Cowan’s American Indian & Western Art Auction hits $2M   

C.M. Russell (American, 1864-1926), ‘Inspection of a Permit,’ signed and dated, with the artist’s buffalo skull monogram, and the personal salutation, 1910. Price realized: $93,750. Cowan’s image

CINCINNATI – The James B. Scoville Collection, one of the most complete 19th century Great Plains collections to ever come to market, sold for a combined $923,625 spearheading Cowan’s $2 million American Indian and Western Art auction Oct. 10-11 (both figures include a 25 percent buyer’s premium). Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.

The 203 lot Scoville Collection kicked off the two-day event with a bang, exceeding its low estimate by more than $300,000 as bidders from across the country jumped at the opportunity to own a piece of the unrivaled collection.

“From the moment I first saw this collection I absolutely fell in love with it and I’m so happy to see collectors appreciated it as much as I did,” said Danica Farnand, Cowan’s director of American Indian and Western Art. “Jim Scoville’s fervent passion and incredible eye for quality created one of the most extraordinary collections we’ve ever had the pleasure of handling.”

Born in Riverside, Illinois, in 1924, Scoville was an outdoorsman from the earliest days of his childhood. A lifelong naturalist, he was a founding Director of Citizens for Conservation in his hometown of Barrington, Illinois. This love of the outdoors sparked a passion for the history of the region, particularly in the 19th century. Scoville expressed this passion by meticulously curating a collection that could best depict that history.

The top lot from the collection was a C.M. Russell (American, 1864-1926) watercolor over pen and ink on paper titled Inspection of a Permit (above), which sold for $93,750. Russell was one of the finest artists produced by the American West. Adding to the value of this particular watercolor was a hand-written inscription along the lower margin believed to indicate the piece was a personal gift to a friend.

Other Western Art highlights from the Scoville Collection included an oil on canvas by W.H.D. Koerner (below) that sold for $37,500; an oil on canvas by Harvey Dunn (American, 1884-1952) for $32,500; another C.M. Russell pen and ink with color on paper for $17,500; an oil on canvas by Frank Stick (American, 1884-1966) for $16,250; and a Karl Bodmer (Swiss, 1809-1893) etching for $14,375.

W.H.D. Koerner (German, 1878-1938), ‘Two Men in a Canoe,’ oil on canvas, 1931. From the James B. Scoville Collection. Price realized: $37,500. Cowan’s image

Perhaps the hottest category for the Scoville Collection, though, was Native American militaria. A pair of knife sheaths paced the category soaring past their estimates. A Great Lakes quilled hide knife sheath with cartouche knife (below) was the top lot of the category nearly tripling its estimate selling for $53,125. Earlier in the auction, an early Plains pictorial beaded knife sheath and knife sold for $26,875, more than double its estimate.

Great Lakes quilled hide knife sheath with a W. Greaves & Sons cartouche knife, early 19th century. From the James B. Scoville Collection. Price realized: $531,125. Cowan’s image

Other highlights from the category included a Sioux quilled and beaded buffalo hide bow case and quiver that sold for $41,250; an Apsaalooke (Crow) beaded hide rifle scabbard for $20,625; a Sioux beaded and quilled buffalo hide bow case and quiver for $19,375; and a Blackfeet beaded hide knife sheath with I&H Sorby dag knife for $15,360.

Other notable lots from the Scoville Collection included a Cheyenne River Sioux pictorial beaded hide tobacco bag that sold for $43,750; an early Jicarilla Apache buffalo hide parfleche cylinder for $20,000; a Cheyenne buffalo hide parfleche cylinder for $15,000; and a Henry Rifle for $13,750.

Cheyenne River Sioux pictorial beaded hide tobacco bag. From the James B. Scoville Collection. Price realized: $43,750. Cowan’s image

Beadwork led the way during the Oct. 11 American Indian and Western Art: Premier Auction, with six of the Top 15 lots on the day coming from the category. In a surprise, a brightly colored Apsaalooke (Crow) child’s beaded wool shirt was the top lot of the day selling for $53,125, more than 13 times its low estimate. The circa 1900 shirt was thread-sewn on red trade wool and lined with plaid cotton. The hide fringe was attached to hide strips, which were beaded using colors of pink, yellow, pea green, periwinkle, red white-heart, navy blue and white.

Apsaalooke (Crow) child’s beaded wool shirt. Price realized: $53,125. Cowan’s image

Additional beadwork of note from the day included a Plains pony beaded buffalo hide possible bag that sold for $41,250; an Apsaalooke (Crow) beaded hide blanket strip with blanket for $23,750; an Apache beaded hide dance shield for $18,750; a Sioux beaded hide shirt for $17,920; and a Nez Perce pony beaded hide dress for $16,250.

Pipe tomahawks were another hot category. A well-documented Northwest Territory presentation-style pipe tomahawk was the top lot of the category selling for $37,500. Other notable tomahawks from the day included a French presentation pipe tomahawk that sold for $23,040; a spontoon pipe tomahawk, attributed to Seneca Chief Cornplanter for $17,500; and a Great Lakes pipe tomahawk with pewter and German silver inlay also for $17,500.

Well-documented Northwest Territory presentation style pipe tomahawk. Price realized: $37,500. Cowan’s image

Miscellaneous lots of note included a Navajo late classic second phase blanket that sold for $33,750; an eastern Great Lakes carved effigy pipe bowl for $25,000; a Navajo child’s late classic blanket for $22,500; a gouache by Henry Farny (American, 1847-1916) for $20,000; a John Nieto (American, 1936-2018) acrylic on canvas for $11,875; a Haida bentwood painted box, collected by Hayter Reed (Canadian, 1849-1936), deputy superintendent of General Indian Affairs for $10,240; and a Plains buffalo horn headdress for $10,000.