Between the Midwest Antiques Forum, the Equal in Goodness exhibit, and Garths Fifth Annual Ohio Valley Auction, anyone who has an interest in Midwestern decorative arts, or even Americana in general, must plan a trip to Ohio this May. Garths Auctions
is the sponsor of both the Forum and the exhibit and will present over 800 lots during the upcoming May 20-21 Americana auction which will feature what is probably the best Ohio Valley auction since the inaugural sale in 2007. Comprised of nearly 200 lots, the Friday Ohio Valley session includes, not only some iconic objects, but overall, a thoroughly solid offering.
Among the hotly anticipated Ohio items to sell, Vice President Andrew Richmond counts lot 44 as a likely candidate. The decorated wardrobe (or schrank) comes from Bluffton, Allen and Hancock Counties, Ohio and dates to circa 1860. The one-piece, estimated at $2,500-5,000, has a lift-off cornice, a raised-panel door set on pintel hinges, and its original faux mahogany graining, green trim, and star decoration on the door. Since many early Bluffton settlers had migrated from Sonnenberg in Wayne County, the design and construction of both one- and two-door wardrobes is similar in both communities. For a related two-drawer Bluffton wardrobe, see Equal in Goodness: Ohio Decorative Arts 1788-1860, entry 132; for a related one-door example from Sonnenberg, see Irwin and Locher, Artistry of the Cabinetmaker, fig. 200. Richmond, who served as the guest curator for the Equal in Goodness exhibit considers himself, a sucker for all things with Swiss or German influences.
Another cupboard from Northern Indiana, is dated 1895 and decorated with black and red paint with gold stenciling, including embellishments of birds. The two-piece, stepback cupboard, estimated at $5,000-10,000, exhibits stenciled birds on the lower doors identical to birds on a blanket chest in private hands, and both pieces were found in northern Indiana. The heart-lyre and the starflower motifs on the present cupboard are also identical to those that appear on two blanket chests previously sold by Garth's (November 2009, lots 118 and 119). These motifs also appear on furniture by several makers in Soap Hollow, Pennsylvania, including Jeremiah Stahl (1830-1907). The consistent use of identical stenciled motifs across a large geographic area and on furniture clearly by several different hands, suggests that the stencils were being widely copied, or perhaps even produced for sale or trade.
The highlight of the Ohio folk art to sell will most certainly be from the collection of eleven works by Columbus artist Elijah Pierce. The son of a former slave, Pierces work gained respect and notoriety in the folk art community during the 1970s up through his death in 1984. Since the artist started producing his works in the 1920s, the breadth of work can be religious themed as well as secular showing his love of both his work as a lay minister and his interests in politics, sports, movies, and the African-American experience. The most anticipated lot is a 1966 work titled Jesus and the Angels. A 28 1/2"h. x 15"w. relief carved plaque of Jesus surrounded by clouds and angels and, what appears to be the 12 disciples, it retains the original, vibrant polychrome painted surface.
Acquired from the artist by the parents of the current owner, it is expected to reach $18,000-22,000. From the same family provenance, Garths offers another Biblical plaque by Pierce with verse and imagery estimated at $8,000-12,000. This plaque is inscribed verso," Mr + Mrs James Morgan Started feb. 18. 1860. God is our refuge and strength + Present Help in time of Trouble Psalms 46.1. Presented by Mrs + E. Pierce its A Part of me." Other more moderately estimated lots will include figures of a football player ($350-700), a wooden silhouette of a tree ($200-400), and a silhouette of two people in rocking chairs ($400-800). The relief carved, wooden plaque, The African Queen, depicts two women surrounded by figures, possibly a choir. At 17 1/4"h. x 22 3/4"w., the piece is dated 1980 and it is believed that it could bring as much as $6,000-8,000.
Folk art by another popular Ohio artist, Ernest Popeye Reed, will also cross the block. Two large carved sandstone figures of a seated Indian chief, 47h., and a seated Indian woman with papoose on her back, 48h., each carry an estimate in the range of $2,000-5,000. Two figural zinc trade signs in the forms of a bull head and a horse head are very collectible. They were probably made to promote a butcher and a livery, respectively, and carrying estimates of $1,000-2,000 and $500-1,000.
The artwork in the sale is prompting some great expectations especially those works by Clyde Singer. Born in Malvern, Ohio, about 125 miles from Garths gallery in Delaware, Singer became known for his regionalist paintings of people at carnivals, standing in bars, on windy street corners. Of the five lots by the artist in the sale, 30"h. x 36"w. oil on canvas titled Campus Queen depicts an attractive blonde woman walking along a busy sidewalk will attract the most attention (estimate $8,000-10,000). Other works of note will include a pastel portrait of a horse in a meadow by Ohio/Indiana artist Henry Dousa. Identified in the scene as "Big Frank at 2 yrs. Sired by Capulet 9697. Dam Jet by Young Frenchman Sire of Virginia Rec. 2.181/2.", the 16 3/4"h. x 21 3/4"w. portrait is estimated at $4,000-7,000. Two works by Ohio artist Alice Schille, a landscape drawing by Ferdinand Brader, a portrait of an Indian by Richard Creifelds, a scene of men working in a foundry by Sylvester Benjamin Shiley, and a portrait of the Great Lakes steamer, Seneca, by Vincent Douglas Nickerson ( estimate $2,000-4,000) are among the other pieces to be sold.
Samplers with delicate floral and impressive architectural depictions remain an important genealogical record to this day. Of the 19 lots of samplers from locations such as Ohio, Kentucky, and New England to be sold throughout the weekend, a silk and metal on linen 1765 example by Elizabeth King of Essex County, Massachusetts is the nicest. With wide floral borders on three sides and a central picture of a man in a tri-corner hat smoking a long clay pipe beside a dog and a lady carrying a basket on one arm and the other hand outstretched holding a flapping bird, the textile measures 16 1/4"h. x 16 3/4"w. and should sell for $1,000-2,000. Of the dozens of coverlets and quilts in the sale, the nicest is likely the early medallion quilt from Virginia or West Virginia dating to the late 18th-early 19th century. Made in cotton with multiple borders of small tan and brown prints interspersed with pink florals in sawtooth, diamonds and star patterns surrounding an appliqued central panel of flowering branches, it is anticipated to sell for $800-1,200.
Ceramics lovers should enjoy the bounty of choices in the sale. Over 50 lots of stoneware most with cobalt decoration will appeal to many collectors. A 20-gallon crock with a stenciled label for "CI Williams & Co. New Geneva, Pa" will likely go beyond its estimate of $500-1,000, while a narrow, ovoid form churn marked for David Albright (born 1806), Trumbull County, ca. 1850 (estimate $400-800), will tempt those seeking Ohio pieces. Over 2 dozen lots of Historical Blue tableware will be offered with a particularly nice plate depicting The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad on an incline, impressed "E. Wood & Sons..." all within a shell border estimated at $700-900 and a dome lid coffee pot of Lafayette at Franklin's Tomb by Enoch Woods expected to reach $1,000-1,500.
In reflecting on the selection within the auction, Garths CEO Jeff Jeffers commented This is a classic Garth's Americana sale for bidders: a diverse auction of quality, affordable objects. The palpable momentum in the market today (evidenced by buyers calling the office and chomping at the bit to get the catalog) is encouraging. It's all about the thrill of the hunt and finding the next treasure - and it's fun to feel everyone back at it.