Important 18th-century botanical book leads our five auction highlights

One of the 100 plates from Christoph Jacob Trew’s ‘Plantae Selectae’, which hammered for €34,000 ($36,635) and sold for €42,143 ($45,410) with buyer’s premium at Jeschke Jadi Auctions April 27.

Important 18th-century Botanical Book, $45,410

BERLIN, Germany – Published between 1750-73, Plantae selectae quarum imagines ad exemplaria naturalia Londini in hortis curiosorum (A selection of plants from natural specimens nurtured in London’s curious gardens) is considered the most important botanical work ever printed in Germany. Christoph Jacob Trew (1695-1769), a wealthy doctor and amateur botanist from Nuremberg, hired local engravers Johann Jacob Haid and Johann Elias Haid to produce the 100 plates that were based on drawings he had purchased piecemeal from the great flower painter Georg Dionysius Ehret (1708-1770). Beginning his working life as a gardener’s apprentice near Heidelberg, Ehret lived and worked in London in the 1740s when he associated with both Sir Hans Sloan and Phillip Miller at the Chelsea Physic Garden.

As Trew died before the last of the three parts had been finished, the project was only completed with the help of Benedict Christian Vogel, a professor of botany at the University of Altdorf.

The copy offered at Jeschke Jadi Auctions on April 27 was described as ‘extremely well-preserved with contemporary colouring of the plates’. Despite a relatively soft market for botanical plate books, it surpassed the €24,000-€30,000 ($25,860-$32,325) estimate to hammer for €34,000 ($36,635) and sell for €42,143 ($45,410) with buyer’s premium.

Mahogany Veneer Card Table with Carved Eagle Support, $35,200

Late Federal mahogany veneer card table with a carved spread-winged eagle support, which hammered for $27,500 and sold for $35,200 with buyer’s premium at Alderfer Auction April 25.
Late Federal mahogany veneer card table with a carved spread-winged eagle support, which hammered for $27,500 and sold for $35,200 with buyer’s premium at Alderfer Auction April 25.

HATFIELD, PA – A popular lot at Alderfer Auction on April 25 was this late Federal mahogany veneer card table with a carved spread-winged eagle support. Estimated at just $200-$300, it hammered for $27,500 and sold for $35,200 with buyer’s premium.

Tables with large eagle supports such as this were revived in England during the early 19th century, but only a few examples were made in America. Those hailing from the US are often attributed to the renowned cabinetmaker Duncan Phyfe (1769-1854), although other New York shops are known to have made card tables with related supports, including the firm of Deming and Bulkley.

Death Warrant for Madame Du Barry, Mistress of Louis XV, $30,000

Order of execution for Madame Du Barry, which hammered for $24,000 and sold for $30,000 with buyer’s premium at Potter & Potter April 18.
Order of execution for Madame Du Barry, which hammered for $24,000 and sold for $30,000 with buyer’s premium at Potter & Potter April 18.

CHICAGO – The 561-lot sale of more documents from the huge holdings of US manuscript collector Eric Caren at Potter & Potter on April 18 included the death warrant for Madame Du Barry (1743-1793), mistress of Louis XV. During the Reign of Terror, she was arrested, tried, and eventually executed by guillotine.

Under the simple letterhead of the Tribunal Revolutionnaire (the court instituted by the National Convention for the trial of political offenders), she is named as ‘Jeanne Vaubernier DuBarry’ and sentenced to death ‘tomorrow at 20.00’ at the Place de La Revolution. The part-printed, part-handwritten document is dated 10th Fumaire, 2nd year of the Revolution’ for December 7, 1793 and signed by a deputy of the public prosecutor. 

This remarkable survivor has been at auction at least three times before: at Christie’s London in May 1986, at Christie’s New York in May 1991, and at Bonhams New York in April 2016 when, as part of an auction titled When History Unfolds: Treasures from the Caren Archives, it was estimated at $7,000-$10,000 and was passed. When it reappeared in Chicago on April 22, it had an estimate of $4,000-$6,000 and made $24,000 ($30,000 with buyer’s premium), selling to an online bidder via LiveAuctioneers.

