Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates
MOUNT CRAWFORD, VA. – Jeffrey S. Evans was able to enjoy his Fourth of July holiday, having the two days prior sold more than 99 percent of lots in his 40th Semi-Annual Premier Americana sale. The first day of the sale, on July 2, featured 554 lots from the Oley, Penn., estate collection of the late Theodore “Ted” and Alvina Breckel. Offerings on July 3 were from a variety of estates and collections, including that of Dr James and Sheri Swinhart of Cincinnati, Ohio, Diane and Dr Robert Marsh, Lawrenceville, Ga., the Layton, N.J., collection of Fred and Lorraine Ayers, James Dunn of Springfield, Vt., and works deaccessioned by the Valentine Museum in Richmond, Va., among others.
Will Kimbrough, vice president and head of Americana and fine art, was well rested when we caught up with him after the Monday holiday closure. “It was an outstanding sale and exceeded all of our expectations. In retrospect, I’m not surprised; we had a lot of good material that was fresh to the market and had known provenance, which people like.”
All but one of the lots from the Breckel collection found new homes and the sale was led by a folk art paint-decorated trinket or dresser box, made in Lancaster County, Penn., by Jonas or Jacob Weber that depicted a landscape with two-story farmhouse and trees on the front, and stylized floral decoration on the lid and sides. The Breckels had acquired it from David L. Good at the 2011 Fairhaven Antiques Festival in Ohio, and it also included an old show card from the 1976 New Oxford (Penn.,) Flea Market and Arts and Crafts show. An East Coast dealer, bidding on behalf of a client, won the lot for $44,813.
“It was pretty fantastic. It had good provenance and the condition was untouched; the colors were still very strong. There are a number of [Weber] boxes out there, but for a small one, this was about as top shelf as you’d get. One with a house on the front is what people really want. We got four times what Ted paid for it; I think he would have been really pleased and surprised at how well their things did,” Kimbrough said.
An eagerly anticipated highlight from the Breckel collection was a painting of a hen and chicks by Berks County, Penn., artist Ben Austrian (1870-1921). Offered early in the day, the oil on canvas work dated to 1910 and measured 21½ by 25½ inches in a Nineteenth Century molded giltwood frame. Bidders were enticed by the $6/9,000 estimate and chased it to $28,680, where it sold to an online bidder.
A stoneware jug attributed to the Fulper Brothers pottery in Flemington, N.J., featured a cobalt slip-trailed poem on the front that read “Billy Bryan he likes his wine, / And Sewell likes his Gin, / So all the Loyal Democrats, / Don’t want the cusses in.” It had been made around 1896, referencing presidential and vice-presidential running mates William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) and Arthur Sewall (1835-1900), who lost their bid for election to Republican candidate William McKinley. As Bryan was a known prohibitionist, the poetic inscription on the jug is ironic but may have contributed to its success at auction, where two private collectors, bidding in the room, took it to $21,510 from a $300/500 estimate.
The first lot offered from the Breckel’s collection was an American folk art molded copper full-bodied rooster weathervane that had been attributed to J.W. Fiske of New York City. The Breckels had acquired it from Michael Whittemore at the 2009 New Hampshire Antiques Show in Manchester, N.H. The catalog referenced a similar example, also attributed to Fiske, that Christie’s sold for $7,500 in January 2011. Evans found a new home for it with a private collector in the room, who acquired it for $13,145.
Folk painting in the Breckel’s collection saw considerable interest, with a portrait of a gentleman, seated on a yellow-painted chair in an interior by the Reading Artist (Berks County, Penn., active 1828-1845) leading the category. Inscribed in the margin as “Jonas Follweiler,” with an inscription on the back “Grandpa Follweiler Bro Edith Follweiler Stafford,” the picture had provenance to Eugene and Dorothy Elgin of East Berlin, Penn., and had previously been offered at Pook & Pook in 2011. It finished ahead of expectations, selling to a trade buyer for $8,963. A full-length profile watercolor on paper portrait of a woman in a blue dress that was attributed to Jacob Maental also had Elgin and Pook & Pook provenance; a trade buyer took it to $5,378.
The top price of the sale would be realized on the second day when a folk art painted diminutive or child’s blanket chest attributed to either Jacob Stirewalt (1805-1869) or John N. Stirewalt (1802-1836), and had provenance to a private collection in Texas, sold to Colonial Williamsburg for $77,675, nearly doubling its low estimate. The piece was not unknown, having been included in an article by Roderick Moore and Marshall Goodman titled “Painted Boxes and Miniature Chests from Shenandoah County, Virginia: The Stirewalt Group,” which appeared in the September 2007 issue of The Magazine Antiques.
