KNOXVILLE, Tenn.— An important Tennessee impressionist painting, a newly discovered Virginia painted “mermaid” chest, and the Salli LaGrone collection of American silver are the star offerings at the Winter Case Antiques Auction, to be held January 28 at the company’s gallery in Knoxville. The 800-lot sale – largest in the company’s history – also features notable historic documents, collections of maps, prints, and British porcelains, and more than 100 lots of Asian antiques.
Of special interest is a painting of a mother and child seated in a meadow by Tennessee’s most prominent Impressionist painter, Anna Catherine Wiley (1879-1958). A student of major American impressionists such as Robert Reid, Jonas Lie, and Martha Walter, Wiley also helped pioneer the art program at the University of Tennessee. She exhibited at notable venues including the National Academy of Design in New York and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Tragically, her career ended in 1926 when she suffered a mental breakdown; she remained institutionalized the rest of her life.
“Wiley’s paintings are in demand even outside Tennessee and hardly ever come on the market,” noted company president John Case. “This one was painted in 1913 at the peak of her career, and the size and subject matter give it a magnificent presence.” The painting, which has been in a Tennessee family’s collection for decades, is estimated at $60,000-$75,000.
The sale also features a drypoint by Alfred Hutty (1877-1954), a cotton-picking scene by Southern memory artist Alice Lattimer Moseley (1909-2004) and three paintings by Tennessee born Joseph Delaney (1904-1991): a view of New York’s Williamsburg Bridge, a circus scene, and a female nude, along with two Delaney drawings. There is a landscape painting depicting a Maryland plantation by Charles Fleischmann (19th c.) and an unsigned watercolor of a Civil War encampment, hunting dog paintings by John Martin Tracy (1843-1893) and Wilhelm Eilerts of Kentucky (19th c), and more than a half-dozen paintings from the estate of Horst Schrek (1885-1967), an artist who worked for the U.S. Veterinary Corps in World War I, painting real life “War Horses”. Works by internationally collected artists include a seascape by Emile Maillard (French, 1846-1926), an interior scene by Danish artist Hans Hilse (1871-1942), landscapes by British artists Frank E. Jaimeson (1834-1899) and Edwin Edwards (1823-1879), and portraits by Henry Inman (American, 1801-1846) and Ernest Hebert (French 1817-1908).
Stories of furniture treasures being found in the same county where they were made are becoming increasingly less common, but that’s exactly what happened in the instance of a painted blanket chest, discovered a few months ago in Wythe County, Virginia. The late 18th century chest features three original painted tombstone panels across the front, the center one containing mermaid and parrot motifs. Other examples of those motifs appear on fraktur by Peter Bernhart of Augusta County, Virginia, and the dahlia paint scheme featured in the chest’s two flanking panels is found on several of the earliest and most intricately known decorated chests from Wythe County.
The sale also features a painted box, possibly from the North Carolina Swisegood school, a pair of yellow pine demilune tables and a bookcase press attributed to Georgia, and three Southern sugar chests. An outstanding miniature sugar chest in original surface, recently found in Alabama, is part of an assemblage of miniature furniture that also includes a signed Biedermeier chest, a child’s Federal inlaid chest of drawers, a miniature tall case clock (possibly Pennsylvania) and a Southern fall front desk with dovetailed drawers, just 5-1/2”H.
There are more than 100 lots of silver in the auction, most of it American coin silver from the collection of Salli Shropshire LaGrone of Franklin, Tennessee. LaGrone was known to many in the antiques community for her stylish booths at upscale antique shows and for her contributions to friend Martha Stewart’s shows and publications. LaGrone passed away in 2011 at the age of 63, following a brief illness. Her silver collection had a decidedly Southern accent – there are flatware and julep cups from antebellum Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina – but she also owned an Eoff and Shephard coin silver basket, a large coin silver tray by William Adams presented to financier Moses Taylor of New York, a castor attributed to 18th century Boston silversmith Benjamin Burt and a beaker with an 1815 Berkshire, Massachusetts Agricultural Society inscription. Other silver highlights in the sale include a Gale, Wood & Hughes coin tea service, a Tiffany letter holder displayed at the Columbian Exhibition, flatware services in Tiffany’s Audubon and Olympian patterns and Gorham’s Versailles and King Edward patterns among others, a Cartier box inscribed with signatures from the principals of South Pacific (including Rodgers and Hammerstein), and a collection of Matthew Boulton Old Sheffield Plate, including a plateau and other uncommon forms.
Another highlight of the sale is a complete set of John Audubon’s Octavo edition of the Birds of America (7 volumes, published 1860) and the Quadropeds of North America (3 volumes, published 1856). There are several fine antique maps, including a hand-drawn map of Georgia dated 1802, and rare 17th and 18th century prints of fish, shell, and botanical subjects from publishers including Niccolo Gualtieri and Georg Andreas Boeckler, also from the LaGrone collection. In the document category, a Robert E. Lee-signed letter written to Governor Pickens of South Carolina and dated 1862 is expected to draw interest, as is an archive of printed and audiotaped material related to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. assassination case from the estate of Nashville attorney Jack Kershaw, who defended James Earl Ray in the 1970s.
Asian antiques have been setting auction records around the world this year, and Case’s Jan. 28 auction includes a fine collection of snuff bottles from the estate of Fred C. Kennedy. Kennedy was nationally known for his mineral collection, many examples of which were exhibited at the Smithsonian. He had a particular fascination for mineral snuff bottles, which he purchased in London, New York and Hong Kong in the 1970s; he was also a member of The Chinese Snuff Bottle Society of America. The sale also includes more than a dozen carved shoushan lohans consigned by St. Mary’s Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and numerous other carved jade and ivory objects, along with examples of Chinese porcelain from the 18th century through the Republic period.
Southern pottery, a staple at Case, is highlighted by a stoneware rundlet inscribed “J. C. Crawley, 1851,” a rare form and one of the earliest known dated pieces of pottery from Middle Tennessee. The auction also includes a redware jug attributed to the Cain pottery, fresh off exhibit in the East Tennessee Historical Society’s exhibit of Tennessee pottery, along with Edgefield wares and Georgia folk pottery. Salli LaGrone’s extensive collection of 18th century English porcelain, pearlware and creamware lends international interest to the ceramics category and features examples from makers including Wedgwood, Davenport, Derby, Leeds and Worcester.
A late 19th century Navajo wearing blanket headlines a selection of Native American pottery and baskets. Other notable textiles are two 18th French Aubusson needlework panels, one of them signed, a set of 18th century toile bed hangings, and several Southern quilts.
Rounding out the sale are several gold coins and pieces of paper money, an 1839 East Tennessee Masonic medal, collectible medallions from the estate of former four star General Hanford MacNider, a Monopol 17-1/4” walnut cased music box, a collection of Howard Finster and other folk/outsider art pieces, and several lots of gold jewelry.
The auction takes place at Case’s gallery in the historic Cherokee Mills Building, 2240 Sutherland Avenue in Knoxville, on Saturday, January 28. Online, absentee and phone bids will also be accepted. A preview will take place on Friday, January 27 from noon to 6PM EST or by appointment. The catalog for the auction, with full descriptions, price estimates, and photographs for items in the order in which they will be sold can be viewed online at www.caseantiques.com.
The company is also accepting quality art and antique consignments for its Spring/Summer 2012 auction. For more information, call the gallery in Knoxville at (865) 558-3033 or the Nashville office at (615) 812-6096.