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Americana Sale at Sotheby's Features the Collection of Frank and June Barsalona
John Hilling, The Burning of Old South Church in Bath , Maine : A Pair of Paintings (only one shown above). Oil on canvas. Painted circa 1854. Est. $35/85,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- On 30 September, Sotheby’s will hold an auction of Important Americana including furniture, folk art and silver. The sale features the Collection of Frank and June Barsalona, a superb group of American folk art including paintings, weathervanes, furniture and other decorative objects. The sale will be on exhibition at Sotheby’s New York galleries from 25 – 29 September, and is estimated at $3,805,000 – 7,568,100.

The Collection of Frank and June Barsalona
The Collection of Frank and June Barsalona marks a homecoming for many works of folk art purchased at major Americana auctions held at Sotheby’s in the 1970s and 80s. The Collection was formed under the passionate and discerning eye of Frank Barsalona, a talent agent and founder of the first booking agency to focus exclusively on rock groups, who organized the first American concerts for many British Invasion bands including The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.

In 1979, Mr. Barsalona attended the landmark auction of Americana from the collection of Stewart E. Gregory at Sotheby Parke-Bernet. He was immediately inspired by the skill and creativity evidenced in the homespun samplers, patchwork quilts, gracefully-carved formal furniture, painted chests and boxes. Mr. Barsalona went on to buy from other major sales, including the collections of Theodore Kapnek, Howard and Jean Lipman and Donald and Faye Walters, which were instrumental in defining this market. It is a testament to his vision as a collector that Mr. Barsalona is able to see important connections between Americana and other genres, such as the relationship between Abstract Expressionist painting and the work of early American artists, and often creates interesting juxtapositions in his own collection and home.

In discussing the Barsalonas, Nancy Druckman, Senior Vice President and Head of Sotheby’s American Folk Art department, said: “Their collection consists of such wonderful pieces, bought in early landmark sales that brought remarkable material into the market. These paintings and objects are the best of old friends–as are the Barsalonas. The sale of the Collection of Frank and June Barsalona will join the ranks of some really historic auctions in American folk art.”

The Collection of Frank and June Barsalona is led by the Portrait of Mary Margaret Deuel by Ammi Phillips (est. $500/700,000). The painting shows a young Mary Margaret seated on a patterned and fringed stool, wearing a white dress trimmed with ribbons and holding strawberries. The work was passed down directly through four generations of the Deuel family after 1884.

Two stunning weathervanes are also included in the Collection. Mr. Barsalona purchased A Rare Molded Copper Liberty Weathervane, attributed to Cushing and White, Waltham Massachusetts, circa 1865 from Sotheby’s auction of the collection of Stewart E. Gregory, the first Americana auction he had ever attended (est. $150/200,000). A Fine and Important Molded Copper Standing Indian “Massasoit” Weathervane, J. Harris & Company, Boston, Massachusetts, third quarter 19th century depicts a full length, three-dimensional standing figure of Massasoit, chief of the Wampanaog Indians, from what is now southern Massachusetts (est. $100/200,000).

Furniture from the Collection of Frank and June Barsalona is highlighted by A Very Fine and Rare Painted Decorated Blanket Chest, possibly Tylersville, Clinton Co., Pennsylvania, dated 1816, likely the only year that such chests were made (est. $50/150,000). Additional highlights demonstrate the depth of the Collection, including A Fine Needlework Sampler, Ruthey Lock, Lexington, Massachusetts, dated 1802 that was purchased from Sotheby’s 1981 sale of the collection of Theodore H. Kapnek (est. $20/50,000), and the William Edmondson limestone sculpture Kneeling Lady with Bow: Jezebel (est. $30/50,000).

Important Americana
Outside of the Barsalona Collection, the sale includes superb examples of American furniture, folk art and silver. The furniture is led by The Important Corlis-Bowen Family Chippendale Block and Shell-Carved and Figured Mahogany Desk-and-Bookcase, attributed to the shop of John Carlile, Sr., Providence, Rhode Island, circa 1770 (est. $800,000/2 million). A monumental example of block-and-shell craftsmanship from coastal Rhode Island, this desk-and-bookcase was originally owned by Dr. William (1747-1832) and Sarah Corlis Bowen (1748-1825), who likely commissioned it on the occasion of their marriage in 1769. The piece descended through female lines of their family for over 225 years until 1997, when it was sold at auction to its present owner. The Corlis-Bowen desk stands as a major example of Providence furniture, and is one of a small handful of Rhode Island block and shell-carved double case pieces ever made. Its perfect proportions, gorgeous wood and original details make it a masterwork of colonial design and craftsmanship.

The Parkman-Scollay Family Chippendale Carved and Figured Mahogany Bombé Chest of Drawers, attributed to Thomas Needham Sr., Boston, Massachusetts, circa 1780 is a masterpiece of late-eighteenth century cabinetmaking, and one of only a handful of bombé four drawer chests outside of museum collections (est. $200/500,000). It is distinguished by its provenance, having descended through and never leaving the Parkman family of Boston, its old, if not original, surface and original brass hardware, and by its dimensions: this chest incorporates the smallest measurements of any known example of bombé furniture.

Paintings from the sale include John Hilling’s The Burning of Old South Church in Bath Maine, a pair of canvases that depict the Old South Church both before and during its burning at the hands of an angry mob (est. $35/85,000). The crowd had been riled by a public speech from a member of the Know-Nothing-Party, a movement formed in 1849 in opposition to a recent wave of immigration into the United States. Ralph Earl’s Portrait of General Gershom Burr of Bushwick (Brooklyn), New York, 1789 captures an early view of Williamsburg and Bushwick at the time of their consolidation into a single town (est. $40/60,000). Gershom Burr was an original trustee of the Old Williamsburg Savings Bank, and a cousin to Aaron Burr, third Vice President of the United States.

The silver offered in the sale is highlighted by many fine examples from Tiffany & Co., New York. A Tiffany Silver and Mixed Metal “Japanesque” Water Pitcher, circa 1875, features a mokume butterfly and other insects flying amongst reeds and flowering tendrils (est. $50/60,000). Three playful groups of Silver and Enamel Circus Figures, designed by Gene Moore for Tiffany & Co. depict a variety of clowns, acrobats and animals, including monkeys, giraffes and a bear on roller-skates (est. $10/15,000; $15/25,000).

Sotheby's | Frank and June Barsalona | American Folk Art |

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