The Auction Block

May 3, 2017

Breaking News: Weschler’s Moving to Rockville After 127 years in Washington, D.C., Weschler’s will move in June from the firm’s historic building at 909 E St. NW to a new […]

The Auction Block – January 12, 2017

January 12, 2017

Christie’s “Madonna lactans with the Last Supper” North Italian School (late 15th/early 16th century) Estimate: $100,000 – $150,000 Auction Date: January 25 It is rare to find a North Italian […]

The Auction Block

For centuries, auctions and estate sales have been used to establish the value of artifacts, artworks, artists, and items of historic or cultural significance. While they are premier venues for finding rare and unique antiques, as well as unprecedented artworks, auctions carry with them a sense of gambling on history that infuses them with a thrilling, electrical current. Given our city’s entrenchment in historic significance and artistic richness, it seems fitting that we should keep ourselves abreast of current auction trends and big-ticket sales. Keep an eye out for The Auction Block, where we will cover the biggest sales and auction pieces from all of the country’s premier auction houses. Now, where shall we start the bidding?

Doyle New York
George Washington Autographed Letter
Auction Date: Nov. 5
Estimated Value $80,000 – $100,000
Founded in 1962, Doyle New York is one of the world’s foremost auctioneers and appraisers of fine art, jewelry, furniture and more, with representatives throughout the U.S., including an office here in Georgetown. Highlighting Doyle’s Sale of Rare Books, Autographs & Maps is a letter from Washington to his wartime aide James McHenry dated Dec. 10, 1783, where Washington describes seeing the British evacuate New York and his intention of retiring and becoming a private citizen. Washington did retire to Mount Vernon, but only to be lured away to the Constitutional Congress in Philadelphia, where he was then elected the nation’s first president in 1789.

Christie’s New York
François Boucher (French 1703 – 1770)
The Bird Nesters
Oil on canvas
Auction Date: Oct. 24
Estimated Value: $250,000 –$350,000
Christie’s will host Treasures of France, From The Sun King To The Belle Époque – Vincennes And Sèvres Porcelain, French Furniture, Old Master Paintings, Books And Textiles From The Collection Of Dr. Bruce Wilson, an estate sale of one of the most important private collections of Vincennes and Sèvres porcelain of recent times in the United States. Dr. Wilson has acquired an amazing range of pieces from some of the most famous services of the 18th Century. Among the items, François Boucher’s painting, The Bird Nester, is a small masterpiece of the Rococo tradition, depicting the light-hearted scene of a budding romance.

Mark Rothko (American 1903 – 1970)
No. 1 (Royal Red and Blue)
Oil on canvas
Auction Date: Nov. 13
Estimated Value: $35 – 50 million
A seminal, large-scale masterpiece by Mark Rothko will lead Sotheby’s Evening Sale of Contemporary Art in New York. “No.1 (Royal Red and Blue)” was painted in 1954, a time considered by many to be the zenith of the artist’s creative powers, and, in a fitting twist of fate considering this newspaper’s current anniversary issue, the founding year of The Georgetowner. Standing at nearly 9 ½ feet tall, this majestic canvas was one of eight works hand-selected by Rothko for his landmark solo show of the same year at the Art Institute of Chicago. Leading up to the auction, the canvas will be on view in New York beginning Nov. 1.

John William Godward, RBA (British 1861 – 1922)
Waiting for the Procession
Oil on Canvas
Auction Date: Oct. 31
Estimate: $400,000 – $600,000
Founded in 1793, Bonhams is the world’s third largest auction house, offering more sales categories in more auction rooms around the world than any other firm. From their offices in Georgetown, they provide local clients expert advice and international reach in every collecting category. A case in point is this stunning painting by John William Godward, discovered in Arizona, previewed in London, and to be sold in San Francisco and New York on Oct. 31st. This exceptional Godward painting, along with other international highlights, will visit Washington, D.C. for a private viewing at the British Embassy on Oct. 22nd. For details contact Martin Gammon: (202) 333-1696.

