Case’s Fall Auction

September 28, 2012 in Editorials

A piece of important Southern furniture and a folio of Ansel Adams Yosemite photographs lead the Fall Case Antiques Auction, set for Saturday, Oct. 6 at the company’s gallery in Knoxville. Special collections of Southwestern/Native American objects and Chattanooga breweriana are also expected to draw interest, along with a pottery jar of presidential interest, historic documents, American and Southern paintings, silver, jewelry, and country music/Hollywood memorabilia.

The star of the sale is expected to be an 18th century Shenandoah Valley bookcase on bureau, attributed to the Martin-Frye cabinetmaking school of Winchester, Va. It descended at the historic Matin Hill/Spangler Hall home and is being sold along with a handwritten journal from 1861 inscribed “Names of the Soldiers who have called at Matin Hill.” It is one of several pieces of Southern furniture in the auction, which also includes an outstanding Federal inlaid secretary-bookcase; a yellow pine huntboard; a Classical period Augusta, Ga., labeled shelf clock; and a rare table cherry sewing stand with Shaker influence. A Continental marquetry desk star-inlaid blanket chest, and sofa, being sold by Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art, are also featured.

A portfolio of 18 Ansel Adams photographic prints from his renowned Yosemite Series crowns the fine art offerings. The circa 1972 prints, initialed by Adams, include iconic images such as El Capitan, Mirror Lake, Yosemite Falls and Moon and Half Dome. There is also a European cityscape with fountain oil on canvas by Tennessee-born Joseph Delaney (1904-1991), one of Tennessee’s most important African American artists. There are several paintings from the estate of Nashville art collector Alven Ghertner and his wife Jean.

Leading the regional art offerings is an oil on canvas depiction of the Cravens House, which figured prominently in the Battle of Chattanooga, by William Posey Silva (1859-1948); along with an oil on canvas view of the Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson by Mayna Avent (1868-1959); a haunting Lloyd Branson (1861-1925) rendering of a trolley against a dusky Knoxville skyline; and a plantation laundry scene titled Wash Day by Clementine Hunter (Louisiana, 1887-1988) – which is accompanied by a photograph of her holding the painting. There is also a large landscape with cows by George Riecke painted during his time in Louisiana circa 1900 (and owned by turn of the century Wilson County cattleman, Sam Anderson); a floral still life by Eleanor Wiley (1876-1977); a cubist painting by Robert Birdwell of Knoxville; 2 surrealist works by Nashville artist Werner Wildner (1925-2004); a city scene by self-taught artist William (Bill) Sawyer of Nashville; and an autumn scene of the East Tennessee mountains by Lorentz Kleiser (1879-1963).

Case has made a name for itself selling important Southern pottery, and this sale is no exception. Featured is an East Tennessee decorated harvest jug with inscription for President James A. Garfield and Tennessee Congressman A.H. Pettibone, likely commemorating the 1880 election. A green-glazed East Tennessee redware jar with sine save incising is also expected to draw attention, because it is the first known jar attributed to the Cain Pottery with such a glaze over the entire surface. There is also a West Tennessee jar with medial crimped flange attributed to T.W. Craven, and a selection of Tennessee and Kentucky whiskey and vinegar jugs. Art pottery in the sale includes four pieces of Newcomb College pottery; an early Jugtown, N.C. piece; and an outstanding Reissner, Stellmacher & Kessel Amphora portrait vase. Historic Staffordshire, a large Meissen style figural centerpiece, a KPM cased clock, and other European porcelains round out the ceramics category.

An archive that could change how history views the Civil War actions of Union General Benjamin “The Beast” Butler leads the document category. The extensive archive descended through the family of Thomas Major, Butler’s personal secretary, and includes items ranging from a period copy of the Texas proclamation against Butler’s actions to a document that sheds new light on his seizure of $60,000 in gold from Samuel Smith & Co. of New Orleans. (Major’s uniform is also included). There is also a rare 19th century broadside of the controversial Mecklenburg Declaration, a purported declaration of independence from England made in North Carolina in 1775 (a year before the one in Philadelphia), along with War of 1812 Tennessee Volunteer related documents and an 1857 letter of appreciation to President Franklin Pierce, written and signed by all the members of his cabinet (including Jefferson Davis). From the 20th century are letters by President John F. Kennedy Jr. and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, written in 1962 to Ernest Mike, one of the U.S. Marshals who provided protection for James Meredith as he became the first African American admitted to the University of Mississippi. And one of the most anticipated items in the category is a recently discovered song written and signed by Country Music icon Hank Williams prior to his untimely death. The song, titled I Never Cry in my Dreams, was never published or recorded. There is also a good selection of music and Hollywood memorabilia, including an Elvis Presley archive; a set of James Dean movie stills; an Andy Warhol signed Cher poster; 1960s era concert posters; and memorabilia and photos related to University of Tennessee basketball coach Ray Mears.

The weapons category includes a deringer attributed to J.E. Merriman of Memphis, a Harper’s Ferry US Model 1803 flintlock rifle, and several gun canes that are part of a larger collection of walking sticks. A walking stick with coin silver handle is expected to draw cross-category interest, because it is also the only signed piece of coin silver by Lebanon, Tenn., silversmith James Ragland that has ever surfaced. It bears an inscription that also ties it to some early Texas settlers, the Sypert family of Nacogdoches. And a set of coin silver spoons by James B. Wells of Maryville, Tenn., whose mark was previously unpublished, is also being offered – the first time his silver has ever come up at auction. Coin silver spoons by scarce makers Paul Negrin and Edward Raworth of Nashville and ladles by Thomas Gowdy of Nashville, Hyde and Goodrich of New Orleans, and Kitts of Kentucky are featured too.

A scarce Middle Tennessee needlework sampler is among the outstanding textile lots. It was made in 1835 by Sarah Donoho and includes later photographs of the sampler maker. (An archive relating to her family, who lived in Wilson County, is being sold separately). Several other American and British samplers are featured in the auction including an 1843 sampler attributed to Kentucky. Several fine Southern quilts (some signed) and a lot of two Midwestern coverlets with period dye recipe will also be offered.

A large selection of Southwestern and Navajo silver and turquoise/coral jewelry is complemented by a collection of Southwestern pottery and textiles, much of it assembled over two decades by a Middle Tennessee couple. The couple became friends with legendary San Ildefonso potter (Crucita Calabaza, 1920-1999), who in turn visited them when she traveled Tennessee. Five of her Blue Corn pieces, including a redware jar and rare trivet form, are offered, along with pieces by Cynthia Starflower, Teresita Naranjo, and the Melchor family. Several Navajo rugs and Native American baskets are also included.

Breweriana collectors will appreciate a collection of advertising from the Chattanooga Brewing Company, which operated in the early 20th century. Other notable lots include an 1828 plat book of the Chattanooga area with several large maps; two large early 20th century copper lanterns by Kahalley Lighting of Alabama; gold and diamond jewelry, Miriam Haskell and other signed costume jewelry; a rare cast iron turkey doorstop (attributed to Bradley and Hubbard); a Tiffany Acorn lamp; and a Christian Dior mink coat.

The auction takes place at Case’s gallery in the historic Cherokee Mills Building, 2240 Sutherland Avenue in Knoxville, on Saturday, Oct. 6. Online, absentee and phone bids will also be accepted. A preview will take place on Friday, Oct. 5, from noon to 6 p.m. EST or by appointment. The catalog for the auction, with full descriptions, price estimates, and photographs for items in the order in which they will be sold can be viewed online at For more information, call the gallery in Knoxville at (865) 558-3033 or the company’s Nashville office at (615) 812-6096 or email