Original Illustration for Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Birthday of the Infanta’ leads our five auction highlights

Original penwork illustration by Alastair for Oscar Wilde’s 1891 novel ‘The Birthday of the Infanta’, which hammered for £7,500 and sold for £9,450 ($11,920) with buyer’s premium at Forum Auctions.

Original Illustration by Alastair for Oscar Wilde Book, $11,920

LONDON – The aristocratic German artist, composer, dancer, mime, poet, singer, and translator Hans Henning Otto Harry Baron von Voigt (1887-1969) is best known by his pen name. From 1914, he went simply by the pseudonym Alastair.

Working in the decadent style pioneered by Aubrey Beardsley and other artists of his circle, Alastair’s fame spread with the 10 full-page drawings he contributed to a 1920 printing of Oscar Wilde’s The Sphinx and the illustrations for a 1922 copy of his play Salome in 1922.

The original Alastair penwork illustration offered in Forum Auctions’ February 15 sale of Modern Literature, Children’s & Illustrated Books was one he produced for the Black Sun Press’ 1928 printing of Wilde’s 1891 novel The Birthday of the Infanta. Described as ‘a scarce example of [Alastair’s] fine penwork,’ it was consigned by a private collector who had acquired it at auction in 1997. It hammered for £7,500 and sold for £9,450 ($11,920) with buyer’s premium against an estimate of £800-£1,200 ($1,010-$1,515).

Dame Ethel Walker, ‘Nymphs Finding Narcissus’, $11,550

Dame Ethel Walker, ‘Nymphs Finding Narcissus,’ which hammered for £7,000 and sold for £9,170 ($11,550) with buyer’s premium at Lyon & Turnbull.
Dame Ethel Walker, ‘Nymphs Finding Narcissus,’ which hammered for £7,000 and sold for £9,170 ($11,550) with buyer’s premium at Lyon & Turnbull.

EDINBURGH, UK – It is indicative of current market sensibilities that the work of the Scottish painter Dame Ethel Walker (1861-1951) is receiving renewed attention. Although she famously said there were “only two types of artist – bad and good,” she is seen as a pioneering figure. Not only was she the first woman member of the New English Art Club, elected in 1900, but she is now acknowledged as one of the earliest lesbian artists to explore her sexuality openly in her works. Soon after her death, she was the subject of a major retrospective at the Tate in 1951 alongside Gwen John and Frances Hodgkins.

Walker painted portraits, flower pieces, interiors, and seascapes in an attractive Impressionist style, but her most individual works are decorative compositions inspired by her vision of a Golden Age and the influence of French Symbolist painting. A good example was Nymphs Finding Narcissus, a 15 by 21in (39 by 54cm) ink and gouache from the 1920s offered as part of Lyon & Turnbull’s February 13 sale titled The Art Edit. Attracting plenty of interest at its modest estimate of £600-£800, it hammered for £7,000 and sold for £9,170 ($11,550) with buyer’s premium.

Ben Nicholson, ‘White Relief’, $14,410

Ben Nicholson, ‘White Relief,’ which hammered for $11,000 and sold for $14,410 with buyer’s premium at Wright.
Ben Nicholson, ‘White Relief,’ which hammered for $11,000 and sold for $14,410 with buyer’s premium at Wright.

CHICAGO – Ben Nicholson’s series of monochromatic three-dimensional relief paintings – created by the thick layers of white paint and carving wood – first appeared in the mid-to-late 1930s. Nicholson was heavily influenced by the geometry of Mondrian, whose studio he had visited in 1933.

Three decades later, in the late 1960s, a series of replicas of those Nicholson works were made based on an original in the Tate Gallery, London. Produced in an edition of around 50 by the West End Engraving Company, they were published at the time by the Tate. It was one of these, White Relief in painted and carved wood, that was offered by Wright in Chicago on February 1. Estimated at $2,000-$3,000, it hammered for $11,000 and sold for $14,410 with buyer’s premium.

