KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A 1929 bronze casting of Charles M. Russell’s Smoking with the Spirit of the Buffalo achieved $72,000 at the Winter Case Antiques Auction, which was held January 29-30 by Case Antiques Inc. Auctions & Appraisals. The Russell bronze was one of many success stories on a day when 97% of lots sold and new art auction records were set for multiple artists.
The Russell bronze was one of two known castings commissioned by Russell’s widow, Nancy, from the California Art Bronze Foundry just three years after the sculptor’s death. It was acquired directly from Mrs. Russell by a Detroit tycoon, had descended in his family, and was being sold by a private Tennessee estate. The buyer was an anonymous West Coast collector, bidding by phone.
Case set new world auction records for three Southern artists: an early 20th century large mountain landscape by Rudolph Ingerle sold for $28,800; a modernist oil by Nashville painter Bill Sawyer, dubbed Flower Growing from a Tire, realized $10,200; and a church picnic scene by Helen LaFrance achieved $12,000. The LaFrance was one of multiple works in the sale by the recently deceased African American outsider artist from Kentucky. Other works by her that performed well include a monumental double-sided painting depicting an African landscape on one side and a Kentucky fox hunter on the other, which captured $7,040; a river baptism scene ascended to $7,680; and an image thought to be a self-portrait finished at $3,200.
A Chinese famille verte fish bowl with poem and landscape decoration made an unexpected splash. The large Qing dynasty bowl, which had done duty as a jardiniere for decades in a Nashville mansion, set off a battle between two Asian phone bidders and several other bidders online, ultimately selling for $66,000.
There was solid demand for estate jewelry, particularly GIA certified diamonds. A diamond solitaire ring featuring a square emerald cut 4.01 carat diamond of VS2 clarity and G color led the category at $52,800, and a platinum ring with an old European cut diamond of 3.79 carats (SI1, L color), tripled its estimate at $33,600.
A Tiffany & Co. sword, belt and commendations presented to U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Cadwalader Ringgold topped the historical category, realizing $52,800. Ringgold, a former Navy officer, came out of retirement at the age of nearly 60 to serve in the Civil War. In 1861 he earned the sword and numerous accolades by effecting the rescue of a battalion of 400 U.S. Marines from a sinking ship off the coast of South Carolina. The sword had descended in his family.
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