Donald F. Moylan Americana collection begins two-part sale at Hindman Nov. 3

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CINCINNATI — A very sophisticated and mature collection of Americana comes to market Friday, November 3 at Hindman with the debut of a two-part sale of the Donald F. Moylan, M.D. collection. The catalog for the first session is now available for bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

Hindman notes that Moylan’s collection encompasses the “true breadth of the [Americana] category with works from as early as the late 17th century to the mid-20th century.” The first session includes 339 lots; the second session is scheduled for March 2024.

Moylan, of Birmingham, Michigan, began collecting seriously around 1971 when he married his wife, Holly.  “Holly’s best friend’s dad was a Senior Vice President at Chrysler and had a house full of antiques. Holly became interested, and then she gave me the bug,” Moylan said. Soon they were regulars at various Michigan venues such as Margaret Brusher’s famed Saline market, the Liggett show in Grosse Pointe, and the Greenfield Village show. Not long after they began planning vacations to hit the show circuit in New England, Philadelphia, and New York. These trips brought them into contact with legendary dealers such as John Walton, Marguerite Riordan and Nathan Liverant. For about 10 years, Moylan was a partner with Michigan dealer Bob Ketelhut, and ventured onto the show circuit himself.

Many objects in the collection are accompanied by great stories. A William and Mary red-stained mule chest, estimated at $3,000-$5,000, is a perfect example. Moylan recalls visiting John Walton, the legendary Connecticut dealer, and seeing the chest in the foyer. Walton, who was ill and upstairs in bed, called down to his wife, Mary, “Tell Moylan to buy that chest, and if he doesn’t, to never come here again!” Naturally, Moylan bought the chest.

During the years, the collection became Moylan’s consuming passion, buying what he liked, but collecting with discrimination. One day a close friend, Jim Rutkowski, who was visiting and surveying Moylan’s collection of refinished furniture, asked “Are you happy with your collection?” Moylan confessed, “No, not really,” and was given advice he followed for the rest of his collecting career: “Buy things with great surface, great patina, and learn to trust your judgement.” This was later reiterated by John Walton but not as gently: “Moylan, you’re the dumbest person in the world. Buy only condition, condition, condition.”

Moylan traveled widely, but out-of-the-way country auctions in Michigan were favorite haunts. “Michigan – especially the southern half, proved to be a bonanza for great finds,” said Moylan. About 60% of the collection was found in the Wolverine state, though Moylan is quick to point out that he purchased objects from 34 states and four countries.

One great find, and maybe Moylan’s favorite object in the auction, is a vernacular weathervane, estimated at $6,000-$8,000, with directionals consisting of two quintessential Midwestern objects – an apple shovel and a hayfork mounted on a turned newel post. “To me, this is not only a great piece of vernacular art, but also an object that speaks volumes about the Midwest – hard work, modesty, and pride of circumstance,” he said, adding, “The folks who made this obviously couldn’t afford a pricey copper vane, but nonetheless wanted something they could mount on their barn to make a statement.” Found in a barn in Stanton, Michigan, the piece passed through the hands of dealers Doug Wyant, Don Walter, and David Good before finding its way to Moylan’s home.

Folk paintings captured Moylan’s imagination early on, and the auction is filled with great portraits and vernacular paintings of all types. “I was drawn to these people and the artists who painted them. I was especially fascinated by the subjects’ faces, their dress, their often poorly painted or out of perspective hands. They just spoke to me,” Moylan said.

A fine example in the November 3 sale is by American artist John Brewster, Jr. (1766-1854), who was a descendant of Pilgrim leader William Brewster. Born deaf into a well-to-do New England family, he was taught to paint by a local minister. By the 1790s, he began traveling throughout New England, ultimately settling in Maine, where he leveraged his family connections and name to paint portraits of New England’s leading citizens. His art today offers an inside view of how members of the early American elite wanted themselves portrayed in art.

Portrait of Child with Hammer is an oil-on-mahogany panel signed ‘John B.’ on the reverse. Measuring 20 by 14.25in, the image is in classic Brewster fashion, with the subject peering nearly directly at the viewer. It is estimated at $10,000-$15,000.

Cigar store figures are a keystone of any Americana collection, and Moylan’s is no exception. William DeMuth & Co. was a leading manufacturer of tobacco pipes, figures, canes and other carved items in the late 19th century in Brooklyn, New York. This Goddess of Liberty figure is made from cast zinc and marked “William DeMuth & Co., New York.” Featuring its original polychrome paint, the figure stands an impressive 59in in height. The sale’s top lot, it is estimated at $15,000-$20,000.

The sale also features a number of Masonic-related items, including this dated-1909 hand-carved and painted valuables box with a secret compartment. Created and inscribed by Arthur Joseph Pennock (1862-after 1948), a Canadian who emigrated to the U.S. in 1888, the box is incised with the all-seeing eye, the flaming urn, and a Masonic cipher reading THOU SHALT NOT STEAL on the hinged lid. It carries an estimate of $8,000-$10,000.
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Polychrome-painted cast zinc Goddess of Liberty figure, estimated at $15,000-$20,000 at Hindman.
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William and Mary red-painted pine two-drawer blanket or mule chest, estimated at $3,000-$5,000 at Hindman.
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Carved and pained valuables box with Masonic themes, estimated at $8,000-$10,000 at Hindman.
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19th-century midwestern vernacular carved pine and wrought-iron apple shovel and pitchfork weathervane, estimated at $6,000-$8,000 at Hindman.
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John Brewster, Jr., ‘Portrait of Child with Hammer,’ estimated at $10,000-$15,000 at Hindman.
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Circa-1770 Chippendale carved walnut claw-and-ball foot drop-leaf dining tables, estimated at $8,000-$12,000 at Hindman.
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19th-century country blue sponge paint-decorated pine and poplar five-drawer blanket chest, estimated at $4,000-$6,000 at Hindman.
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Choice and stylish selections in Sept. 6 all-silver auction

Hans Hansen Art Deco sterling silver sauce jug, est. $2,000-$2,500
Hans Hansen Art Deco sterling silver sauce jug, est. $2,000-$2,500
Hans Hansen Art Deco sterling silver sauce jug, est. $2,000-$2,500

NEW YORK – A Hans Hansen Art Deco sterling silver sauce jug, a pair of George I silver candlesticks made in London in 1714, and a 19th-century silver vase from Germany will vie for top lot status at Jasper52’s American, English and Continental Silver auction, which will be conducted on Tuesday, September 6 at 8 pm Eastern time. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

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Chinese scholar’s rocks: artworks created by nature

This extensively carved Chinese lapis scholar’s rock on a rosewood stand brought $20,000 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2020 at Bridgewater Auction.
This extensively carved Chinese lapis scholar’s rock on a rosewood stand brought $20,000 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2020 at Bridgewater Auction.
This extensively carved Chinese lapis scholar’s rock on a rosewood stand brought $20,000 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2020 at Bridgewater Auction.

NEW YORK — Few artists can aspire to be as talented as nature. Over centuries, its forces have shaped rocks into elegant objects that have inspired Chinese painters and poets. The objects called gongshi (Chinese, 供石), better known as scholar’s rocks, began to be appreciated for their striking forms in the late Tang Dynasty (600-900) and gathered from riverbeds, on mountains, and in far flung locations. By the Song dynasty (960-1279), their place in history was cemented when Chinese scholars brought them into the studios where they wrote and painted. Scholars would draw inspiration from these rocks that represented nature — mountains in particular — gazing upon them in meditative contemplation. Many poems and essays were based on these rocks, and they have been subject matter for paintings.

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