Alexander Calder tapestry ‘The Star’ leads our five auction highlights

The Star, a tapestry after Alexander Calder, which hammered for $30,000 and sold for $38,400 with buyer’s premium at Roland New York.

Alexander Calder Tapestry, The Star, $38,400

The Star, a tapestry after Alexander Calder, which hammered for $30,000 and sold for $38,400 with buyer’s premium at Roland New York.
The Star, a tapestry after Alexander Calder, which hammered for $30,000 and sold for $38,400 with buyer’s premium at Roland New York.

GLEN COVE, N.Y. – Alexander Calder (1898-1976) first produced designs for tapestries made at the Aubusson factory in the early 1960s. However, most that come to auction – such as that offered for sale at Roland New York auction house on February 20 – were made by weavers in Guatemala a decade later. These works (the Calder Foundation calls them unauthorized) were part of a fundraising initiative to help victims of an earthquake that had hit Nicaragua and Guatemala in December 1972. Local workers, using traditional techniques and jute rather than wool, were paid four times their usual rate to complete the project. There are 14 different designs, with each made in an edition of 100.

The example at Roland NY is known as The Star and is numbered 96 of 100 and dated 1975. Inscribed Hecho En Guatemala (Made in Guatemala) it measures 4ft 8in by 7ft. It hammered for $30,000 and sold for $38,400 with buyer’s premium against an estimate of $10,000-$20,000, going to a bidder who used LiveAuctioneers.

In November 2023, the Paris auction house Piasa offered a complete set of the 14 Calder weavings that had been owned by Kitty Meyer, the New York socialite who had first approached Calder with the earthquake fundraising idea. All numbered 53 of 100, they brought hammer prices between €30,000-€60,000, with The Star hammering for €46,000 and selling for €59,800 ($64,895) with buyer’s premium.

Snappy the Happy Bubble Blowing Dragon Toy, $8,100

Snappy the Happy Bubble Blowing Dragon toy by Marx, which hammered for $6,750 and sold for $8,100 with buyer’s premium at Weiss Auctions.
Snappy the Happy Bubble Blowing Dragon toy by Marx, which hammered for $6,750 and sold for $8,100 with buyer’s premium at Weiss Auctions.

LYNBROOK, N.Y. – Snappy the Happy Bubble Blowing Dragon is a scarce battery-operated toy made by Marx in Japan in the 1960s. With its stop and go mechanism, it weaves its way along the floor, flashing its lights, turning its head, and blowing bubbles. Nose to tail, it measures around 3ft 3in across.

A relatively expensive toy at the time of manufacture, fewer than a dozen examples are known today with the original pictorial box intact.

The example offered as part of the Vintage Toys, Boats, and Advertising sale at Weiss Auctions on February 21 was play-worn but in largely functioning order and in its box. It hammered for $6,750 and sold for $8,100 with buyer’s premium against an estimate of $1,600-$3,200.

Herter Bros Slipper Chair made for the Vanderbilt Family, $38,400

Herter Bros slipper chair made for the Vanderbilt family, which hammered for $30,000 and sold for $38,400 with buyer’s premium at Bonhams Skinner.
Herter Bros slipper chair made for the Vanderbilt family, which hammered for $30,000 and sold for $38,400 with buyer’s premium at Bonhams Skinner.

MARLBOROUGH, Mass. – This Herter Bros inlaid rosewood and upholstered slipper chair was part of a suite made for the Vanderbilt family circa 1881-82. Two chairs and an ottoman numbered 453-455 from the same suite resided in one of the bedrooms of the William H. Vanderbilt residence on Fifth Avenue, New York, with this chair, numbered 452, previously owned by Gladys Moore Vanderbilt, Countess Szechenyi, at The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island.

She was the granddaughter of William H. Vanderbilt and she inherited The Breakers upon the death of her mother, Alice Claypoole Vanderbilt, wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt II. Gladys’s daughter, also Countess Szechenyi, had an apartment at The Breakers until her death in 1998.

These Herter-Vanderbilt pieces are among the most desirable of all Gilded Age furnishings. Offered as part of Bonhams Skinner’s February 21 Modern Design sale, it was estimated at $8,000-$12,000, hammered for $30,000, and sold for $38,400 with buyer’s premium.

