An exciting fine-art discovery a fresh-to-the-market late-1920s oil-on-canvas painting by Taos Art Colony luminary Victor Higgins (1884-1949) will headline Mapes Auctioneers
Sept. 30 auction.
An old family piece, the 27- by 30-inch artwork depicts a Native American woman in front of an adobe building with a vine-covered column in the foreground. It was purchased directly from the artist approximately 80 years ago and passed through descent to the consignor, who is the original owners great-nephew. The painting has never before appeared at auction or been offered for sale.
The Higgins came from a retired gentleman who lives less than a mile from our gallery, said David Mapes, owner of Mapes Auctioneers. He walked into my office one day and said he and his wife were moving to Colorado and had two paintings they wanted to sell. The other painting was nice, but when I saw the Higgins, I couldnt believe my eyes. It was similar to a smaller painting by the artist that sold at Christies a few years ago for over $400,000.
Mapes recalls that he told the consignor, Thats a very good painting, to which the consignor replied, How good? Mapes then delivered the news that, in his opinion, it was worth more than $100,000, adding that the auction record for a Victor Higgins painting is $769,000. The consignor was stunned, Mapes said.
Several identifications are written on the artworks stretcher the name Ruth and the notation Victor Higgins $600. Mapes said it is likely that the original owner made the purchase prior to the Wall Street Crash of 1929.
From what the consignor tells me, his great-uncle was an art aficionado who once served as director of the Municipal Art League of Chicago. He was also an attorney who lost a great deal of money when the stock market crashed. Its unlikely that he would have been buying art after incurring major financial losses, so we think the painting may have been purchased in 1928 or 1929, Mapes said.
According to Mapes, Higgins was a visionary in search of the real America and moved to New Mexico around 1915, when Taos was still an isolated village with dirt roads. He was fascinated by the native people of Taos and became both a permanent resident and a member of the Taos Society of Artists, in 1917.
The Higgins painting has been examined by a major art restorer who works with museums, Mapes said, and it was determined that the painting has never been cleaned or restored. It is in original condition and in a nice period frame that may be the original, Mapes said. The painting will be offered with a $200,000-$400,000 estimate.
The other painting coming from the Higgins consignor is a 24- by 26-inch Southwestern mountain landscape by Taos school artist Carl Hoerman (German/American, 1885-1955), titled Arizona Desert. Signed and dated 1929 on the front, the framed oil-on-canvas artwork is executed in soft desert hues with depictions of cacti and numerous other indigenous flora. On auction day it is expected to make $1,000-$2,000.
The 300-lot sale also includes a collection of 60 pieces of 19th-century New York state stoneware from an estate in Trumansburg, N.Y. Most of the vessels are ovoid jugs and jars, although there are also some 3-sided examples and later molded pieces from Whites Utica. Most have a floral motif, although one features a bird. Individual estimates range from $100 to $1,000.
A beautiful American blue opaline glass fluid lamp that may be by Sandwich measures 13 inches high and was crafted in the Flame Bulls-Eye pattern. In excellent condition, it could bring $750-$1,500. Another glass highlight is the Steuben verre de soie perfume bottle with blue stopper, estimated at $200-$400.
The nicely mixed selection of antiques and fine art also includes a 35-inch-tall Theodore Coinchon (French, 1814-1881) garden bronze of Pan playing his flute, est. $2,000-$4,000; a Chief Big Moon cast-iron mechanical bank in original condition with 90% paint, est. $2,000-$4,000; and a 19th-century coin-silver teapot on stand by Bailey of Philadelphia, est. $1,000-$2,000.
Also, a 5-piece array of Deldare ware will be offered. The grouping includes vases and two trays, which arent commonly found. The smaller tray measures 9 by 12 inches and is titled Dancing Ye Minuet, while the 10- by 13-inch tray is titled Heirlooms. Both are in excellent condition, and each carries a presale estimate of $200-$400.