The strength of Freeman’s November 15 Americana auction, which achieved over $1.2 million, testifies to collectors' and connoisseurs' continued interest in a diverse range of American-made and related objects. Highlights from the sale spanned collecting genres, with high prices realized for furniture, folk art, paintings and decorative arts alike. The sale, which was bolstered by two single-owner collections, achieved an 88 percent sell-through rate and welcomed a considerable number of new buyers and registered bidders.
The auction opened strongly with the highly anticipated Memento Mori and Mourning Jewelry Collection of the late Anita and Irvin G. Schorsch, possibly the largest public offering of mourning material to-date. Buyers bidding in the room, on the phone and online showed unabashed enthusiasm for the Collection, which sold 100 percent of its lots at 243 percent of their value and totaled $354,705. The vast majority of the 126 lots sold above estimate, and bidding was so consistently competitive that the auction pace for this section of the sale slowed to about 30 lots per hour.
The Collection was led by Lot 24, a rare gold “Stuart Crystal” mourning pendant for Prince William, Duke of Gloucester (1689-1700), circa 1700, which sold for $35,000—a staggering 14 times over its high estimate. Although there were notable successes throughout, other standout results include Lot 78, a gold and ivory mourning bracelet with two marquise-shaped miniatures, that sold for $11,785, and Lot 106, a large gold and ivory mourning pendant with braided hairwork on the reverse, which sold for $12,187.50.
The auction's second large, single-owner section—the Collection of Eugene E. Derryberry of Roanoke, Virginia—sparked similar interest and elicited spirited bidding from folk art enthusiasts and collectors. The 99-lot Collection, which featured furniture and decorative objects with painted surfaces, fraktur, needlework and other items hailing from various points along the East Coast, achieved an impressive 92 percent sell-through rate. Seven phone bidders actively competed for Lot 254, a painted and decorated miniature pine box attributed to Jonas or Jacob Weber of Lancaster County, which sold for double its high estimate at $10,000. Other highlights included Lot 253, a miniature carved and painted rooster, attributed to Wilhelm Schimmel (1817-1890), that sold for $6,875, and Lot 204, a portrait miniature of a lady by Jacob Eichholtz (1776-1842), that realized $7,500.
This trend of miniature and small-scale items fetching large prices was continued outside of the single-owner sections by Lot 139, an 18th century portrait miniature of Revolutionary War Captain Joseph Fox (1749-1820) that sold for $32,500. It was also turned completely on its head, however, when one of the physically largest items in the sale—Lot 365, a double portrait, circa 1850—nearly tripled its low estimate to sell for $112,500, becoming the auction's top lot.
This large-scale painting, depicting Granville and Ella Jane Parks of Woburn, Massachusetts with their dog, can now be attributed to Massachusetts folk artist Samuel Miller (1807-1853). Works by Miller do not frequently appear on the auction market, and this price, the result of a long battle between two phone bidders, is an auction record for the artist. Another bidding war occurred a mere five lots later, when Lot 370, the dynamic piece and appliquéd "Halley's Comet" patterned quilt, sold for $40,625, nearly 34 times its high estimate.
Represented on the catalogue's front cover and the topic of a lecture hosted during the exhibition, the rare set of fourteen Herrick-Maynard-Hatch Gothic Revival carved oak dining chairs, designed by architect Alexander Jackson Davis (1803-1892) for Ericstan, also performed accordingly well. One of, if not the last, groups of seating designed by the renowned American architect still in private hands, the six armchairs and eight side chairs were offered in five consecutive lots that together realized over $100,000. Lot 392, which contained eight of these chairs, sold for $81,250.
"It was a genuine "Americana" auction," Department Head Lynda Cain said. "The sale featured items from north to south, formal to folk, mourning jewelry to weathervanes to Gothic Revival chairs to Native American arts. Fresh-to-the-market regional property was also represented and included a previously unrecorded chest of drawers, circa 1725, attributed to the Bartram joiner. We look forward to another success in April and are already seeking consignments of similar material with strong provenance."