GENESEO, N.Y. – Two rediscovered marble busts by the French 18th century sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon (French, Versailles 1741-1828 Paris) sold for a combined $1.5 million at the Fine Art & Antiques Auction held March 23 by Cottone Auctions, online and in the firm’s gallery. The busts were the top achievers in an auction that featured just over 300 lots, totaling over $3 million in sales. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.
Both busts were recorded in the FRICK Art Reference Library in New York in 1932 and had been passed down through the descendants of Irwin Boyle Laughlin (1871-1941), an American diplomat serving in the U.S. State Department from 1903-1932 who acquired them in 1926 from the Paris dealer Paul Gouvert. They were rediscovered, remarkably, at an estate in Geneseo, where Cottone is based. The busts had been previously overlooked in a 2000 estate appraisal by an auction house in New York.
“The Houdon busts both sold to a single European buyer, bidding by phone” said Matt Cottone of Cottone Auctions. “All of the major Old Masters dealers at TEFAF Maastricht were on the phones. Clients did fly in from Europe and there was strong interest well into the six figures. We heard rumors the busts are going into an institution’s collection, but nothing’s been confirmed.”
The busts, reductions in Serevezza marble, represent Jean-Jacques Rousseau (which gaveled for $778,800) and Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (which brought $696,200. They stood 11 and 11½ inches in height, respectively. Each was signed and dated (one 1788, the other 1789) and both are recorded as having been exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1789.
The auction overall featured fine art, Tiffany lamps, 20th century art and design as well as fine decorative arts, furniture and Asian objects.
Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.
One other lot reached the six figures. It was a rare set of nine Chinese blue and white Eight Immortals bowls, each one 2 inches tall and 4¼ inches in diameter and carrying the six-character Daoguang character reign mark (1821-1850). The bowls were decorated with the eight immortals in clouds over swirling waves, with the center interior depicting the three star gods ($118,000).
An outdoor figural oil on canvas rendering by Edwin Lord Weeks (American, 1849-1903), 24 inches by 20 inches in a gold gilt frame and signed “E. L. Weeks” lower left, went for $82,600; while an oil on canvas winter scene by Aldro Thompson Hibbard (American, 1886-1972), 40 inches by 50 inches and purchased directly from the artist’s wife, also signed, realized $43,600.
An oil on mahogany panel depiction of a man in a hat by the Filipino artist Fernando Cueto Amorsolo (1892-1972), done in 1927, signed and 16 inches by 13 inches, made $26,000. Also, an oil on canvas winter landscape by John Fabian Carlson (Swedish/American, 1875-1947), signed, 30 inches by 40 inches in the original frame, changed hands for $22,400.
Tiffany Studios highlights included a Bamboo table lamp, ($85,500); a leaded glass and patinated bronze Arrowroot table lamp with a 14 inch shade ($62,500); and a Turtleback table lamp, ($44,800).
Other outstanding Tiffany Studios creations also came up for bid, like the fine and rare decorated Cypriote vase, manufactured circa 1899, 9 inches tall, with the rough surface textures resembling the decomposed surfaces of Roman glass buried for centuries ($36,600); and the circa-1910 side table, boasting a brownish-green patina and handsomely made from quartersawn oak ($31,800).
Also sold were a Steinway Model B piano with ebony veneer, ($35,500); a late 19th century Serapi rug measuring 12 feet by 10 feet ($17,100); and a rare Steuben Aurene & Millefiori decorated vase, 14 inches tall, decorated with leaf and vines and a ruffled top and signed “Aurene Haviland.” The vase sold for $6,500.
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