Robbins collection of prints and drawings outperformed expectations at Tremont

John Faber the Elder, 'On Nee Yeath Tow No Riow', which sold for $29,000 ($36,830 with buyer’s premium) at Tremont.

SUDBURY, Mass. – Rare prints from the remarkable collection amassed by Winfield Robbins (1841-1910) of Arlington, Massachusetts came for sale at Tremont Auctions on February 25. During his travels to Europe, Robbins collected some 150,000 prints that he later left to his hometown. After recent approval was given to deaccession, selections from this extensive collection will be offered by Tremont Auctions in upcoming sales.

The financial highlight was a mezzotint of one of the so-called ‘Four Indian Kings,’ the native American chiefs that visited London in 1710. Based on a series of official portraits commissioned by Queen Anne from the Anglo-Dutch artist John Verelst (1648-1734), these are considered the earliest known surviving portraits from life of the native people of North America.

This example, from a series by John Faber the Elder, is titled On Nee Yeath Tow No Riow or King John of Canajoharie. He was one of three Mohawk chiefs from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) alliance and one Mohican from the Algonquin nations who were received in London as diplomats and were transported through the streets of the city to St. James Palace in royal carriages. The print was expected to bring $2,000-$3,000, but sold at a muscular $29,000 ($36,830 with buyer’s premium).

Two other mezzotints from the series, including Tee Yee Neen Ho Ga Row, Emperour of the Six Nations engraved by John Simon and Coning vande Maquas alias Coning Brant engraved by Peter Schenk the Elder, were sold by the auction house in August. They made $12,000 and $16,000, respectively.

The portrait of the venerable Congregational minister Cotton Mather, published by Peter Pelham in Boston in 1727, is considered the first American mezzotint. Pelham was already regarded as an accomplished engraver and artist when he arrived in Massachusetts from London, but Mather was his first subject on American soil. Though he posed for Pelham’s painted study (which is part of the collections at the American Antiquarian Society), the minister would not live to see the final mezzotint as he died four months before the print’s publication. The copy here sold for $4,200 ($5,334), well above its estimate of $400-$600. Another example sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2021 for $4,000.

A portrait of Albert Einstein by German Jewish artist Hermann Struck (1876-1944) earned $4,600 ($5,842 with buyer’s premium). A specialist in etchings, Struck made a number of portraits of Einstein as well as other great minds of his generation including Wilde, Nietzsche, Freud, and Ibsen, but this relatively youthful image is thought to be the earliest. Published around the time the experimental confirmation of the theory of relativity in November 1919 had made front-page news across the world, it is perhaps the earliest attempt to commercialize an artistic image of Einstein. Numbered 20 of 150, this is one of the 50 in the edition also signed and dated 1923 by Einstein himself in pencil at the lower right.

Some of the day’s strongest prices were for Japanese woodblock prints. These included an 1892 album featuring a complete set of the 36 Ghosts series by the Meiji master Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. Bound in silk brocade covers, this copy, estimated at $5,000-$7,000 but sold at $16,000 ($20,320 with buyer’s premium), includes a title page and the publisher’s Imperial commendation page. Thirty-Six New Forms of Ghosts was the last major woodblock print series by Yoshitoshi. At the end of his life he revisited the popular tales of ghosts, demons, and the supernatural from Japanese folklore that he had drawn previously in his twenties. Pushing the medium of the woodblock print to its limits, he used students to assist in the carving of 12 different color blocks for each design. It was published in parts between 1889 and 1892 by Sasaki Toyokichi and again by Matsuki Heikichi in 1902.

The complete set of Thirty-two Aspects of Customs & Manners (Fuzoku sanjuniso) by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi hammered for $13,000 ($16,510 with buyer’s premium) against an estimate of $2,000-$3,000. This series, published in 1888, amounts to a survey of bijin (female beauties) of different backgrounds and occupations from the reactionary Kansei era (1789-1800) to the more open Meiji restoration (1860-1912). The word for ‘Aspect’ or ‘Type’ or ‘Appearance’ (sô) had been famously used by earlier artists such as Utamaro and Kunisada. A technical term borrowed from physiognomists who analyzed character on the basis of physical facial features, it could also mean ‘flower.’

