Case’s Summer Auction

July 25, 2012 in Editorials

As the mercury outside spiked to an all time record 105 degrees in Knoxville on June 30, bidders inside the Summer Case Antiques Auction were creating a heat wave of their own. 1,850 bidders competed in person and from around the globe by phone, and via the internet and absentee bids, for 750 cataloged lots of fine art and antiques.

There were eight phone lines and multiple internet and absentee bids in play for the top-selling lot of the auction, a bronze figural group “Capture of a Wild Kirghz Horse” after Russian sculptor Evgeni Alexandrovich Lanceray (1848-1886). A Russian phone bidder roped it in for $39,440, more than double its high estimate. (Prices include the 16% buyer’s premium). Five phone bidders stayed on the line for a second, smaller Lanceray bronze sculpture of a soldier on horseback, which also doubled its high estimate, reaching $8,532. Another lot garnering strong phone interest was a French restoration period gilded and patinated bronze clock, depicting the mythological Jason capturing the Golden Fleece. The clock lacked its original works but was similar to a model signed by Lesieur, now in the collection of the Museé de Malmaison. Estimated at $5,000-8,000, it soared to $19,140. Another elaborate French clock, the works signed Cie LeRoy Paris and the case made of hand painted porcelain in the style of Sevres with horizontal dial and gilt bronze mounts, ticked to $12,180 against an $1,800 to $2,200 estimate.

A silver gelatin print photograph titled “Diamond Edge Saw Indiana Limestone Company” by Margaret Bourke White (American, 1904-1971) sold for $12,760, and a signed etching of a nude titled “The Weeper,” one of an edition of 30 by Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954), hammered down for $11,600. A vividly colored abstract painting by Roberto Burle Marx (Brazil, 1909-1982) tripled its high estimate to earn $6,960, while an oil on board of dancing women by Angel Botello (Puerto Rico, 1913-1986) reached $4,408 and an oil on board harbor scene by Egidius Linnig (Belgium, 1821-1860), docked at $4,176. An oil on canvas winter troika scene by Athanas Ivanovich Scheloumoff (Russian, 1892-1983) brought $1,392 and a small, early 20th century oil on board Russian school beach scene painting brought $1,000.

There were more bidders registered from China than from any country outside the United States. Top sellers in the Chinese category included a pair of early Republic period porcelain vases with fisherman motif, $6,960 an interior painted glass snuff bottle, $3,364, and a Chinese Imari porcelain charger, $2,784. A large late 18th to early 19th century Famille Rose porcelain charger earned $1,856, and a pair of 20th century sake cups with dragon design brought $1,972.

Foreign silver also drew heavy interest. A Chinese Export silver trinket box received more internet hits than any other item in the sale and finished at $3,712. A hallmarked Persian silver punch bowl and underplate sold for $3,248, while a Russian silver sugar basket with engraved farm scene and 1881 assayer’s mark brought $580 and a Georg Jensen Art Deco style cased bottle opener and corkscrew set popped at $986.

While international items commanded the spotlight for much of the auction, Case has built a passionate following for Southern decorative arts and historical items, and these were also in good supply. A Tennessee pottery barrel-form rundlet, signed by Charles F. Decker and dated 1897 with inscribed heart and star motifs, rolled to $9,512. The North Carolina Museum of History won a North Carolina salt-glazed jug stamped W.W. Ballard for $3,016, a set of four canisters by Georgia folk potter Arie Meaders realized $6,946, and a Sand Mountain, Alabama alkaline glazed pottery pitcher served up $1,392. A one-gallon East Tennessee stoneware jar stamped William Grindstaff, with hairline crack, brought $1,856 – the same price as a redware jug with sine wave decoration attributed to the Cain Pottery of Sullivan County, Tenn. Southern art pottery also performed well: a Newcomb College vase by Sadie Irvine found a new home for $1,392 while a Sara Bloom Levy high glaze mug with hairline crack under its handle realized $1,160. A four-inch tall George Ohr vase earned $1,392.

