors for the season. Through July and August, they devote their resources to selecting, organizing and curating their fall and winter schedules. June presents the last opportunity to explore their unique troves of art, historic furniture, antiques and collectibles before the leaves begin to signal the arrival of autumn. Here is what?s coming up this month. So, be sure to get there quickly? there is likely to be some friendly competition. **Doyle New York Woven Gold Fringe Necklace and Pair of Ear Clips 18 karat with French assay marks & French export marks, ca.1950. Auction Date: June 20 Estimate: $3,500 ? $4,500** Doyle New York?s Fine Jewelry auction on Thursday, June 20, at 10 a.m. will feature a glittering array of jewelry bearing more moderate estimates than in the Important Jewelry sales. Showcased are exquisite designs?many of them signed pieces?set with diamonds, colored stones and pearls, as well as gold jewelry, fine watches and gentlemen?s accessories. The woven gold fringe necklace is a classically beautiful accessory that feels right in place among the recently growing popularity of fringe necklaces. Certain designs never goes out of style.[www.Doyle-]( **Sotheby?s** *William Faulkner Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech Manuscript and typescript with the Nobel medal, citation and 4 press photographs.* **Auction Date: June 11** **Estimate: + $500,000** On June 11, Sotheby?s will offer the largest and most important archive of William Faulkner?s work ever to appear at auction. Featuring a recently discovered unpublished short story and a handwritten draft of his acclaimed Nobel Prize acceptance speech, the lot contains a highly personal selection of letters, manuscript drafts and drawings, providing a remarkable window into key moments of the celebrated author?s life. Further glimpses into the private life of this public figure are offered by intimate gifts the author prepared by for his wife and daughter. A portion of the collection, estimated to fetch over $2 million, was only recently discovered on his family?s property in Virginia, including a number of items previously feared lost. Highlights will be on view in New York in advance of the June sale. []( **Bonhams** *Anton Chekhov (1860-1904, Russian) Povesti i razskazy (Stories and Tales), 1984 Presentation copy with inscription* **Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000** **Auction Date: June 26** Bonhams will present its second-ever dedicated U.S. auction of Russian Literature & Works on Paper on June 26. Building on the success of the inaugural Russian Literature auction in December 2012, Bonhams will offer Russian books, manuscripts, periodicals, posters, artwork and photography ranging from the early 19th to the mid 20th century. Movements from the intellectualism of Silver Age literature to the groundbreaking aesthetics of Constructivism will be represented. The auction?s top lot is the first authorized edition, signed by the author, of the complete works of prerevolutionary master Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin, published in St. Petersburg between 1808 and 1816. Another important edition on offer is Anton Chekhov?s ?Povesti i razskazy? (?Stories and Tales?) from 1894. This presentation copy is warmly inscribed to a waiter and good friend at the Grand Hotel in Moscow where Chekhov stayed, Semen Ilich Bychkov. **Sloan and Kenyon** *Edward Hopper (American, 1882-1967). Portrait of Alta Hillsdale, ca. 1904-14. Oil on canvas.* **Auction Date: June 14 ? 16** From Friday, June 14, through Sunday, June 16, Sloans and Kenyon will hold its June Estate Catalogue Auction, following an exhibition of the auction beginning June 8. An important portrait by Edward Hopper, depicting Alta Hillsdale, his romantic interest from 1904 to 1914, is a highlight of the event. The portrait?s discovery and authentication coincides with the exhibition of 58 recently discovered letters from Alta Hillsdale (1884-1948) to Hopper, which revealed their previously unknown romantic relationship. The letters are exhibit for the first time in ?Dear Mr. Hopper? at the Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, N.Y., through Oct. 20. Hopper?s interest in representation by photographic means and, in particular, the intersections between photography, the creation of ?atmosphere,? and the artist?s masterworks of the 1920s and ?30s, will also be the subject of a forthcoming scholarly article, coauthored by Sloans & Kenyon?s president, Stephanie A. Kenyon. []( **Weschler?s** *M.C. Escher (Dutch 1898-1972); Stars (Bool 359); Wood engraving. Auction Date: June 12* **Estimate: $10,000 ? $20,000** Weschler?s upcoming auction on June 12, at 10 a.m., will consist mostly of prints?including serigraphs, lithographs, etchings, and gelatin silver photographs. M.C. Escher?s ?Stars? (Bool 359) is a signature example of the renowned graphic artist?s work, exhibiting his style that blends symbolism and playful optical illusions of perspective and geometry with humor and worldly beauty. Other featured artists include Ansel Adams, Sam Gilliam, Gene Davis, Andy Warhol and Willem de Looper. [](