Madame du Barry, who was also known as Mademoiselle Vaubernier, was born Jeanne Bécu, the illegitimate child of a monk and a dressmaker. Educated in a convent, she worked as a dame de compagnie to an elderly widow, a grisette in a haberdashery, and finally at a brothel-casino, where she was introduced to the aristocratic gambler Jean du Barry. She was brought to the attention of Louis XV in April 1769, becoming the king’s official paramour following the death of Madame de Pompadour. 

After Louis XV died in 1774, she was briefly banished to a nunnery before retiring to a country estate, and at the outset of the French Revolution had fled to England. However, after returning to France for a visit in 1792, she was arrested on suspicion of financially assisting émigrés who had fled the revolution.

Sèvres Orange-ground Partial Tea Set, $10,880

Sèvres orange-ground partial tea set, which hammered for $8,500 and sold for $10,880 with buyer’s premium at Stair April 24.Sèvres orange-ground partial tea set, which hammered for $8,500 and sold for $10,880 with buyer’s premium at Stair April 24.
Sèvres orange-ground partial tea set, which hammered for $8,500 and sold for $10,880 with buyer’s premium at Stair April 24.

HUDSON, NY – While the Sèvres factory was at its peak in the 18th century and the Napoleonic era, there is increasing recognition from both curators and collectors of the factory’s output during the Bourbon Restoration (1815-30). The pieces from an orange-ground tea set offered by Stair on April 24 carried a stenciled mark of interlacing ‘L’s and a fleur-de-lys dating them to 1814-24 and the reign of Louis XVIII. It consisted of 10 teacups and saucers, a footed bowl, a sugar bowl with cover, and a tall milk jug. Together estimated at $600-$800, the partial service hammered for $8,500 and sold for $10,880 with buyer’s premium. It came from the estate of the dealer James Grafstein, a specialist in French decorative arts who trained at the Louvre. 

Circa-1350 Monastic Rule Book, $105,600

Circa-1350 copy of ‘The Rules of St Augustine of Hippo’, which hammered for $80,000 and sold for $105,600 with buyer’s premium at Doyle May 1.
Circa-1350 copy of ‘The Rules of St Augustine of Hippo’, which hammered for $80,000 and sold for $105,600 with buyer’s premium at Doyle May 1.

NEW YORK – The Rare Books, Autographs & Maps sale at Doyle New York on May 1 was led by an English medieval liturgical manuscript – a circa-1350 copy of The Rules of St. Augustine of Hippo. According to a coeval addendum, this monastic rule book was part of the library of the Llanthony Secunda in Gloucestershire, England. The monastery was founded by an Augustinian cell that had been driven out of its original setting on the Welsh Marches by border unrest. 

The 9 by 51/2in (23 by 14cm) codex of 48 folios includes a large six-line initial of St Augustine at his desk and additional decorative initials in red and blue. It is possible that the book was part of the donation of John Leeche, who bequeathed 57 manuscripts to Llanthony in 1361, but is perhaps more likely to be a domestic production of the priory scriptorium itself. Later bound in 18th-century brown calf leather, it was owned by the Georgian antiquary Anthony Gifford, whose bookplate now appears on the front free endpaper. It was apparently sold in 1776 at auction by the firm of Baker and Leigh, which later took the name Sotheby’s. 

The Rules of St. Augustine is among the earliest of all monastic rules, written around the year 400. The additional commentary was widely thought to be the writings by Hugh of Saint Victor (circa 1096-1141), although an exact attribution has not yet been settled. Estimated at $8,000-$12,000, this copy hammered for $80,000 and sold for $105,600 with buyer’s premium.

Unusual figural study by Birger Sandzen highlights Soulis June 6-7

Birger Sandzen, figural study, estimated at $8,000-$10,000 at Soulis.

LONE JACK, MO — A highly unusual figural study by Birger Sandzen is one of the more intriguing lots highlighting Soulis Auctions‘ 26th Annual Spring Fine Art Auction, scheduled for Thursday, June 6 and Friday, June 7.

