Louisiana Fort Painting Captures $29,250 at Case’s Winter Auction

March 3, 2013 in Editorials

A painting of a now-abandoned Louisiana fort rallied to $29,250 at the Winter Case Antiques Auction, held Jan. 26 at the company’s gallery in Knoxville, Tenn (all prices include the buyer’s premium). The oil on panel by George David Coulon (1823-1904), was dated 1886 and depicted Fort Macomb, originally built after the War of 1812 to defend New Orleans from a potential water attack via the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Pontchartrain. Fort Macomb was briefly occupied by Confederate forces during the Civil War but retaken by Union troops after the capture of New Orleans. Decommissioned in 1871, it is now owned by the state. The painting, discovered in a Nashville estate, was modestly estimated at $2,000-$3,000. The buyer was a private Southern collector, one of nearly 2,000 bidders participating in the 750-lot auction in the gallery, by phone and online via liveauctioneers.com.

The Coulon painting was one of several of the day’s fine art highlights. A Paris Street Scene by Edouard Cortes (French, 1882-1969), deaccessioned by the Knoxville Museum to benefit its acquisitions fund, earned $26,400. Another ex-KMA painting, a panoramic early 20th century oil on canvas by Eugene Buccini titled Aurora, after the original by Guido Reni, brought $1,989 (est. $800-$1200). The museum was also buying at the sale; it paid $4,800 for a tonalist-style oil on canvas landscape with sheep by Knoxville painter J.W. Wallace, whose contribution to the region’s art scene often goes unrecognized because so little of his work has come on the market. A portrait of a woman, attributed to the circle of Charles Hawthorne, being sold by Cheekwood Museum of Art in Nashville, realized $1,872 (est. $1000-1500). A small watercolor of the Smoky Mountains by Charles Krutch set an auction record for the artist at $5,520, while a self-portrait by Joseph Delaney, the only one known in oil, sold to an East Tennessee institution for $6,240. A cemetery image by surrealist Nashville painter Werner Wildner brought a lively $2,400 (est. $500-800), while an abstract by Philip Perkins hammered down for $1,755. An autumn landscape with haystacks by Louis E. Jones raked in $1,200, and a rare landscape with figure by Nicola Marschall (1829-1917), an artist more often represented by his Kentucky and Alabama portraits, realized $2,280 (est. $700-900). A bidder in the room claimed an oil on canvas of a bear invading a campsite by American illustrator Hy Hintermeister for $3,600, its top estimate. An oil on board of a fox hunting a family of rabbits, by John Alfred Wheeler (1821-1903) led a collection of turn-of-the-century British sporting paintings at $2,400, and a 19th century British school painting of a prize bull won $2,400 (est. $1,000-1,500).

Three unsigned paintings turned out to be sleepers: an 18th century Dutch still life surged to $6,786 against a $1,000-$1,500 estimate, a 19th century American folk art portrait of a boy holding a black cat hit $2,880 (est. $400-500); and a small 20th century Scottish oil on canvas fly fishing scene reeled in $2,040 (est. $200-300). Works on paper included a lithograph by George Bellows titled Dance in a Madhouse, which reached $2,925 despite some condition issues, and a lot of four woodcuts by Provincetown, Mass. artist Beulah Tomlinson, $3,600. An abstract bronze sculpture by Leonardo Nierman (Mexican-American, b. 1932) sold for $2,691. A 1960s Campbell’s Soup Label paper dress after Andy Warhol realized $2,457, and a rare landscape theorem on velvet, made circa 1820 at the Moravian Salem Academy in Winston Salem, North Carolina by a young West Virginia girl, Minerva French Boyd, sold to a private buyer for $10,800, underbid by the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.

The auction’s top lot was a 4.90 carat diamond and platinum ring that attracted multiple internet and phone bidders but hammered down to the floor for $61,200. The jewelry and precious metals category continued to shine with a 18k white gold girandole style diamond brooch/pendant selling for $3,120 and an Art Deco diamond/sapphire pendant in 18kt gold bringing $2,040, the same price paid for a Victorian 14k gold tassel bracelet. A large coin silver water pitcher by Grosjean and Woodward, retailed in Charleston, SC, served up $3,480 and a coin silver octagonal mug made by Garner and Winchester of Lexington, KY circa 1850 brought its top estimate, $1,440. A set of 12 silver knives made in 1837 by English female silversmith Mary Chawner for Queen Adelaide of England, bearing her royal engraved crest, competed to $2,106. Other sterling and gold items with less heady provenances sold consistently within or above estimates, buoyed by strong commodity prices and the number of jewelry and silver buyers in the room and online.

