Trio of M.C. Escher prints bewitch bidders at Swann’s April 30 sale

M.C. Escher, ‘Whirlpools’, estimated at $30,000-$50,000 at Swann.

NEW YORK – Speaking about his 1957 color wood engraving and woodcut dubbed Whirlpools, shown above, Dutch artist M.C. Escher said: “I doubt that ‘the public’ will ever understand, much less appreciate, how many gymnastics of the brain, fascinating to me, have preceded the construction of such a picture.”

Maurits Cornelis (M.C.) Escher (1898-1972) was, sadly, correct at the time when he uttered those words. Only in his final years did he start receiving the acclaim he deserved. While the general public might not fully understand what went into the designs of his beguiling, math-inspired prints, they certainly appreciate them now. When Escher performed his gymnastics of the brain, he always stuck the landing. In its Tuesday, April 30 sale of Old Master Through Modern Prints, Swann Auction Galleries will offer three confections by Escher. The catalog is now open for bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

The aforementioned Whirlpools, which is signed and inscribed ‘eigendruck’, a German term that translates as ‘own printing’, is the only one of the three to feature color. Swann describes the swirling image of fish as ‘A very good impression of this scarce print’, and it carries an estimate of $30,000-$50,000.

Circle Limit IV (Heaven and Hell), a woodcut dating to 1960, depicts fearsome devils in black and praying angels in white. Also signed and inscribed, Swann’s auction notes state ‘We have found only 5 other impressions at auction in the past 30 years.’ Its estimate is $25,000-$35,000.

The earliest M.C. Escher print on offer in the April 30 sale is a 1955 lithograph titled Convex and Concave, which sets forth one of his famous scenes of impossible architecture. The lot notes quote F.H. Bool, author of several books on Escher, attempting to capture the brain-boggling nature of the image in words: ‘When carefully studied, this print is a visual nightmare. At first glance, it seems to be a symmetrical structure: the left half is an approximate mirror image of the right half and the transition from left to right is gradual and very natural. Nevertheless something terrible happens at the transition in the center: everything is literally turned inside out. The top becomes the bottom, the front becomes the back. People, lizards and flowerpots rebel against the inversion; we identify them too clearly with tangible realities of which we do not know the inside-out form. But they, too, have to pay the price when they cross the borderline: their relation to the environment becomes so strange that looking at them makes you feel dizzy. For example, at the bottom left a man is climbing onto a platform by a ladder. He sees a small temple in front of him. He could stand next to the sleeping man and wake him up to ask why the shell-shaped pool in the middle is empty. Then he could go to the stairs on the right with the intention of walking up them. But it is already too late! What looked like stairs seen from the left, has suddenly turned into part of an arched vault. He would notice that the platform, which was once firm ground under his feet, is now a ceiling, and he would crash down with a terrified scream. The border line between the left and right half cannot be crossed without danger.’

Ancient Gothic Jewelry for Modern Wear presented in New York April 3

Undated gilt bronze Viking man’s ring, estimated at $3,500-$4,000 at Jasper52.

NEW YORK – On Wednesday, April 3, kicking off at 2 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will conduct a sale titled Ancient Gothic Jewelry for Modern Wear, featuring more than 200 lots of rings, sorcerer’s amulets, pendants, and other jewelry forged between the 8th and 15th centuries by the Scandinavian peoples who, when they boarded boats and sailed far from home, became Vikings. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

First among the highlights is an undated gilt bronze Viking man’s ring, sporting an intricately detailed loaf-shape top or bezel with high angled ridges in a roped or spiral arrangement, alternating between smooth ridges and stippled ridges. Professionally refurbished, with the 24K gold surface restored, and approximating a size 11 1/4, the ring is estimated at $3,500-$4,000.

Another prize is a silvered bronze Viking battle axe pendant dating to circa 850-1050 AD and estimated at $1,400-$1,650. It, too, has been professionally refurbished, with the pure silver surface restored, and has been strung on a sterling silver neck chain to make it more easily wearable.

Dating to the same era as the battle axe pendant is a gilt bronze Viking woman’s warrior bracelet estimated at $1,000-$1,250. Its lot notes state: ‘This example accords with the examples found in Viking woman warriors’ burials which have been broken as part of the funerary ritual. Being complete, it was likely lost by the owner, perhaps in battle.’