Full-sized examples of Virginia furniture figured prominently in the top results on the second day. Two pie safes – both from Valley of Virginia – topped expectations. One with punched tin panels attributed to Moses Alexander (1815-1901) and William Alexander (1820-1901) of Waynesboro, Va., was in a tiger maple case attributed to Augusta or Rockbridge Counties, Va., from a Staunton Va., estate. It finished at $27,485 from a Shenandoah, Va., private collector bidding in the room. It was followed closely by a large walnut and cherry sideboard safe that sold for $25,095.
Kimbrough said he was surprised at the result realized by a six-volume set of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories, which had been published in Philadelphia by J.B. Chevalier between 1840 and 1844. The octavo volumes had originally been purchased from Audubon by Edward Thornton Tayloe, the son of John Tayloe III of Mount Airy who the catalog says was arguably the wealthiest plantation owner of his time in the United States. It was one of three lots deaccessioned by the Valentine Museum of Richmond, Va., and sold for $26,290 to a private collector bidding online.
A mixed media folk art historical Shenandoah Valley farmstead diorama by Abner Zook (Pennsylvania, 1921-2010) was relatively late – 1971 – but it had wide appeal from collectors. Bearing the title “Thrashing in the Shenandoah Valley,” was one of several mixed media scenes made by Abner and his twin brother, Aaron Zook (1921-2003), most of which depicted the Amish region around Lancaster County, Penn. The Virginia subject matter of this picture was rare and desirable, and it sold for $14,340.
A half-dozen tall case clocks peppered the various owners’ sale, with a Federal Montgomery (now Pulaski) County, Va., inlaid cherry example bringing the most, $23,900. Making $10,158 and more than doubling its high estimate, a Chippendale carved walnut example that had an engraved brass dial marked with the name of Henry Hahn of Reading, Penn. It had been in the collection of Dr James and Sheri Swinehart. Another clock from the Swinehart’s collection – a Montgomery County, Penn., Chippendale clock by John Solliday – topped off at $7,768.
For a fresh-to-market discovery it would be hard to beat a Civil War spyglass or telescope that was engraved “Negretti & Zambra / Instrument Makers / to Her Majesty, / London.” and “Signal Corps / C.S.A. / NO. 3.” According to the catalog, the only other known comparable example is at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. A Shenandoah, Va., private collector, who Kimbrough said came in a couple of times to examine it, won it for $6,573.
The sale featured a baker’s dozen lots that had descended in the family of Jedidiah “Jed” Hotchkiss, who was born in Windsor, N.Y., in 1828. He moved to Augusta County, Va., in 1847, later establishing the Mossy Creek Academy outside Staunton, Va. He was the cartographer for Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, later becoming one of the most important cartographers of the Nineteenth Century. His Civil War-era leather cartographer’s roll up case was among the offerings, bringing $8,963 from a Virginia institution.
After the auction, company president and principal auctioneer Jeffrey S. Evans commented, “This sale, the strongest of its type for us in the past five years, generated robust interest across the board, from bidders near and far. The Breckel Collection was a big draw, and the caliber of the material offered across all categories was very appealing to a broad swath of collectors. Levels of online participation in our auctions continue to expand dramatically – a real indication that there is increased market demand for a diverse range of Americana and folk art. The overall excitement and strong sales results reflect the freshness and high quality of the merchandise offered.” Evans added, “Looking forward, we will be featuring an important collection of American folk art in our November Premier Americana sale, so we are excited about the fall line-up at JSE & Associates.”
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction.
For additional information, www.jeffreysevans.com or 540-434-3939.
“I thought it brought a strong price. Colonial Williamsburg had been looking for a larger Stirewalt to add to their collection,” Will Kimbrough said on the result for this folk art paint-decorated diminutive or child’s blanket chest, done in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia by either Jacob Stirewalt (1805-1869) and/or John Stirewalt (1802-1836). The museum bought it for $77,675. It was the highest price realized of either session ($40/60,000).
The top lot from the estate collection of Ted and Alvina Breckel was this folk art paint-decorated trinket or dresser box by Jonas or Jacob Weber, Pennsylvania, second quarter Nineteenth Century. Though it was small at just 3 inches high and 5 inches wide, it had everything a collector could want and brought $44,813 from an East Coast dealer bidding on behalf of a client ($4/6,000).
The Breckels collected works made in Berks Co.; this painting of a hen with chicks by Ben Austrian (Berks Co., 1870-1921) charmed bidders; an online bidder snapped it up for $28,680 ($6/9,000).
This Shenandoah Valley of Virginia tiger maple food or pie safe was bought by a Shenandoah collector bidding in the room, for $27,485. Driving the price were the tiger maple and punched tin panels, which were attributed to Moses and William Alexander of Waynesboro, Va. ($ ,000).