Sloans and Kenyon
Eagle Woodcarving by John Haley Bellamy (American 1836 – 1914)
Auction Date: Nov. 9 – 11
Sloans & Kenyon Auctioneers and Appraisers, located in Bethesda, Md., hosts estate catalogue auctions of fine art and antiques approximately five times each year.

In their Eight Annual Auction of Americana and More, they will auction items from the estate of the renowned late architect Arthur H. Keyes, including a rare carving by John Haley Bellamy, a noted 19th
century New England folk artist known for his highly stylized carved wooden eagles. This piece is a resplendent example of the legendary artist’s work. An exhibition preceding the auction will be on view at the auction house Nov. 3 – 8.

William Frederick de Haas (American 1830 – 1922)
The Maine Shoreline
Oil on canvas
Auction Date: Nov. 16
Estimated Value: $40,000 – $60,000
Washington D.C.’s only auction house, Weschler’s has been a local tradition for over 120 years. A monumental William Frederick de Haas oil on canvas depicting a hazy Maine shoreline hits the market Nov. 16th, as part of their Capital Collections Estate Auction. In a private local collection for over fifty years, the painting captures the solitude and vastness of the American coast and is an exceptional example of de Haas’ work. The auctioning of this work is expected to reflect a renewed collector interest in American Luminist paintings. An exhibition preceding the auction begins November 10th at Weschler’s, 909 E Street, NW Gallery.

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The Auction Block

September 14, 2016

Doyle New York “Boats in Choppy Water Offshore,” 1865 Mauritz Frederik Hendrick de Haas (1832–1895) Auction Date: Oct. 5 …

The Auction Block

May 4, 2016

Doyle New York
George II Stripped Pine Pier Mirror, c. 1740
Auction Date: May 18
Estimate: $6,000 – $8,000

Part of Doyle New York’s auction of English & Continental Furniture & Decorative Arts/Old Master Paintings, this gorgeous mirror with its classical features exhibits the influences of Daniel Marot, the Huguenot architect to William III, and — in the mask of Riana within a scallop shell — William Kent, architect to Lord Burlington.

“Road Block,” 1949
Norman Rockwell (1894–1978)
Auction Date: May 18
Estimate: $4 million – $6 million

“Road Block” is among the most ambitious of the more than 300 paintings Rockwell executed for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell received particular praise for his ability to encapsulate the components of a complex narrative — plot, character, mood and setting — into a single image.

“Exoke,” 2013
El Anatsui (b. 1944)
Auction Date: May 11
Estimate: $600,000 – $800,000

At more than five square feet of shimmering, undulating, sculptural material blocked into textural swaths of vivid color, El Anatsui’s “Exoke,” part of the Post-War and Contemporary Art Afternoon Session at Christies, is mesmerizing. The visually and conceptually rich work is one of the Ghana-born, Nigeria-based artist’s celebrated “hangings,” which examine the remnants of globalization, consumerism, colonialism and post-colonialism in West Africa.

“Tête de faune”
Pablo Picasso (1881–1973)
Auction Date: May 11
Estimate: $50,000 – $80,000

Part of Bonham’s Impressionist and Modern Art Sale, this is a prime example of Picasso’s late-career whimsy, when he began combining bold, sun-kissed colors with an almost childlike simplicity. It is reminiscent of his woodcuts, ceramic work and poster designs for his own exhibitions, which themselves have become collector’s items.

Alex Cooper
Important Sapphire and Diamond Ring
Auction Date: May 12–14
Estimate: $15,000 – $20,000

Dated June 17, 1985, from the American Gemological Laboratory, this dazzling platinum ring is centered with a natural sapphire, with diamond surround and shank, custom designed and marked.


Sloans & Kenyon
“Scouting with Daniel Boone,” 1914
Norman Rockwell (1894–1978)
Auction Date: May 1
Final Selling Price: $119,500

This early Rockwell painting was originally a wedding present given to the owner’s grandfather, a great outdoorsman, from his five ushers in July 1925. It had previously been published as an illustration for “Scouting with Daniel Boone” in 1914. Little did those ushers know that a small painting by a then-unknown young artist would one day sell at auction for more than $100,000.

