English intarsia table cover tops $25K at Cowan’s auction


Rare 1831 English intarsia patchwork pictorial table cover. Price Realized: $25,200. Cowan’s Auctions image

CINCINNATI – Cowan’s once again proved itself as one of the premier folk art and Americana auction houses in the world as rare and unique pieces drew intense interest in Cowan’s March Fine & Decorative Art Auction on March 10. It was also a good day for the antique furniture, Asian art, and fine silver categories, all of which saw several lots soar past their estimates.  Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.

The top lot of the day was an exceptionally rare 1831 English intarsia patchwork pictorial table cover (above) that sold for $25,200 (including a 20 percent buyer’s premium). The broadcloth cover features a central round medallion decorated with 12 birds surrounded by 14 pictorial panels. Most notable among the panels was a scene of a giraffe accompanied by three men in Middle Eastern dress, believed to be a depiction of an 1827 gift of a giraffe from Muhammad Ali of Egypt to King George IV of the United Kingdom.

“Most intarsia pieces that still exist today are in the hands of institutional collections and textile collectors couldn’t wait to try to add this incredible piece to their collection,” said Leah Vogelpohl, Cowan’s decorative art specialist. “Most intarsia pieces favor a consistent theme of birds, animals or flowers. It’s extremely rare to find one with the variety of figural details in this cover, especially ones that feature so many humans. Unlike traditional appliqué, intarsia requires every minute detail to be hand sewn to the pieces around it, so this piece likely took several years to finish.”

In the realm of folk art, the top lot of the day was an exquisite Timothy Tansel (American, 1809-1852) engraved horn beaker that sold for $16,200. The Tansel family was well known for their engraved powder horns that featured patriotic motifs such as the spread-winged American eagle. While several dozen Tansel powder horns exist, beakers are far rarer with most known examples residing in private collections. Collectors were clearly excited at the prospect of getting their hands on the beaker as eight phone bidders sent the lot well above its $5,000 estimate.


Timothy Tansel engraved horn beaker. Price realized: $16,200. Cowan’s Auctions image

Other folk art and Americana highlights included a China Trade carved patriotic eagle plaque that sold for $8,400; a rare “Sweet Orr & Co.” tin lithographed advertising sign in near mint condition for $6,150; a Paul Revere engraving of Boston from Royal American Magazine, circa 1774, for $4,613; a set of cast-iron pheasant-form andirons for $3,240; and a chip-carved folk art crooked knife with coffin and tintype inlay for $2,520.


China Trade carved patriotic eagle plaque. Price Realized: $8,400. Cowan’s Auctions image

For the second time in 2018, Cowan’s saw excellent prices in the Asian art category, headlined by a set of Chinese square vases that sold for $11,685. Likely from the 19th century, the pair of porcelain vases with flared necks and square, tapering bodies were decorated with a blue, organic motif ground with reserves depicting figure and birds in landscapes. Other Asian art highlights included a Chinese Export silver tea service, caddy and shaker by Hung Chong and a bowl by Cumshing that sold for $6,600; a spinach jade bowl for $3,000; and a Chinese flambe vase for $2,952.



Art Deco Austrian chandelier from Wurlitzer Mansion, Cincinnati, Ohio. Price Realized: $11,070. Cowan’s Auctions image

Three lots with a special significance to Cowan’s hometown of Cincinnati sold for more than $10,000. An Art Deco chandelier imported from Austria in the 1920s to hang in the home of prominent Cincinnatian Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer (1873-1948) sold for $11,070. Well-known Cincinnati-born painter Henry Farny (American, 1847-1916) produced the top fine art lot of the day, with a portrait of a Native American selling for $24,000. Finally, a coin silver pitcher by Northern Kentucky silversmith Edward Kinsey presented to Miles Greenwood, who was Cincinnati’s first fire chief overseeing the first professional fire department in American history, sold for $10,455.


Watercolor portrait by Henry Farny (American, 1847-1916). Price realized: $24,000. Cowan’s Auctions image

Other highlights from the auction included a portrait of George Washington after the famed Gilbert Stuart Lansdowne version that sold for $10,200, a Buccellati sterling tureen for $6,600, and an Arcadia model Ansonia swing clock for $6,150.


Gilbert Stuart’s Lansdowne version portrait of George Washington. Price realized: $10,200. Cowan’s Auctions image

The furniture market continues to show signs of a rebound as several pieces exceeded their estimates. An exceptional Massachusetts Queen Anne highboy was the top lot in the category selling for $10,200. The walnut highboy made in the North Shore region of Massachusetts circa 1760 was the crown jewel of an impressive furniture collection from Colorado featured in the sale.