CINCINNATI – Andrew Clemens sand bottles and maritime art emerged as top performers in Hindman’s September 14-15 American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts auction. Historic sculptures and portraiture also achieved strong prices, including a significant depiction of the groundbreaking actor and abolitionist Ira Aldridge. Henry Merwin Shrady’s sculpture Washington at Valley Forge was another highlight capturing an important moment in the history of the nation, as was a Carolina Colored Republicans Club stoneware cooler. Overall, the sale totaled more than $2 million, well above what was anticipated.
A portrait of Ira Aldridge, an innovative figure in the theater world who used his platform to advance the abolitionist cause in America, was a focal point of the auction. The portrait was sold to the University of Michigan’s Clements Library. As a premiere institution dedicated to collecting, preserving and providing American historical resources, the Clements Library will be the ideal home for it to be further studied and used to educate students.
Born and educated in New York City, Aldridge was the first African American Shakespearean actor to gain international recognition. Aldridge performed 40 major roles throughout the course of his four-decade career, and he received numerous international titles and awards.
This portrait is exemplary of how Aldridge used the stage to promote the abolitionist cause. The work shows Aldridge as Mungo in The Padlock, a farcical libretto loosely modeled after the short story El Celoso Extremeno by Miguel de Cervantes. When the play premiered in London, a white Englishman in blackface originally performed the role of Mungo, a black servant from the West Indies. Aldridge transformed the role of Mungo, once a racist caricature, into a more dignified portrayal, meant to convey the character’s humanity.
In this two-day auction Hindman once again proved itself as a leader in offering Andrew Clemens sand bottles, with one commissioned by Ezra T. Williams selling for $860,000 against an estimate of $100,000-$150,000. The geometric and swirled bands of colored sand, typical of Clemens’ designs, appear above and below the dipper dredge that is illustrated.
Following as the second top lot of the sale was a sand bottle commissioned by Frank Eckert and depicting a Percheron, or French Draught horse, named Louis. The bottle sold for $318,750 compared to an estimate of $100,000-$150,000. The two Clemens bottles descended within the families of the individuals who commissioned their creation.
Maritime paintings and objects from the collection of legendary dealer Norm Flayderman were among the highlights of the sale. A respected antique arms dealer, prolific author and collector, Flayderman also had an expansive knowledge of nautical history. Leading the offering was a USS Tallapoosa eagle gangway board, likely a Civil War artifact, which realized $50,000 against an estimate of $4,000-$6,000. A pair of eagle, shield and seal of Cincinnati carved ship’s gangway boards from 1892 exceeded its estimate to sell for $17,500.
A stunning maritime painting attributed to Charles Henry Seaforth and titled HMS Marlborough at Gibraltar (with French Steamer Frigates and other Merchant Vessels) realized $43,750. Also, pair of Carl Zeiss Asembi turret binoculars was another notable lot that earned $8,125.
Furniture highlights included a pair of 19th-century classical drapery carved mahogany side chairs, which attained $28,125. A set of six Chippendale volute-carved mahogany side chairs comprised another lot, which sold for $10,625. A Federal sideboard that belonged to Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Mary, sold for $4,688. The Chippendale chairs and the sideboard, made in Virginia, were once offered by the renowned dealer of Southern furniture, Sumpter Priddy III.
Hindman saw notable interest in works connected with early political figures and eras. Henry Merwin Shrady’s sculpture Washington at Valley Forge stood out with a sale price of $71,875. A self-taught artist, Shrady became well known for his monumental animal bronzes. In 1906, he won a competition that led to his monumental equestrian statue of George Washington at Valley Forge being placed near the entrance of the iconic Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn, New York. This example, cast by the Roman Bronze Works, was once a part of the artist’s personal collection.
Stoneware with captivating histories also saw strong bidding engagement. A North or South Carolina “Colored Republicing Club” stoneware cooler soared past its $5,000-$7,000 estimate to sell for $43,750. This incredibly symbolic work represents a period in Southern politics when African Americans became increasingly disenfranchised from the suffrage granted them by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in 1868.
The work represents the continued hope and unfulfilled dreams of the more than four million formerly enslaved. In the years following the war in both the North and the South “Republican Clubs,” or “Union Leagues” were formed, and with suffrage, African Americans began to take on larger roles in local, state and national politics.
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