Paul Evans chairs and table, offered as separate lots, command $90K at PBMA

A set of six bronze sculpted side chairs by Paul Evans, dating to 1975, sold for $64,000 at Palm Beach Modern Auctions.

LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. – Fans of American studio furniture artist Paul Evans (1931-1987) enjoyed an unusual opportunity at Palm Beach Modern Auctions (PBMA) on February 17. Offered as subsequent lots were a 1975 Paul Evans Stalagmite table and a set of six sculpted bronze side chairs. The signed and dated table, its base made from bronzed resin over steel, hammered for $21,000 ($26,800 with buyer’s premium) against an estimate of $9,000-$12,000, while the set of chairs, which were estimated at $25,000-$35,000, hammered for $50,000 ($64,000 with buyer’s premium). Full results for the auction can be seen at LiveAuctioneers.

Lurking in the lot images for each was a photograph of the May 1975 shipping order that dispatched them from Wisneski Furniture Delivery of Bayonne, New Jersey. The presence of this paperwork “bolstered the sale,” according to Wade Terwilliger, president of the auction house. “People who collected Paul Evans’ work in the 1960s and 1970s did so out of passion for the aesthetic and craftsmanship, and didn’t always keep receipts. The owners of the Stalagmite table and sculpted bronze chairs in our February 17th sale kept meticulous records and passed those on to their children,” he said. “We often have gallery provenance or correspondence, but the level of documentation accompanying these pieces is pretty rare.”

The shipping slip identified the table base as model PE102 and the chairs as model PE106. Though Paul Evans did not design the two as complementary furnishings, the consignor paired the table with the chairs in their home. “Though not specifically intended for use together, the table and chairs have a shared texture – so important to Evans’ pieces – that ties them together. There was a good deal of crossover bidding on the two lots, buyers intending to use them together,” Terwilliger said, and observed that bidding for both was “heated from all sources”. That intensity ultimately resulted in the table going home with one bidder and the chairs being claimed by another, an outcome that surprised Terwilliger.

He was unfazed by the chairs selling for more than the Stalagmite table, a Paul Evans form that he said is popular at auction in any size. “The chairs are quite a find, especially in sets of six or more – though this is an atypical set in that there were no captain’s chairs,” he said. “Typically, we’ve seen them sold as four or six side chairs plus two arm chairs. Maybe one or two sets come to auction per year, anywhere, and we were excited to offer these.”

Trio of Roman portrait busts of women earned almost $1.6M at Lyon and Turnbull

Roman Trajanic marble bust of Pompeia Plotina, one of three larger-than-life busts of women that sold for a combined £1.26 million ($1.59 million) at Lyon & Turnbull.

GREENFORD, UK – Three larger-than-life-size Roman portrait busts with an 18th-century provenance linked to Cobham Hall in Kent, England have sold for a combined £1.26 million ($1.59 million) at Lyon & Turnbull.

The trio of massive second century marble heads all sold to the same determined phone bidder as part of the Edinburgh and London firm’s first designated sale of Classical Ancient Art on March 21. Results can be seen at LiveAuctioneers.

The sculptures were previously owned by John Bligh, 4th Earl of Darnley (1767-1831), the Lord of the Manor of Cobham. A noted amateur cricketer who made at least 27 appearances in first-class cricket matches between 1789 and 1796, he employed the architect James Wyatt to remodel the interiors at Cobham Hall.

The sculptures, each now housed on 19th-century stands, remained in situ until the house changed hands in 1957. They were part of a sale held by Sotheby’s in London in July of that year.

As with the best Roman sculpture, these were pieces that combined huge decorative appeal with academic clout.

In chronological order and setting the pace when it hammered at £600,000 ($767,360) and sold for £780,000 ($988,120) against an estimate of £25,000-£35,000 ($31,670-$44,340) was a 3ft 3in (97cm) bust of Pompeia Plotina dating to circa 110-120 AD. Born around 70 AD, she assumed the role of empress consort when Trajan rose through the ranks of the Roman military to become emperor in 98 AD.