This work is from the edition produced by the West End Engraving Company Limited, London and published by the Tate Gallery, London in the 1960s depicting the work White Relief (1935) in the collection of the Tate, London.

Revolutionary War-era Wooden Canteen Inscribed ‘U States’, $42,300

Revolutionary War-era canteen inscribed ‘U States’, which hammered for $36,000 and sold for $42,300 with buyer’s premium at Bruneau & Co.
Revolutionary War-era canteen inscribed ‘U States’, which hammered for $36,000 and sold for $42,300 with buyer’s premium at Bruneau & Co.

CRANSTON, R.I. – Given that the term United States of America was not recorded until 1776, when the words ‘U States’ were painted to this Revolutionary War-era staved wood canteen, it was a relative novelty. The pattern is one used by the Continental Army from circa 1777. Similar examples are pictured in Rex Kessler’s 2021 book Continental Arsenal Marks and Stamps, Continental Ownership of Arms and Accoutrements 1776-1798.

The canteen came for sale by family descent at Bruneau & Co. on February 8 with an estimate of $5,000-$10,000, hammering for $36,000 and selling for $42,300. An old paper label to the back is inscribed ‘Canteen used by William Fleming of Lower Oxford township, Ches. Co, Pa In the war of 1812.’ There is a Thomas Fleming who appears in the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion in 1776, as well as other units later in the war. Other soldiers of that name are associated with the War of 1812.

Prehistoric Kilia-type ‘Stargazer’ Figure, $216,940

Kilia-type ‘stargazer’ figure dating to circa 4500–3500 BC, which hammered for €155,000 and sold for €201,500 ($216,940) with buyer’s premium at Native auctions in Brussels.
Kilia-type ‘stargazer’ figure dating to circa 4500–3500 BC, which hammered for €155,000 and sold for €201,500 ($216,940) with buyer’s premium at Native auctions in Brussels.

BRUSSELS, Belgium – Highly stylized nude female idols were made throughout the Aegean basin during the prehistoric period. This particular figure, carved from translucent white marble, is of the Kilia type, named after the village in northwest Turkey, formerly ancient Anatolia, where the first examples were found. Although they show similarities with the figures produced in the Cyclades – both were probably linked with fertility and the life cycle – they are considerably earlier, dating to around 4500-3500 BC. They are often given the colloquial title of ‘stargazers’ as the heads give the impression of an upward stare.

Only around 15 such idols survive in near-complete form, although fragments are more numerous. Most examples were broken across the neck, suggesting that the sculptures were ritually ‘killed’ at the time of burial. The most famous of these figures is the so-called Guennol Stargazer from the Chalcolithic Period (circa 3000-2200 BC) that was sold for $12.5 million at Christie’s New York in 2017. Although in the U.S. before 1966, it was subsequently the subject of an ownership claim by the Turkish state.

The example offered by Native Auctions in Brussels on January 30 stood just shy of 5in (12cm) high and had a provenance to a German collection formed in the 1960s-80s. Estimated at €80,000-€120,000, it hammered for €155,000 and sold for €201,500 ($216,940) with buyer’s premium.

Brooklyn Museum deaccessions choice antique furniture, sending it to Brunk March 20

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Having been founded in 1823, the Brooklyn Museum has been receiving donations of art and furniture for more than 200 years. Museum officials have decided to part with 155 items from the collection, and have selected Brunk to conduct a sale on Wednesday, March 20. The complete catalog is now open for bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

One of the highlights is a Virginia Chippendale walnut fitted cellaret formerly owned by American furniture designer Luke Vincent Lockwood. Attributed to an unknown artisan in the Rappahannock River Valley, Virginia region in the 1750-1770 period, the cellaret’s interior can hold 20 bottles. It is estimated at $30,000-$40,000.

