$99,500 for Bonnie Parker’s pistol & a record crowd

February 27, 2014 in Editorials

Case’s January 25, 2014 auction was the largest in the company’s history, featuring 930 lots and attracting 3,200 registered bidders participating in person, by telephone, by written absentee bid and online.

Attracting national media buzz was a Model 1902 Colt .38, pulled from the bloody skirts of outlaw Bonnie Parker after she and her partner in crime, Clyde Barrow, were ambushed in Arcadia, La., in 1934. According to the affidavit that accompanied the gun, an embalmer found the gun and gave it as a souvenir to the son of fellow funeral home employee Vern Hightower. It descended directly in his family to the consignor, who lives in Tennessee. Six bullets found in the gun’s magazine clip and an archive of photographs from the infamous duo’s violent end were also included. The lot was the subject of media attention ranging from local television coverage to national gun blogs to the New York Daily News, and hammered down for $99,450 to an anonymous buyer (all prices include the buyer’s premium).

Art was one of the leading categories. A large-scale oil landscape by Hudson River School artist William Louis Sonntag, accompanied by a copy of a letter from the artist to its original owner, competed to $40,590. The painting was formerly exhibited at the Knoxville Museum of Art and its predecessor, the Dulin Art Gallery. A Midwestern museum paid $31,590 to acquire a still life by Kansas painter John Steuart Curry, depicting pheasants and a shotgun, and a Southern institution prevailed on a painting of a Vieux Carre courtyard by Boston Impressionist Abbott Fuller Graves at $23,400. A large moonlit canal scene by important Norweigian painter Frits Thaulow earned $36,270, and an oil and gouache study of a pirate by American illustrator Norman Rockwell brought $12,870. A small landscape with haystacks by Tennessee’s most important female artist, Catherine Wiley, sold for $12,870, with proceeds benefiting the Earl O. Henry Memorial Avian exhibit at the Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville. A pastel/gouache duck-hunting scene by Aiden Lassell Ripley flew to $7,020. An Art Nouveau painting of a woman in a garden by Tennessee-born Fred Carpenter more than doubled its estimate at $25,830, as did a Manhattan snow scene by Johann Berthelsen at $8,424.

The audience burst into applause over the sale of a pair of silver sauce boats, made circa 1770 by silversmith Lewis Fueter of New York. The pair had been purchased by the consignor in a box lot at a country auction for $25, but were featured in several Case ads targeting the East Coast region and skyrocketed to $43,290.

One of the hottest areas of the sale was the book/map/document category. A first edition Byron book, “Hours of Idleness,” in jeweled leather binding, by noted bookbinding firm Sangorski and Sutcliffe, attracted six phone bidders and multiple online bids. It had a happy ending at $22,230, and an archive of letters related to the family of author George Gordon, Lord Byron brought a strong $5,382. A cache of 730 ballots from the 1864 presidential election (won by Abraham Lincoln) tallied $12,870. An 1835 pocket map showing Indian lands in Mississippi climbed to $4,920 (est. $500-800), while an 1835 edition of Bradford’s Atlas, including an early Texas map, reaped $4,446 and an 1809, two-volume set of David Ramsay’s “History of South Carolina,” also with maps, closed at $3,198. Civil War material was also popular. A half plate tintype of a seated Confederate officer in uniform soared to $2,706 (est. $350-450), while a sixth-plate tintype of a Confederate soldier with Mississippi star belt buckle visible commanded $2,091.

The sale featured a large collection of Tennessee furniture, much of it from the estate of William Selden of Athens, Tenn. Selden’s cherry glazed-door corner cupboard, made circa 1825 in East Tennessee and pictured in The Art and Mystery of Tennessee Furniture, competed to $13,455 (est. $3,500-4,500). A circa 1825 Knoxville chest of drawers with reeded quarter columns and inlaid escutcheons brought a hearty $9,594, while a Middle Tennessee Sheraton sugar chest and a Kentucky Jackson press, both cherry and dating from around the same period, sold for $8,658 apiece. A splay-legged blanket chest led a group of furniture made by the Fisher family of cabinetmakers of Athens, Tenn., at $6,084. A circa 1889 San Antonio, Texas, horn chair attributed to Charles Puppe rounded up $5,904, while an early 20th century Carlo Bugatti ebonized and inlaid plant stand realized $9,102 and a 1970s Milo Baughman/Thayer Coggin credenza with book-matched rosewood veneers served up $5,148.

Southern pottery is a staple at Case, and several lots in the auction exceeded their estimates. They included an ovoid Tennessee stoneware jar dated 1827, $4,212; a Staunton, Va., stoneware jar with cobalt tulip/Federal shield decoration, $3,510; a rare urn form jar attributed to the Hedgecough Pottery of Putnam County, Tenn., $2,808; and a North Carolina N.H. Dixon 3-1/4 gallon stoneware jar, $2,574.

The textile category featured two decorative mid-19th century Middle Tennessee samplers, which brought $7,020, and $4446. A quilt which won first place at the Tennessee State Fair in 1909 proved a winner again, selling for $3,198, and a Tennessee signature quilt with 450 names sewed up $1,320.

Asian items continued to attract sizeable numbers of internet bidders from overseas. A pair of hardwood armchairs with dragon-carved backs soared to $20,295, a Japanese Meiji period silk embroidered landscape screen sold for $7,722, a pair of Chinese porcelain hat stands with figural and poem decoration competed to $7,626, and a small Chinese hardwood tabletop screen with white jade inset earned $7,020.

Other highlights included a 1.93 pear shaped D-color diamond ring, $12,870; a Victorian Paillard Swiss Music Box on Stand, $14,760; and a powder horn dated 1841 with engraved decoration of William Henry Harrison and America’s other presidents up to that date, $4,212.

Case is currently accepting consignments for upcoming auctions. For more information, call the gallery in Knoxville at (865) 558-3033 or the company’s Nashville office at (615) 812-6096 or email info@caseantiques.com.