A Gaggle of Interests – Sept 13, 2009

A Swiss Harry Gautschi & Sons music box offered from Cottone Auction
A Swiss Harry Gautschi & Sons music box offered from Cottone Auction

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.  Cottone Auction, Sept 26, 2009. Lot 43: Harry Gautschi & Sons Music Box

I have found that to listen to a music box gives me more satisfaction than to use an iPod on a subway train. In general music boxes are not that rare to find, but this one with the inlaid & ebonized rosewood case and 3 interchangeable cylinders, drum & bells with enameled butterflies, is still a pleasure to watch even when silent. Based on the description, it is in working order with good teeth for the “comb”. I am wondering whether there are enough disks around to enrich the variety. Watching a moving music box has as much fun as enjoying its deep resonance. This one even provides the drum and bell to add the spice! I would buy it for my kids (if I had one) to intrigue them in both the mechanical wonders and musicality. Again, I always believe that plastic electronics can never beat the sound of vibration from real wood or metal.

Lot 145: Card Table and Sewing Stand, attributed to Joseph Barry from Cottone Auction
Lot 145: Card Table and Sewing Stand, attributed to Joseph Barry from Cottone Auction

2.  Cottone Auction, Sept 26, 2009. Lot 145: Philadelphia Federal Card Table and Sewing Stand, attributed to Joseph Barry.

Joseph Barry, a trained London furniture maker, moved to Philadelphia in 1790’s. Brry’s workshop produced one of the finest furniture with features such as carved acanthus leaves, fleur de lus, palmetto leaves, horizontal beehive reeding lion’s paw feet, female heads and serpents. Geo loves the spiral-carved foliage decorated pedestal of the card table. The reeded sabre legs and the lion’s head brass caps are typical of Joseph Barry. From the book “Philadelphia Empire Furniture” page 204, I can find similarity between the illustrated Barry card table and this particular one. The minor differences are 1) A donut-shaped mobile wreath at the base of the pedestal (above the foliage) which was carved separately for the illustrated table is missing in the current lot. Another curious case is the bulging tops of the sabre legs take a different form in this two pieces of furniture. Furniture attribution can seldom be firm without provenance, signature or original labels. But what he advertised in a Savannah newspaper when he opened his new shop there is still valid for this auction lot — “A most complex assortment of elegant and warranted well finished mahogany furniture.”

A painting by Walter Baum, bearing label from Salmagundi Club
A painting by Walter Baum, bearing label from Salmagundi Club

3.  Cottone Auction, Sept 26, 2009. Lot 170: Walter E. Baum (American, 1884-1956) “The Village”

Walter Baum is one of the few Pennsylvania Impressionism painters that collectors with limited budget can still afford, even for a major work. A recent article disclosed that Baum’s wife pushed him to paint at least one painting a day for quick cash, thus probably certain degree of connoiseurship is needed to distinguish a daily-bread Baum from more time-consuming major works. I am not an expert on Walter Baum. At his best, I saw a muscular power from the succinct brushstroke. But if George Bellow’ passionate use of thick layers of pigments directly onto pictures is desirable for gritty urban scenes, then some of Baum’s autumn village scenes are too much of nicety for raw and bold treatment. This one, dark and solemn, bears a label from Salmagundi Club indicating it was selected for the “Thumb Box Exhibition, 1947”, perhaps an artist nod’s for its excellence.

4. Bonhams, SoMa Estate Auction, Sept 20, 2009. Lot 4518: A William and Mary walnut side chair from the late 17th century

Museums are selling! A William and Mary Walnut Side Chair from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Museums are selling! A William and Mary Walnut Side Chair from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

By now if you keep following this series, you probably think I am a chair mania.:) Tall, stately, and airy, William and Mary chairs, in my mind, are the first type that get away from the clumsiness.  Yet its elegant baroque carving still recalls the old world. I am no expert on William and Mary, although I have learned certain carvings of the crest can be used to attribute the origin. Geo could not tolerate all the curves and turns, but I would love to have one if I had a library of oak paneling. On this particular lot, sadly, American Museums are selling inventory again.This time: the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Take it on the bright side: Since it is a museum piece, at least seldom people sit on it and the old cane must still sound.

A Still Life painting by Johann Whilhelm Preyer, once at New York Gallery
A Still Life painting by Johann Whilhelm Preyer, once at New York Gallery

5. Hampel Auction, Germany, Sept 18, 2009. Lot 403: Still life by Johann Wilhelm Preyer.

Sometimes it takes a museum visit to learn and meet some painters who you will never forget. The visit to MFA, Boston brought me to look at Gerrit Dou, and the last trip to the Walters Art Museum it was Johann Wilhelm Preyer whom I put in the search list.  Neither do I agree still life is a low level of fine art nor I think the consummate realism matters less with the arrival of photograph. Like other typical pictures of Preyer, fruits come alive under his mastery of texture and light. Also there is that warm glaze harmonizing the picture which almost makes everything glow. Maybe I am opiniated , but I tend to think it is the small subject that showcases the supreme vision.

