KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The July 14 auction at Case Antiques Inc. Auctions & Appraisals was all about history – in more ways than one. It was Case’s first auction in its new, flagship Knoxville gallery, representing a milestone for the 12-year-old firm. And, while there were noteworthy highlights in the categories of European and Western art, Chinese antiques, and Southern Decorative Arts, the smashing success of flags, maps, political and Civil War items made clear that Case is becoming a destination firm for historical artifacts and ephemera. Absentee and Internet bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.
The presence of many longtime customers from across the South lent a kind of housewarming feel to the sale, with about 200 people attending over the course of the day-long event. More than 4,200 others, from Silicon Valley to Shanghai, registered to bid via phone, Internet and absentee bid.
The day’s highest grossing lot was a pointillist oil on canvas of a man working at a vineyard press by French Neo-Impressionist painter Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin (1860-1943), a study for a mural in Cahors, France, celebrating winemaking. Case successfully pursued having the painting (above) added to the Martin catalog raisonné, which likely helped it surpass its $18,000-$22,000 estimate; it harvested $33,600 from a European bidder on the telephone (all prices in this report include the buyer’s premium).
Also garnering international attention was a rediscovered work by William Shakespeare Burton (English, 1830-1916), titled King of Sorrows, depicting Jesus Christ prior to the crucifixion, with a crown of thorns and rope-bound hands. The 53-by-43-inch oil on canvas was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1897 and then, seemingly, disappeared. A National Portrait Gallery website article referencing the painting listed it as “untraced” until it surfaced at Case as part of the estate of Tennessee businessman Larry Casey. It realized $14,080.
American art packed the walls of the gallery and found ready buyers. A Charles Woodbury painting of figures on a sunny beach in Ogunquit, Maine, soaked up $11,400 (est. $4,000-$4,500).
A Van Gogh-influenced view of Boston by Hayley Lever met expectations at $9,000 (est. $6,800-$7,800) and Lever’s Low Tide Cornwall came in at $5,120. Both were small, under 12-by-16 inches.
Western paintings, most from the Casey estate, also fared well. An oil of a Native American scout on horseback by Arnold Friberg rode to $19,200, while two watercolor Western forest landscapes by Gunnar Widforss competed to $10,800 and $7,800.
In the historical category, a Georgia collection of Civil War artifacts provided many of the highlights. Tops was a Confederate shell jacket said to have been worn by Col. Tomlinson Fort of the 1st Georgia Infantry on his return home to Milledgeville, Georgia, along with his shoulder straps and a postwar albumen print depicting him and his brothers. Estimated at $8,000-$10,000, the lot rallied to $28,800.
A lot of four Confederate officer staff brass buttons, including one Tennessee button, charged to $12,000, while two other CSA button groupings brought $5,760 and $4,800. A small (5-by-10) Confederate first national parade flag with nine applied paper stars soared to $8,960, while a circa 1864 Army of Georgia “Soldiers Wanted” banner recruited a top bid of $4,800. A square “Southern Cross” reunion flag trampled its $400-450 estimate to reach $7,680, and two large CSA reunion flag/banners achieved $4,864 – nearly 10 times the estimate.
It wasn’t only Civil War flags flying high: a 38-star American flag with stars arranged in an unusual floral pattern rocketed to $10,240 (est. $3,800-4,200) while a rare 42-star cavalry guidon flag, officially used for only two years (1889-1891) flew at $5,888.
A lot comprised of a U.S. Navy bicorn hat, dress epaulets and officer insignias sailed to $4,352; all belonged Capt. Hugh Purviance (1799-1882), whose colorful Navy career included commanding the St. Lawrence during the blockade of Charleston and engaging with the Merrimac in 1862. A Colt 1851 Navy London model revolver owned by James Nelson III, a Kentucky soldier who fought with Morgan’s Raiders, shot to $5,280 (est. $3,000-3,500), and a group of Chickamauga battlefield relics, including a tree stump with cannonball lodged inside, yielded $2,048. In what may have been the most surprising finish of the day, a remnant of timber from the White House, scorched during fire started by the British in the War of 1812 and removed during renovations in the 1950s, sizzled to $8,960 (est. $300-350). The relic came from the estate of Capt. Gordon Wells, a member of the Secret Service/White House Police from 1943-1967.
Maps and documents have become an increasingly successful category at Case. A rare 1673 Map of the English Plantations in America by Robert Morden and William Berry, considered the first general map of the American colonies, hammered for $13,200.
For details contact Case Antiques Inc. in Knoxville at 865-558-3033 or the Nashville office at 615-812-6096, or email email@example.com.