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CONTACT: Sarah Campbell Drury
Edmondson “Uplifted Lady” Sculpture takes the high road at $240,000
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.— A limestone carving titled “Miss Amy, an Uplifted Lady,” by William Edmondson, ascended to $240,000 at the July 13 Case Antiques Auction – just one of many high points in what proved to be a record-setting day for the Tennessee auction house. (Note: all prices in this report include the buyer’s premium). The day’s highlights also included a six-figure diamond ring, European and American paintings, and Southern pottery and decorative arts.
Company president John Case said the sale total generated by the 773-lot auction broke all previous sales records, and it felt particularly rewarding that the top lot was by Edmondson (1874-1951), a Tennessee native who, in 1937, became the first African American artist to have a solo show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The winner was an anonymous phone bidder, competing against multiple other suitors on the phone. It was the second highest price ever paid for an Edmondson solo female sculpture (the highest price was $320,000 for “Miss Lucy,” a slightly taller sculpture from the same estate collection, sold at Case in January, 2019). Both sculptures were exhibited at an Edmondson retrospective in 1964 and were described in the catalog as members of the artist’s church who had been “uplifted” to heaven. “Miss Amy” was also part of a traveling Edmondson exhibit in 2000 that visited the Museum of American Folk Art and the High Museum in Atlanta. Both sculptures were particularly coveted for their dark, unweathered patinas; unlike many other Edmondson figures, they were never subjected to the elements as garden sculptures but had always been indoors, initially serving as doorstops. A William Edmondson carved limestone rabbit from a different consignor leapt to $40,800, selling to a Tennessee collector for well over its $18,000-22,000 estimate despite a repaired ear and paw.
Other art standouts included a vivid Impressionist harbor scene by Henry Moret (French, 1865-1913), which sailed to $132,000 (est. $68,000-72,000). It was from a Tennessee collection of European paintings that included an oil painting of peasant workers in a hayfield by Leon Lhermitte (French, 1844-1925), which hit paydirt at $38,400, and an oil of women and a child on a beach by Francisco Miralles y Galup, $10,240. A surrealist oil by Brazilian artist Hector Julio Bernabo (“Carybe,” 1911-1997) titled “the Horseman” raced to $15,600, while a portrait of a Spanish Colonial officer drummed up $7,200, and an unsigned Continental school oil of the Madonna and Child with John the Baptist as a child brought $5,632. A Pointillist oil depicting a snowstorm in the Alps by Jacques Martin Ferrieres competed to $8,960, and a bronze sculpture of jockeys on horseback by Jean-Leon Gerome finished strong at $6,600. A Mathurin Moreau bronze sculpture of Apollo tripled its estimate at $4,608, and a Frederick Hart bronze of the four “Daughters of Odessa” realized $3,480.
Demand was robust for American regional art, particularly Southern paintings. An Impressionist scene by Catherine Wiley (American/Tennessee, 1879-1958) depicting three women sitting on a porch, shelling peas, soared to $84,000, selling to a private collector for double its estimate. An acrylic on board of black angus cattle grazing in a field by Tennessee artist Carroll Cloar (1913-1993) measuring 11” x 15”, smaller than his typical size, hammered at a price normally seen for his larger paintings, $36,000 (est. $12,000-14,000). There was debate whether a circa 1905 oil landscape ambiguously titled “The Breezy Uplands” by California painter William Wendt (1865-1946) was a California scene or a Cornwall scene; it realized $30,720. A WPA era farm landscape by Franklin Boggs (American, 1914-2009) hit $9,600. A scarce Audubon Havell print of the American Robin flew to $12,160 despite being glued to its backing and severely toned. A Tennessee Smoky Mountain oil landscape of Mount LeConte by William McCoy, Jr. climbed to $4,800 (est. $500-700). A late 19th century Harvey Joiner Kentucky landscape brought $3,840, the same price as a circa 1930 John Spelman oil of a Smoky Mountain cabin, and a Rudolph Ingerle Ozark mountain landscape of the same period found a new home at $3,120. A circa 1946 Alfred Hutty drypoint etching titled “Discussion Group in Carolina,” $3,072; and a Thomas Hart Benton lithograph, “The Corral,” rounded up $2,176. An oil landscape by female artist Olive Black (1868-1948) sold for its top estimate, $2,520, and a painting after Bouguereau’s “Little Knitter” by Tennessee artist Adelia Armstrong Lutz (1859-1931) made $3,120. Multiple bidders were willing to take on the restoration needed on an Antonio Jacobsen maritime view of “The Vesta” – it sailed to $3,200 despite extensive flaking. A pair of miniature portraits of an unknown man and woman by 19th century New York brother-sister artist duo Maria Louisa and Daniel Wagner surprised at $2,432 (est. $500-600), and a small bust-length oil portrait by Tennessee artist Lloyd Branson of his young niece charmed at $2,040. 20th-century sculptures by recently deceased Tennessee artist Olen Bryant consistently outperformed their estimates, bringing from $840 for a tabletop work of a figure emerging from a shell to $2,880 for a 36” ceramic head and square torso.