Although she eschewed many of the trappings of power and luxury often associated with imperial life, she is shown in the bust as an idealized beauty with an elaborate coiffure and corkscrew fringe and a palla draped over the back of her head and over her shoulders. There had been huge interest around the £100,000 mark, but two phone bidders and a bidder online tussled as the competition reached the end game.

Trajan was conservative in nature, and Trajanic portrait sculpture was idealized to accentuate Roman virtues. With changing artistic sensibilities and philosophical trends, far more naturalism emerged during the reign of his successor, Hadrian. This is observed in a sensitively rendered bust of an older aristocratic lady of the middle Hadrianic period, dating to circa 125-130 AD. That sculpture was estimated at £20,000-£30,000 ($25,335-$38,005), hammered for £160,000 ($204,630) and sold for £209,600 ($265,470) with buyer’s premium.

In 138 AD Antoninus Pius would succeed Hadrian as emperor, and his wife Faustina the Elder was granted the title of Augusta by the Senate. A highly idealized and rejuvenated image of the empress in the guise of the goddess Hera, dated to around 135-140 AD, was estimated at £25,000-£35,000 ($31,670-$44,340), but as with the Pompeia Plotina bust, it hammered for £600,000 ($767,360) and sold for £780,000 ($988,120) with buyer’s premium.

“Three monumental sculptures with monumental prices to boot,” said Gavin Strang, auctioneer on the day. The winning bidder of all three lots was described as an international buyer.

Sparkling Splendor: Exquisite Jewelry Auction set for New York March 29

Tiffany & Co. 18K gold orchid or calla lily pin or brooch dating to the 1950s, estimated at $5,000-$6,000 at Jasper52.

NEW YORK – On Friday, March 29, beginning at 8 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will conduct a sale titled Sparkling Splendor: Exquisite Jewelry Auction, featuring more than 200 lots of brooches, pins, bangle bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, and other pieces by renowned designers and houses. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

Precious metals are fundamental to all forms of jewelry, but few are more beloved than gold in its original color, yellow. The three highlights of this sale all showcase 18K gold.

First among them is a large Tiffany & Co. 18K gold pin or brooch, taking the form of an orchid or a calla lily. It dates to the 1950s, comes with a Tiffany & Co. pouch and box, and is estimated at $5,000-$6,000.

Adding power and ferocity as well as elegance to an outfit is a vintage 18K gold, emerald, ruby, and diamond lioness bangle bracelet by the Greek designer Ilias Lalaounis. It sports 88 emeralds, 22 diamonds, and four rubies in total, and it is estimated at $16,000-$19,000.

Certain to elevate any wardrobe is a vintage Mario Buccellati 18K gold wide cuff bracelet. It weighs in at slightly more than two ounces and sports a pattern of rippling chevrons, and has an estimate of $20,000-$24,000.

Two ‘possibly’ John Singer Sargent watercolors commanded attention at Amelia Jeffers

Watercolor of an urban street scene attributed to John Singer Sargent, which hammered for $26,000 and sold for $32,500 with buyer’s premium at Amelia Jeffers.

DELAWARE, Ohio – Two watercolors in the manner of John Singer Sargent sailed above their estimates when offered by Amelia Jeffers on March 7 during the first day of a three-day auction. Both works were part of a collection of more than 300 Renaissance, Modernist, and 19th-century paintings from the estate of Carl Eriksson, a civil engineer and past president of the Scandinavian Club of Columbus.

These two watercolor sketches were both described as ‘possibly John Singer Sargent’. Eriksson had unknowingly bought both together: one had been found folded and tucked behind the other in its frame after purchase.

The larger and more ‘finished’ of the two works was a 6-by-8in urban street scene populated with the well-dressed of European or American society. With more than enough technical skill on show to convince bidders the signature was ‘right’, it hammered well above the $800-$1,200 estimate at $26,000 and sold for $32,500 with buyer’s premium.

The smaller of the two works at 5.5 by 4.5in – the bonus buy found inside the frame – was signed and titled on the verso as A Wet Day in Venice. Additional framer’s notes and the price of 20 francs appeared in pencil below. Between 1898 and 1913 Sargent visited Venice almost every year, attracted by a community of friends and colleagues who gathered there and by the city’s scenic possibilities. In this composition, a sculpture loosely formed in the foreground appears to depict a lion – the emblem of St Mark, patron saint of the city. This work hammered for $7,750 and sold for $9,687 with buyer’s premium against the same $800-$1,200 estimate.

