New England and midwestern 19th-century silver holloware arrives at SJ Auctioneers May 26

Ford & Tupper 1871 Sterling Silver Stag Tureen Bowl, estimated at $2,800-$3,800 at SJ Auctioneers.

BROOKLYN, NY — Hollowares from heyday of American silver manufacturing will appear at SJ Auctioneers on Sunday, May 26. Bidding for the array of late 19th- and early 20th-century domestic silver forms by eminent and preeminent New England and Midwest makers is available online at LiveAuctioneers.

Estimated at $1,500-$2,000 each are handwrought Gilded Age wares by Lebolt & Co. and Dominick & Haff.

The name of Chicago firm Lebolt, active from circa 1908, is stamped to a set of side plates, each worked to the border in high relief with narcissus and engraved with a large monogram to the center. The 12 plates weigh around 40 ounces in total.

Some exceptional repoussé and chasing work can be seen to a 36-ounce basket by Dominick & Haff, the New York City firm co-founded by Henry Blanchard Dominick and Leroy B. Haff in 1872. The workshop’s best wares are in the Aesthetic style, with this hand-hammered centerpiece worked in high relief with swags of flowers and foliage.

Collectors of Gorham’s Grande Chantilly pattern, first introduced in 1895, will be drawn to a pair of covered tureens weighing 68 ounces and estimated at $2,900-$3,600, while those wishing to make a similar statement at dinner may consider an 85-ounce punch bowl with an applied rope-twist border and chased and engraved neoclassical decoration marked for Barbour and estimated at $3,500-$4,400. The firm operated in Hartford, Connecticut under this name from 1892, but in 1898 it became one of the founding companies of International Sterling, the conglomerate of New England silversmiths that united to form the world’s largest manufacturer of silverware.

The New York firm of Patrick Ford and Jonas Tupper, the successor to Ford Tupper & Behan, was active between 1867 and 1874. It made some good quality silver in the prevailing fashion of the day, such as a pedestal tureen and cover with handles cast as stag heads and a standing stag finial. Engraved with the monogram MWB and the date February 21, 1871, it weighs 48 ounces and is estimated at $2,800-$3,800.

James Dixon’s ‘Cutty Sark’ leads our five auction highlights

‘Cutty Sark’ by James Dixon, which sold for €40,800 ($43,510) with buyer’s premium at Adam’s on April 16.

‘Cutty Sark’, James Dixon, $43,510

DUBLIN – A picture by the Irish folk artist James Dixon soared above estimate to bring a record sum at Adam’s Auctioneers on April 16. 

James Dixon (1921-2006) – a native of Tory Island, the isolated spit of land off the northwest coast of Ireland – worked for most of his life as a tenant farmer and a fisherman, only beginning to paint during the 1950s. Like British fisherman and artist Alfred Wallis (1855-1942), he was largely self-taught and preferred boat paint to oils and board and paper to canvas. Although ‘discovered’ in the early 1960s by the English artist Derek Hill (1916-2000), he continued to paint with brushes he made himself from donkey hair. In 1999 and 2000, his work was exhibited at both the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, and Tate St Ives in England in the show Two Artists: James Dixon and Alfred Wallis.

The picture that led the Adam’s sale, titled Irish Vernacular, was relatively large at 22in by 2ft 6in (55 by 76cm) and showed the famous tea clipper Cutty Sark set against an expanse of blue sea. Akin to many Dixon works, it was accompanied by a full description in the bottom right-hand corner of the composition, which read ‘Cutty Sark, the famous British Windjammer by James Dixon,’ with the date obscured beneath the frame. It was among the works exhibited by London gallery Desmond Fine Art in July 1990 at a show titled Contemporary Artists from Ireland

Estimated at €8,000-€12,000 ($8,535-$12,800), it hammered for €36,000 ($38,395) and sold for €40,800 ($43,510) with buyer’s premium, seemingly the highest price for Dixon at auction. The previous high was the £9,500 ($11,755) paid for a picture of the same size titled The First Fleetwood Trawler that Ever Fish Back of Tory Island that was dated ’18 01 1968′. It sold at Cheffins in Cambridge in February 2020, having been acquired by the vendor at one of Dixon’s first commercial exhibitions at the Portal Gallery in London in 1968. 

Chevrot-era Bru JNE Bisque Porcelain French Bebe Doll, $85,890

Circa-1884 Chevro-era Bru JNE bisque porcelain French Bebe doll, which sold for €80,600 ($85,890) with buyer’s premium at Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion on April 13.
Circa-1884 Chevro-era Bru JNE bisque porcelain French Bebe doll, which sold for €80,600 ($85,890) with buyer’s premium at Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion on April 13.

