KNOXVILLE, Tenn.— 20th century art plus a cache of 19th century historical ephemera proved a winning combination at the July 30 Case Antiques Auction, attracting more than 4500 registered bidders from 60 countries. The day ended with a new world auction record for Tennessee artist Carroll Cloar and several new American auction records for international artists. Overall, the sale exceeded its high estimate by 20 percent, achieved a 96 percent sell-through rate, and resulted in the company’s highest grossing auction to date.
The sale was billed a “Historic Southern Summer Auction” due to the number of historical lots originating from two large Tennessee plantation estates, Sarah Hunter Hicks Green of Devon Farm, Nashville, and Jean Yeatman of Hamilton Place, near Columbia. But international art proved to be a key category.
Leading the sale was an abstract oil on canvas by Fernando Zobel de Ayala y Montojo (Spanish/Filipino, 1924-1984). Eight phone bidders battled a slew of absentee and internet bidders all the way to $123,900, the second-highest price ever paid for Zobel at an American auction and nearly triple its low estimate (all prices include the buyer’s premium). Two small Zobel abstract ink drawings sold for $1,860 and $1,888. (All three works were from the estate of Robert L. Zarbock of Escondido, California, and proceeds will benefit his alma mater, the University of Illinois). The international phone lines were also buzzing on a circa 1700 portrait of a young man in the manner of Murillo, from the Yeatman estate. A European dealer beat out seven other phone bidders to claim it for $41,300. American auction records were set for 3 European artists: Carl Ritter Von Dombrowski (German, 1872-1951), an oil of three Russian wolfhounds, $11,800; Cavalier Michele Federico (Italian, 1884-1966), a coastal Capri scene, $3,276; and Mathias Finucane (English, fl. 1779), a miniature portrait of an officer in uniform, $1,652. An abstract bronze sculpture by Gabriella Crespi (Italian, b. 1922) sold for $5,952, and a Venetian landscape by Antoine Bouvard brought $3,402 despite a couple of small holes and scratches.
A Philadelphia consignor, settling his mother’s estate in New York, felt her painting by Carroll Cloar (American/Tennessee, 1913-1994) might bring a premium if sold in Tennessee. His hunch was confirmed when it raced to $51,920, a world record auction price for the artist (beating the previous record of $46,880 set by Sotheby’s in 2014). The new record holder, a landscape
depicting a weeping willow overtaking a Victorian house with a solitary man sitting on the porch, went home with a private Southern collector. A Cloar ink drawing of a man holding flowers sold for $1,652. The Tennessee State Museum tried hard to win a large 19th century panoramic watercolor view of Nashville as seen from Fort Negley, but was outbid by a Northeastern bidder on the phone at $17,110. That was the same price paid for an Edward Curtis orotone, “The Three Chiefs,” at the culmination of a round of heated phone bidding. Aggressive bidding also propelled a small kinetic sculpture by George Rickey (American, 1907-2002), “Space Churn with Cams II,” to $14,880, and a tabletop sonambient sculpture by Harry Bertoia (American, 1915-1978)
to $13,570. A small oil on board fishing village scene of Rockport Mass. by Anthony Thieme (American, 1888-19554) landed at $5,900 (est. $1,800-2,200), and a Sterling Strauser (Pennsylvania, 1907-1995) floral still life finished at $2,124. A North Carolina mountain and river landscape by Rudolph Ingerle (American, 1879-1950) brought $3,776, and a Smoky Mountain landscape by Louis
E. Jones (1878-1958) earned $2,596. A 19th century miniature portrait of Rachel Jackson, who died shortly before her husband Andrew took the Oval Office, hammered to an institution for $2,604. The artist was unknown. The auction also contained a number of 20th century abstract paintings by Southern artists, deaccessioned from the Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga. Highlights included an abstract oil by Jesse Bardin (S. Carolina, 1923-1987), $3,224, and a cubist still life by Emery Bopp (S. Carolina, 1924-2007) which tripled its high estimate at $1,984. Big diamonds brought big prices. An 8.03 carat round brilliant cut diamond (J color, S12 clarity), set in a platinum and diamond setting by JB Star, sparkled at $66,080, while a 6.83 carat round brilliant cut diamond (M color, s12 clarity), flanked by two one-carat diamonds on each side and set in a platinum ring, achieved $41,300. Both had GIA certificates. A bracelet containing 59 diamonds totaling 17.7 carats rounded up
$11,564, and a baguette diamond eternity ring, 7 carats total weight, hit $11,092. A 14K diamond line bracelet with 42 diamonds, totaling 8.4 carats, sold for $7,788, an 18K buckle bracelet weighing 91.7 grams more than doubled its estimate at $7,316, and a vintage 18K yellow gold bracelet studded with pink and green tourmaline stones realized $2,480.