The Antiques Addict: Hooked Rugs, America’s Indigenous Folk Art

Early American hooked rugs were a craft of poverty. Prior to 1780, most floors in American homes were bare, especially among the poor. Painted floors or stenciled floor cloths were found in the homes of those who were slightly better off. Only the very wealthy had the means to import carpeting, since the American textile industry was in its infancy. After 1830, as factories in America began making wool carpets for the rich, having a floor covering became a symbol of domestic and socioeconomic well-being. This was a period when Americans were looking beyond the bare necessities, trying to make their homes more livable. As the fashion for floor coverings took hold, poorer women began ransacking their scrap bags for materials to employ in creating their own floor coverings. Their work was laborious and slow, hooking rag strips through tightly woven linen or hemp backings using a special tool adapted from the sailor’s marlinspike. Then, after 1850, trade tariffs relaxed and coffee, grain and feed started to arrive wrapped in jute burlap sacks made in India. This free fabric was strong, but loosely woven enough to allow the rag scraps to be easily hooked through it into the characteristic loops. The women who made the early rugs also designed them, borrowing many of the motifs from the Oriental rugs imported by the wealthy. A New England peddler noticed the rug-hooking trend and saw an opportunity. In 1876, he began stamping the best of the traditional designs onto burlap. His designs also included lions, tigers, leopards, dogs, cats, birds, deer and floral patterns. From this point on, every woman could make her own colorful rugs from scraps of clothing. For the next 50 years, this essentially rural craft spread to the humblest households along the northeastern seaboard. In the waning years of the 19th century, with the industrial revolution well underway, machine-made goods were seen as superior to homemade goods. Hooked rugs were viewed as “quaint” and lost their popularity. By the 1920s, however, American cities were filling up with multitudes of immigrants. Many Americans reacted to these social changes by idealizing the colonial period as a time of noble virtues and high moral standards. There was a flurry of interest in hooked rugs and homemade quilts as “virtuous” colonial artifacts (though most had been produced long after the end of the colonial period). In the 1930s and ’40s, antique dealers and interior designers recognized the beauty and historical value of this form of needlework, leading to a resurgence of rug hooking. In fact, the great majority of the rugs we find today sold as “antiques” were made between 1900 and 1960. Since they are less than 100 years old, they are more properly called “vintage.” American country antique collecting was at its height in the mid-1960s. Armistead Peter 3rd (1896-1983) and his wife Caroline Ogden-Jones Peter (1896-1965), the last private owners of the venerable Georgetown estate Tudor Place, began to redecorate their stately home after Peter’s father passed away. They elected to purchase three hooked rugs for their bedrooms, and those boldly pattern rugs are still part of the collection. Today, older hooked rugs have again regained popularity, due in part to their wonderfully colorful graphics. Also, like American primitive antiques in general, they show “the hand of man” and mix well with other styles, including transitional and the now-popular mid-century modern look. Condition is very important when collecting older hooked rugs. Collectors should be sure to check the backing for signs of rot or for missing fabric. A restorer can patch the backing and restore missing rag, but a buyer should be ready to do some heavy negotiating for a damaged hooked rug. These once purely utilitarian objects are now recognized as an art form that, in addition, traces the nation’s history from pre-industrial times. The good news is that wonderful examples can still be readily found and are reasonably affordable. They add a dash of color, whimsy and history to any well-decorated home. An antiques dealer for more than 25 years, Michelle Galler owns Antiques, Whimsies & Curiosities, based in Georgetown and in Washington, Va. Contact her at to suggest a topic for a future column. [gallery ids="101977,135524" nav="thumbs"]