The Auction Block

April 6, 2016

Doyle New York
Platinum and Diamond Ring
Signed Gumbiner
Estimate: $175,000 – $225,000
Auction Date: April 18

Doyle New York’s auction of Important Jewelry showcases jewelry by the world’s most prestigious makers, including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, David Webb and Tiffany & Co., with offerings spanning the Antique, Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Modern eras. This platinum and diamond ring, size 6, centers an emerald-cut diamond, flanked by two kite-shaped diamonds.

The Shirley Temple Blue Diamond
Estimate: $25 million – $35 million
Auction Date: April 19

Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sale is led by the rare Shirley Temple Blue Diamond. Weighing 9.54 carats, the charming cushion-cut fancy blue diamond ring was originally purchased by the child star’s father, George Temple, in 1940 as the film “The Blue Bird” was completed.

Ruby Ring by Verdura
Estimate: $12 million – $15 million
Auction Date: April 20

Featured in the Magnificent Jewels & The Jubilee Ruby auction at Christie’s, the Jubilee Ruby — set in a distinctive gold and diamond mounting by the legendary firm Verdura — is the most important ruby of its caliber to be offered for sale at auction in the United States in more than 25 years. Until the middle of the 19th century, only the sovereign of Burma, or an individual deemed worthy by him, would have been allowed to possess such a magnificent gemstone.

Handwritten Sherlock Holmes Manuscript
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930)
Estimate: $380,000 – $420,000
Auction Date: April 11

A handwritten draft by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of his 1893 Sherlock Holmes mystery “The Case of the Greek Interpreter” is a highlight of the Fine Literature sale at Bonhams. The work is best known for the first appearance of Holmes’s older brother Mycroft. Other Sherlock Holmes material will be offered, notably a handwritten page from “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” probably the most famous Sherlock Holmes story.

Embroidered Plan of the City of Washington, 1807
Susanna Wilkinson Atkinson (aged 14 years)??
Estimate: $15,000 – $25,000
Auction Date: April 19

This rare and charming bit of folkloric antiquity — worked with silk threads, watercolor and ink on a silk ground, the needles inserted below the inscription — was made after a plan of the city drawn by Pierre Charles L’Enfant and Andrew Ellicott. Part of Freeman’s auction of American Furniture, Decorative and Folk Art, the embroidery has remained in the family since it was made. It is only the fourth known Plan of the City of Washington embroidery.

Auction Block

March 16, 2016

Attention Presidential Partisans, Party Loyalists and Political Junkies: Preserve your campaign memorabilia. It too could become rare and valuable, someday making your descendants a fortune…


Bonhams Presents a Presidential Treasures Exhibition at the Decatur House
Auction Date: March 25

Bonhams will host their Presidential Treasures exhibition at Decatur House (1610 H St NW) on Friday, March 25th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., featuring highlights from the Caren Archive, including the first appearance of George Washington in print and the first printing of the Emancipation Proclamation. In addition, highlights from the collections of Kennedy administration staff members will be on display, including Mary Gallagher, Sue Vogelsinger, Preston Bruce and others who will be in attendance to share their recollections with guests. In this presidential election year, the exhibition is timed in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the publication of “Profiles in Courage,” John F. Kennedy’s seminal investigation of episodes of political bravery in the senate. Admission is free of charge.


Thomas Jefferson Autographed Letter, Signed to Henry Dearborn
Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000
Auction Date: March 18

Henry Dearborn was an American soldier and statesman who served in George Washington’s Continental Army and was present at the British surrender at Yorktown. In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson appointed Dearborn his secretary of war (which is how he addresses Dearborn in the letter), a position he held until 1809. During his tenure, Dearborn helped plan the removal of Indians beyond the Mississippi River.