Complete results for all three sale days can be seen at LiveAuctioneers.

Giuseppe Ribera and panoramic views of Istanbul and Corfu triumphed at Wannenes Art Auctions

‘Saint Jerome’, an early work by Giuseppe Ribera, which hammered for €240,000 ($262,000) and sold for €324,000 ($353,800) with buyer’s premium at Wannenes Art Auctions.

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GENOA, Italy – Two titled topographical views by a journeyman 18th-century Venetian artist excelled at the Old Masters and 19th Century Paintings sale at Wannenes Art Auctions on March 5. Estimated at €3,000-€5,000 ($3,275-$5,460) each, panoramas of Istanbul and Corfu hammered for €150,000 ($164,000) and €65,000 ($71,000) respectively, or €202,500 ($221,150) and €87,750 ($95,835) with buyer’s premium. They were consigned from a private Italian collection. Results of the sale can be seen at LiveAuctioneers.

Both oils on canvas measured 2ft 6in by 5ft 9in (75cm by 1.73m) and were attributed to ‘a Venetian painter of the 18th or 19th century’ – the consensus emerging that they probably dated from circa 1750. They are possibly based on contemporary prints, but may have been painted by an artist who had visited both places.

Historical views of Istanbul are widely collected and often command a premium at auction. Another version of this scene taken from the Galata ridges, almost certainly by the same artist, forms part of the permanent collection of the Pera Museum in Istanbul. There, displayed alongside other views of the city, it is attributed to ‘an anonymous artist of the second half of the 18th century’.

As another settlement key to Venetian trade, the view of the fleet moored off Corfu provides a suitable pendant picture. From medieval times until well into the 17th century, the Venetian protectorate was recognized as a bulwark against Ottoman intrusion into the Adriatic – the complex fortifications of its Old Fortress shown here in great detail. The last siege of Corfu was in 1716 during the final Ottoman-Venetian War of 1714-18, which took place perhaps half a century before the picture was painted.

Leading the Genoese sale was the 3ft 5in by 5ft (1.03 by 1.49m) oil on canvas Saint Jerome by Giuseppe Ribera (1591-1652). Estimated at €40,000-€70,000 ($43,675-$76,435), it hammered for €240,000 ($262,000) and sold for €324,000 ($353,800) with buyer’s premium. The picture has a provenance to the 18th-century Portuguese nobleman Don Pedro Enrique de Bragança (1718-1761), but it was only in 2003 that it was reattributed by Gianni Papi and Nicola Spinosa, specialists in Caravaggesque painting, to Ribera. It is thought to have been created when the artist had just arrived in Rome in 1612, and was heavily influenced by Caravaggio’s French and Flemish followers.

The picture was sold as a Giuseppe Ribera at Christie’s in London in 2006 when it took £105,000 (roughly $134,260) – around half the price it made this month.

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‘Saint Jerome’, an early work by Giuseppe Ribera, which hammered for €240,000 ($262,000) and sold for €324,000 ($353,800) with buyer’s premium at Wannenes Art Auctions.
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Panoramic view of Istanbul from the Galata Ridges, which hammered for €150,000 ($164,000) and sold for €202,500 ($221,150) with buyer’s premium at Wannenes Art Auctions.
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Panoramic view of the Venetian fleet off the coast of Corfu, which hammered for €65,000 ($71,000) and sold for €87,750 ($95,835) with buyer’s premium at Wannenes Art Auctions.
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Copeland jewelry box tops Arts and Crafts treasures at California Historical Design March 23-24

Silver and enamel box by Elizabeth Copeland, estimated at $15,000-$20,000 at California Historical Design.

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ALAMEDA, Calif. – A fine example of the work of the Boston Arts and Crafts enameler Elizabeth Ethel Copeland (1866-1957) leads the lineup at California Historical Design this month. The hand-hammered silver and enamel jewelry box carries an estimate of $15,000-$20,000 as part of the Saturday, March 23 and Sunday, March 24 sale titled Stickley Arts and Crafts Auction. The catalog is now open for bidding on LiveAuctioneers.

