A Gaggle of Interests – Jan 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

In this series, the UAA team will list some of the interesting items that we have found in auctions, antique shops, shows or eBay. We neither own the items or have the capability of examining the items in person in some 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. Pook & Pook, Jan 15, 2011. Lot 326, Massive Pennsylvania carved mahogany spread winged eagle.

Pennsylvania Carved Eagle at Pook & Pook
Pennsylvania Carved Eagle at Pook & Pook

The massive carved eagle, dated circa 1870, is six feet long. The craftsmanship is evident in the intertwined compositions and the stylized talons and feathers. It would be interesting to examine this piece in person and study how many parts were carved individually and how they were constructed together.

The estimated price is estimated at $5,000 to $10,000. In any big antiques show,that sounds like a great bargain.

2. James D. Julia Auction, Feb 3, 2011. Lot 1097, Robert Scott Duncanson, panoramic landscape.

The painting is in dire situation and perhaps the restoration will eventually cost more than what the painting will be sold for in the auction. Yet I find it very appealing and stylistically consistent with other Duncanson’s works. Duncanson may not be in the top list among Hudson River School painters, but this also leads to a more affordable market for his works. Smithsonian of American Art showcases his Landscape with Rainbow on the first floor with other prominent landscape painters. And the Crystal Bridges of American Art Museum also announced the acquisition of a large Duncanson’s landscape painting this year.

Without personal inspection, it is hard to tell what is on the upper left corner, which is probably just discoloration from dirt. There will be extensive inpaint in the end to make the works presentable, but in a recent trip to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the docent pointed out that one of the paintings by Thomas Cole was torn into two parts when it was purchased.


3. Pook & Pook, Jan 14, 2011. Lot 257, Pennsylvania Federal walnut slant front desk.

It is probably the best time to buy slant front desk nowadays because even the better ones fetch no more than a desk Pottery Barn. Of course, Pottery Barn won’t have slant front desk made of solid walnut, nor would younger generation consider it when the laptop cannot be stored in the top shelf.

Pennsylvania Dederal walnut slant front desk at Pook & Pook
Pennsylvania Federal walnut slant front desk at Pook & Poo

But there is some space for any laptop in the bottom three drawers. The small cabinets are great for assortment of electronic gadgets, perhaps an Ipad or Kindel. Moreover, the inlay of this desk looks delicate yet not-overly ornamental. The lighter finishing also has a modern appeals to fit in a contemporary setting. I have always been wondering why can’t HGTV create another show to demonstrate how antique furniture like this can be used comfortably within our life.

Note, based on the online condition report, the feet and brasses have been replaced, so have the hinges. All may be of detriment to the value of the item. Yet it also means they are quite sturdy and ready for another 100 year’s extensive usage.

4. Christie’s New York,Jan 26, 2011. Lot 64 of sale 2415. Jean-François Millet,  La fin de la journée; effect du soir

It is so rare such a large, well known work by Millet is for sale from a private collector. The future owner will  join the rank of notable collectors who once treasure-kept his painting, including Henri Rouart, a friend of Degas who was a master engineer,  an amateur painter and an exceptional collector of old-master and nineteenth-century paintings, and an enthusiastic supporter of the Impressionists. (Many paintings from his collection are now in major museums.) Another notable collector is Edmund S. Burke, Jr, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank and founder of the firms that later became Bethlehem Steel Corporation.

La fin de la journée; effect du soir
La fin de la journée; effect du soir by Jean-Francois Millet

The catalog has a very detailed analysis which is worth reading. The laborer, striking against the barren land, has an overwhelming monumentality, like a Greek god, except with a deeper sentimental connection to humanity and nature. Millet, one of the best colorists in landscape painting, can hardly be appreciated through hi-definition digital pictures. It always occurs to me that the land under his paint brush looks intimate yet alien, arid yet warm — It absorbs instead of radiates, and one falls into inevitably.

5. Christie’s, Jan 21, 2011. Lot 264 of sale 2414, a classical carved mahogany recamier, possibly by Joseph Barry.

A rather masculine-looking recamier, although the description of the auction house does not indicate how the attribution is obtained. It does not resemble to any example by Joseph Barry illustrated in the book Philadelphia Empire Furniture. It is certainly not the most comfortable seating furniture,  one can have (perhaps 29 inch depth makes it a great alternative bed), yet any other accessory may break the aesthetic balance: bold in geometry with concave and convex curves soothing the presence of the rectilinear at the bottom: a strong dynamic culminating at the right end with exaggerated cornucopia scroll with a ram head.

It will be interesting to watch how much it eventually fetch in the upcoming Americana week at NYC.

A recamier, possibly by Joseph Barry at Christie's Americana sale
A recamier, possibly by Joseph Barry at Christie's Americana sale

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