On March 28, buyers filled the Garth’s sale room and the phone lines for the chance to bid on the wonderful selection of early American antiques and accessories when the star of the auction became a rare, decorated blanket chest from New Market, Shenandoah County, Virginia. The chest retained its original paint decoration consisting of yellow, orange and black leaves on a blue ground and a stylized bird adorning the lid. When the heated bidding ended and the dust cleared, the highly sought after piece sold to Pennsylvania dealer, Greg Kramer, with an in-room collector underbidding, for an impressive $38,187. “In any economy, the rarity and folk nature of a piece like the Stirewalt blanket chest will stand up and be noticed. You not only have paint as a primary interest factor – you also have regionalism. And the pride of ownership for regional objects from Virginia, as we know, runs strong,” remarked owner of Garth’s, and lead auctioneer, Jeff Jeffers.
Whether it was simply the desire to introduce a bit of color to a room or the intuitive need to own a decorative and utilitarian piece of the past, collectors and dealers alike flocked to other painted furniture and accessories yielding strong results overall. Pieces in various blue paints included a wonderful thirty-drawer apothecary chest, in old, but not original paint, that brought $16,450, a Pennsylvania poplar blanket chest dated 1836 with three lower drawers and turned feet that sold for $6,169, and a one-piece architectural corner cupboard which fetched just over $4,406. A Southern, possibly Virginia, punched tin pie safe with old red paint crossed the block for $4,230. A carved and painted eagle attributed to John Haley Bellamy in pine with a painted banner reading “Don’t Give Up the Ship” flew to a high bid of $9,988. A life-size, folk art carved and painted figure of a man (possibly Noah Weiss, Northampton County, Pennsylvania) walked away with a high bid of $7,050. Two assembled sets of American maple painted treen bowls realized $1,028 and $499.
While paint was bringing many of the leading prices of the day, it was by no means the sole sale focus as formal furniture accessories from both America and Europe faired well. The sale of a late-18th//early-19th century Scottish inlaid barometer by John Russell of Falkirk made many bidders sit up and take notice as it easily beat its pre-sale estimate, selling for an outstanding $11,162. An ash burl bowl with good figure and carved handles went to a new home for $5,875. Other highlights among the formal furniture included a Chippendale serpentine-front, cherry chest of drawers with fluted quarter columns and spurred ogee feet, which sold for $19,975, a Massachusetts Federal inlaid tall case clock by John Bailey with a fretwork pediment, mahogany case, ogee feet and inlaid flowers, which brought a timely $23,500, and a set of 6 figured maple Classical dining chairs in the Klismos style, which realized $3,055.
Needlework proved to be a favorite with the crowd as well. An important 1827 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania needlework by Eliza Grosh, Mrs. Buchanan’s School, Marietta, wrought in silk, paint and hair on linen with two women standing beneath a willow tree and flanking an urn and plinth brought a memorable $10,281. An 1818 New York sampler by Jannet Sinclair, C.F. Roses School, in silk on linen glaze with trees, a deer, lion, Adam and Eve and houses sold for $1,645. A sampler by Ann Brown, 1788, done in silk on wool with a large spotted deer, a spotted dog, and a swan on a lawn in front of a manor house brought $2,115.
With too many superb objects to mention, some of the additional highlights follow. A favorite among the artwork included a fine portrait of a cat sitting in front of a window selling for $2,115, while a small, unsigned folk art winter landscape attracted interest and sold for $2,703. Various items from a pewter collection were strong with a plate by Cornelius Bradford, New York City and Philadelphia, ca. 1752-1770, selling for $1,058 and another plate, likely dating to pre-Revolutionary War times by John Skinner, Boston, ca.1760-1790, sold for $999. A 19th century American wrought iron, floor standing candlestand with tripod base and an accordion arm resulted in a price of $1,087. A chalk garniture in the form of a compote of fruit previously in the collection of Harry Hartman of Marietta, PA, reached beyond its estimate and made $1,998. Of the coverlets offered, a standout was the blue and white, double weave example, probably New Jersey or New York, with central floral medallion surrounded by pineapples and other fruit motifs including cherries in the field within cornucopia and floral urn borders. The corner blocks read “Maria Demott 1840” and it sold for $646. Another star of the sale was the tramp art frame with repeating chip carved pattern of stars and pyramids($3,525).
When asked about the tone of the auction, Jeffers offered, “Overall, the auction was strong – given the current climate. Dealers and collectors alike were present and participated….I think that’s all we are asking. Just participate. For years, we have said from this podium, “Don’t be sorry tomorrow”. We’ve always meant that. Today, we really mean it.” Many throughout the crowd were looking for signs of a strong or weak marketplace – and, as with most auctions, prices were a bit all over the board, with some of the middle market coming in a bit stronger than in recent months. Jeffers continued, “You should be selling items today as you did two and five and ten years ago. If you have hesitations, call us to discuss specific honest with you. As a seller today, you have the advantage of our firm working harder for you than ever before. Sure, there are changes in the marketplace. No doubt about that. However, we should see things for what they are, not worse than they are.”
Garth’s next sale will include two sessions, the Third Annual Ohio Valley Auction and Early American Antiques and Decorative Arts, to be held Saturday, May 23rd beginning at 10:00 a.m. The gallery will be open for preview in the week prior to the sale with a special Wine and Cheese preview on Sunday, May 17 from 2pm to 5pm featuring a lecture at 3:30pm by Scott Erbes, Curator of Decorative Arts at The Speed Museum of Louisville, Kentucky. Visit www.garths.com for more details or call (740) 362.4771 to speak with a staff member.
Garth’s Auctions, Inc. 2690 Stratford Rd. PO Box 369, Delaware, Ohio 43015 Phone: (740) 362.4771 Fax: (740) 363.0164 Website: www.garths.com