A scarce Tennessee needlework sampler with house, floral and alphabet decoration, circa 1835, brought its top estimate, $11,600. Red was the preferred color for a quartet of jacquard coverlets signed by the Maryville Woolen Mill Company (operating in Blount County, Tenn., from 1874-1906). The red and white version sewed up $2,204, while the green, black and teal examples brought $2,088, $1,972 and $1,392 respectively.

A rare coin silver julep cup made by Nashville, Tenn., silversmith William Calhoun (working 1835-1865) hammered down for $2,436, while a circa 1860 agricultural coin silver julep cup retailed by John Kitts of Kentucky, inscribed “Premium on Tobacco,” reaped $1,160. A 1795 map of Tennessee engraved by B. Tanner, showing Native American landmarks, brought $1,508, and a black version of the Alabama Indestructible Doll, made by the Ella G. Smith Doll Company, sold for $3,944 against a $1,200 top estimate. (The company, which operated from 1899-1925, was the first doll maker in the South to manufacture black dolls).

Proving that the market for Tennessee-born African American artist Joseph Delaney extends well beyond his home state, his oil on board depiction of a woman in a yellow dress sold to a Northeastern museum for $3,944. The same institution also picked up a watercolor of a nude by Delaney for $1,508, more than twice its high estimate. An oil on board painting of a stream with mill by Thomas Campbell (Tennessee, 1834-1914) churned out $3,132, while a Smoky Mountain landscape canvas by Louis Jones (1878-1958) brought $2,204.

Many bidders came seeking military items. A freshly discovered and graphic archive of over 100 Civil War letters related to Captain Oliver Pinkney McCammon of the 3rd East Tennessee Cavalry (a unit which saw action in Tennessee and lost many of its members when The Sultana exploded), surged past its $4,000-5,000 estimate to $10,440. The diary of Confederate private Adam Kersh of the 52nd Virginia Infantry sold for $2,088, and a letter archive related to Private Weed Nims of the 12th Iowa Infantry and the 1862 capture of Fort Donelson brought $1,972. A 20th century archive including a bomber jacket and flight records owned by Lt. Colonel Raymond Swenson, the first American pilot shot down in WWII, landed at $1,972, but bidders were even more motivated by an archive of the same period belonging to Technical Sergeant George A. Pierce of Tennessee. It included his bomber wings and a much more elaborately decorated jacket, featuring a pinup girl and 31 bombs stitched with the names of the cities bombed by its owner, and shot to twice its high estimate, $5,568.

Estate jewelry was another hot seller. A 2.99 carat fancy yellow diamond and platinum ring earned an outburst of applause when it hammered down for $29,000, double its high estimate. An Art Deco diamond and platinum ladies watch containing 139 small diamonds brought $5,104, while several other diamond solitaire rings and 14K gold pocket watches brought their high estimates or more. A set of three circa 1900 Chinese silver and hardstone bracelets wrapped up $1,624, and a William Spratling silver and amethyst quartz frog bracelet leapt to $986.

An 1837-38 copy of Gould’s Synopsis of the Birds of Australia, a complete volume with 73 hand colored lithographic ornithological plates, realized $7,192, and a 1967 first edition Andy Warhol Index pop-up book sold for $638. A lithograph titled Mid-Air by Louis Lozowick (American, 1892-1973) rose to $2,784 and a lithograph titled Bathing Beach by George Bellows (American, 1882-1925) sold for $2,204. A rare Aesthetic style six-light brass gasolier by the Angle Lamp Company of New York, $4,872 led a collection of early lighting. Other highlights included a signed Galle cameo art glass vase, $3,364, a 19th century American school oil on canvas portrait of a child with kitten, $3,480, a Southern stained poplar high post tester bed, $1,740, and a rare 12-inch Statue of Liberty American Committee Model, which brought $3,480 despite its missing flame.

Case is currently accepting quality art and antique consignments for its October auction. For more information, call the gallery in Knoxville at (865) 558-3033 or the Nashville office at (615) 812-6096 or email