In this series, Geo and I will list some of the interesting items that we have found in auctions, antique shops or eBay. Neither do we own the items nor we have the capability of examining the items in person in most cases. It mainly serves as an inventory record of what interests 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. Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, Nov 8, 2009. Lot 557, Leaded Glass Coca Cola Advertising Lamp Shade
A Coca Cola lamp shade is NOT something that I would hang in my dining room simply because I don’t drink coke, but I am sure there is someone there who may not agree. By placing such a leaded glass lamp above where he eats everyday, one truly demonstrates what it means being an American, and how to decorate as a proud and maverick American. A similar lamp shade but with unusual leaf borders was sold at James D. Julia almost one year ago for $6,900. In the Baltimore Antiques Show this year, we have seen a booth selling anything related to Coca Cola, mostly signs, bottles etc. This one, dated back to the early of the 20th century, is an eerie combination of Art Nouveau style with brash American consumerism. I am wondering when such advertisement would become hot collectible in future?
2. Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, Nov 8, 2009. Lot 554: Heywood-Wakefield Natural Finish Wicker Armchair
According to Heywood-Wakefield’s website, “the old Heywood-Wakefield Company was the king of wicker and rattan furniture well into the 20th century, having nearly completely dominated this field in the second half of the 19th.” The style of this one indicates that it may not date back as early as to the 19th century.
3. Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, Nov 8, 2009. Lot 710: Aesthetic Pd Black Lacquered Shaving Stand c1875
A shaving stand may seem to be useless for modern bathrooms which unequivocally have a medicine cabinet with mirror in each, but perhaps more pleasure will be given to the experience of shaving from this elegant stand than any Gillette razors. The exquisite special-functioned furniture functions as a reminder to slow down the morning routine and for a moment look oneself with care and pride. The black lacquer makes this piece of furniture easier to fit in a modern white-tiled bathroom. Being 18 inches wide and 15 inches deep, and extremely airy and stately, it will fundamentally transform a mundane bathroom into a showroom of exquisite taste.
4. Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, Nov 7, 2009. Lot 63: Still Life by Robert Spear Dunning
In 1852, Robert Dunning, returned from New York City to Fall River and remained there until the end of his life (1905). It was there he founded the Fall River Evening Drawing School and nurtured a group of still life painters. Like his most typical works, this still life renders fruits in luscious color. The highly polished tabletop reflect the multitude of objects upon it, which always has a parallel edge and is elaborately carved. Based on William Gerdts, “Dunning by no means appears to have been disposed to rely on only one or two different table modelings, for the variation in design is amazing.” This one may dates back to his early career when Dunning preferred a darker, richer and less impressionistic style. There is an inner strength in his small picture. The fruits, overlapping each other, form a coherent unison to draw the viewer into the arrangement, texture and light. It is not one of the most complex picture by Dunning. But small it is, still a wonder.
5. Lyon & Turnbull, Oct 15, 2009. Lot 63: A Female Head by Augustus John
Augustus John’s painting of Roy Campbell in Carnegie Museum of Art is one of my favorites in the galleries. His search in the painting of form in colors is exceptional because of his consummate draughtsmanship. But here perhaps in his early career, he drew a conventional female head with a delicate, exact and sensitive operation. Every touch, even the lightest, counts in his drawing. The result is a sensual, sympathetic and convincing image. One can say that because his bravura painterly techniques cannot be traced here, it is not his most typical work; but the drawing fully demonstrates the solid craftsmanship is the foundation of every great artist. John may not bother to paint in such realistic way, but when he did, he was unsurpassed by his contemporary.
6. The Strange Death of President Harding, eBay item 380165986341
One of the strangest tales of the American Presidency, the Strange Death of President Harding is a book found often on racks in antique malls. This is the 1930 version. Warren G. Harding was president from 1921 until his death, officially from a heart attack or stroke, in 1923. Mrs. Harding refused permission for an autopsy, which soon led to speculation that the President had been the victim of a plot, possibly carried out by his wife, Florence Kling DeWolfe Harding. Gaston B. Means, an amateur historian and gadfly, noted in his book The Strange Death of President Harding (1930) that the circumstances surrounding his death in San Francisco’s Palace Hotel lent themselves to some suspecting he had been poisoned. According to crimelibrary.com, “Within minutes of Warren G. Harding’s death at either 7:10, 7:20, or 7:30 p.m. on August 2, 1923, rumors began to circulate. No one present at his demise could give the correct time of death. No one seemed to be sure who was on hand in the San Francisco hotel room when he breathed his last. Most of all, the four physicians who had been caring for Harding for the previous week could not agree on the cause of death. It had something to do with his heart. On the other hand, perhaps it was a stroke.”
7. Items related to Harding. eBay item 350260588479, 360195487329
Warren G. Harding died in San Francisco’s Palace Hotel, then only 14 years since the hotel, completely rebuilt after the earthquake, reopened. In addition to Harding, the new Palace Hotel hosted other Presidents including Harrison, McKinley, Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Wilson and Clinton. John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and Oscar Wilde were guests, and actress Sarah Bernhard caused a stir when she arrived with her pet baby tiger. When the Palace Hotel was originally built in 1875 it was reputedly the largest, most luxurious and costly hotel in the world. Famed tenor Enrico Caruso was a guest at the hotel on April 18, 1906 when the devastating earthquake hit. History can tie together seemingly unrelated places and events, both Harding’s death and the 1906 earthquake are examples. Related to the Palace Hotel, here is a pre-earthquake stereoview card. A copy of Harding’s Death Certificate and speeches by Harding on a 78 RPM.