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American Folk art from the Collection of Ralph O. Esmerian achieves $13 million at Sotheby's New York
The top lot of the auction was Samuel Robb’s carved figure of Santa Claus, which sold for $875,000. Photo: Sotheby's.
NEW YORK, NY.- A packed salesroom watched as Important American Folk Art from the Collection of Ralph O. Esmerian achieved $12,955,943* today at Sotheby’s New York, setting a new record total for any auction of American folk art – a record that had stood at Sotheby’s since 1994**.

Top prices were achieved by superb examples across a remarkable range of disciplines represented in the collection, including carvings, portraits, weathervanes, painted furniture and more. The top lot of the auction was Samuel Robb’s carved figure of Santa Claus, which sold for $875,000 – multiples of its $250,000 high estimate. Robb created the work as a Christmas present for his daughter, Elizabeth, in 1923.

Other notable prices included: Ruth Whittier Shute and Samuel Addison Shute’s Portrait of Jeremiah H. Emerson, which fetched $665,000 (est. $150/200,000); a Rare Carved Pine Pheasant Hen Weathervane, probably Connecticut circa 1875, that brought $449,000 (est. $200/3000,000); and The Carver Limner, painted by an unknown artist in Freeport, Maine circa 1835 and depicting three members of the local Carver family, which sold for $521,000 (est. $100/150,000).

The Esmerian Collection joins a long line of iconic folk art sales at Sotheby’s, beginning with The Collection of Stewart Gregory that established the market in 1979 and brought national attention to this material, and including The Bertam K. Little and Nina Fletcher Little Collection in 1994 and American Waterfowl Decoys: The Distinguished Collection of Dr. James McCleery in 2000.

Sotheby’s Americana Week sales continue this afternoon, with the second session of the Important Americana auction.

** The previous record total for an auction of American folk art was $12,299,528, achieved by the combined January and October 1994 auctions of The Bertam K. Little and Nina Fletcher Little Collection.

Visual Grace: Important American Folk Art from the Collection of Ralph O. Esmerian was sold by Order of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

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