Freeman's celebrated the 10th Anniversary of The Pennsylvania Sale on Tuesday, November 10, followed by the bi-annual American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts auction on Wednesday the 11th. Combined, the two days of Americana brought $1.7 million in sales, much of which came from private and corporate collections represented by The Estate of William F. Hamilton, Property from the Estate of Nancy duPont Reynolds Cooch, The Linda Abegglen Trust and Property from the Reed & Barton Archives.  Buyers from across the country and overseas competed against distinguished museums and other institutions to bid on a wide range of works including 20th century design, fine silver, furniture, folk art, and early American portraiture.

“We were thrilled with the results for the 20th Century Design section of  The Pennsylvania Sale and equally delighted with the results achieved by exceptional examples of Americana  such as the Portrait of Slator Clay and the' imperfect masterpiece' — the Spitler blanket chest,” said Americana Department Head Lynda Cain.

George Nakashima (1905-1990) Special Hanging Wall Case with Base, 1985A celebration of the craftsmanship of the Commonwealth, Tuesday's 10th annual Pennsylvania Sale boasted strong results with robust participation from American and European bidders. New Hope furniture designer George Nakashima proved to be the hero of the day, with top lots including a special hanging wall case with base (Sold for $52,500) and a special English Oak slab coffee table / bench (sold for $40,000). Other highlights of modern design came from The Linda Abegglen Trust, including a pair of chests with Zeenkov base, which brought an auction record for a pair of Nakashima chests at $21,250.

Proving that great things often come in small packages, The Pennsylvania Sale also featured a noteworthy result for a William & Mary miniature walnut poplar chest from the Estate of Nancy duPont Reynolds Cooch. Realizing $13,000, this charming early 18th century piece far surpassed its original auction estimates attracting lively bidding from the phone, internet, and in the room. Another item in the sale that garnered a good deal of attention was a watercolor and ink fraktur record of birth and baptism for Catharina Homan by Daniel Otto (1779-1821), which sold for $25,000. A fitting highlight of The Pennsylvania Sale, frakturs are a form of folk art that celebrate the unique and vibrant history of the German immigrants that settled in the Commonwealth.

A highly anticipated feature of Wednesday's American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts sale was the collection of Property from the Reed & Barton Archives.  One of the most recognizable names in the history of American silver, Reed & Barton produced some of the finest silver-plated and sterling silver wares of any American factory. Featuring original design drawings, master molds, and other items representative of the silver making process, this prestigious collection brought nearly $250,000, with a 96% sell-through rate. The standout piece of the group was the monumental Progress Vase, designed by W.C. Beattie.  Substantial in size and ambitious in scope, the vase triumphed at its unveiling at the Centennial Exhibition in 1876. Achieving an impressive $125,000, this masterpiece of American silver now makes its homecoming to New England thanks to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). “The Reed & Barton Progress Vase is a virtuosic piece of superb craftsmanship made to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the United States. We are delighted to bring this important piece of Massachusetts and national history into the MFA collection,” said Nonie Gadsden, the MFA’s Katharine Lane Weems Senior Curator of American Decorative Arts. The vase will be a welcome addition to the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this week.

American folk art also presented well at the Americana auction. A signed, dated and paint-decorated yellow pine blanket chest,  by furniture maker Johannes Spitler sold for $56,250, despite case alterations and a lack of base. Spitler's distinctive style has set him apart from other craftsmen of his time, and works by the Virginia native, similar in palette and motif to the one sold in Wednesday's auction, can be found in the collections of some of American's most prestigious museums and institutions.  Early American portraiture was also a highlight of the sale.  Two miniature portraits--one depicting Revolutionary War Major John Hays and the other, by Francis Rabineau (French, active in America 1791-1808), depicting his second wife, Nancy McCampbell Hays of Virginia--were acquired by the nation's oldest patriotic organization, The Society of Cincinnati.

Notable Lots of The Pennsylvania Sale and American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts

  • Lot 337 Attributed to John Hesselius (1728-1778), Portrait of Slator (Slater) Clay (1754-1821), Sold for $55,000
  • Lot 266 The Progress Vase:  A Magnificent Sterling Silver and Silver-plated Centerpiece, Sold for $125,000
  • Lot 448 Paint-decorated yellow pine blanket chest by  Johannes Spitler (1774–1837), Sold for $56,250
  • Lot 4 George Nakashima (1905-1990), Special Hanging Wall Case with Base, Sold for $52,500
  • Lot 332 Rare William & Mary two-part chest of drawers, Sold for $27,500
  • Lot 184 (Benjamin Franklin, et al.), Manuscript Ledger & Index Book. Philadelphia, 1748-1770. Account book of Mary Reynell’s dry goods shop, including entries for Benjamin Franklin and other prominent Philadelphia figures, Sold for $13,750

Images: The Progress Vase:  A Magnificent Sterling Silver and Silver-plated Centerpiece, Sold for $125,000; George Nakashima (1905-1990), Special Hanging Wall Case with Base, Sold for $52,500; Paint-decorated yellow pine blanket chest by  Johannes Spitler (1774–1837), Sold for $56,250