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CONTACT: Sarah Campbell Drury
Banner Day at Case’s New Gallery
Art and Historical Items Fly High
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.— The July 14 auction at Case Antiques Inc. Auctions & Appraisals was all about history – in more ways than one. It was Case’s first auction in its new, flagship Knoxville gallery, representing a milestone for the twelve-year old firm. And, while there were noteworthy highlights in the categories of European and Western Art, Chinese antiques and Southern Decorative Arts, the smashing success of flags, maps, political and Civil War items made clear that Case is becoming a destination firm for historical artifacts and ephemera.
The presence of many longtime customers from across the South lent a kind of housewarming feel to the event, with about 200 people attending over the course of the day-long event. More than 4,200 others, from Silicon Valley to Shanghai, registered to bid via phone, internet, and absent bid. The auction featured the estates and collections of Mr. and Mrs. H.R. Slaymaker of Nashville, Larry Casey of Jackson, Wilma and Jack Murray of Knoxville, Johnny Maddox of Gallatin, and Charles Boyd Coleman of Chattanooga, along with multiple other consignors from across the South. The open layout and enhanced lighting design of the new building allowed their items to be showcased to greater advantage in room-like vignettes, while Ipads were made available at locations across the floor to assist customers in locating item descriptions in the paperless catalogs.
“When you relocate after ten years in one spot, even when it’s just a couple of miles away as in this case, you kind of wonder if your customers will make the move with you,” said company president John Case. “But it was rewarding to experience such a robust turnout, especially on a day when so many of our regional competitors were also having auctions. I think it’s a testament not just to our marketing but also to the loyalty of our customers. We saw a lot of return bidders, and experienced strength across multiple categories.”
The day’s highest grossing lot was a pointillist oil on canvas of a man working at a vineyard press by French Neo-Impressionist painter Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin (1860-1943), a study for a mural in Cahors, France, celebrating winemaking. Case successfully pursued having the painting added to the Martin catalog raisonné, which likely helped it surpass its $18,000-22,000; it harvested $33,600 from a European bidder on the telephone (all prices in this report include the buyer’s premium).
Also garnering international attention was a re-discovered work by William Shakespeare Burton (United Kingdom, 1830-1916), titled “King of Sorrows,” depicting Jesus Christ prior to the crucifixion, with crown of thorns and rope-bound hands. The 53” x 43” oil on canvas was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1897 and then, seemingly, disappeared; a National Portrait Gallery website article referencing the painting listed it as “untraced” until it surfaced at Case as part of the estate of Tennessee businessman Larry Casey. It realized $14,080.
American art, particularly paintings from the Slaymaker estate/collection, packed the walls of the gallery and found ready buyers. A Charles Woodbury painting of figures on a sunny beach in Ogunquit, Maine, soaked up $11,400 (est. $4,000-4500), while a Van-Gogh influenced view of Boston by Hayley Lever met expectations at $9,000 (est. $6800-7,800) and Lever’s “Low Tide Cornwall” came in at $5,120. Both were small, under 12” x 16”. Circa 1900 oil views of the Smoky Mountains by Charles Krutch, known as the “Corot of the South,” brought $8,400 and $4,560. A mid 19th century miniature portrait of Charles Thompson of Nashville by the New York/Nashville portraitist John Wood Dodge achieved the biggest price of the day for any portrait, hammering at $4,560. The McClung Museum was the winning bidder for an oil on board study for “The Weeping Magdalene” by Tennessee painter Lloyd Branson at $1,680, and a moody Louisiana landscape by Alexander Drysdale sold for $3,600. Folk art by Outsider and Southern female artists was in demand. A scene of little girls leaving Sunday School by Clementine Hunter climbed to $6,144 (est. $2,400-3,000), while memory paintings by Helen LaFrance of Kentucky ranged from $1,100-$2,100 with the top dollar going for a scene of quilts hanging on a line outside a cabin. A 13” x 9” Thornton Dial watercolor of a nude figure made $2,280, a 20” carved riverstone plaque by Raymond Coins realized $1,408, and a small Mary T. Smith portrait of a woman, rendered in house paint on found wood, brought $640. And, there was a happy ending for a late 19th century oil on canvas view of Eastside Farm in Wisconsin by an unknown artist, picturing the farm’s long-lost barn. A descendant of the farm’s original owner fought off competitors in the room and online to win it for $5,520; she plans to give it to the non-profit society which now operates the site as a historic house museum. An Old Master painting depicting the Crowning of Aphrodite doubled its estimate at $2,760, as did a 17th century oil portrait of a woman, possibly Nell Gwynn, attributed to a follower of Sir Peter Lely, which sold for $2,176, and a portrait of a woman after Jean Perreal, $2,304.
