In this series, Geo and I will list some of the interesting items that we have found in auctions, antique shops or eBay. We neither own the items and in most cases don’t have the capability of examining the items in person. It mainly serves as an inventory record of what interest us (not necessarily in terms of value or investment opportunities) and possibly how much it fetches (if the result can be obtained). If you are serious about some lots, please contact the auction houses, dealers or eBay sellers directly.
1 Swann Galleries, Sept 24, 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings, Lot 35 Henri Harpignies, Paysage.
One of the most long-lived and prolific French Barbizon painters, Harpignies’ pictures have a stronger contrast than those of Corot, with whom he befriended. The composition, with two diagonal hills and the atmospherical perspective provides a bounty, ageless beauty.
2. Cowan Auction, Oct 2, Lot 265, Fine 19th Century Barbizon Subject
Unsigned or illegibly signed paintings are risky to buy, unless the painter can be identified from other methods. But I have to succumb to this strong picture. The backlight is so strong that it devolves all the forms and colors of the landscape. What is left is the group of sheep like a textureless white sea that move away from us. Not everyone has herded in the rural landscape before, but we all have been there: when out of nowhere in the calm yet bleary late afternoon, we were stunned and warmed up by some beauty momentarily, shimmering out of mindless boredom.
3. Doyle Auction, Sept 23, Lot 427, Wedgwood Black Basaltes Bust of Augustus
Black Basaltes is a hard black vitreous stoneware, named after the volcanic rock basalt and manufactured by Josiah Wedgwood from about 1768. Wedgwood’s black basalt ware was an improvement on the stained earthenware known as “Egyptian black” made by other Staffordshire potters. It takes some courage to decorate your house with “after antiquity” objects, knowing that not everyone can afford a real Greek marble bust and knowing mixing modern home deco with some sort of Romanesque elements or Greek statues have been used as a kitsch in chain Italian restaurants or the house of Soprano. But perhaps one can feel assured with the quality of Wedgwood, the black seriousness and most of all the solemn looking of Augustus.
4. eBay item: 330360472732, Old Victorian Opalescent Glass Flower Curtain Tie Back
We picked up two pairs of glass curtain tiebacks at the Baltimore Antiques Show. I had never seen glass tiebacks, but it just goes to show how you can be in a field of flowers and never take your eyes off the sky. At home, an internet search revealed the fact that they were readily available at slightly better prices. At $75 for the two pair, it’s not the end of the world, but disappointing that they weren’t unique. Stopping in at Housing Works Books in Manhattan, I picked up a glass book and read that the distinguishing factor is an impressed hexagonal shape in the back of the reproductions, and yes, both pairs I bought have it. Still a great look. They range $10 per pair and up.
5. eBay item: 330359985348 and 370248331530 Landscape paintings by Arnold Grabone
Georg Arnold Grabone is famous as a painter, but he’s perhaps more famous for having at minimum inspired, and perhaps having given lessons to both General Dwight Eisenhower and Winston Churchill (Books and articles in German state this as a fact, the Eisenhower museum says there’s no documentation it ever happened). A German impressionist palate-knife painter, Grabone credited his own talents to Max Lieberman. Grabone was prolific and many of his landscapes of mountain cabins and seascapes were brought home by American servicemen. Works by Grabone are both collectible and affordable. There were forgeries during his life, however. Look for an artists label on the back, original frame (often with paint on it from the canvas being placed before it was dry) and inscribed signature in the lower left corner. If you’re in Spartanburg, South Carolina, don’t miss an exhibit of Grabone’s work Oct 20 – Dec 5, 2009.
6. New Orleans Auction, Sept 27, 2009, Lot 1130: Fine American Classical Mahogany Chest
At any auction with furniture, there are always a bunch of antique chests. It is odd that urbanites complain about the lack of closet space while do not considering furniture. This chest is one of the best I have seen. In fact, it is so refined that I would probably not use it heavily if I were the owner. According to the description: Two similar examples are pictured in “Lannuier, Cabinetmaker from Paris,” pages 23 and 203.