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$1 Million Declaration of Independence tops Sotheby's biggest Americana Week series since 2007
The celebrated William J. Stone Facsimile of The Declaration of Independence sold for $975,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s 2019 Americana Week auctions concluded yesterday in New York with an outstanding total of $21.3 million – the highest Americana Week series total since 2007. Led by a printing of the celebrated William J. Stone reproduction of the Declaration of Independence that achieved $975,000, over 1,250 lots spanning more than five centuries of American history were sold over the course of five auctions.

The week began last Thursday with the first session of Important Americana, which offered a diverse array of silver, Chinese export ceramics and prints. The following day, on 18 January, more than 280 exquisite pieces of furniture and decorative objects from the collection of Nelson & Happy Rockefeller realized an impressive $3.3 million, led by a superb ensemble of Chinese export porcelain. Over the weekend, Sotheby’s presented the Collection of Anne H. and Frederick Vogel III – one of the finest assemblages of early Americana and early English pottery, which brought $4.2 million, with an outstanding 94.4% of lots sold. On Sunday, the important American folk art collection of visionary collector, David Teiger, achieved $2.5 million with proceeds to benefit Teiger Foundation — soon to be one of the world’s largest Contemporary Art foundations. The day continued with our second session of Important Americana, which totaled $6.8 million and was topped by a notable selection of fine furniture from distinguished private collections and institutions. Our success across all categories was sealed yesterday, with a dedicated offering of Fine Manuscript & Printed Americana achieving $4.5 million, led by exceptional historical documents that bear witness to the full sweep of American history.

Erik Gronning, Head of Sotheby’s Americana Department, commented: “We are pleased with the results of our 2019 Americana Week thus far – our horses galloped, eagles soared, shaker shook, ceramics shone and furniture shined through its original old surface. As the results show, both seasoned and new clients responded very favorably to our continued curated presentation of Americana across all categories as exceptionally made and historically important works of art.”

Auction Total $4.5 Million

Yesterday’s Fine Manuscript and Printed Americana sale offered an impressive span of historical documents and artifacts chronicling the history of the United States from the colonial period through World War II.

The Americana Week series was led by the only known privately held copy of the celebrated William J. Stone facsimile of the Declaration of Independence for which provenance can be traced back to a direct ancestor who received it in 1824. The historical printing sold for $975,000 (estimate $600/800,000), acquired by Mr. David Rubenstein to be loaned to a Washington, D.C. institution. As the original Declaration became increasingly fragile, then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams commissioned William J. Stone to engrave a facsimile on a copper plate in 1820. The present printing is marked by its exceptional provenance – it has descended through the family of its original recipient in 1824, Thomas Emory (1782–1842) of Maryland, through to the present owner. Adams may have presented this Stone Declaration to Emory in order to help win Maryland in the hotly-disputed presidential election of 1824. Earlier in the sale, probably the finest copy extant of the first book-form printing of the Declaration of Independence sold for $471,000 (estimate $300/500,000). Done by patriot printer Robert Bell on 8 July 1776, the present copy had descended through the family of a French officer serving in the American Revolution.

A broadside printing by John Dunlap of the official proclamation of the Treaty of Paris, signed by the President and Secretary of the Continental Congress, was another star of the auction series, selling for $855,000 (estimate $800,000/1.2 million). The broadside carries the complete, official text of the articles of peace signed at Paris that brought the Revolutionary War to an end, signed in type by David Hartley for Great Britain and by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay for the United States. Additional highlights across yesterday’s sale included a first edition, second state, original hand-colored copy of Paul Revere’s famous Boston Massacre print from 1770, an icon of the American Revolution that brought $362,500 (estimate $150/200,000), as well as a collection of personal items owned by the Marquis de Lafayette that descended through the family of his granddaughter to the present owners. The group featured a portrait of Lafayette at age 15, sold for $81,250 (estimate $25/35,000), as well as Lafayette’s mourning ring worn in memory of his “adopted father” George Washington, which brought $50,000 (estimate $25/35,000).

Auction Total $6.8 Million

Sotheby’s annual offering of Important Americana concluded Sunday, distinguished by an outstanding assemblage of property from private family collections and institutions.