Western paintings, most from the Casey estate, also fared well. An oil of a Native American scout on horseback by Arnold Friberg rode to $19,200, while two watercolor Western forest landscapes by Gunnar Widforss competed to $10,800 and $7,800. A Steven Juharos oil depicting the Grand Canyon after a storm ascended to $5,376, and a 19th century atmospheric Western landscape with waterfall by Lucien Powell realized $4,608.
Kurt Vonnegut was best known as a writer, but he also created visual art. A circa 1980 Vonnegut aluminum sculpture titled “Wasp Waist” was the auction’s top-selling sculpture at $5,040. Other strong sellers from the contemporary art category included an ethereal glass Frederick Elliot Hart sculpture, “Spirita,” at $3,000 and a Roy Lichtenstein signed poster from the Whitney Museum’s 1978 “Art about Art” exhibit, $3,600 (est, $350-450). A George Cress abstract oil featuring glowing warm colors tinged with blue doubled its estimate to hit $2,640, and a lot containing two Suzanne Caporeal abstract etchings tripled its estimate at $3,456. Other 20th century works on paper included an Alfonse Mucha “Four Seasons” lithograph signed and inscribed by the author, $4,320; and two Andrew Wyeth signed prints (Snow Hill, a collotype, and Jupiter, a lithograph), each earning $2,560.
In the historical category, a Georgia collection of Civil War artifacts provided many of the highlights. Tops was a Confederate shell jacket said to have been worn by Col. Tomlinson Fort of the 1st Ga. Infantry on his return home to Milledgeville, Georgia, along with his shoulder straps and a post-war albumen print depicting him and his brothers. Estimated at $8,000-$10,000, the lot rallied to $28,800, hammering down to a couple bidding in the room. A lot of four Confederate officer staff brass buttons, including one Tennessee button, charged to $12,000, while two other CSA button groupings brought $5,760 and $4,800. A small (5 x 10 inch) Confederate first national parade flag with nine applied paper stars soared to $8,960, while a circa 1864 Army of Georgia “Soldiers Wanted” banner recruited a top bid of $4,800. A square “Southern Cross” reunion flag trampled its $400-450 estimate to reach $7,680, and two large CSA reunion flag/banners achieved $4,864 – nearly ten times the estimate. CSA reunion ribbons, lotted in groups of two to nine, ranged from $660-$3,480, also well over estimate.
It wasn’t only Civil War flags flying high: a 38-star American flag with stars arranged in an unusual floral pattern rocketed to $10,240 (est. $3,800-4,200) while a rare 42-star Cavalry Guidon flag, officially used for only two years (1889-1891) flew at $5,888. A 15-star hand sewn flag commemorating Kentucky statehood earned $2,048.
A lot comprised of a US Navy Bicorn hat, dress epaulets, and officer insignias sailed to $4,352; all belonged Captain Hugh Purviance (1799-1882), whose colorful Navy career included commanding the St. Lawrence during the blockade of Charleston and engaging with the Merrimac in 1862. A Colt 1851 Navy London model revolver owned by James Nelson III, a Kentucky soldier who fought with Morgan’s Raiders, shot to $5,280 (est. $3,000-3,500), and a group of Chickamauga battlefield relics, including a tree stump with cannonball lodged inside, yielded $2,048. And in what may have been the most surprising finish of the day, a remnant of timber from the White House, scorched during fire started by the British in the war of 1812 and removed during renovations in the 1950s, sizzled to $8,960 (est. $300-350). The relic came from the estate of Capt. Gordon Wells, a member of the Secret Service/White House Police from 1943-1967. (A golf ball from Wells’ estate, personally used by Dwight Eisenhower, landed at $608).
Maps and documents have become an increasingly successful category at Case. A rare 1673 “Map of the English Plantations in America” by Robert Morden and William Berry, considered the first general map of the American colonies, hammered for $13,200. An early English edition of the “Nova Virginiae Tabula” map by Hondius, based on the 1612 map of Virginia by John Smith, earned $2,560. A scarce 1855 map of the plan of the city of Knoxville sparked fierce competition from floor bidders, but ultimately hammered to an East Coast buyer on the phone for $5,760.
