KNOXVILLE, Tenn.— An iconic William Edmondson limestone sculpture and an array of diamond jewelry from multiple estates lead the Winter Case Antiques Auction, to be held Saturday, Jan. 25, and Sunday, Jan. 26. It is the first two-day sale format in the 13-year old company’s history and reflects a growing number of consignments from across the Southeast. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.
Consignors in this auction include two museums: the Memphis-Brooks Museum of Art and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, along with the estates of Dr. Sara Parks Pendleton of Owensboro, Ky.; Dr. William Kendall Striker of Chattanooga, Tenn.; Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Lavecchia of Chattanooga, Tenn.; socialite Jane Dudley of Nashville and Palm Beach, Fla.; Victor T. Patterson of Franklin, Tenn.; and the living estate of Joseph and Bette Bacon of Knoxville.
Nashville native William Edmondson, the son of freed slaves, made history when he became the first African American artist to have a solo exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 1937. He has been hailed as one of the most important outsider artists of the 20th century. His carved limestone depiction of a Bible-waving pastor (above) in this auction is well documented, having been photographed in his Nashville yard in 1941 by Edward Weston and exhibited at the Tennessee State Museum (1981) and the Frist Art Museum (2006) in Nashville.
“The choice of a preacher as subject matter speaks to the importance of religion not only in black communities of that period, and the role of the minister as a community leader, but also to the importance of spirituality in Edmondson’s own life,” said John Case, company president. “It was a directive from God which Edmondson said prompted him to pick up a chisel at the age of 57 and begin sculpting — even though he had no formal artistic training.”
Two other Tennessee artists with national appeal, Catherine Wiley and Carroll Cloar, are represented in the sale: Wiley by a charming impressionist scene of two girls on a beach, and Cloar by a large painting titled The Landlady, depicting a fashionably dressed black woman posing proudly in the yard of her two-story boarding house. Cloar was filmed painting the piece in a 1980s television documentary on his work titled Friendly Panthers, Hostile Butterflies and like the Edmondson, it has been in a private collection for more than 30 years.
There are three Indiana landscapes by William McKendree Snyder, a William Trost Richards seascape, and a circa 1900 view of Yellowstone Park by Lucien Powell, along with other American landscapes by Allen Tucker, Hamilton Hamilton, William Louis Sonntag, Bruce Crane, William Keith, John Francis Murphy, Frank Townsend Hutchens, Jeremy Mann, Carl Krafft, and Olin Herman Travis. Broadening the art category are a pair of early 19th century China trade harbor scenes (below) attributed to Chinese artist Namcheong; 16th- and 17th-century Flemish and Dutch landscapes; abstract works by Ben Shahn and William Quinn; and a collection of early Disney animation art (including Sleeping Beauty and Bambi cels on landscape backgrounds; both are signed by Walt Disney).
Sentimental oil paintings of children by J.G. Brown and Katherine Bywater are featured, along with an 18th-century depiction of an elegant young English widow attributed to Joseph Highmore, and a Rembrandt style self-portrait by contemporary painter David Leffel.
One of the most unusual objects in the auction is a bottle of colored sand painstakingly worked into a patriotic design of American eagle and banner on one side, with a floral wreath (embracing the date 1889) on the other, by Iowa native Andrew Clemens. A childhood illness left Clements deaf and mute, but he found a career and considerable fame in creating masterpieces of sand art. His bottles have been known to sell for five and six figures in recent years.
Jewelry and watches are a major focus of this auction. There are multiple large GIA certified diamonds: a 4.18 carat round brilliant diamond (VVS2 clarity, E color) in 18K white gold pendant setting, and a ring with a 4.85 round brilliant diamond (SI1 clarity, F color) flanked by baguettes (both from the Pendleton estate); as well as a 5.2 carat round old European brilliant-cut diamond solitaire ring ( SI1 clarity, N color); a platinum ring with 5.7 carat round brilliant cut diamond (VS1 clarity, Q-R color), flanked by baguettes; and an old mine brilliant-cut diamond (VS1 clarity, K color) in 14K yellow gold solitaire setting.
American art pottery collectors should take note of a rare, large jardinière designed by Hugh Garden for Teco (below); the round form features strap-like tendrils and blossoms applied around the sides, creating desirable open space between the body and the rim.
A tall Newcomb College vase with Narcissus paperwhite decoration by Anna Frances Simpson is also featured, along with a vase that is believed to be the earliest known production piece of Nonconnah pottery by Walter and Nellie Stevens.
Presidential material includes an Abraham Lincoln signed 1861 document appointing Green Clay of Kentucky to a diplomatic post in Russia, and a pair of Continental pistols seized by then-Gen. Andrew Jackson from Robert Ambrister and Alexander Arbuthnot during the first Seminole war. The pistols descended in President Jackson’s family before being sold into the hands of noted historian Stanley Horn of Nashville and are accompanied by a 1954 affidavit from Horn.
Standouts in the Asian category include a circa 1900 Chinese Export Tea service with Asian landscape and floral decoration by Heng Li of Tianjin, and a painted porcelain plaque with grisaille winter landscape attributed to He Xuren. Other porcelain includes an 18th-century square jardinière with vignettes of figures drinking tea and playing musical instruments; a pair of yellow ground Famille Rose pillows, and Rose Medallion and Imari objects. The auction also features several pieces of antique jade such as a white jade ruyi scepter, carved boulders and brush pots; an agate censer; and cloisonné and canton enamel, along with a collection of Ukiyo-e woodblock printed books by artists such as Hokusai, Akisoto and Morishima Churyo.
The live auction begins Saturday, Jan. 25 at 9 a.m. Eastern time and continues Sunday, Jan. 26, at 1 p.m. Eastern. For more information or to consign objects for a future auction, call the gallery in Knoxville at 865-558-3033 or the company’s Nashville office at 615-812-6096 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.