Swann Auction Galleries

“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself,” Frederick Douglass
First edition copy, Published at the North Star Office, 1848
Estimate: $18,000 – $22,000
Auction Date: March 31

When Frederick Douglass’s “Narrative” first appeared in 1845, he had already been lecturing for more than four years as the shining star of the New England abolitionists. It was an instant best-seller, going through 5,000 copies of the first printing in four months. It was the success of the book that alerted Douglass’s owner as to his whereabouts, which forced Douglass to leave the country for two years. In the fall of 1845, he set sail for Cork, Ireland, to begin a two-year lecture tour of Great Britain. Few original copies still exist of this text. Part of Swann’s auction of Printed and Manuscript African Americana.

Doyle New York

United States Abraham Lincoln Indian Peace Medal, 1862
Estimate: $8,000 – $12,000
Auction Date: April 25

Silver Indian Peace Medals are some of the rarest and most sought-after items among American coin collectors. Issued during the presidencies of George Washington through Benjamin Harrison, the medals were presented to Native Americans with the intent of creating peaceful relationships, usually to mark an important occasion, such as the signing of a treaty. Fewer than 4,000 were ever produced, and today it is estimated that a mere 500 can be accounted for. This auction offers two of these rarities: an 1862 Abraham Lincoln medal and an 1871 Ulysses Grant medal. The sale also offers a wide selection of American and world coins, bank notes, medals and postage stamps.

The Potomack Company

“Mourning Picture of Columbia, Commemorating George and Martha Washington”
Embroidered and painted silk work by Eliza Gould, early 19th century
Auction Date: April 9

This stunning piece of Americana folk heritage is part of Potomack Company’s upcoming live auction. The female figure in the picture is Columbia, an iconic woman akin to the French Marianne who represents the historic pet name once given to the United States in reference to Christopher Columbus (hence The District of “Columbia”). She stands weeping beside a memorial plinth with painted likenesses of George and Martha Washington, within an oval embroidered frame surmounted by two urns, a weeping willow tree above, building and church in the background on a silk ground.

The Auction Block: December 2, 2015

December 7, 2015


“À la Source,” 1982?

Baltasar Lobo (1910–1993)? ??

Auction Date: December 7?

Estimate: $60,000 – $80,000??

Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Sale will feature a broad array of pictures, works on paper and sculpture by artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including this Carrara marble piece. Highlights include important works on canvas by Pierre Eugène Montézin and Jean Dufy, two exceptional sculptures by Lynn Chadwick and works on paper by Daumier and Lautrec.


Sapphire and Diamond Ring

Tiffany & Co.??

Auction Date: December 8

Estimate: $400,000 – $600,000

This glowing, opalescent rare sapphire and diamond ring from Tiffany & Co. is part of Bonhams upcoming Fine Jewelry auction. The ring centers a cushion-cut sapphire, weighing approximately 8.05 carats, flanked by old European-cut diamonds, which continue to a plain mount.


Serpentine Chest of Drawers, c. 1800–1805?

Attributed to Nathan Lombard (1777–1847)

Auction Date: December 4

Estimate: $30,000 – $50,000

A Federal inlaid cherry serpentine chest of drawers, attributed to Nathan Lombard, is one of the highlights of Weschler’s Capital Collections Estate Auction. The chest features trailing floral inlay along its leafage-carved concave quarter-columns, as well as Lombard’s distinctive cusp-and-spur feet and signature applied beaded strip along the back edge of the top.

Doyle New York

Platinum, Gold and Fancy Yellow Diamond Ring

Auction Date: December 16

Estimate: $100,000 – $150,000

Part of Doyle New York’s upcoming Important Jewelry auction, this marvelous 18-karat ring centers one old European-cut fancy yellow diamond of approximately 8.02 carats in a ring signed Tiffany & Co. The diamond is not original to the mounting.


“Two Old Men and a Dog: Checkers,” 1950?

Norman Rockwell (1894–1978)?