LADENBURG, Germany – Doll collectors sit up and take notice when a Chevrot-era Bru JNE French Bebe doll comes to market. That was certainly the case when one was offered in Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion’s Antique Toy Auction, held April 13.

A truly fine example hand-assembled by company leader Leon Casimir Bru and his wife Appolyne around 1884, the Bru JNE boasted elaborate costuming by Appolyne with a head masterfully sculpted by their designer R. Barrios. As the notes detailed, the doll featured ‘a bisque porcelain breast plate that is bordered with leather with suggested  childish breasts, fix-inset blue paperweight eyes, closed mouth with defined spacing, slightly modelled tongue, very distinct upper lip, shaded lips and delicate outer contours, pierced earlobes, original leather body in Chevrot-style with jointed hip and wooden feet, bisque forearms and hands, blond curly mohair wig on an original cork cover, red earring, elaborate red original silk dress, with suitable hood and umbrella for stroll, red socks, red original shoes with marking Bru Jne 9.’

Considered by the house to be generally excellent, it did note that the doll’s right thumb was inconspicuously restored. Collectors didn’t care. Estimated at €6,500-€13,000 ($6,910-$13,820), dozens of bids sent the final hammer to €65,000 ($69,230), or €80,600 ($85,890) with buyer’s premium.

Mid-19th-century French Camera Lens, $6,350

Mid-1850s French camera lens signed by Theodore Jean Jamin, which sold for $6,350 with buyer’s premium at Austin Auction Gallery on April 12.
Mid-1850s French camera lens signed by Theodore Jean Jamin, which sold for $6,350 with buyer’s premium at Austin Auction Gallery on April 12.

AUSTIN, TX – Leading the April 12 sale of the Sam Westfall collection of antique cameras and magic lanterns at Austin Auction Gallery was an early French camera lens – the Cone Centralisateur. This petzval design, with a large cone in the rear to avoid reflections, was the flagship lens of instrument-maker Theodore Jean Jamin and his business partner Darlot Alphonse. First sold in 1854, it offered better optical quality than most of its rivals, and could be used as both a portrait and a landscape lens. 

Most examples carry the names of both Jamin and Darlot (who assumed control of the business in the early 1860s) or just the name Darlot. However, this one signed only for Jamin and his workshop at 14 Rue Chapon, Paris has the early serial number 1730, dating it to the mid-1850s. Estimated at $600-$800, it sold for $6,350 with buyer’s premium. 

Italian 18th-century Oil-on-panel of Eight Faces with Grotesque Expressions, $77,895

Neapolitan 18th-century oil-on-panel study of character heads, which sold for €73,025 ($77,895) with buyer’s premium at Bertolami Fine Arts on April 18.
Neapolitan 18th-century oil-on-panel study of character heads, which sold for €73,025 ($77,895) with buyer’s premium at Bertolami Fine Arts on April 18.

ROME – Current collecting taste means that Old Master paintings exploring the darker side of the human character can often find more admirers than more typical subject matter of Georgian gentleman or European landscapes. Works of the grotesque are particularly popular. 

Bertolami Fine Arts’ April 18 sale titled Old Master & 19th Century Paintings included an intriguing 18th-century Italian oil on panel depicting eight gurning heads, along with a cat, a snake, and two birds. Estimated at €1,300-€2,500 ($1,385-$2,665), it hammered for €57,500 ($61,335) and sold for €73,025 ($77,895) with buyer’s premium.

The cataloging suggested the 18 by 21in (46 by 53cm) image may depict the Seven Deadly Sins – pride, wrath, greed, lust, et al – but it is more probably an exercise in the pseudoscience of physiognomy, or what the French artist Charles Le Brun called ‘the passions.’ 

In his hugely influential 1698 treatise Méthode pour apprendre à dessiner les passions (Method for learning to draw passions), Le Brun outlined the various facial expressions and the complex geometry of the skull, which he believed revealed the faculties of the spirit and the condition of the soul. Several of the heads in this composition appear to be based on Le Brun’s engravings, which for nearly two centuries provided the textbook illustrations of human emotion.

Clement Massier Art Nouveau Vase, $20,480

Clement Massier Art Nouveau vase, which sold for $20,480 with buyer’s premium at Abell Auction on April 17.
Clement Massier Art Nouveau vase, which sold for $20,480 with buyer’s premium at Abell Auction on April 17.