Winfield Robbins prints collection deaccession continues at Tremont Feb. 25

'On Nee Yeath Tow No Riow' or 'King John of Canajoharie,' a circa-1710 mezzotint by John Faber the Elder, estimated at $2,000-$3,000 at Tremont Auctions.

SUDBURY, Mass. — More prints from the remarkable collection amassed by Winfield Robbins (1841-1910) of Arlington, Massachusetts will be offered at Tremont Auctions on Sunday, February 25. During his travels to Europe, Robbins collected some 150,000 prints that he later left to his hometown. After recent approval was given to deaccession, selections from this extensive collection will be offered by Tremont Auctions in upcoming sales.

Among the highlights is a mezzotint of one of the so-called ‘Four Indian Kings,’ the native American chiefs who visited London in 1710, which is estimated at $2,000-$3,000. Based on a series of official portraits commissioned by Queen Anne from the Anglo-Dutch artist John Verelst (1648-1734), these are considered the earliest known surviving portraits from life of the native people of North America.

This example, from a series by John Faber the Elder, is titled On Nee Yeath Tow No Riow or King John of Canajoharie. He was one of three Mohawk chiefs from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) alliance and one Mohican from the Algonquin nations who were received in London as diplomats and were transported through the streets of the city to St. James Palace in royal carriages.

Two other mezzotints from the series, including Tee Yee Neen Ho Ga Row, Emperour of the Six Nations, engraved by John Simon, and Coning vande Maquas alias Coning Brant, engraved by Peter Schenk the Elder, were sold by the auction house in August. They made $12,000 and $16,000, respectively.

Estimated at $2,000-$3,000 is a pair of prints by the Bohemian artist and mapmaker Wenceslaus Hollar, titled Prospects of London Before and After the Great Fire. Based in London, Hollar himself would certainly have witnessed the fire firsthand in September 1666 and, in its aftermath, employed his familiarity with the city to record the full extent of the destruction. He documents the vast swathes of the city that were lost, including the old Saint Paul’s Cathedral. The print was in circulation within just a few months, but is now seldom seen at auction.

Japanese woodblock prints in the sale lineup include an album featuring a complete set of the 36 Ghosts series by the Meiji-era master Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1892). Bound in silk brocade covers, this copy, estimated at $5,000-$7,000, includes a title page and the publisher’s Imperial commendation page. Thirty-Six New Forms of Ghosts was the last major woodblock print series by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. At the end of his life he revisited the popular tales of ghosts, demons, and the supernatural from Japanese folklore that he had drawn previously in his twenties. Pushing the medium of the woodblock print to its limits, he used students to assist in the carving of 12 different color blocks for each design. It was published in parts between 1889 and 1892 by Sasaki Toyokichi and again by Matsuki Heikichi in 1902.
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‘On Nee Yeath Tow No Riow’ or ‘King John of Canajoharie,’ a circa-1710 mezzotint by John Faber the Elder, estimated at $2,000-$3,000 at Tremont Auctions.

No-reserve Chinese snuff bottle sale had surprising results at Tremont

Late Qing interior-painted snuff bottle signed for Ding Erzhong (1865-1935), $11,000 at Tremont Auctions.

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SUDBURY, Mass. — On October 22, Tremont Auctions sold the collection of mainly Chinese snuff bottles assembled since the 1960s by Mitchell Bistany. Every one of the 551 lots in the sale carried the estimate of $200-$300 and was offered without reserve, so all were sold. However, some significantly passed expectations.

The top seller was an early 20th-century interior-painted snuff bottle that featured a scene of a hen and her chicks. It was signed for Ding Erzhong (1865-1935), a scholar and possibly an official who was active in the last years of the Qing court and championed the gu yuexuan (enameled glass) technique. It hammered for $11,000 and sold for $13,970 with buyer’s premium.

Among the many porcelain bottles was one with a yellow glaze modeled as the figure of Li Tieh Kuai, one of the Eight Immortals. Dated to the 19th century, with a two-character mark to the base and a coral stopper, it hammered for $9,500 and sold for $12,065 with buyer’s premium.

A bottle decorated in famille rose enamels with a Jaiqing mark (1796-1820) hammered for $9,000 and sold for $11,430 with buyer’s premium, while a double gourd-form enamel bottle with a European subject — copying a type made at the imperial workshops in Beijing during the Qianlong (1735-96) period — hammered for $4,600 and sold for $5,842 with buyer’s premium.