This set of The Birds of America, From Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories” by John James Audubon was missing one volume but was otherwise largely complete. It had originally been purchased in the 1840s by the Tayloe family of Virginia and was being deaccessioned by the Valentine Museum, Richmond, Va. It flew to an online buyer for $26,290 ($3/5,000).
Will Kimbrough said this was a very rare form and illustrated the migration of the pie safe from the back porch to the dining room. The small size and provenance to two known collections helped this Valley of Virginia walnut and cherry sideboard safe with punched tin panels realize $25,085 ($8/12,000).
The top clock of the sale was this Valley of Virginia Federal inlaid cherry tall case clock from Montgomery (now Pulaski) County, which ticked to $23,900. It had provenance to a private collection in Middleburg, Va. ($15/25,000).
“Political stoneware is very hot right now,” Will Kimbrough said about this cobalt decorated stoneware jug attributed to Fulper Brothers that referenced William Jennings Bryan and Arthur Sewall in a poem that read “Billy Bryan he likes his wine, / And Sewell likes his Gin, / So all the Loyal Democrats, / Don’t want the cusses in.” Bidding came down to two collectors in the room, with one taking it for $21,510 ($300/500).
Paintings by Amish Abner Zook and his twin brother, Aaron, typically depicted views around the Lancaster County area in which they grew up; this mixed media diorama was unusual in that it depicted a Shenandoah Valley farmstead. It made $14,340 ($3/5,000).
Retaining what was likely an original gilt surface and with history to an original Shenandoah Valley settler, this mid-Nineteenth Century carved eagle wall plaque soared to $14,340 ($ ,000).
The first lot from the Breckels collection was this molded copper full-body rooster weathervane attributed to J.W. Fiske & Co., that the Breckels had acquired from Michael Whittemore in 2009. Condition and size — it measured 26½ inches tall and 30 inches in length — drove the result and it brought $13,145 from a private collector bidding in the room ($ ,000).
The birds who called this Victorian-style birdhouse home were lucky indeed! Dating to the late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century, the castle-form structure measured 36½ inches tall overall and came from a prominent estate in Hot Springs, Va. Bidders took it to $11,950 ($1/1,500).
Provenance to the collection of Dr James and Sheri Swinehart of Cincinnati, Ohio, likely helped boost this Chippendale inlaid walnut high chest, Chester County, Penn., to $10,755 ($800-$1,200).
With provenance to Christopher T. Rebollo and the Allentown Museum of Art, not to mention the Breckels, it is no wonder that this pair of Philadelphia Federal carved mahogany side chairs out-performed expectations, selling for $10,158 ($400/600).
When this piggy went to market, it brought more than three times its high price. The Anna Pottery stoneware pig flask had cartographic inscriptions and brought $9,560. The Breckels had purchased it in Missouri in 1991 ($ ,000).
Folk painting in the Breckel sale was led by this portrait of a man — thought to be Jonas Follweiler and attributed to the Reading Artist, who was active in Berks Co., between 1828 and 1845. It made $8,963 from a trade buyer ($ ,000).
New England furniture was in fairly limited supply, but choice pieces sold well. This Federal inlaid mahogany sofa from the Breckel collection was made in Portsmouth, N.H., circa 1810, and finished at $8,963 ($ ,000).
Among the Berks County pieces the Breckels collected was this Chippendale carved walnut tall case clock with white painted dial signed “Daniel Oyster / Reading.” Bidders pushed it just past its high estimate and it closed at $8,963 ($ ,000).
The Breckels had acquired this New Hampshire Sheraton painted-decorated birch chest of drawers from Peter Sawyer in 1992. It had originally belonged to Isaac Chamberlin (1766-1846) or his son, Isaac Jr (1801-1861) of New Durham, N.H. It more than quadrupled its high estimate, going out at $8,365 ($ ,000).
The lighting category was brightened by this brass and wrought iron kettle lamp made in 1853 by Peter Derr (Berks County, 1793-1868), which burned out at $7,768 ($1,5/2,000).
Doubling its high estimate was this Chippendale carved walnut tall case clock with brass dial engraved “Henry Hahn Reading,” that brought $10,158 ($3/5,000).
A couple dozen Civil War related items crossed the block on the second day of the sale, notably this Confederate signal corps spyglass or telescope made by Negretti & Zambra of London. A Shenandoah private collector paid $6,573 for it ($ ,000).
The second day of the sale offered less than ten lots of needlework and samplers, with this silk on linen example, worked in 1832 in McMinnville, Tenn., bringing the most at $5,677 ($500/800).
The cartographer’s roll-up case of Jedediah Hotchkiss — one of the best-known cartographers in the United States in the Nineteenth Century — was sure to elicit interest, and it did. Estimated at $300/500, a Virginia institution paid $8,963 for it.