Bringing the Hammer Down

Final selling prices for last month’s featured Auction Block items. Bonhams Shamrock V, 1995, oil on canvas John Mecray (b. 1939) Auction Date: Jan. 30 Estimate: $60,000 – $80,000 Final Selling Price: $62,500 Sotheby’s Bacchante with Grapes Carried by Two Bacchantes and a Bacchant, dated 1800 Claude Michel, called Clodion (1738-1814)? Auction Date: Jan. 29 Estimate: $600,000 – $1,000,000 Final Selling Price: $2,853,000 Christie’s Tete de Chevre de Profil, 1950 Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) Auction Date: Feb. 6 Estimate: $3,000 – $4,600 Final Selling Price: $15,310 Freeman’s Diamond, Sapphire, Platinum and 14ct Rose Gold Spray Brooch Torre Vincent? Auction Date: Feb. 9 Estimate: $1,400 – $1,800?? Final Selling Price: $1,875 (buyer’s premium included) Doyle New York St. Sebastian, oil on canvas? Follower of Jacopo Tintoretto? Auction Date: Jan. 28 Estimate: $3,000 – $5,000?? Final Selling Price: $16,250 (buyer’s premium included)

The Auction Block

Sotheby’s San Ildefonso Polychrome Lidded Jar, New Mexico Tony Da (1940-2008) Estimate: $25,000 – $35,000 Auction Date: May 21 Sotheby’s sale of American Indian Art is distinguished by the Charles and Sharon Aberle Collection, which features early and exceptionally fine Navajo blankets. The sale also includes diverse works of Native art from the Great Lakes to the Northwest Coast, comprising basketry, pottery, carvings and jewelry. Freeman’s Monumental Napoleon III Bronze Twin-Handled Urn Estimate: $30,000 – $50,000 Auction Date: May 19 Mounted on a rouge griotte marble pedestal, this urn is offered as part of Freeman’s upcoming sale of English & Continental Furniture and Decorative Arts. The sale will feature rare works of 18th-century porcelain by Chelsea and Worcester, speaking to a period of production that was guided by a fascination with natural forms, driven by advances both in botany and in taste. Bonhams “...Emerging into an opening that appeared to have been formed partly by the ravages of the wind, and partly by those of fire,” 1925 Oil on canvas N. C. Wyeth (American, 1882-1945) Estimate: $400,000 – $600,000 Auction Date: May 20 The father of Andrew Wyeth, Newell Convers Wyeth was one of the great American illustrators. His “Treasure Island” illustrations are widely considered to be among the greatest of all time. During his lifetime, Wyeth created over 3,000 paintings and illustrated 112 books. The present painting is an illustration from “The Deerslayer” by James Fenimore Cooper. Doyle New York Russian Silver Gilt and Cloisonné Enamel Coffee Pot Workmaster Fedor Ruckert, Moscow, c. 1896-1908 Estimate: $40,000 – $50,000 Auction Date: June 3 Enameled silver is one of Russia's greatest artistic legacies. The acknowledged master of this work was Fedor Ruckert (1840-1917), a silversmith of German origin working in Moscow in the final years of Romanov rule. This exquisite piece is part of Doyle New York’s auction of 19th- and 20th-century fine and decorative arts, reflecting the opulence of the Belle Époque. Christie’s “Benefits Supervisor Resting” Lucian Freud (1922-2011) Estimate: $30 million – $50 million Auction Date: May 13 As part of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale, this landmark painting by Lucian Freud will go on sale alongside equally monumental works by Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Franz Kline, Hans Hoffman, Jeff Koons, David Smith, Roy Lichtenstein, Wayne Thiebaud, Francis Bacon and others. Bringing the Hammer Down Final selling prices for last month’s featured Auction Block items. Doyle New York Frida Kahlo Archive Auction Date: April 15 Estimate: $80,000 – $120,000?? Final Selling Price: $137,000? Christie's Napoleon III Japanese Imari Porcelain Torchères Auction Date: April 16 Estimate: $120,000 – $180,000 Final Selling Price: $149,000 Bonhams Fair Copy of Enola Gay Log Book Auction Date: April 29 Final Selling Price: $50,000 Sotheby's “Silent Seasons – Summer No. II” Will Barnet (1911-2012) Auction Date: April 23 Estimate: $60,000 – $90,000 Final Selling Price: $118,750 Freeman's Special Minguren I Coffee Table George Nakashima (1905-1990) Auction Date: April 22 Estimate: $30,000 – $50,000? Final Selling Price: $55,000