Circa-1740 English Doll with a Petticoat Lined with Newspaper Stories About a Murder, $34,900

The petticoats of a circa-1740 English wooden doll were dated by the newspapers lining their interior. The doll that wore them hammered for £22,000 and sold for £27,500 ($34,900) with buyer’s premium at Special Auction Services.
The petticoats of a circa-1740 English wooden doll were dated by the newspapers lining their interior. The doll that wore them hammered for £22,000 and sold for £27,500 ($34,900) with buyer’s premium at Special Auction Services.

NEWBURY, UK – The first part of what Special Auction Services billed as “the largest and most valuable doll collection seen at auction for 25 years” went under the hammer on February 22.

Austin Smith and his late partner Margaret Harkins began collecting in 1949, eventually amassing more than 1,000 antique dolls and accessories. A second tranche of the collection will be offered later this year.

The best-seller in February was a circa-1740 English wooden doll in an ornate yellow gown, which carried an estimate of £8,000-£12,000 ($10,150-$15,230) but hammered for £22,000 and sold for £27,500 ($34,900) with buyer’s premium. Her petticoat was made from a broadsheet newspaper that featured the murder of a young maid by her mistress and daughter. Elizabeth (1673-1740) and Mary Branch (1716-1740) from Taunton, Somerset, England, were convicted of beating to death a servant girl, Jane Buttersworth, in 1740.

The top-estimated lot was Peggy, a circa-1765 English wooden doll that was assigned the range of £10,000-£15,000 ($12,690-$19,035) but dipped just below it, hammering for £9,500 and selling for £11,875 ($15,070) with buyer’s premium. Although legless, she wore her original clothes and was being sold with family provenance.

The doll came with a note addressed Peggy and dated 1846 that read: ‘This article belonged to Mrs. Douch, 7 Hill Street, Walworth, and has been in the family near 120 years.’ The auction house noted that while this would take the doll’s provenance back to the 1720s, its clothing dates it to the middle of the 18th century. Peggy was sold originally at Sotheby’s to Kay Desmonde, author of the 1984 book Dolls, 100 Colour Photographs, for £1,250 (roughly $1,585).

Rosalba Carriera Portrait of a Young Friar, $85,940

‘Portrait of a Young Friar’, a pastel on paper by Rosalba Carriera that hammered for €60,000 and sold for €79,200 ($85,940) with buyer’s premium at Lucas Milano SRL.
‘Portrait of a Young Friar’, a pastel on paper by Rosalba Carriera that hammered for €60,000 and sold for €79,200 ($85,940) with buyer’s premium at Lucas Milano SRL.

MILAN, Italy – This 18th-century pastel-on-paper portrait of a young friar has many hallmarks of the work of the Venetian painter Rosalba Carriera (1675-1757).

Often cited as one of the most commercially successful women artists of the 18th century – she painted literally hundreds of pastel portraits for the great and the good of courtly Europe – Carriera is increasingly appreciated as more than just ‘the greatest woman artist of her day’. She set rather than followed artistic trends. She was influential in introducing the rococo style and helped popularize the medium of pastels in 18th-century Europe. As a miniaturist, she was one of the first painters to use ivory instead of vellum as a support.

Most of these facts had been lost to art history because her work rapidly went out of fashion as the desire for the rococo waned. However, it is indicative of current collecting trends and the upswell of interest in ‘the female gaze’ that this relatively modest example of her craft created huge interest at Lucas Milano SRL’s February 20 sale. Authenticated by Italian art specialist Dr Dario Succi, the 21 by 18in (52 by 41cm) image of a Dominican monk was estimated at €6,000-€9,000, hammered for €60,000 and sold for €79,200 ($85,940) with buyer’s premium.

Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, Hockney, and Johns highlight Moran’s California Living sale March 26

LOS ANGELES— John Moran Auctioneers‘ first California Living sale of 2024 features the Marmor family collection, which focused on art of the 1960s and 1970s, including works by Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, David Hockney, and Jasper Johns. The sale also has pieces by Sam Maloof, Jonathan Adler, and other mid-century icons. The complete catalog is now open for bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

Drs. Judd and Katherine Marmor were well acquainted in the LA art scene during the last half of the 20th century. They forged connections with modern and contemporary artists such as William N. Copley, George Herms, Ed Kienholz, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, Frank Stella, and H. C. Westermann. The couple built a large collection of prints and assemblages, were founding members of the Museum of Contemporary Art, and were long-time supporters of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Through their acumen and purchases from artists’ studios and galleries, their collection represents a microcosm of Los Angeles art from this influential period.

