On February 21 and 22, 2015, Clars Auction Gallery
hosted what would result in the 4th largest sale in the firms history. The February Fine Art, Decoratives, Jewelry and Asian Antiques sale realized $2.6 million with the Decorative Arts and Furnishings category achieving an astonishing $1 million on the approximately 700 lots offered. The Richard Mellon Scaife Estate contributed significantly to these strong results accounting for roughly one-half of this categorys success. After the sale, Redge Martin, President of Clars commented that, This sale did seem to have that magic we see from time to time where we get record crowds and everything just does well. This was our 4th best sale and strength was apparent across the board, particularly in decoratives, but fine art did very well as did jewelry and Asian antiques and art. And, as always, we are pleased when our sales set new auction records which was the case in February.
Decorative Arts and Furnishings
The top lot of the entire sale and setting a new U.S. auction record was an amazing Chinese triple Fusee and gilt bronze bracket clock with automaton. Coming to the sale from an important California Estate, this clock was estimated to sell for $40,000 on the high side but, after very spirited bidding from the floor, phones and Internet, this clock soared to a new U.S. record of $270,000.
It seemed that time was certainly on Clars side in February as a second clock set a new world record for its type. This one, a Colonial mahogany Maiden figural nine tube tall case clock was expected to achieve $9,000 but, once again, intense bidding on this piece drove the final sale price to $21,500.
Turning to the highly anticipated offerings from the Richard Mellon Scaife Estate, the results from his Pittsburgh, Pebble Beach and Nantucket estates in February, continued to soar over the top. Deric Torres, Vice President of Clars and Director of Decorative Arts and Furnishings commented that, We continue to be extremely pleased with the results and the world wide interest seen for the pieces in this collection, particularly in the Staffordshire, which at this sale, accounted for over $100,000. Scaife bought and collected the finest throughout his life, as did his mother before him, so we are seeing these pieces come to the market that buyers have been thirsting for and they are responding in an astonishing and very robust manner. Clars is very honored to be able to so successfully offer portions of this important estate to the world of collectors that appreciate the level these works represent.
The excitement for the Scaife offerings began early during the Saturday session. A collection of jasperware, mostly Wedgewood, came to the sale with an estimate of $300 to $500. In this collection was a very rare Wedgwood bough pot that was the only example of the form to ever make an appearance on the market. This resulted in furious bidding from collectors that drove the sale price on this lot to $8,300.
The Scaife collection set a new world record for a late 18th/early 19th century English console table with a variegated marble top. This lot was being offered for $1,000-$1,500 but intense bidding drove this table to a record setting price of $22,600. Also carrying the same estimate and coming from Scaifes Pittsburgh estate, was a George III tilt-top breakfast table that soared to new heights selling for $11,900. To see these kinds of prices being realized on this type of furniture is testament to the quality that Scaife collected, said Torres.
Turning to porcelains, the Staffordshire figural groups offered brought astonishing prices, earning three to five times high estimate across the board. Highlights in these offering include an early 18th century Staffordshire Mary of Baptism porcelain table base attributed to Obadiah Sherratt that sold for $6,500; a circa 1810 pearlware bocage group that brought $5,600 and a circa 1815 pearlware figural group, of Walton type, that achieved $5,300.
Perhaps the most whimsical lot in the Scaife offerings, which also soared past high estimate, was a massive (2050) Victorian shell encrusted and shell mosaic floral bouquet. High demand for this piece drove the final price to $8,900.
Contributing to the strong success of the Decorative Arts and Furnishings category were offerings from several other important estates. A pair of Renaissance Revival six-light chandeliers, original fixtures in a 1860 Newton (MA) home, were estimated to sell for $6,000 but collectively achieved over $17,000. In sterling, the top offering was an English Regency tea kettle by Paul Storr, London, 1828, that earned a solid $10,700. For the vintage traveler, a French E. Goyard steamer trunk sailed away for just over $5,000 and befitting to toss in that trunk, was a stunning 1901 Fortuny Delphos dress dripping in gold Italian silk that slinked away for $4,250. Magical Indeed!