A vessel appealing to both snuff bottle collectors and to enthusiasts of Chinese handling jades was a bottle carved as a snuff bottle bag. Fashioned in a yellow stone and dated to the 18th century, it hammered for $8,500 and sold for $10,795 with buyer’s premium.
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Late Qing interior-painted snuff bottle signed for Ding Erzhong, which sold for $11,000 ($13,970 with buyer’s premium) at Tremont Auctions.
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Porcelain snuff bottle modeled as the figure of Li Tieh Kuai, which sold for $9,500 ($12,065 with buyer’s premium) at Tremont Auctions.
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Famille rose porcelain snuff bottle with Jaiqing mark, which sold for $9,000 ($11,430 with buyer’s premium) at Tremont Auctions.
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Beijing enamel double gourd-form famille rose snuff bottle with Qianlong mark, which sold for $4,600 ($5,842 with buyer’s premium) at Tremont Auctions.
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Yellow jade snuff bottle carved as a snuff bottle bag, probably 18th century, which sold for $8,500 ($10,795 with buyer’s premium) at Tremont Auctions.
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18th-century mezzotints of Native American leaders exceed expectations at Tremont

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SUDBURY, Mass. – The so-called “Four Indian Kings” were not the first native Americans to visit to Great Britain. However, their well-chronicled journey to London in 1710 did produce the earliest known surviving portraits from life of the native people of North America.

As part of a diplomatic visit organized by Pieter Schuyler, the mayor of Albany, to court support against the French, the delegation had travelled from New York to seek an audience with Queen Anne. Accompanied by British army officers were three Mohawk chiefs from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) alliance and one Mohican from the Algonquin nations. They were received in London as diplomats and were transported through the streets of the city to St. James Palace in Royal carriages.

To commemorate the visit, Queen Anne commissioned John Verelst (1648-1734), a Dutch artist residing in London, to create official portraits. Such was the interest of the European public, his images, now in the Public Archives of Canada, were soon engraved and sold as prints.

The three Mohawk were: Ho Nee Yeath Taw No Row of the Wolf Clan, called King of Canajoharie; Tee Yee Ho Ga Row (King Hendrick); and Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow of the Bear Clan (Peter Brant). The Mohican chief was Etow Oh Koam of the Turtle Clan who was mistakenly identified in his portrait as Emperor of the Six Nations.

Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow and Tee Yee Neen Ho Ga Row were the subjects of two mezzotints offered for sale by Tremont Auctions on August 6 as part of the dispersal of items from the library of Winfield Robbins (1841-1910) of Arlington, Massachusetts.

The earlier of the two images, measuring 8.5 by 6in and dated circa 1710, is from a set of four bust portraits produced in the Amsterdam workshop of the German-born publisher Peter Schenk the Elder (1660-1711). The full title reads Coning vande Maquas alias Coning Brant. The sitter, shown with his distinctive chest tattoos, died soon after he returned from London. He was the grandfather of the 18th-century Mohawk leader Joseph Brant.

Other impressions of this print survive in the Royal Collection Trust and other important institutional collections. Estimated at $2,000-$3,000, it sold at $16,000 ($20,320 including buyer’s premium).

The mezzotint entitled Tee Yee Neen Ho Ga Row is from the set of full-length images of the Four Indian Kings by the Anglo-French engraver Jean Simon. Entitled Tee Yee Ho Ga Row Emperour of the Six Nations, it shows the Mohawk leader in European attire carrying a beaded wampum belt. Considered a third state of this engraving, printed circa 1755, it too was estimated at $2,000-$3,000 and sold at $12,000 ($15,240 with buyer’s premium).

Both prints were previously part of the library amassed by Robbins. During his travels to Europe, Robbins collected some 150,000 prints, most depicting now-forgotten European aristocrats, which he later left to his hometown. After recent approval was given to deaccession, selections from this extensive collection will be offered by Tremont Auctions in upcoming sales.

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‘Sa Ga Yean Qua Rash Tow,’ original Dutch mezzotint by Peter Schenck, which sold for $16,000 ($20,320 with buyer’s premium) at Tremont Auctions.
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‘Tee Yee Neen Ho Ga Row,’ mezzotint by John Simon, which sold for $12,000 ($15,240 with buyer’s premium) at Tremont Auctions.
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