One of the happiest consignors of the day was a Nashville woman who picked up two linocuts by English printmaker Ursula Fookes at an estate sale for $4; despite some condition problems, Case gaveled the pair for $5,888. There were two contemporary works by Perle Fine (NY/Mass., 1905-1988) from a Tennessee estate. Her black and white mixed media collage hit $5,888, while a smaller blue and yellow abstract collage earned $2,040. An Alexander Calder signed lithograph, “The Blue Pyramids,” stood tall at $1,920, and a Kurt Larisch surrealist oil competed to $1,560.
Folk and outsider art highlights included a Helen LaFrance painting of an interior scene with sleeping children, $4,608, and a Lonnie Holley sandstone sculpture reminiscent of a totem, which tripled its estimate at $3,840. A Thornton Dial watercolor, “Toll Bridge,” crossed into sold territory at $4,560, and a Clementine Hunter landscape with figures titled “Going to Church” showed up at $3,480.
Jewelry from the estate of a Knoxville socialite sparkled throughout the auction. The clear favorite was a ring featuring a 7.32 carat oval diamond flanked by two square one-carat yellow diamonds. GIA graded for a G color and VS-1 clarity on the center stone, it attracted multiple phone and floor bidders and achieved $168,000 (est. $100,000-$120,000). A pair of 8.34 carat t.w. diamond solitaire earrings (I-1 clarity, K color), from the same estate opened over its estimate thanks to online bidders and went all the way to $38,400 (est. $16,000-19,000). An Art Deco three-stone diamond and sapphire ring competed to $8,400, and a 240 gram 18K gold chain necklace set brought $9,000. A Daniel Ofiesh 18K platinum and diamond bangle wrapped up $6,000, while a pair of Craig Drake 18K diamond cluster earrings (8.67 ct t.w.) shone at $4,800 and 18K Italian cuff bracelets with studded with sapphires and diamonds brought $4,608 and $4,560 respectively. An 8 ct Tanzanite ring surrounded by 5.5 carats of diamonds in an 18k setting earned $3,712 and a Tiffany diamond “en tremblant” petal brooch bloomed at $3,360. A 14K Jose Hess bracelet with diagonal line of diamonds hit $3,240. Watches were also in demand, particularly a gentleman’s 18K Rolex Submariner with a black face, $9,600, and a vintage Patek Philippe with leather wrist strap and relatively small square face, $7,800. A Chopard 18k and diamond dual time zone watch ticked to $3,840, and a Hermes 18K Sellier ladies watch brought $3,600.
Southern Pottery is a staple at Case, and the July auction proved the market is hotter than ever, especially for rare pieces. A miniature Edgefield face jug measuring just under 5 inches tall delivered a whopping $40,800 (est. $18,000-22,000). The tiny jug was attributed to an unknown African American maker at the Thomas Davies factory (1861-1864) and had been previously documented by the McKissick Museum; the buyer was a private collector bidding on the phone. An East Tennessee earthenware double handle jar with manganese decoration, one of the largest found to date, and in very good condition, doubled its estimate at $31,200. A collection of Daniel Seagle (Catawba Valley, North Carolina, 1805-1867) pottery was led by a one-gallon stoneware saddle jug with two flattened sides which rounded up $5,040 (est. $1,000-1,200); a larger but more traditionally shaped 3 gallon Seagle jug brought $2,880. An Edgefield 5-gallon double handle jar with slip flower design made $3,456. A Middle or West Tennessee stoneware pitcher, signed and dated “JL Dunn 1897,” made a splash at $2,760 (est. $600-700), and a late 19th century 2-gallon East Tennessee preserving jar stamped by William Grindstaff reached $2,520 (est. $700-900). A Southwest Virginia earthenware bottle with sine wave decoration hit $1,920, two Middle Tennessee pottery grease lamps lit up at $1,280, and a Decker family East Tennessee pouring vessel sold for $1,024.