Auction Date: December 6

Estimate: $60,000 – $100,000

This iconic drawing by Norman Rockwell is one of four seasonal studies (also to be offered are “Spring,” “Summer” and “Fall”). Other lots in Freeman’s American Art and Pennsylvania Impressionists sale are stunning watercolors by Andrew Wyeth and paintings by Maxfield Parrish and Arthur Dove. ?

Bringing the Hammer Down

Final selling prices for last month’s featured Auction Block items


“Stabile with Mobile Element,”?1952

Lynn Chadwick (1914–2003)

Auction Date: November 17–18

Estimate: $400,000 – $600,000

Final Selling Price: $749,000


Virginia Blanket Chest, 1798

Johannes Spitler (1774–1837)

Auction Date: November 11

Estimate: $40,000 – $60,000

Final Selling Price: $56,250?


“Dorothy” Dress?Worn in “The Wizard of Oz”??

Auction Date: November 23??

Estimate: $800,000 – $1.2 million

Final Selling Price: $1.56 million

Doyle New York

“Three Survivors,” 1964

Ibrahim Hussein (1936–2009)

Auction Date: November 10

Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000

Final Selling Price: $62,500

The Auction Block November 5, 2015

November 5, 2015


“Huntsmen and Hounds, North Cornish Hunt,” 1954

Sir Alfred Munnings (1878–1959)?

Estimate: $250,000 – $400,000

Auction Date: November 19

Sir Alfred Munnings is widely considered to have been the greatest equestrian artist of the 20th century. His work continues to have a devoted following. Munnings’s love of the Cornish landscape stemmed from visits he had made between 1910 and 1914 to Newlyn, an area that at that time was home to a renowned artists colony. This painting is part of Freeman’s Sporting Sale.


“Norman Rockwell Visits a Country Editor,” 1946

Norman Rockwell (1894–1978)

Estimate: $10 million – $15 million

Auction Date: November 19

The top lot of Christie’s American Art auction, this major, large-scale work belongs to an important series of works Norman Rockwell completed for the Saturday Evening Post at the height of his career. The painting is being sold by the National Press Club Journalism Institute with the approval of the National Press Club. The proceeds from the sale will benefit both nonprofit organizations.


“The Cove, Isles of Shoals,” 1901

Childe Hassam (1859–1935)? ???

Estimate: $400,000 – $600,000

Auction Date: November 18

This painting, offered as part of Bonhams’ American art sale, comes from a prime period of Hassam’s work, when he painted on the Island of Appledore, the largest of the Isles of Shoals. It manifests, with direct fluent brushwork, the brilliant midday light, clear sky, calm water and scintillating array of blues, reds, yellows and greens that he encountered. About nine miles off the New Hampshire coast, the Isles of Shoals were a source of inspiration and refuge for Hassam between about 1880 and 1916.

Doyle New York

“I Been Rebuked and I Been Scorned,” 1954

Charles White (1918–1979)

Estimate: $70,000 – $90,000

Auction Date: November 10

Named for a Negro spiritual, this charcoal and wash drawing was created nine years before the historic March on Washington in August of 1963, at which an estimated 250,000 people witnessed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. At this same gathering, Mahalia Jackson sang “I’ve Been ’Buked and I’ve Been Scorned.” The work is part of Doyle New York’s Post-War and Contemporary Art sale.


Pale Blue Faience Ushabti of Neferibresaneith,?570–526 B.C.??

Estimate: $60,000 – $90,000

Auction Date: December 8

Sotheby’s will present an inaugural sale dedicated exclusively to Ancient Egyptian Sculpture and Works of Art. Highlights include a red granite portrait head of King Amenhotep III from the last ten years of his reign, two exceptional stone ushabtis and the piece featured here, 7.25 inches high, one of the best preserved faience ushabtis of Neferibresaneith.

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Bringing the Hammer Down

June 22, 2015

The historic results from Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on Nov. 4 brought in the highest total for a single auction in the company’s 270-year history: more than $422 million. Participants in the sales came from over 40 countries, with the highest number of winning bidders from the United States, Europe and Asia. However, the record owed a lot to the sale of three single works, by Giacometti, Modigliani and Van Gogh.
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