A cache of 270 ballots from 1864 Presidential election (in which Abraham Lincoln was re-elected handily) led the historical category, tallying $9,600. Most were graphically interesting with patriotic decorations and even some pencil inscriptions from the voters who cast them: all Union soldiers, voting in the field from Ohio. Other Civil War era items were in high demand. A partial letter and pair of ambrotypes of Alabama soldier F.M. Sconyers earned $4,212, the same price as a Harper’s Ferry model 1855 rifle with Maynard priming device. An Ames M1850 Staff and Field Officer’s sword brought $2,400, and a bulls eye canteen and .58 bayonet with scabbard that descended in the family of Capt. William Geary of Pennsylvania, $1,200. An early 20th century painting of the inauguration of Jefferson Davis, which formerly hung in an Alabama museum, brought $1,872, while an 1870s engraved portrait of Robert E. Lee, sold to raise money for his memorial monument in Virginia, made $1,287. A 1904 reward poster for outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid rounded up $3,510.

The auction opened with a nice surprise when lot number 7, a 90” long framed silk painted scroll in the style of 13th century Chinese court painter Chen Juzhong, blew past its $1,000-$1,200 estimate to hit $16,380. A 30”H polychrome gilt carved Buddha figure brought $1,170. Demand for jade and ivory seemed to have cooled from a year ago, but a small hardstone box in the form of a quail soared to $1,872 (est. $150-250). There was steady demand for a collection of circa 1800 Chinese export Fitzhugh porcelain and 19th century Rose Medallion, but it was outperformed by some of the 20th century porcelain including a Meiping form vase with decoration of a woman having her hair arranged, $1,287 (est. $200-300).

The ceramics category included Southern pottery, a staple at Case, as well as Southewestern pottery, and estate collections of Staffordshire, Meissen, Mochaware and Yellowware. A North Carolina salt glazed jug, stamped W.W. Ballard, Dockery N.C. (1852-1894) earned $3,120 (est. $1400-1600), while an East Tennessee stoneware jug with cobalt floral decoration, attributed to Charles Decker, brought $900 despite a glued handle. A Rutherford County, Tennessee whiskey jug with Albany glaze finished at $1080 (est. $200-300), and a Michael and Melvin Crocker closed-mouth rattlesnake figural jug brought $660. A 19th century Zia redware pottery olla with geometric, bird and floral decoration sold for $2,880 and a San Ildefonso blackware bowl by Maria Martinez earned $1,020. A pair of Meissen blue and white candelabra with figural decoration of children hammered down for $1,638. Mochaware , spatterware and yellowware from an estate collection met with stronger than expected interest, including a salt cellar with earthworm design and caster with sine wave design which sold as a single lot for $900, and a yellowware mocha earthworm design pitcher and biscuit jar which sold together for $840 despite a hairline and chips to the biscuit jar. Leading the collection of Staffordshire figures was “The Pugilists,” depicting John Heenan and Tom Sayers in the most famous boxing match of the 19th century; it competed to $468, affected by some restoration to Sayer’s left arm and chin.

Attracting a lot of attention was a collection of glass, Christmas items and dolls from the estate of King E. and Julia R. Stockton of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Kugels and other early Christmas ornaments and belsnickles brought within-estimate prices, but a group of ten Victorian Christmas candle lanterns (or illumination lamps) in various colors with figural designs lit up at $3,240, while a group of fourteen colored lanterns with quilted designs brought $1,440. Other glass lots from the estate included a group of four colored blown mold eagle glass flasks, $1080, five colored 18th and 19th century wine and gin bottles, $720, and three amethyst and amber glass target balls, $840. The top-selling doll was a petite Jumeau Bebe numbered E4J with blonde wig and red velvet coat, $3,744.

A cast iron garden ornament in the form of a life-sized reclining whippet dog, possibly made by Fiske, fetched $3,000, while a cast iron Uncle Sam mechanical bank grabbed $1,170, a William Tell themed bank hit $510, and a cast iron Humpty Dumpty doorstop sat at $600 despite considerable wear. A pair of early 19th century figural iron andirons attributed to the Luray furnace of Virginia were hot items at $1,920 (est. $250-350), and a 44 piece group of stone fruit proved a unexpectedly heavy hitter at $2,457 (est. $500-800).

Brown furniture continued to be a soft, with a few exceptions. A Southwest Virginia walnut corner cupboard with decorative ivory inlay hammered down for $4,200, while a Tennessee wardrobe from the collection of Nathan Harsh (co-author of The Art and Mystery of Tennessee Furniture) sold for $1,287. Two Southern Sheraton style sugar chests, both refinished with restorations, brought above-estimate prices at $2,400 and $1,800. A set of 12 Chippendale style oak dining chairs, early 20th century, rested at $1,440, while a Limbert Arts and Crafts armchair rocker brought $720.

Case is currently accepting consignments for its upcoming auctions, to be held May 18 and September 28 at their gallery in the historic Cherokee Mills Building, 2240 Sutherland Avenue in Knoxville. 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.