Demand was robust for Asian antiques, with more bidders registered from China than from any country except the United States. A white jade bowl measuring over 6”
diameter was the subject of heavy phone and internet bidding and realized $28,320. A chicken bone jade brushwasher from the same estate collection cleaned up at $2,242, and a white jade hand mirror sold for $3,596. A pair of Chinese bronze warrior god figures topped an estate collection of Asian bronzes at $7,688, while a tall Meiji bronze figural oni reached at $3,422, and several Southeast Asian gilt bronze figures brought from $400-3,422. Porcelain items included a group of five pieces of Chinese export porcelain, $18,880; a pair of Chinese iron oxide glazed wall pockets with figural vignettes, $4,484; and a pale blue bottle-form Chinese vase, $3,224. A Famille Rose snuff bottle with cricket decoration jumped to $2,124 against a $400-450 estimate.
Many lots in the auction originated from Devon Farm, a Nashville antebellum plantation-turned internationally known breeding site for Devon Cattle, and the former home of the late Sarah Hunter Hicks Green. Case’s Vice President for Fine and Decorative Arts, Sarah Drury, who runs the company’s Nashville office,
estimated the staff organized about 8,000 pieces of paper and photographs from Mrs. Green’s estate into various lots for the auction. An archive of photos, diaries and documents related to the Hicks family circa 1850-1960 generated fierce competition before settling at $7,080, while a group of 68 slave bills of sale related African Americans purchased by one of the plantation’s owners realized $6,844. There was also a Gold Rush archive belonging to another Devon Farm owner. Although he returned to Tennessee without having found any gold, his diary and spurs struck it rich a century and a half later at $4,464. And an archive relating to John Davis, who originally settled the Devon Farm property in the 1790s, earned $4,720. Davis’s brass compass, used
to lay out parts of Nashville in the late 18th century, sold for $3,422. An archive relating strictly to Devon Farm’s cattle business tallied $2,478, while an oil painting of one of its prize cows fetched $4,712 and an agricultural coin silver cup awarded to a Devon Farm cow earned $3,068. There were also numerous land grants related to the family, signed by governors who went on to national prominence. 3 Sam Houston signed land grants each sold in the $2,000 range, while 2 James K. Polk signed grants brought $930 and $1,298. A land grant signed by James Robertson, founder of Nashville, drew extra attention because his signature is rarely seen, and it ended up being the highest selling land grant at $3,776.
One of Sarah Hunter Hicks Green’s grandfathers was photographer Otto Giers, who with his father C.C. Giers helped document the history of Nashville in pictures, from the Civil War period through the late 1800s. In all, the auction contained more than 1000 photographs, most taken by the Giers, some by other Nashville studios. A group of four images of Confederates including Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis brought $2,604, while a group of six images of Union officers including Ulysses Grant made $2,232, and a group of 13 Civil War related CDV images generated
$4,960. Images of homes and street scenes around Nashville, divided into various lots, brought from $2,950-4,484.
The Green collection likely helped bring in buyers for other Civil War and autograph/archive items. An Abraham Lincoln signed presidential pardon reached $6,608 while a Lincoln autographed war commission brought $4,720, and a James K. Polk signed certificate of merit for a soldier at the Battle of Cerro Gordo earned $2,006. An archive of letters and photographs related to Union Captain Jacob K. Lonas of Knoxville rallied
to $4,484, and a cased Trantor revolver, the side arm of Lt. Col. Henry Clay Yeatman, shot to $4,464. 2 Civil War pistols dug from Devon Farm doubled their estimates at $1,984, and a CSA “Dog River” cavalry saber made $1,364. A Marlin Special Order Deluxe Rifle, model 1893, doubled its low estimate to earn $7,080.
Maps were particularly hot. A bidding frenzy broke out over a large and rare 1871 Foster street map of Davidson County, Tennessee, which scored ten times its
estimate at $8,260 despite some condition problems. And a circa1888 birdseye view map of the city of Nashville soared to $4,012 – the same price as a circa 1779 engraved view of Charleston, SC. A circa 1696 Pierre Mortier map of South Carolina, the first published in Europe, hit $2,596, and an 1804 Tennessee map drawn by Samuel Lewis and published by John Conrad tripled its high estimate at $2,728.