The auction was led by a pair of portraits by Joshua Johnson, Dr. Andrew Aitkin (1757-1809), Mrs. Andrew Aitkin (Elizabeth Aiken, 1761-1811) and Her Daughter, Eliza Aitkin (1798-1885), which achieved $675,000 – more than eight times their $80,000 high estimate. Born in Paisley, Scotland, Dr. Andrew Aitkin arrived in America sometime prior to 1780, when he married Elizabeth Aitkin of Philadelphia with whom he would have ten children, including Eliza who is shown with her mother in the present work. His obituary in the Baltimore Federal Gazette mentions his service during the Revolutionary War as a surgeon under the command of General Richard Montgomery.

Examples of fine furniture were topped by the Exceptional Samuel Whitehorne Carved Mahogany Bonnet-Top High Chest of Drawers, Goddard-Townsend School, Newport, Rhode Island, circa 1760, which fetched $543,000 (estimate $150/300,000). A masterpiece of American furniture, this exceptional high chest retains its original surface and displays numerous details of construction and ornament that firmly tie it to the Goddard and Townsend craft tradition. Originally owned by Samuel Whitehorne (1744-1796), the prosperous merchant and distiller of Newport, Rhode Island, the work had remained in the Whitehorne-Ennis family for nearly 260 years and had never been published or offered at auction until these sales.

Auction Total $3.3 Million

Friday’s auction of furniture and decorative objects from the treasured collection of Nelson & Happy Rockefeller totaled $3.3 million – nearing the sale’s high estimate and with a strong 83% of lots sold. A group of superlative Chinese export ceramics brought top prices throughout the sale, led by a Rare Crab-Form Tureen and Cover, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period that soared past its $200,000 high estimate to achieve $375,000. The delicately and realistically modeled tureen is one of only four published examples, including those residing in the Peabody Essex Museum and the Royal Academy Collection.

Sotheby’s sales of property from Nelson & Happy Rockefeller’s collection have reached $11.4 million to-date. The Americana Week auction followed the success of our dedicated November offering of important 20th Century Design, Impressionist & Modern and Contemporary Art from the collection – featuring a selection of works commissioned by Nelson from designer Jean-Michel Frank to fill his distinguished 810 5th Avenue apartment – as well as jewels from Happy’s personal collection that highlighted our Magnificent Jewels sale in December. Passionately assembled with wide-ranging interests and an unwavering eye for quality, this remarkable assemblage is not only tied to one of America’s most storied families, but is also a significant and pioneering collection in and of itself.

Auction Total $4.2 Million
On Saturday, Sotheby’s held a sale dedicated to the collection of Anne H. & Frederick Vogel III – a remarkable assemblage of early Americana and early English pottery. Collectors responded to the fresh-to-market material, much of which had remained off the market for nearly 30 years, and propelled the sale to a $4.2 million total, with an exceptional 94.4% of the nearly 500 lots sold.

Among the furniture and decorative arts illustrating early American colonial life, the sale was highlighted by several exemplary examples of Pilgrim Century furniture and decorative arts. The Important Fairbanks Family Pilgrim Century Turned and Red-Painted Maple Spindle-Back Great Chair, attributed to turner Ephraim Tinkham Jr. circa 1680, sold well above estimate for $125,000 (estimate $50/80,000), while An Important Pilgrim Century Red-Painted Carved Oak and Pine Document Box dated circa 1680 fetched $118,750 (estimate $50/100,000). The maker of this remarkable box was unknown until the groundbreaking research of Joshua Lane and Donald White, who conclusively proved that the maker was Thomas Stoughton IV.

Auction Total $2.5 Million
Sunday’s sales began with a dedicated offering of The Important American Folk Art Collection of David Teiger – one of the greatest collections of American folk art remaining in private hands, which followed Sotheby’s 2018 sales of contemporary art from the collection of the visionary collector, patron, and Museum of Modern Art, New York trustee. Sotheby’s sales of David Teiger’s collection have exceeded $100 million to-date, with proceeds benefitting Teiger Foundation for the support of contemporary art.

The sale was a very strong 90.8% sold by lot, led by a Long-Billed Curlew created between 1880-90 that brought $350,000 (estimate $300/500,000). The long-billed curlew is the largest American curlew species and was shot for food and sport throughout the 19th and early 20th-centuries. The present decoy is one of a handful of survivors of a shorebird rig owned and gunned over by the work’s original owner, Dr. John Charles Phillips of Beverly, Massachusetts.

The Teiger Collection also offered a rare, monumental, two-sided illustration from Henry Darger’s The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion – the 15-volume fictional history of an epic war that Darger spent approximately 20 years writing and nearly five decades illustrating. The large panoramic scene 49. At Jennie Richee, escape during approach of new storm needed into enemy lines achieved $325,000, besting its high estimate of $300,000.

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