Simply signed with the raised initials EC and dated to circa 1905, this 4.5-by-3.5in casket is a relatively early example from the prime period when Copeland was first exhibiting. Famously, she had hidden away her artistic ambitions for years while working at her family’s dairy farm, but in 1901, at the age of 35, attracted the patronage of the Arts and Crafts artist and benefactor Sarah Choate Sears. In 1906 Irene Sargent, writing in The Keystone, had commented: “The traditional figure of the enamelist is masculine. Miss Copeland working at her furnace possesses attractions quite other than those belonging to the woman who paints a portrait or who illustrates a book.” Her signature technique, which created an enamel surface resembling cabochon gemstone, is seen to good effect on this well-preserved box.

Some choice examples of American Arts and Crafts furniture on offer include a Gustav Stickley roll-top desk that descended in the same Milwaukee family for four generations. Originally selling for $115 in 1904, this model, number 713, was one of the most expensive in the Gustav Stickley catalog. This furnishing, with an ‘excellent original finish’, is estimated at $8,000-$12,000.

Also dated circa 1905 is a Roycroft Double Morris chair, estimated at $15,000-$20,000. Again, retaining an ‘excellent original finish’ according to the lot notes, this chair was formerly in the collection of Christopher ‘Kip’ Forbes and last sold at Rago in October 2012.

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Silver and enamel box by Elizabeth Copeland, estimated at $15,000-$20,000 at California Historical Design.
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Circa-1904 Gustav Stickley model 713 roll-top desk, estimated at $8,000-$12,000 at California Historical Design.
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Roycroft Double Morris chair, estimated at $15,000-$20,000 at California Historical Design.
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Circa-1910 Roycroft three-door bookcase, estimated at $15,000-$20,000 at California Historical Design.

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Circa-1905 Grueby faience tile with an image of a horse under a tree, estimated at $1,200-$1,500 at California Historical Design.
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Railroadiana steams to the forefront at Miller and Miller single-owner sale March 23-24

Canadian 1920s Grand Trunk Railway bronze locomotive bell, estimated at CA$2,000-$3,000 ($1,480-$2,220) at Miller & Miller.

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NEW HAMBURG, Canada – On Saturday, March 23 and Sunday, March 24, Miller & Miller Auctions will present an Advertising, Railroadiana & Historic Objects auction showcasing the lifetime collection of William Robert Wilson. The catalog is now open for bidding on LiveAuctioneers.

“Bill Wilson curated one of Canada’s best collections of railroadiana to ever hit the market,” said Ethan Miller of Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd. “Nothing was held back, and collectors are stirring. Until now, only his closest friends knew what he had. Bill’s passion was railroad, but any object rich with historical meaning had a place in his collection. Session one on Saturday focuses on breweriana, stoneware, general store signage and unique historic maker’s plaques. Session two features Bill’s railroad spoils. It includes the most extensive collection of locomotive number plates ever offered at a single time. This is a historic, single-collector sale.”

Among the prizes on offer is a brass Canadian National Locomotive Mountain-type number plate, measuring 11 by 16 ¾in and coming from a famous locomotive built by the Montreal Locomotive Works in 1930. Bearing the number 6057, it traveled more than 250 miles, from Kamloops in British Columbia to Jasper in Alberta, on a Royal Train Ride in 1939. “Each number plate is unique and is often the only remaining thread of a locomotive’s identity,” said Miller. Included is a copy of Canadian National Magazine, with a cover relevant to the plate. The lot carries an estimate of CA$5,000-$8,000 ($3,700-$5,925).

Worthy of mention is a Canadian Pacific Locomotive number plate, having the number 815, dating to the 1940s, and estimated at CA$2,000-$3,000 ($1,480-$2,220). Featuring a cast-iron frame and brass numbers, it derives from a locomotive that was built by the Montreal Locomotive Works in 1908 and later repainted. Ultimately scrapped in 1960, it was one of three that powered the special ‘triple-header’ train that chugged from Toronto to Orangeville and back within Ontario, Canada in May 1960.