LOS ANGELES – Abell’s April 17 sale included a spectacular Art Nouveau vase from the workshop of French ceramicist Clement Massier – this 2ft (61cm) high vessel decorated with iridescent violet and purple bats in flight against a ground of pine needles. It appeared at auction as part of the collection of Toni Lynn Russo, one-time wife of legendary lyricist Bernie Taupin. 

Many of the best Massier luster pieces were designed by the Symbolist painter Lucian Lévy-Dhurmer, who served as artistic director of the studio at Golfe-Juan near Cannes, France between 1880 and 1895. They were sold from a salon in Paris opened around the turn of the 20th century. 

This large vase was not in perfect condition. There were several stable hairline cracks throughout its body and evidence of professional repairs to its mouth and neck. However, modestly estimated at $1,000-$2,000, it hammered for $16,000 and sold for $20,480 with buyer’s premium.

Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley signed contract letters lead Forum Auctions’ May 30 sale

Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley signed contract letters, estimated at £15,000-£20,000 ($19,000-$25,000) at Forum Auctions.

LONDON — Original contract letters agreed to and signed by Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley are included in Forum Auctions’ Thursday, May 30 sale of Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper.

The correspondence, which secured Beardsley’s illustrated contributions to some of Wilde’s best-known works, is estimated at £15,000-£20,000 ($19,000-$25,000).

Dated June 8 and August 3, 1893, the contract letters formed an agreement between four parties: Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley, and the publishers Elkin Mathews and John Lane.

They reference the publication of Salomé, one of the most important literary and artistic collaborations of the period, and also Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, and The Duchess of Padua, as well as the unrealized enlarged version of The Portrait of Mr WH.

The agreement followed just months after the publication of Beardsley’s famous image of Salomé embracing the severed head of John the Baptist, which had piqued Wilde’s interest when it appeared in the first issue of Studio magazine in April 1893. The young artist, a relative unknown at the time, was to be paid the considerable fee of 50 guineas for his work.

Also offered in this London sale is a complete set of four circa-1890 Beatrix Potter illustrations covering the nursery rhyme This Pig Went to Market. The quartet was previously sold as part of the Hyde-Parker family collection at Sotheby’s in 1999, and again at a Sotheby’s sale of Children’s Books and Illustrations in 2012, when they were acquired by the present owners. As the only surviving complete set of illustrations by the artist for a nursery rhyme, it has an estimate of £60,000-£80,000 ($75,000-$100,000).

Circa-1900 water wheel novelty clock featured at Cottone May 30-31

Bronze Gravity Ball Waterwheel Industrial Clock, estimated at $15,000-$25,000 at Cottone.

GENESEO, NY — An ingenious timepiece requiring no springs but only gravity is a top lot at Cottone Auctions on Thursday, May 30, part of its two-day Art & Antiques and Antiques & Clocks sale May 30-31. The full catalogs are now available for review and bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

Made of gilt bronze and resting on an onyx base, the clock dates to 1900 and is virtually identical to the one exhibited at the Exposition Universelle of 1900. Outfitted with both a thermometer and a barometer, the clock uses a compound congreve design. As the clock runs and the large wheel slowly rotates, it allows a ball to escape once per minute down the three-tier track into the conveyor belt. When activated by the movement, the belt lifts and another ball is allowed to roll into the track above and then drop into the wheel.

The clock is in operating order and is estimated at $15,000-$25,000.

The sale includes nine Seth Thomas clocks, led by a Regulator No. 14 clock. Standing tall at 8ft 4in, the 1886-dated timepiece is made of carved burl and walnut with a nice patina, an original 14in silver-plated dial, and is signed Seth Thomas. It is estimated at $10,000-$15,000.

Edward Howard and Charles Rice formed E. Howard & Co. in 1858, after the Boston Watch Company went out of business. They specialized in high-end timepieces that are sought by collectors worldwide. The Cottone sale includes 11 examples of their work, including a Regulator No. 12 standing 5ft 2in in height. This model was first released in 1858 and performs eight-day time with its glass jar pendulum. From a private midwest collection, it is estimated at $6,000-$8,000.

Day one showcases 30 Tiffany Studios pieces, making an impressive presentation. Among the highlights are a fine Clematis hanging light fixture with a drop-height of 39in and a diameter of 29in. Made of leaded glass and patinated bronze, the fixture is impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS NEW YORK 1604-11. It carries an estimate of $50,000-$80,000.