MT. CRAWFORD, Va. – A rare 17th century English clock made by Samuel Betts of London sold for a record price of $109,250 during the firm’s 26th semiannual cataloged auction of Americana, antiques, and fine and decorative arts, held June 21. The winning Australian buyer won the clock through LiveAuctioneers.com in a heated battle against seven phone bidders and numerous other Internet bidders.
The circa 1650-1665 ebonized-case bracket clock, with engraved brass dial signed “Samuel Betts London” in script, featured a double-fusee movement. It carried a pristine provenance, coming from the collection of Kenneth Henry Leach, who purchased the clock circa 1911-1912 from an antique shop in rural England; thence by descent to the consignor Maurice Derby Leach Jr. and Virginia Baskett Leach, of Lexington, Va. The clock also came with an extensive examination report prepared for the Leach family in 1991 by W. David Todd of the Smithsonian Institution.
Samuel Betts (active 1645-1673) was an important early English clockmaker who made both watches and bracket clocks. Betts is often associated with Edward East (1610-1693), who is generally regarded as one of the finest clockmakers of the period and served as clockmaker to Charles I and Charles II.
As always, Evans and his staff offered a fine selection of important Virginia furniture and decorative arts, which drew strong interest and heated bidding. Leading the way was a rare mahogany Chippendale side chair attributed to the shop of Robert Walker in Fredericksburg, circa 1745-1760, with a lovely shaped crest and heavily scrolled ears. It sold for $28,750 against a $3,000-$5,000 presale estimate to an advanced Virginia collector (Lot 434). Several other early Virginia chairs were offered including a circa 1785-1795 mahogany transitional Chippendale corner or smoking chair from the Petersburg, Va., area. It had descended in the prominent Sydnor family of Richmond and Petersburg and sold for $16,100 against the $5,000-$8,000 estimate (Lot 433). Case furniture included a fine figured walnut Chippendale desk with a slightly later bookcase top, made in the Tidewater area circa 1760-1780, that survived in fine condition. The condition, combined with its direct descent through 10 generations of the Woodhouse and Davis families of Virginia, pushed its final selling price to more than 10 times its low estimate ending at $23,000 (Lot 443).
The auction offered an array of fine art including a Porfirio Salinas landscape painting measuring only 8 1/2 by 11 1/2 inches, depicting a lush field of bluebonnets. Salinas’ work is much admired in Texas and attracted strong attention from bidders in that part of the country, selling for $8,050, far over the estimate of $1,000-$2,000 (Lot 636).
Among the decorative objects offered, a Limoges dinner plate from the Lincoln White House sold to a descendant of Mary Todd Lincoln for a strong result, realizing $9,200, even though the rim had sustained significant damage in one area. Its estimate was reasonable, $300-$500, and its final price proves the adage that rarity sells well even if condition moderates the price paid (Lot 659). The plate had recently surfaced and was formerly in the collection of Dorothy Fowler Cooper of Washington, D.C.
After the auction company president and head auctioneer Jeffrey S. Evans commented, “Outstanding fresh-to-the market merchandise with no reserves and conservative estimates continues to excite bidders. This is especially true for Southern material that retains its provenance. Buyers are looking for pieces that tell a story that they can relate to.” He went on to add, “One of our main objectives when cataloging is to bring out these stories, place the material within an historical context, and research and record as much of the history/provenance of the piece as possible. That is what brings these objects to life and engages collectors.”
The 679-lot auction realized $544,000 including the 15 percent buyer’s premium. More than 2,500 bidders from 31 different countries registered for the sale.
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ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE