Andrew Clemens sand bottles, American silver headline at Hindman, March 30
CINCINNATI – Four Andrew Clemens sand bottles spanning the artist’s career will headline Hindman’s American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts auction on Thursday, March 30. The bottles, spread across three lots, will be offered alongside more than 300 lots of American furniture, silver, portraiture, textiles and folk art. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
The three lots perfectly demonstrate Andrew Clemens’ growth as an artist. The first bottle, dated 1876 and estimated at $20,000-$40,000, was made at a time when Clemens’ popularity, at least regionally, was just beginning to grow. In 1874 and 1875, he had been featured in several local newspapers and had begun making good money from the tourist trade. He had yet to hone his technique of crushing sand into fine grains, though, so his work at the time had less detailed motifs and focused on complex, brightly colored patterns. The 1876 bottle does feature an American eagle, perhaps Clemens’ most famous motif, but it lacks a motif on the reverse. Placing motifs on both sides of a bottle would be customary later in his career.
Chronologically, the next Clemens lot is a pair of what have been described as “sweetheart” bottles, dated 1883, bearing the names Charles Bramar and Maggie Bramar (nee Heye). The pair has an estimate of $60,000-$80,000. By 1883, Clemens had attained significant publicity and had perfected his technique. According to family history, the Bramers acquired their pair of sweetheart bottles either on the occasion of their marriage in February 1883 or the birth of their first child, Charles, later that same year. The Charles Bramar bottle features a galloping horse on one side with a clipper ship at sea on the reverse while the Maggie Bramar bottle depicts an elaborate bouquet of flowers in an urn on one side and a pair of yellow birds perched around a nest of eggs on the other.
Though the exact circumstances of the commission are not certain, the existence of another Heye family bottle now in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum suggests that it is possible that Henry and Mary Heye commissioned at least three sand bottles from Andrew Clemens in 1883, one as a keepsake for Mary and the other two as a gift for their newlywed daughter Maggie and her husband Charles. Adding to the significance of the Maggie bottle in this auction is that its obverse is nearly the same as the one made as a keepsake for Mary in the Smithsonian collection. For both, Clemens employed urns with identical flower bouquets and patriotic bicolor lettering for the recipients’ names. This is just the third known example of a pair of Clemens sweetheart bottles.
Finally, an 1886 bottle, estimated at $20,000-$40,000, is one made by an artist who has fully mastered his craft. The bottle pairs the American eagle on the front with another staple motif of Clemens, a wreath of flowers, on the reverse. A comparison of the eagle on the 1886 bottle with the 1876 bottle show tremendous growth for the artist. While both depictions are unmistakably an eagle grasping an American flag, which is no easy feat in a medium as fickle as sand, the 1886 bottle features details that are so fine and precise that viewers can hardly believe they were made with sand.
The auction also features an important tankard by Myer Myers (1723-1795), estimated at $15,000-$20,000. Myers was one of the most accomplished silversmiths in pre-industrial New England and the only Jewish smith operating in New York City in the mid-18th century. Opening his shop in New York in 1750, he became the city’s leading silversmith during the late colonial period, creating some of the finest silverware for both domestic and religious use. Examples of his work can be found in the collections of Yale University Art Gallery, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Historical Society Museum & Library, and the Jewish Museum.
Furniture highlights from the auction include a Federal inlaid and pierce-carved mahogany tall case clock which has been published in the Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts. It carries an estimate of $10,000-$20,000.
Additional noteworthy lots are a Renaissance revival marble mounted carved and laminated rosewood etagere, estimated at $10,000-$20,000; two lots of exquisite 18th-century Queen Anne side chairs, estimated at $4,000-$6,000 each; an Empire carved mahogany and cherrywood sideboard, estimated at $3,000-$5,000; and a Federal Vine and Leaf inlaid cherrywood chest of draws, estimated at $2,000-$3,000.
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