This auction included part two of the estate of Charles Boyd Coleman, a Chattanooga attorney and descendant of John Marshall of Virginia. Marshall was a U.S. Chief Justice, friend and biographer to George Washington, and Secretary of State under John Adams. A member of Coleman’s family also married President Adams’ youngest son, Thomas Boylston Adams, and several Adams related lots were featured in the auction, drawing interest from collectors as well as institutions. An archive with autograph album containing a John Adams inscription with signature dated 1823, three years before his death brought $3,328 (est. $1,200-1400). It read: “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy growth and in the extreme stage of thine old age.” A John Adams free-franked signed envelope with framed lithographed portrait of Adams, after the portrait by Albert Newsam, delivered $3,200. A lot containing two John Quincy Adams free-franked envelopes and a hand drawn map of Okefenokee (the Cherokee Nation lands in Georgia) sold for $6,000, while a circa 1825 album containing a sonnet penned by John Quincy Adams, titled “A Theory of Comets, to the Comet Seen at Quincy 6 October 1825,” streaked to $2,040. A lot containing three cut book pages with one George Washington signature and two John Marshall signatures earned $7,040, and a group of four books from John Marshall’s library brought $2,420 (titles were “The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England,” published 1705, and “Letters of Philip Stanhope,” 1775; three were signed by Marshall). A Bible belonging to General Henry Dearborn’s family closed at $1,536.
Furniture from the Coleman estate also attracted interest, particularly a Chippendale side chair with oral history of descent at Mount Vernon, which competed to $6,144. It bore a strong resemblance to a chair in the Mount Vernon collection, and was believed to have been given by George Washington to John Marshall for his help in settling the estate of his nephew, Augustine, (who lived at Mt. Vernon but died in his 30s without issue). The day’s top furniture lot was a rare Cumberland-action dining table attributed to the Seymour school of Massachusetts; it entertained a host of bidders who drove it to $11,400. Another Seymour-attributed piece from the Coleman estate, an inlaid game table, scored $3,840, while a less ornate serpentine front card table, pictured in a 1913 brochure on the James Marshall home, hammered to an anonymous phone bidder for $3,000. A Mid-Atlantic Chippendale carved side chair and tiger maple Chippendale side chair, offered together, brought $7,200, while a tiger maple chest on chest with New Hampshire provenance earned $4,800, and an American Federal carved mahogany square back sofa, similar to examples from the shop of Duncan Phyfe, rested at $4,080. A Kentucky “bandy leg” chest featuring four graduated drawers on short, cabriole legs danced to $6,600 despite multiple leg restorations, and an East Tennessee late classical mahogany sideboard, signed by maker Joseph Harmon, served up $5,040.
A single owner collection of Liverpool jugs and Historical Staffordshire, all with American Patriotic themes, was a notable addition to the Ceramics category. Top seller was a pearlware jug with polychrome decoration of “The Arms of the United States”, formerly from the Robert Teitelman collection and pictured in the book “Success to America: Creamware for the American Market.” Despite some restoration, it achieved $4,320 (est. $2,000-2,500). A Liverpool “Boston Frigate” jug cruised to $2,880, and a jug with “Immortal Washington” on one side and American Ship on the other, having restoration to its spout, realized $2,640 (est. $1,800-2,200). A massive Sevres style cobalt and floral decorated porcelain jardinière quadrupled its estimate at $5,040, and a Pablo Picasso Madoura terra cotta visage plate smiled at $2,994 despite some condition issues. A handpainted Haviland game plate in the pattern designed by Theodore Davis for President Rutherford B Hayes, dished up $2,048, and a 5 ¾-inch Newcomb College scenic landscape vase hit $3,120.
The ceramics category featured the Larry Casey collection of late 20th century Southwestern and Native American pottery. Best seller in the group was a large Hopi pottery bowl with intricate geometric decoration by Rondina Huma at $3,200. A Heard Museum Guild Award-winning jar by Polly Rose Folwell, commemorating the events of Sept. 11, 2001 with motifs including the Stature of Liberty, skyscrapers, and airplanes, realized $1,664. A Randy Miller Cherokee turquoise mosaic pottery jar sold for $2,688, and a large Hopi polychrome jar by JoFern Puffer earned $1,560. A Stephen Lucas Hopi pottery jar brought $1,280, the same as a large polychrome jar by Lucy Leuppe McKelvey. A finely woven Panamint (Timbisha Shoshone) coiled basket, measuring under 4 ½ inches tall and estimated at $500-600, surprised at $2,880.