Also on offer is a 1910s Canadian double-sided porcelain flange sign emblazoned with the words ‘Canadian Northern Express’ on black against a yellow background. Described as ‘rare’, it is estimated at CA$2,000-$3,000 ($1,480-$2,220). Given the same estimate is a Canadian 1920s Grand Trunk Railway bronze locomotive bell, marked ‘GTR’ in the casting on its red-painted hanger.

Completing the highlights is a Canadian double-sided porcelain RCA Victor Globetrotter radio sign from the 1940s, estimated at CA$3,000-$5,000 ($2,220-$3,700). One side shows a pea-sized factory flaw below the left side hanging hole, and there are some scattered minor surface scratches, but competition should be keen for this piece.

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Canadian National Locomotive Mountain-type brass number plate, used during a 1939 Royal Train Ride, estimated at CA$5,000-$8,000 ($3,700-$5,925) at Miller & Miller.
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1910s Canadian double-sided porcelain flange sign, estimated at CA$2,000-$3,000 ($1,480-$2,220) at Miller & Miller.
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[av_slide slide_type=’image’ id=’185434′ video=’https://’ mobile_image=” fallback_link=’https://’ title=” video_ratio=’16:9′ custom_title_size=” av-desktop-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” custom_size=” av-desktop-font-size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” font_color=” custom_title=” custom_content=” heading_tag=” heading_class=” link_apply=’image’ link=’manually,https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/173158482_grand-trunk-railway-17-locomotive-bell ‘ link_target=’_blank’ av_uid=’av-ltokqx88′ sc_version=’1.0′ video_autoplay=” video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=”]
Canadian 1920s Grand Trunk Railway bronze locomotive bell, estimated at CA$2,000-$3,000 ($1,480-$2,220) at Miller & Miller.
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Canadian 1940s Pacific Locomotive number plate, estimated at CA$2,000-$3,000 ($1,480-$2,220) at Miller & Miller.
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Canadian 1940s double-sided porcelain RCA Victor Globetrotter radio sign, estimated at CA$3,000-$5,000 ($2,220-$3,700) at Miller & Miller.
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Rockwell Kent romped at Rachel Davis twice in two months

Rockwell Kent, ‘Prometheus’, which sold for $1,408 at Rachel Davis Fine Art on February 10.

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CLEVELAND – During the last few months, Rachel Davis Fine Arts has been the place to go for works by Rockwell Kent (1882-1971). The top lot in its March 2 Discovery Online Auction was Drawings by Rockwell Kent: A Portfolio of Prints, a complete limited edition portfolio of 28 black-and-white prints by the American artist, produced by Egmont Arens at Flying Stag Press in New York in 1924. Only 30 sets were produced, of which this was number 8, and each plate was signed in pencil by Kent. This very same portfolio appeared at Christie’s New York in May 1995. It was offered at Rachel Davis Fine Art with a sheet of 100 Easter Seals stamps, 96 having a Kent illustration. Estimated in the modest range of $200-$400, it hammered for $11,000 and sold for $14,080 with buyer’s premium.

The house’s previous sale, held on February 10, boasted 11 Rockwell Kent lots, several of which beat their estimates. The leader among them was a pen-and-ink coastal scene, signed in pencil by the artist, which hammered for $5,000 and sold for $6,400 with buyer’s premium. An undated pencil and watercolor of figure studies, bearing Kent’s stamp at the lower right, hammered for $2,200 and sold for $2,816 with buyer’s premium, while a powerful 1931 wood engraving of Prometheus, signed in pencil and from an edition of 170, hammered for $1,100 and sold for $1,408 against an estimate of $400-$700.

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Complete 1924 limited edition portfolio of prints by Rockwell Kent, which sold for $14,080 against an estimate of $200-$400 at Rachel Davis Fine Art on March 2.
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Detail of complete 1924 limited edition portfolio of prints by Rockwell Kent, which sold for $14,080 against an estimate of $200-$400 at Rachel Davis Fine Art on March 2.
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Rockwell Kent, ‘Coastal Scene’, which sold for $6,400 at Rachel Davis Fine Art on February 10.
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Rockwell Kent undated figure studies, which sold for $2,816 at Rachel Davis Fine Art on February 10.
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Rockwell Kent, ‘Prometheus’, which sold for $1,408 at Rachel Davis Fine Art on February 10.
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