6. eBay, item number: 250493485992. Landscape by  Henry Ward Ranger

Landscape by Henry Ward Ranger
Landscape by Henry Ward Ranger

I guess the word impressionism help painting sell so that the seller added it to the title (although I won’t quibble on the use of  “plein air”). This painting by the Dean of American Barbizon School, Henry Ward Ranger, will end the auction tomorrow. Ranger was a painter so prolific that sometimes it seems there are more Henry Ward Ranger paintings around than one man could have possibly painted. Ranger was the founder of the Old Lyme School in Connecticut (but left shortly after the arrival of Child Hassam). This 12×16 landscape is being offered on eBay and at the time of this writing, there’s considerable interest with 13 bids. Prices for works by Ranger vary widely. The listing notes they’ve sold for up to $23,000 at auction. Browsing through LiveAuctioneers.com it’s easy to see they’ve also sold for $650 at auction. One of the things to note is the National Academy of Design “Ranger Stamp” on the reverse. Ranger left his entire residuary estate to the National Academy to be sold and used to purchase works by American artists. The works purchased were to be given to libraries and art institutions throughout the country. The stamps indicate the paintings were part of Ranger’s estate. A stamp also indicates a painting may be an incomplete work or a study.

eBay finding: PRR 1940/50s LAUREL Pattern 7-3/8in. Dinner/Salad Plate
eBay finding: PRR 1940/50s LAUREL Pattern 7-3/8in. Dinner/Salad Plate

7. eBay, item number 150364756043. PRR 1940/50s LAUREL Pattern 7-3/8in. Dinner/Salad Plate

Why not make your dinnerware as interesting as your furniture and walls. China from hotels, restaurants and railroads can add interest to a meal that only increases as your plate clears. Of the three, perhaps the most expensive and collected is railroad china and one of the top roads to collect is the Pennsylvania Railroad. Offered on ebay (Buy it Now, $29.95) is a dinner plate in the Laurel pattern from the mid-century. Like most plates that were actually used the listing says this one has surface scratches. The back of the plate says it’s Buffalo China made exclusively for Kniffin and Demarest, china distributors in New York. Keep in mind “china” is a generic term and technically this is likely to be stoneware. One of my favorite designs in railroad china is the Dewitt Clinton pattern from the New York Central. It’s also one of the more affordable designs. For after dinner, there’s nothing like scotch on the rocks in one of these.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage.

When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city.

With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s.

The result will be a book with a video component.

We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

2 comments

The painting by Henry Ward Ranger was sold at eBay for $1,650.00. The Barry tables were sold for $3,200. Walter Baum’s painting was sold for $1,600.

Cottone Auctions is truly the most horrible business I have ever dealt with in my entire life. They threatened me, their actual client, with bodily harm when I came to retrieve my items from them. Communication was nonexistent unless you continued to ask for updates. They actually took our items out of the auction we agreed upon and placed them in some other sale on another date without any authorization or permission whatsoever. Seemingly polite initially they turned icy cold when they realized that their perception of value of our items (they are the experts supposedly) was far lower than they imagined. In the end they refused to return a call or answer an email while our items were several hundred miles away their disposition completely unknown to us. When I told Sam Cottone that I was not pleased and that no one had ever treated me worse as a client his only reaction was to threaten me with a hired tubby goon who claimed to be a law enforcement officer of dubious quality. That was it. No apology. No explanation. A threat. I pointed out to his son Matt Cottone that he never returned a call or an email His reply was, "I am going to put you on your head." Does that mean throw me to the ground, assault me, or murder me? I don't know really. I invited him to give it his best shot since he obviously is completely oblivious to my background, training, and armament. The truth is neither are men enough to do what they pay others to attempt to do for them. I have never been threatened by business owners before when I expressed extremely correct indignation at how I had been treated. One person who left a very valuable item with him was 88 years old. Matt Cottone hung up on him during a call. When the elderly man tried again he feigned having another call and hung up on him again. When the elderly gentleman said he would come and get it since Cottone refused to pay to ship it back to him or even to pay for someone to come and get it, this despite the fact that Cottone Auctions violated their agreement and his trust, Matt Cottone invited him to come get it. An 88 year old man who lives more than an 11 hour drive away. Come get it. Would Cottone put his own Grandfather on an 11 hour odyssey across four states to retrieve his property from someone who has no business being in business to begin with? Who knows? All I know is if you choose to do business with these cheap low class thugs you may be in for an experience unlike no other. Scratch the cheap veneer of Cottone Auctions and you might not like the dishonesty, lack of customer service, and thuggery that you find just below the surface. Bad business all the way around. You would be much better served finding a more reputable firm to work with when you are auctioning any item of value.

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