Leading the offerings in the Marmor collection is a steel sculpture by Sir Anthony Alfred Caro, Table Piece CCCLXXIII. Caro (1924-2013) was an English abstract sculptor whose work is characterized by assemblages of metal using found industrial objects. Considered one of the greatest British sculptors of his generation, Caro’s 1977 work carries a $40,000-$60,000 estimate.

Peter Alexander (1939-2020) was a member of the Light and Space artist movement in 1960s-era Southern California. Notable for his resin sculptures, the Moran sale includes his Grey Wedge, a 1969 floor sculpture that tapers from a smoky black to a clear resin. It is estimated at $20,000-$30,000.

Highlighting the selection of fine art is Jade Hole, a 1980 work by Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008). He is known for his groundbreaking work in printmaking and photography, inspiring countless innovations and pushing the boundaries of what was possible in the realm of contemporary art. Estimated at $40,000-$60,000, Jade Hole is an example of Rauschenberg’s use of his own photography and multi-media processes, a testament to his commitment to innovation and experimentation.

One of the artists the Marmors befriended was an influential figure in the post-war art world: William Copley (1919-1996). Renowned for his vibrant and audacious pieces that challenged conventional artistic norms, Copley’s body of work is a rich tapestry of narrative compositions, featuring curvilinear figures, bold contours, and a vibrant palette of colors. His legacy is a vital link between European Surrealism and American Pop art, and his Haut Boy from 1970 is estimated at $30,000-$50,000.

Jasper Johns’ Light Bulb from his 1969 Lead Reliefs series is estimated at $20,000-$30,000. The relief is a profound exploration of American cultural symbols encapsulated in lead, revealing the artist’s enduring fascination with mundane objects and their transformation into potent symbols of meaning. The series encapsulates Johns’ lifelong endeavor to destabilize and recontextualize the ordinary, transforming “things the mind already knows” into objects of contemplation and intrigue. At the heart of this piece lies the enigmatic presence of the light bulb, a motif that recurs throughout Johns’ career as a symbol of illumination and artistic creation. The Light Bulb lead relief represents a pivotal moment in Johns’ artistic evolution, showcasing his mastery of medium and his relentless pursuit of visual and conceptual complexity.

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) was another artist the Marmors were fortunate to have in their social circle. The couple’s vast print collection included many Lichtensteins, 16 of which are featured in this sale. Among the offerings are CRAK! from 1964, estimated at $15,000-$20,000; multiple works from his 1969 Haystack Series and 1972’s Mirror Series, each estimated at $8,000-$12,000; and examples from his 1970 Modern Head series, with  estimates ranging from $10,000-$20,000. Lichtenstein’s Modern Head series, created in the 1970s, stands as a critical dismantling of the history of Modern Art. This series represents a shift in Lichtenstein’s approach, moving away from mass-produced imagery towards the appropriation of stylistic conventions and specific works of Modern masters, including Picasso, Monet, Matisse, and Mondrian. Each work in the Modern Head series was produced using a distinct commercial printing process, including woodcut, lithography, line-cut, embossing, and die-cut paper overlay.

Telegram informing Grant of Lincoln’s assassination comes to Early American March 30

April 14, 1865 telegram informing Ulysses S. Grant of Lincoln's assassination, estimated at $20,000-$40,000 at Early American.

WINCHESTER, Va. — Nearly 240 lots of historic artifacts — some dating to the Revolutionary War — head to market Saturday, March 30 at Early American History Auctions. The complete catalog is now open for review and bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

With Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox just five days earlier, President Abraham Lincoln asked Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant and his wife to accompany him and Mrs. Lincoln to Ford’s Theater to see My American Cousin. Grant’s war-weary wife asked her husband instead to visit their cottage in Burlington, New Jersey, so the Grants politely declined and boarded a Pennsylvania Railroad private coach headed north. As the train pulled into the PRR’s Philadelphia station, a telegram clerk rushed the coach and asked the conductor — who had wisely locked the door with his pass key — to open it so he could hand Grant this American Telegraph Company (precursor to AT&T) telegram he had just received. It read, in the clerk’s hand:

Dated Wash(ington) 14 1865. — Red’d, Philadelphia (no time recorded)
To Lt Genl Grant — An attempt has been made tonight to assassinate the Presdt & secy Seward & has probably succeeded as both have been wounded suffered mortally – The Presidt was shot in Fords Theatre, this is for your information to put on your guard — (Signed) Jno (John) A(aron) Rawlins chf of staff

Grant’s wife Julia’s desire to go on a much-needed restful getaway probably saved their lives, and there is some speculation one of John Wilkes Booth’s accomplices had tried to enter the locked coach to assassinate Grant. Indeed, when taking a private carriage to the train station in Washington, they were likely stalked by Booth. As Julia related in her memoirs, a man “at a sweeping gallop on a dark horse” rode past their carriage, glaring at General Grant, then turned his horse around and rode back past them, again glaring at Grant. This one-of-a-kind historic document is estimated at $20,000-$40,000.

