CINCINNATI – On September 30, Hindman Auctions realized more than $2.1 million in its American Furniture, Folk and Decorative Arts Auction. The sale set a new world auction record for an Andrew Clemens sand bottle, which shattered its presale estimate and sold for $956,000. Offered with an estimate of $100,000-$150,000, the sand bottle received heated bidding activity, with 64 bids being placed during a six-minute period from $70,000 to the final sale price.
Of the more than 100 documented Clemens bottles this is the only known example exhibiting a portrait. An impressive bottle measuring eight and three-quarter inches in height, the bottle dates from the late 1880s and the subject is an almost photographic depiction of Orrin “O.T.” Fuller of Savanna, Illinois at the age of about four or five years old. The image has a photographic quality that suggests Clemens used a carte de visite, a type of photograph popular in the 1860s, as the model. Similar to many of Clemens’ works, this piece, dubbed The Boy in the Bottle, has remained in the Fuller family since it was made, but the reason for its purchase is unknown. Most Clemens bottles were commissioned as gifts, and this is the most plausible explanation for this example.
Though the family has no direct knowledge for why it was made, O.T.’s older sister, Angeline Fuller Fischer likely commissioned it as a parting gift for O.T. Due to Angie’s profile within the national deaf community, it is inconceivable that she would not have known of Andrew Clemens, “the deaf-mute” sand artist from McGregor, Iowa. When The Boy in the Bottle was made, Clemens’ fame had spread up and down the Mississippi River and beyond, carried by local newspaper stories and visitors to McGregor. By the 1880s, Clemens had honed a technique enough to advertise prices for his work, and his bottles would have been recognized throughout the upper Mississippi Valley.
Other standouts in the sale included a two-foot carved marble bust of Benjamin Franklin, possibly by Giuseppe Ceracchi, modeled after the original by Jean-Jacques Caffieri, which tripled its presale estimate to realize $53,125. Cerrachi came to Philadelphia in the late 18th century and was known for having executed busts of other important American figures, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, that were based on European examples.
A pair of portraits of American banker, merchant and philanthropist Moses Michael Hays and Rachel Myers Hays, the sister of famed New York silversmith Myer Myers, achieved a strong price of $40,625. This pair of historical portraits, attributed to Gilbert Stuart, descended to the Hays’ eldest daughter, descending in that family line to the current owners.
Highlights from the collection of Dr. James Dawson included Mr. and Mrs. Devil, a pair of carved and ebonized wood sculptures that have retained a rich patina, which skyrocketed past their presale estimate of $1,000-$2,000 to sell for $34,375. A scrimshaw tooth with a polychrome depiction of the USS Pennsylvania, the largest American sailing warship ever built, realized an impressive $22,500 against an estimate of $3,000-$5,000.
Demand for historic furniture also continued to be seen in this auction with the sale of a classical highly figured cherrywood scallop-front sideboard from the Dawson collection, which sold for $16,250, more than five times its presale estimate.
The Wes and Shelley Cowan collection also saw outstanding bidding activity. A paint decorated poplar blanket chest by Jacob Werrey from the collection realized $34,375, more than triple its presale estimate. Of the known Werrey chests painted in this style, this is generally acknowledged to be the best preserved, demonstrated through the maintenance of its original vibrant paint. Carl Freigau’s Baldknob and Mastadon at 4 Years from the Cowan collection realized $10,625, more than double its estimate.
Other highlights included a circa-1760 Chippendale plum-pudding mahogany slant front desk, attributed to John Goddard of Newport, Rhode Island sold for a strong price of $12,500.
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