Fine Art highlights were numerous and in a variety of categories. Starting with American 19th and 20th century paintings, a spectacular Impressionist oil on canvas by William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916) titled, Still Life with Cherries and Copper Bowl, was the first lot to quiet the room. With multiple floor and phone bidders, this lot soared past its estimate of $10,000-15,000 finally selling for $47,600 to a joyous bidder in the room. California artists were next to impress the audience with a colorful oil on board titled, Sardine Boats, by August Gay (American, 1890-1948) that fetched $35,700 - doubling its low estimate of $15,000-$20,000. Another painting featuring the 52 foot, four-masted schooner, Lottie Bennett, by California maritime artist, William Coulter (American, 1849-1936), also sailed past its $4,000-6,000, selling for $23,800. Other notables in this category were a charming oil on board by Joseph Henry Sharp (American, 1859-1953) titled, Indian Encampment in Winter, which sold for $14,300, as well as a large oil on canvas by Percival Leonard Rosseau (American, 1859-1937) titled, The Hunting Dogs, which fetched a very respectable $11,900.
An important collection of works by Wolf Kahn (American/German, b. 1927) were also among the fine art top sellers. Kahns paintings titled, Open Woods (1993) and Trees in Spring (1993), went well beyond their estimates to achieve $47,600 and $29,750 respectively. Combined with two pastels by the artist, this collection totaled $60,685 for the seller. A beautiful acrylic on canvas by Robert Natkin (American, 1930-2010), Untitled from the Intimate Lighting Series (1980), also did better than expected fetching $11,305.
Prints continued to dominate at Clars as well with a whimsical linoleum cut in colors by Wayne Thiebaud (American, b. 1920) titled, Gumball Machine (1970), selling for an impressive $14,280 followed by a grandiose work by Frank Stella (American, b. 1937) titled, Then came an ox and drank the water, pl. 7 (from Illustrations after El Lissitzky's Had Gadya), which rallied past its $8,000-12,000 estimate to land at $11,900. Another favorite outperformer in multiples was a color etching with aquatint by Sam Francis (American, 1923-1994) titled, Trietto III (1991), which sold for $8,330. Last but not least, Keith Harings silkscreen in colors (American, 1958-1990) titled, Best Buddies (1990), outperformed its range selling for $7,140.
19th century European art also fared very well. A lovely landscape painting by Charles Daubigny (French, 1817- 1878) titled, Lavandieres Au Bord De L'Oise (1864), soared past its $7,000-10,000 estimate finally selling for $20,230. A charming oil on canvas by Rudolf Ribarz (Austrian, 1848-1904) titled, Village with Bridge, sold well past its $4,000-6,000 estimate to fetch $15,470. Russian art continued to be a strong performer with works by Ivan Fedorovich Choultsé (1874-1939), Vladimir Donatovitch Orlovsky (1842-1914), Georgi Alexandrovich Lapchine (1885-1950) and Vassili Yakovlevich Sitnikov (1915-1987) selling well above expectations with a combined staggering total of $74.500 in sales.
Sculpture did well overall prompted by a nice surprise by a painted bronze by Richard MacDonald (American, 1946) titled, Showtime II, from the Mime Series (1990), which jumped past its $6,000-9,000 estimate to fetch $9,520.
Asian Art and Antiques
The Asian Art section had a well-rounded sale with highlights in various categories. A pair of Chinese porcelain stools with grisaille dragons on a lime green ground from the late Qing/early Republic period was estimated to sell for $5,000 but intense bidding drove the final price to $23,800. Coming in just behind was a hardwood cabinet elaborately carved with dragons. With a pre-sale estimate of $3,000 to $5,000, this cabinet sold for $22,610. A Ge-type hu vase flew past its $900 high estimate selling for $9,500 and a Chinese stone inlaid lacquer eight panel screen featuring various scholars items sold solidly for $9,100. Of tremendous interest to bidders was a Chinese coral carving from the Mellon Scaife estate. From the late Qing/Republic period, this lot also soared past high estimate achieving $10,700.
Fine Jewelry and Timepieces
Two of the jewelry lots ranked in the top 10 in the February sale. An absolutely stunning diamond and platinum ring with a round brilliant diamond weighing over 3 cts sold for $26,100. Coming in at $22,200 was an emerald cut diamond (2.96 cts) and platinum ring. Jadeite showed its high demand with a jadeite, diamond and 14k white gold ring garnering $11,900 and a beautiful large Faberge Russian rose gold cigarette box captivated collectors and performed very well at $8,900.