Paul Revere, Jr. (1734-1818) is best remembered for his fateful night ride alerting the Minutemen to the advance of the British Army, but he was also known for his silversmith business. This spoon dates to 1780, is marked REVERE, and is hand-inscribed by Revere with W W*M to LW. The lot is estimated at $12,000-$18,000.

The fall of Richmond, capital of the Confederate States of America, marked the collapse of the political and military center of the Confederacy. The rebel government fled Richmond on April 3, 1865 as Union forces occupied the city. Only days later, on April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the Civil War. This broadside marks the occasion with UNION VICTORY! and similar celebratory language. It is estimated at $10,000-$20,000.

French General Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, played a key role in the Revolutionary War when General George Washington gave him command of the Continental Army. Lafayette won the siege of Yorktown, the decisive and final victory of the war. In 1824, Lafayette attended the laying of the corner stone of the Bunker Hill Monument. This portrait textile depicts the elderly Lafayette in attendance and the house notes this example is not listed in Threads of History, the Smithsonian publication. It carries an estimate of $4,500-$6,500.



Extraordinarily rare ‘ashcan’ comics by DC offered at PBA March 28

Double Action Comics #2, estimated at $20,000-$30,000 at PBA.

BERKELEY, Calif. — Part 2 of the DC Universe Collection, titled Pre-Hero, Ashcans and Oddities, comes to PBA Galleries on Thursday, March 28. The 166-lot sale focuses on the earliest days of DC (then known as National Allied Publications), beginning with its first publication, Fun, released in February 1935. The complete catalog is now available for review and bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

As the sale is comprised entirely of pre-super hero titles, the majority of the lots are more historic than top-dollar, though condition is generally quite good. As a result, there will be tremendous buying opportunities for those looking to complete their collections with pre-Detective Comics titles from National Allied Publications. Founded by former U.S. Army Cavalry Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, the company was the first to publish entirely original content in a magazine format versus recycling newspaper comics, which had been the norm.

One of the more interesting elements to the sale is the inclusion of ‘ashcan’ comics. DC was a pioneer in the practice, which involved creating ‘dummy’ comics — often with black-and-white covers using recycled artwork — to fool United States Patent and Trademark Office clerks into issuing copyright protection to, say, a new name for a comic. As such, often only two copies were ever made — often by hand: one for the USPTO clerks, and one for DC’s files.

Flash Comics #1 is considered the holy grail of DC comics collecting. Produced in December 1939 with cover art recycled from Adventure Comics #41 and interior content from All-American Comics #8, it tops Gerber’s Photo-Journal Guide Scarcity Index with a solid 10 (“Unique: Less than 5 copies known”). At the time, the company had rebranded to National Periodical Publications and found themselves in a creative battle with rival Fawcett Publications over the use of the term ‘Flash.’ Fawcett was set to launch Captain Marvel under the ‘Flash Comics’ brand, but this ashcan secured the naming rights for NPP instead. The ashcan edition is estimated at $20,000-$30,000.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster are well-known as the creators of Superman, who debuted in NPP’s Action Comics #1 in April of 1938. Less well known is that Siegel and Shuster, before coming to NPP, self-published what today would be known as a ‘fanzine’ titled Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization. The sale includes #3 of the self-published series, and is the only known copy to have been later signed by both Siegel and Shuster. Most notably, #3 marks the first appearance of the Superman character in a story titled Reign of the Superman. This publication carries an estimate of $20,000-$30,000.

Described by Comic Book Marketplace as “one of the 20 rarest Golden Age books” is Double Action Comics #2. Released in January 1940, only eight copies are known. Since it recycled content from various earlier publications, some collectors were led to believe it was an ashcan edition, but PBA quotes a comment from Reddit as the best explanation: “Double Action Comics was an experiment by DC to see if black and white comic books would sell, and was apparently printed in small numbers and test marketed at newsstands in Connecticut in late 1939.” It is estimated at $20,000-$30,000.