CINCINNATI – Hoping to build on a spring auction that saw a record number of bidders and record sale prices, Cowan’s Fall American Indian & Western Art Auction features an even more diverse collection of art and artifacts. The Sept. 23 auction features a wide range of beadwork, blankets, jewelry, pottery, war clubs and tomahawks, and western art as well as another unparalleled collection of prehistoric art and artifacts. Absentee and Internet bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.
The top lot of the auction is expected to be an extraordinary 18th-century Eastern woodlands pipe (above) from the collection of Clem Caldwell of Kentucky. This exquisitely carved and decorated pipe bowl depicts a nearly naked man sitting, his torso reclining, his hands resting on his hips, and his legs extended with slightly flexed knees. The pipe is expected to sell for $80,000-$120,000.
Adding to the desirability of the pipe is its age. As European colonists began to settle the Southern Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions in the 18th century, most pieces of Native American culture were destroyed as they were displaced from the area. This pipe somehow survived in excellent condition.
“Pipes like these are so rare they almost never come to market, and pipes with this level of craftsmanship are practically unheard of,” said Danica M. Farnand, Cowan’s director of American Indian art. “Over 300 years after it was originally carved, you can still make out carved tattoo markings and his glass imitation wampum bead belt is still intact. It’s a stunning piece.”
An excellent array of war clubs and tomahawks can also be found throughout the auction, highlighted by a Delaware gunstock club. Deaccessioned from the Moravian Historical Society, the mid-19th-century club is crafted from maple and decorated with arched and triangular elements carved in bands amid stars and brass tacks. It is estimated to sell for $20,000-$25,000.
Other war club and tomahawk highlights include an Eastern Plains tacked ball club from the collection of Marvin Lince estimated to sell for $15,000-$25,000 and a Haudenosaunee ball club with human effigy for $10,000-$15,000.
Cowan’s Auctions will once again feature prehistoric pieces in its fall auction. The sale features two prominent prehistoric collections: Part II of the Jan W. Sorgenfrei collection of Prehistoric Art and the start of the impressive Copper Culture collection of Roger “Buzzy” Mussatti.
Quality is the key word when referring to artifacts chosen by Sorgenfrei for his personal collection. The Findlay, Ohio, auctioneer was especially partial to birdstones and had assembled arguably the world’s finest collection at the time of his death. This was on full display in Cowan’s Spring Auction when Part I of the collection sold for nearly $450,000 on just 90 lots. Part II features more birdstones from the famed collection as well as prehistoric blades, axes, and other tools.
The top lot of Part II of the Sorgenfrei Collection is expected to be an elongated slate birdstone, which should bring $12,000-$18,000.
Although also from prehistoric times, the Mussatti collection is very different from Sorgenfrei’s. While Sorgenfrei collected almost exclusively stone pieces, Mussatti favored artifacts from the Copper Culture (4000–1000 B.C.). The collection features bird darts, spear points, ulu blades, gorgets, and various tools used for hunting and fishing. An avid outdoorsman, Mussatti unearthed most of the pieces himself in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The top lot of the collection is expected to be a group of copper knives that should bring around $900-$1,200.
The auction also features two early Native American blankets in exceptional condition. A Navajo Third Phase Blanket (circa 1860) once belonging to Don Bennett of Angoura Hills, Calif., is expected to sell for between $30,000 and $40,000. Bennett was the founder of the Don Bennett Invitational Antique Indian Show in Santa Fe, N.M., which is now known as the Whitehawk Antique Indian Show.
Beadwork also plays a prominent role during the sale, highlighted by a beaded hide war shirt worn by Blackfoot chief Cream Antelope (d. 1936) estimated to hammer for $40,000-$60,000.
Pottery is well represented in the auction, highlighted by pieces from the personal collection of Dwight Lanmon, one of the foremost experts on Native American pottery. A Zuni Kiapkua Olla with Crows from his collection should fetch $15,000-$25,000, while a Santa Ana Pottery Olla is expected to hammer for $8,000-$10,000.