Best known for his landscapes, Sandzen (1871-1954) was still in Sweden and studying under Anders Zorn, who is remembered as a painter of nudes and portraits and as a painter of light, when this work was created.

“Rather than being a landscape or perhaps a floral still life from the second quarter of the 20th century, like most Sandzen works on the market, this is from the late 19th century, and it’s a fascinating example of the student displaying their talent by doing just what their instructor must have been directing them to,” said Dirk Soulis of Soulis Auctions, adding, “It’s easy to see in this painting the influence of the Swedish artist Anders Zorn, under whom Sandzen was studying at the time. The painting says something about skill and development while at the same time being an attractive work.”

The 1892 Sandzen study is estimated at $8,000-$10,000, and is one of eight Sandzen items in the sale.

Soulis has also assembled an impressive two dozen-plus signed lithographs from Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), many of them dating to the well-known Associated American Artists issues. Jesse James is dated 1936 and features Benton’s interesting blend of warped perspective and human interactions. The signed lithograph is estimated at $10,000-$15,000.

Peter Helck (1893-1988) is known as the ‘dean of automotive illustration,’ and rightly so. He created a huge number commercial artworks of American vehicles during many decades. Chevrolet 3100 Series at Work is a circa-1950 piece that may have never been published. As Soulis’ notes state, “the dynamic composition and the attention to detail, classic hallmarks of Peter Helck’s work, are executed at a higher level here than in any other examples of the artist’s known body of illustration art.” The 21.5 by 22in work is estimated at $5,000-$7,000.

Also of interest is a 1947 terra cotta maquette by Wheeler Williams (1897-1972). “Wheeler was known for Art Deco influence architecture and installations, which I love,” said Soulis. “I’m curious about the germination of this piece and how it fits into his oeuvre, since there are no records I could find of any other unique terra cotta works like this. But the puzzle in this is wondering about the experiences of the man who created it.”

“Wheeler was a lieutenant in the American Balloon Corps during World War I, and the sculpture was a gift to a fellow soldier, along with two books by the artist about his sculpture,” Soulis continued. “One of the books was inscribed to ‘my fellow Baloonatic’. Their job was very dangerous, and it’s interesting to see a completely different side of the man.”

Raimonds Staprans, George E. Hughes, and Norman Rockwell shine at John Moran June 11

Raimonds Staprans, 'Blue Skies, Red Paint,' estimated at $100,000-$200,000 at John Moran.

MONROVIA, CA — A wealth of talent is on display in John Moran‘s 140-plus lot Modern and Contemporary Fine Art sale scheduled for Tuesday, June 11. The complete catalog is now available for review and bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

Two mid-1990s works by Raimonds Staprans (b. 1926-) lead the sale. Blue Skies, Red Paint dates to 1994 and features the artist’s standard bold use of color while depicting everyday objects in a flattened perspective. As the top-estimated lot in the sale, the painting is anticipated at $100,000-$200,000. A 1996 work titled A Can and Orange is considerably more accessible at $10,000-$20,000.

The career of George E. Hughes (1907-1990) reads like a compendium of 20th-century America. He began his career doing illustrations for magazines such as Vanity Fair and House and Garden, and eventually ended up at The Saturday Evening Post, where he continued to provide illustrations long after photography had come to dominate magazine artwork. Indeed, his final Post contribution was in 1971. Don’t Block The Driveway is a 1953 Post cover and is accompanied by a copy of the December 12, 1953 issue. It is estimated at $25,000-$35,000.

Gossiping Neighbor, titled by repute, is a Hughes Post cover from the May 12, 1951 issue. Also accompanied by the actual magazine for which it was created, the work is similarly estimated at $25,000-$35,000.

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) is best remembered for his Americana depictions in The Saturday Evening Post. The Land of Enchantment is a study he created prior to the final artwork that would appear as a spread in the December 22, 1934 issue. Rockwell gave it to fellow artist Charles E. Charlton of Alhambra, California, whose grandchild has consigned it to Moran. The unsigned watercolor, ink, and graphite on paper laid to board is estimated at $20,000-$30,000.