The furniture category contained 2 Sheraton style sugar chests formerly from Hamilton Place and Devon Farm, which closed at $7,080 and $5,704 respectively. An
East Tennessee blue painted pie safe served up $3,968, and a walnut blanket chest, featured in the book “The Art and Furniture of East Tennessee” brought $2,832, and a small Eastern North Carolina painted child’s chair brought four times its high estimate at $1,888. A Continental paint decorated credenza sold for $4,712, and a George III mahogany chest of drawers with quarter columns, one of several pieces of furniture deaccessioned by the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, realized $2,360. Mid-Century Modern furniture also did well. A pair of Mies Van der Rohe Barcelona chairs by Knoll hit $4,012, while a labeled Harry Bertoia for Knoll “Bird Chair” flew to $1,178 and a Warren Platner for Knoll stool with original label rested
Southern pottery is a staple at Case, but some good examples from other regions have been showing up as well. One of the most viewed lots was a stoneware pitcher attributed to Pennsylvania maker Richard Remmey, decorated with a bust of George Washington and incised with the name of a New York Odd Fellows lodge. It had an old staple-repaired crack to the side and repaired breaks to the rim, and sold for $10,148. A two piece lot containing a 5-gallon Alabama double handled stoneware jug marked Daniel Cribbs, Tuscaloosa, and a smaller preserving jar, also attributed to Cribbs, doubled its estimate at
$4,248, while another rare piece, a salt glazed stoneware jar stamped G. Wolf (attrib. Gaston Wolf (Orange County, North Carolina, b. 1837), competed to $1,652. A Cowden and Wilcox stoneware jar with cobalt horse decoration galloped to $2,006, and a cobalt eagle-decorated stoneware jug bearing stenciled name of Bayless & McCarthey (Louisville, KY) landed at $1,860, the same price as a 9-inch Edgefield, SC slip decorated alkaline glazed jar. An East Tennessee redware creampot from the Cain Pottery finished at $1,770, and two Jack Daniels Distillery jugs (circa 1870) chugged to $2,520.
A pair of Swiss enameled gold zarf cup frames with Russian porcelain inserts, made for the Turkish market, was one of the hottest internet lots, garnering multiple bids on its way to $6552. A Meissen figurine emblematic of “Day” rose to $2,728 despite a hand repair, while a Jacob Petit porcelain potpourri urn and cover brought $1,180. A group of twelve Rene Lalique goblets in the “Strasbourg” pattern realized $1,736 while a Lalique “Ingrid” vase earned $1,240.
Silver highlights included a set of twelve Baltimore sterling goblets in elaborate repousse pattern, $9,176; a Chantilly sterling tea service and tray, $4,464; a 106 pc set of Reed & Barton Francis I pattern flatware, $2,714; and six Galmer sterling julep cups decorated with repousse horses, $2,360. A Gorham Art Nouveau sterling and glass vase brought $2,478. Coin silver collectors bid a Wood and Hughes coin silver compote to $1,116 and a J. Watson compote (9” diam.)
to $1,298. A silver mint julep cup or beaker marked for John Adam of Alexandria, Virginia, sold for $1,121, and a Tennessee coin silver spoon with rare mark for the partnership of Edward Raworth and Robert Gordon of Nashville (c. 1817-1818) competed to $590. An estate collection of graded gold coins produced several strong sellers including a Philip II AV Stater, Abydus Mint, $3,276; An Alexander the Great AV Stater, Mesembria Mint, $2,950, and an Alexander the Great AV Stater, Babylon Mint, $2,646.
Other lots of note included a Tennessee license plate from 1915, the first year the state issued such plates, $3,304; a boot scraper from Hamilton Place Plantation, $2,478; a John Walker Act of Parliament Clock, $2,478; a terra cotta lion’s head ornament from Nashville’s Union Station Hotel, $1,416; a 1976 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Poster signed by the artist, Maria Laredo, $3,720 (est. $300-400), and a pair of 18th century polychrome “Dummy Boards,” $1,386.
Case is currently accepting consignments for its upcoming cataloged auctions, including a Fall online auction of books, maps, and small antiques, and a live and online auction January 21 featuring fine and decorative arts plus an important map collection. For more information, call the gallery in Knoxville at (865) 558-3033 or the company’s Nashville office at (615) 812-6096 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lot 125: TN Cherry Sugar Chest, Hamilton Place History, sold $7,080
Lot 119: East TN Blue Painted Pie Safe, sold $3,968
Lot 144: Washington Stoneware Presentation Pitcher, Coaquanock Lodge, sold $10,148
Lot 140: 2 pcs Alabama Stoneware, Daniel Cribbs, sold $4,248
Lot 390: Pair Enameled Filigree Zarf Cups, sold $6,552
Lot 47: 12 Baltimore Sterling Silver Repousse Goblets, sold $9,176
Lot 755: Early 1915 Tennessee License Plate, sold $3,304
Lot 601: Terra Cotta Lion Head from Hermitage Hotel, sold $1,416
Lot 764: Signed 1976 N.O. Jazz & Heritage Festival Poster, sold $3,720