Other Southern regional highlights included a Knox County, Tennessee family record sampler, $7,200; a Southwest Virginia sideboard with glazed top and pie safe punched tins, $4,800; a Southern “Lazy Susan” table, $4,320; an East Tennessee chest of highly figured walnut, $3,000, and a Georgia coin silver ladle by Clark & Co. (Augusta, circa 1850s), $1,200. A set of 7 wax figures made by the Vargas family of Louisiana reached $1,216 despite each piece having some damage.
Collectors of early Advertising came out in force for two rare Stanocola Standard Oil company enameled “button” signs, driving them to $13,200 and $11,400. Both featured round Stanocola logos and were made by the Balto Enameling Company; the more expensive one had been mounted to a hand-made painted wood and metal “Filling Station” sign that measured 98 inches long. A lithographed Winchester Rifle and Ammunition sign depicting four bear hunting dogs by artist Henry Rankin Poore (1859-1940) shot to $10,240. A Pennzoil vertical enameled sign brought $1,152, and a bank sign with an image of George Washington tallied $900.
Strong participation from Asian buyers helped propel a Qing porcelain painted plaque attributed to Yu Huanwen (Chinese, 1852-1892) to $11,500, and a small celadon jade duck, offered with a jade belt hook, to $8,400. A jade libation cup and scholar figurine brought $3,200, and an 18th century Southeast Asian Sukhothai style walking Buddha figure finished at $1,920. A pair of yellow Imperial Guangxu saucers sold for $1,680, and a Duan inkstone in carved stand earned $1,408.
There were more than 75 lots of silver in the auction. High-end flatware services performed well, with a Tiffany Audubon pattern 59-piece set flying to $10,880 – the same price as a 66-piece set of Puiforcat flatware in the Royal pattern, while a 68-piece Buccellati Borgia pattern set brought $7,200. A pair of Edwardian sterling candelabra shined at $4,320, and a lot of three Edwardian sterling garniture urns, one large and two small, tripled its estimate at $3,600. A coin silver tea set dated 1849 by Gale and Hayden of New York, retailed in Memphis, Tennessee, served up $2,888, while 3 coin silver spoons retailed by Samuel Bell of Texas hit $1,080. A Tiffany sterling silver dressing mirror saw $3,000. An Aesthetic Movement sterling tureen by John Vansant of Philadelphia (1881-1884), nearly identical to one in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sold for $2,816, and two Mark Scearce 20th century sterling julep cups with marks for presidential terms of Reagan and Carter garnered $1,792. A Tiffany gilt-sterling box in the shape of a small turtle reached $1,152.
Highlighting the Books and Documents category was an 1819 edition of the book, “Oriental Field Sports of the West,” taken from the manuscripts and designs of Captain Thomas Williamson. The book was profusely illustrated with scenes of big game hunts in India and captured a top bid of $7,680. The book was one of several items in the auction that had come through the estate of Thomas Wheelock, an astute collector of African art and co-author of the book “Land of the Flying Masks: Art & Culture in Burkina Faso.” Wheelock had inherited a number of items from wealthy British relatives and a Wall Street tycoon grandfather, including another key paper lot, an archive of letters between “Peter Pan” author J.M. Barrie and the famous English actress, Mrs. Patrick Campbell. It sold for $4,352. An Abraham Lincoln /Edwin Stanton signed War Commission document for Captain James Remington of Rhode Island brought $5,120 and an archive of documents including a journal belonging to Thomas B. Adams, son of President John Adams, with a first-hand account of George Washington’s funeral, brought $2,048. A land grant signed by Sam Houston sold for $1,408, and a Civil War archive including letters related to William Budlong of Rhode Island, including a transportation request signed by General R.S. Ewell, hit $1,280. A gilt copper Confederate seal medallion owned by Col. John Thomas Pickett, along with a letter written and signed by him, presenting the medallion to Varina Davis, wife of CSA President Jefferson Davis, hammered for $2,944. A copy of the Third Session of the U.S. Senate (1790), owned by Congressman Thomas Blount of Kentucky, competed to $1,280, and a Mexican War-related certificate of merit signed by President James K. Polk realized $1,216. A Robert E. Lee cut signature framed with an engraved portrait of the Civil War General brought $1,080. A 1796 map of America by William Faden, labeling East Tennessee as “Franklinia” tripled its estimate at $3,840, and a 1799 map of “Tennassee” by John Payne doubled its estimate at $1,140.
