In an auction containing 600 lots of items with national and international appeal, Southern decorative arts carried the day at the Spring Case Antiques Auction, held May 22 at the company’s gallery. It was the company’s largest sale to date and attracted a record number of Internet, phone and absentee bidders, as well as a crowd of well over 100 people in the salesroom.
Several of the most desired pieces had histories from Horse Shoe Bend Plantation, a 19th-century Greek Revival home in Grainger County, Tenn., which was flooded after construction of the Cherokee Dam in the early 20th century. They included the sale’s top-selling lot, a rare East Tennessee cherry cupboard or press with turned pilasters and glazed doors over a base with unusual pie safe tins. Estimated at $6,000-8,000, it surged to $15,890. A cherry bookcase on chest from the same estate brought $2,838, while a one-drawer table with shaped under tier and turned legs achieved $1,135 (est. $250-$350) and an East Tennessee birdcage candlestand perched at $738 (est. $350-$450) despite a replaced leg. A one-piece walnut glazed-door corner cupboard that descended in an early Nashville family was notable for its height (108 inches tall), original feet and dentil molded cornice. It closed at $5,675, while a Middle Tennessee cherry sugar chest with turned legs and unusual wooden liner found a sweet spot at $7,377. A red painted dower chest attributed to North Carolina or South Carolina sold for $908 (est. $500-$700).
Southern pottery continued its hot streak. The most sought-after piece was a redware pitcher by Greeneville, Tenn., potter Christopher Haun. The lead glazed pitcher featured manganese or iron oxide loop designs and unusual compass star and cross hatched stamping, as well as the name C.A. Haun & Co., but had lost its handle. Haun, a Union sympathizer during the Civil War, was hanged by the Confederates for his part in burning a railroad bridge in 1861. His pieces are scarce, and this was the only known marked pitcher form by him. It generated a fierce floor battle that culminated at $9,988. A 9 1/2-inch-tall stoneware jar with double lug handles by Tennessee potter William Grindstaff, in excellent condition, hammered down for $1,702 while an urn-form jar with tan band, also stamped Grindstaff but broken and glued, brought $482 (est. $100-$200).
“Most pottery with that level of damage has no value, but the fact that these pieces in this kind of damaged condition are bringing these kinds of prices tells you a lot about the strength of the market for marked Tennessee and overall Southern pottery,” said John Case, company president.
A 4-gallon stoneware jar with bold cobalt floral decoration attributed to Charles Decker of the Keystone Pottery in Washington County, Tenn., competed to $2,610, while a miniature stoneware jar with cobalt-stamped four leaf clover design signed “E.W.”, found near Kentucky, brought $851 (est. $400-$500), and a North Carolina ring jug marked W.H. Hancock made $2,383 (est. $1,200-$1,400). A Georgia Lanier Meaders face jug with rock teeth was snapped up for $1,475, while an Edwin Meaders rooster crowed at $908.
Civil War material also made a strong showing. An archive of letters related to Confederate soldier Thomas Bell, who was stationed and captured at Fort Donelson, doubled its estimate at $2,724, and a lot of G.A.R. and Wilder’s Brigade ribbons and other items related to Union soldier Isaac Harrell earned $2,497 (est. $900-$1,200). A wooden Confederate canteen painted with a scene of a Confederate flag displayed over a headstone marked “unknown” was believed to be the work of Alabama infantry captain and artist Charles Moore, and realized its high estimate, $1,362. Other Civil War related items in general including relics and weapons brought good results, and a carved wooden cane that descended from the estate of a Union soldier, depicting a Confederate snake chasing a Tennessee mockingbird seeking safety under a Union eagle shield hit $568. A circa 1869 autograph book belonging to Andrew Johnson, inscribed with the signatures of U.S. senators and the chief justice of the Supreme Court was offered along with a Johnson signed check dated 1867 and tallied $1,816.
Other Southern pieces of note included a 1794 Tennessee map that arrived at $1,362 and a crazy quilt signed and dated 1885 that realized $738.
Silver was healthy as a category. The top silver lot was a Baltimore repoussé Castle pattern five-piece tea service with marks for Schofield and at least one overstruck Steiff mark. Estimated at $2,500-$3,500, it saw heavy online and phone activity and hammered down for $7,945. A Tennessee coin silver punch ladle bearing the mark of Nashville silversmith John Campbell served up $2,838 (est. $800-$1,200) and a bulbous pitcher with wood handle by William Spratling brought $1,589. Flatware in late 19th and early 20th century patterns by Alvin, Scheibler, Tiffany and Wood and Hughes was also in good demand.
The sale’s anticipated top lot, a painting of ballerinas by 20th-century Russian-American artist Grigory Gluckmann (est. $60,000-$80,000), failed to reach its reserve, but Case negotiated a private sale for an undisclosed price within a few hours of the auction’s end. A Continental School portrait of Philip the IV of Spain, which appeared to be an early canvas laid down on a later 19th century canvas, brought $4,313 (est. $1,500-$2,500), while a nude etching by James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1896) finished at $5,902. A miniature watercolor on paper portrait of a Tennessee gentleman by John Wood Dodge (American, 1807-1893), found at a Middle Tennessee tag sale, sold to a Southern institution for $2,270, and an etching of the California coast by Tennessee artist Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer (1873-1943) realized $738.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the sale was a pair of Asian carved panels with applied raised ivory, jade and other stones out of a local estate. Attracting five phone bidders and multiple online bidders, it soared to $10,215 against a $600-$800 estimate. Other strong performers in the sale included a set of 12 hand-painted Haviland oyster plates, $2,384; an Auguste Edouart silhouette of two women and a bird, $1,362; and a circa 1810 watercolor fraktur attributed to Ohio, $851. A 38-star American flag flew to $1,589 against a $375-$475 estimate and a circa 1900 John Robinson Circus advertising poster rang up double its estimate at $624.
Case is currently accepting consignments for its Fall sale, slated for Sept. 25 at its gallery in the historic Cherokee Mills Building, 2240 Sutherland Ave. in Knoxville. Potential consignors may call the Knoxville gallery at (865) 558-3033 or Case’s Nashville office at (615) 812-6096 or visit www.caseantiques.com.
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