Topping the glass and lighting category was a late 19th century French or English crystal chandelier, deaccessioned from the Tennessee Room of the Museum of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, DC. Measuring 47” high x 35” diam., the chandelier was an accessible size and attracted lots of attention, finishing at its high estimate, $6,144. A Tiffany Studios desk lamp with “turtleback” shades reached $8,320. A ruby glass biscuit jar or humidor with Whiting sterling overlay achieved $3,120, a pair of Bohemian enameled glass decanters made $2,640, and a Lalique crystal swan sailed to $1,664. Four green glass goblets from an early Nashville family, said to have been used during the Marquis de Lafayette’s visit to Nashville in 1825, changed hands at $1,320.
Chinese bidders proved to be active buyers as usual. The top Asian piece was a white jade dragon buckle with metal mounts, which clipped to $7,680. A pair of celadon jade buckles with knot, scroll and bat motifs brought $2,176, and a small white jade carved boulder, paired with a spinach jade snuff bottle, climbed to $6,400. A Chinese archaic bronze wine vessel, possibly Shang Dynasty, sold for $4,096, and a blanc-de-chine Guanyin figure rose to $3,712, while a carved early 20th century hardwood games table closed at $1,920.
Silver and jewelry performed consistently. Notable lots included a diamond and sapphire ring in custom 18K figural setting, $5,632; a Cartier 18K and garnet bracelet, $2,040; an 18K Rolex Submariner with blue face, $4,800, and a Cartier Santos 18K ladies watch, $4,096. A Kurt Matzdorf sterling Kiddush cup tripled its estimate to finish at $3,072; a Gebelein sterling tea kettle on stand served up $1,800; a circa 1914 Irish sterling dish ring made $1,408; and a Continental silver wager or marriage cup attracted $1,560. A Winterthur “Paul Revere” reproduction sterling tankard topped out at $1,536 (est. $350-400). There were multiple sterling flatware services; top seller was a 128-piece set in Whiting’s Lily pattern, $3,840.
Oriental rugs from the Slaymaker collection dominated the textile category. A Talish Caucasian area rug brought $3,200, a Shirvan prayer rug, $2,040, and an antique Bidjov, $2,160. An East Tennessee pieced and appliqued quilt in a variant of the North Carolina Lily pattern blossomed to $2,640, while another East Tennessee quilt in a variant of the New York Beauty pattern peaked at $2,160. A Kentucky house sampler dated 1865 sold for $2,688, and a Navajo “Crystal Storm” blanket rose to $2,520.
Other lots of note included a pair of Black Forest carved deer heads, $3,840; first editions of “Life on the Mississippi” and “Around the World in 80 Days” from the Maddox collection $1,680 and $1,536; a refurbished Western Union Ticker Tape Machine, model 3A, $4,096; a 1775 New Hampshire Colonial Sixpence Note, $1,088; and a 1796 United States “Draped Bust” silver dollar, $9,600.
Case is based in Knoxville with offices in Nashville and the Tri-Cities (Kingsport and Johnson City, TN, and Bristol, VA). The company conducts quarterly auctions of investment quality art, antiques, jewelry and historical objects. For more information or to inquire about consigning objects for the upcoming Oct. 6 and January 26, 2019 auctions, see our selling page here.
- A pointillist painting by Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin (France, 1860-1943) of a man working at a grape press, a study for a larger mural, yielded $33,600.
- Strong Suit: a CSA shell jacket with epaulets, owned by Col. Tomlinson Fort (1st Georgia Infantry), charged to $28,800, one of many successful Civil War related lots.
- A late 19th century 38-star American flag with unusual floral design in the canton, soared to $10,240 (est. $3,800-4,200).
- Bidders clamored for a piece of the White House: a remnant of a timber scorched when British troops set fire to the Executive Mansion in 1814. The relic and its custom box, from the estate of a former Secret Service agent, sizzled to $8,960 (est. $300-350).
- Regarded as “the first general map of the American colonies,” this 1673 map by Robert Morden and William Berry rarely comes on the market; it achieved $13,200 (est. $7,000-8,000).
- Charles Woodbury’s “Bath House, Ogunquit” was a crowd pleaser, attracting a bevy of bidders and peaking at $11,400 (est. $4,000-4,500).