Another item donated to the museum by Lockwood is a Virginia Queen Anne scalloped walnut dressing table. Built between 1740 and 1770 in the Rappahannock River Basin, it is described as being in excellent overall condition, though the brasses appear to be early replacements. The table is also estimated at $30,000$40,000.

This William and Mary scrollwork and oyster veneered mirror is from circa-1700 England. The glass is ‘probably original,’ with the mirror plate exhibiting some losses to the silvering. As such, it carries an estimate of $2,000$3,000.

Originally purchased from John Hill Morgan of New York in 1915, a William and Mary daybed is probably Pennsylvanian and from the 18th century. It has contemporary upholstery in a ‘structurally sound’ frame and is affordably estimated at $800-$1,200.

Diego Rivera work commissioned by Irving Berlin could exceed $400K at Doyle March 13

Diego Rivera watercolor, commissioned by Irving Berlin as cover art for sheet music for his song ‘In Acapulco’ but never used, estimated at $200,000-$400,000 at Doyle.

NEW YORK – It’s not every day that a Diego Rivera work unseen for decades comes to auction, but that is exactly what will happen on Wednesday, March 13 at Doyle. Its 20th Century Abstraction / Latin American Art sale contains four works once owned by Irving Berlin, and the Diego Rivera among them was commissioned from the Mexican artist by the American songwriter and composer of Broadway hits. The sale catalog is now open for bidding on LiveAuctioneers.

The two legends met during a Christmas trip to Mexico that Berlin took in 1947. Berlin refused Rivera’s offer of a portrait sitting and countered with a request for cover artwork for sheet music for his song In Acapulco. Rivera agreed, and delivered a watercolor on paper of people frolicking on the beach as musicians play in the background, along with a color chart and detailed handwritten notes. After Berlin’s label rejected the image, he squirreled it away in his house, where it slumbered, seen only by himself and his family members. The Rivera work is estimated at $200,000-$400,000.

On the same trip, Berlin also visited the renowned muralist José Clemente Orozco at his studio and acquired two works directly from him. A vibrant oil-on-Masonite Day of the Dead scene now carries an estimate of $150,000-$250,000, and a gouache on paper dubbed Untitled (Three Figures) is estimated at $20,000-$40,000. A fourth work Berlin acquired on a trip to Haiti, the oil-on-Masonite Fete du Morts by the Haitian artist Hector Hyppolite, is also on offer with an estimate of $80,000-$120,000.

The foursome was consigned from the estate of Mary Ellin Barrett, Irving Berlin’s eldest daughter, who often accompanied him on his trips and discussed them in her 1994 book Irving Berlin: A Daughter’s Memoir.

Sterling features art, furniture, decoratives and jewelry from Florida estates March 13

NORWOOD, N.J. – Sterling Associates has returned from Florida with two estates packed with art, furniture, and decorative accessories that will be featured in a boutique auction of 177 lots on Wednesday, March 13. The catalog is now open for bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

European furniture is led by a 19th-century Northern Italian ebony and bone inlaid marquetry cabinet flanked by a pair of matching armchairs. Stamping indicates the suite was originally sold by Edwards and Roberts of London. The set comes to auction with a $3,000-$5,000 estimate.

An even earlier production is a 17th- or 18th-century Italian carved and gilt Rococo throne chair. The seat and back are upholstered in period embroidered fabric, and it carries a $2,000-$3,000 estimate.

An elaborately carved 19th-century Chinese ebonized and marble-topped etagere display cabinet is another estate highlight. Standing an imposing 92in tall, this piece is estimated at $3,000-$4,000.

Mid-century modern design aficionados long to own a furnishing designed by Philip and Kelvin Laverne, but they can be pricey. For this reason, Sterling owner Stephen D’Atri believes there will be bidder interest in the Laverne side table on offer: “It’s a very attractive table that could be worked into almost any decorating theme, and the price is right,” he said. Its estimate is $1,000-$2,000.