Military highlights included a George III painted regimental drum, likely from the Napoleonic wars, $4,608; two Confederate cedar and cherry canteens from a Washington, Georgia warehouse, $2,760; a Civil War Ames U.S. Model 1849 Rifleman’s knife, $2,688, and 2 Virginia CSA cartridge boxes, $1,664. An 18th century Moro Burgonet helmet brought $1,920.
A scarce Historical Staffordshire Liverpool pitcher with polychrome decoration of the American masted ship, The General Mercer, led the ceramics category at $6,660, while a blue and white transferware sugar bowl with scene of Boston Harbor, paired with a blue and white platter having a view of the Hudson River realized $2,816 despite some condition problems. Two Hermes Paris porcelain dinnerware sets in the Toucans pattern, each having 40 pieces, flew to $5,120 a piece, and a group of 9 Hermes Toucan serving pieces brought $3,840. A Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica porcelain tureen from the estate of the late Jane Dudley of Nashville, wife of the U.S. ambassador to Denmark, dished up $4,608.
Early 20th-century decorative arts did well. A Tiffany Studios mock turtleback bronze lamp with lemon leaf shade #470 brought $14,080 despite a replaced cap and some old minor repairs, and a pair of Tiffany Studios bronze and glass “Puddle” candlesticks earned $2,280. An Arts & Crafts hammered copper lamp with mica shade earned $5,376, and a Le Verrier Art Deco bronze figural lamp realized $5,280, the same price as a Roycroft mahogany three-door bookcase.
European furniture also showed strength. A carved Scottish Chippendale period side chair paired with a Continental Queen Anne chair reached $4,560, nearly ten times its estimate, and a set of four Scottish Regency mahogany hall chairs shot to $3,240; both lots were from the Wheelock estate. An early 19th-century Irish game table exuberantly inlaid with scenes of landscapes around Killarney competed to $3,240, while a plain line inlaid George III demilune game table with spade feet achieved $2,040 (est. $300-350) and a painted satinwood George III inlaid demilune game table brought $1,560. A group of ten circa 1900 upholstered giltwood Louis XV style dining chairs hit $5,888 (est. $700-900) and an Italian Baroque style carved and parcel-gilt writing table with replaced faux marble top tallied $2,400.
Other highlights included a Native American tomahawk, presented to a Canadian mounted policeman who participated in the 1885 Frog Lake Massacre (part of the Cree uprising), $3,120, and a Sioux fully beaded vest, $1,680. A Steinway & Sons Model M Grand piano played to $9,600, while a figural lead garden fountain of a cherub riding a fish brought $3,120. A pair of Lalique Cygnes swans with mirror sailed to $3,712, and a Webb three color cameo glass bud vase on Prussian blue ground sold for $2,160.
Case is currently accepting consignments for its Fall auction, slated for October 5, and Winter Auction scheduled for January 25. For more information or to consign objects for a future auction, visit our selling page here, 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.
Captions (Photos at top):
Leading a strong jewelry selection was this ring with 7.32 carat oval diamond (G Color, VS-1 clarity) and two Fancy Intense Yellow diamonds, each over 1 carat. It competed to $168,000 (estimate $100,000-120,000).
“Miss Amy,” by William Edmondson (American/Tennessee 1874-1951), soared to $240,000, becoming the second-most expensive Edmondson solo female figure sold at auction.
This vibrantly-hued impressionist coastal landscape by Henry Moret (French, 1856-1913) sailed to $132,000 (est. $68,000-72,000).
Measuring just under 5 inches tall, this Edgefield, SC face jug proved good things come in small packages, hitting $40,800 (est. $18,000-22,000).
A private collector took home “The Pea Shellers” by Tennessee’s most important Impressionist painter, Catherine Wiley, for $84,000 (est. $40,000-44,000).
Sarah Campbell Drury
Vice President of Fine and Decorative Arts
Case Antiques Inc., Auctions & Appraisals
(615) 812-6096 Nashville (865) 558-3033 Knoxville