Patriarchs of the Grove, an oil on canvas by William Wendt (1865-1946), was on the back cover of the auction catalog and on a full page inside. The 40" x 50" picture was consigned by the family of the original owners, Mr. and Mrs. Alvah Strong of Rochester, New York. The painting is pictured in the book William Wendt and His Work (1926), which accompanied the painting. A note inside the book read, “Yours sincerely, William Wendt. To Mr. and Mrs. Alvah G. Strong, May 13, 1929—Greetings.” In excellent untouched condition, in its original frame, the painting opened at $85,000, and at least a dozen phone bidders participated to the final $299,000, the top price of the sale.
The second-highest price at the sale was for this signed Jonas Lie (1880-1940) oil on canvas in original frame and untouched condition, 36" x 42", from the Sibley-Watson estate. The painting of Manhattan descended in the family of Emily Sibley Watson, founder of the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester and daughter/daughter-in-law of Western Union cofounders Hiram Sibley and Don Alonzo Watson. Lie was born in Norway and along with Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, William Merritt Chase, and Mary Cassatt had paintings exhibited in 1905 at the Pennsylvania Academy, according to the auction catalog. The vibrant painting opened at $45,000 and finally sold for $126,500 to a European gallery on the phone.
A group (one shown) of Inuit stone-cut prints sold with a doll and a mat. The charming group of items sold for $10,350 (est. $200/300) to a Canadian buyer on the phone. Shaheen collection.
From the Wadsworth family of Geneseo, this 30" x 28" x 35½" Philadelphia Queen Anne dressing table, circa 1750, with cabriole legs ending in pad feet, brought $23,575.
Cottone Auctions, Geneseo, New York
Photos courtesy Cottone Auctions
Only about ten lots out of 861 would remain unsold; over $2.9 million dollars would be spent; and bidders from all over the world would participate. We were at the second day of the March 22 and 23 Cottone Auctions sale in Geneseo, New York. Settled in our usual seats, we watched and listened intently.
No items were actually brought before the audience. Instead, they were shown on a large screen at the front of the sale. (Cottone usually has had runners.) Only the successful floor bidders’ items were removed as they sold; the rest of the things remained around the perimeter of the auction hall and in an adjacent room. (Usually all but the larger pieces are tagged and removed immediately to another room.) Otherwise, it was a typical Cottone sale.
“We had good interest in every category,” said Sam Cottone. “Our buyers are happy, and our sellers are happy.” Very few items sold to those in attendance, and Cottone estimated that 70% to 80% of the lots went to left bids, the Internet, or the phone.
Attendees could really not compete in most cases with an international bidding crowd. In fact, it appeared most were there just to look and learn. A few dealers grumbled about the old days, but the old days are not only gone, they will probably fade from memory. With excellent graphic Web sites and equally excellent sale catalogs, backed by knowledgeable experienced auctioneers, anyone can feel comfortable bidding from afar. No in-person audiences are required. Other than a few breaks for clapping as something won a high bid, the only sounds were from the auctioneer and his staff, whose polite “yes, sir” phone replies were heard by those nearby. Cottone’s staff is exceptionally polite and helpful.
On the first day there were 83 lots from George and Edith “Angie” Shaheen of Fayetteville, New York. (She was a dealer who sold mainly at Syracuse-area shows.) Silver, jewelry, watches, and a few pieces of Orientalia were offered. The top price among them was $19,550 (includes buyer’s premium) for a Jabel solitaire three-carat 18k white gold diamond ring. We knew Angie Shaheen, and her style and fine taste were evident in what her collection included—especially on the second day when a Northwest Coast shaman headdress sold for $13,225 and a group of Inuit stone prints brought $10,350.
After 178 lots of silver, jade, Chinese porcelain, Chinese textiles, and other Asian artifacts, a single-owner snuff bottle collection followed. There were 174 lots of snuff bottles of every color, shape, carving, and material imaginable. Prices ranged from $115 for two examples in green glaze and with rough bottoms to $8050 for the very next lot, a figural porcelain snuff bottle. Moral of the story (excuse the pun): sniff out all the facts before you buy.
On the second day, it was a five-hour marathon. Auctioneer Sam Cottone stood again behind the podium the whole time, drinking a cola (we shall not name a specific name) and never taking a break. “I feel the energy, the flow, and I do not want to lose it or interrupt it,” he said.
In addition to items from the Shaheen collection, there were consignments from The Strong, a museum in Rochester, New York, consignments from descendents of the Alvah Strong family (distant cousins to the founders of The Strong), and from the Wadsworth family of Geneseo, New York, whose 1800’s 12-bedroom home still stands nearby. (Five years ago the Wadsworth
family consigned to Cottone a painting [Violet and Blue: Among the Rollers] by Whistler that brought $1,001,000.)
It took 46 lots before a final bid price went into five figures. That was for a Tiffany Pomegranate lamp with the shade stamped “Tiffany Studios, New York, #7457” that brought $20,125. Soon after that two paintings by Gruppe and two KPM plaques joined the select range.
So, from Alaska to Egypt, from Russia to New York City, the provenances showed the eclectic nature of the items for auction. And the snuff bottles went to buyers from all over China, the U.S., and Europe. It took Cottone’s staff weeks to wrap and send them all out. A funny thing happened on the way to the door at the end of the sale. I realized the enormously increasing impact of technology on humanity.
For more information, contact Cottone Auctions (www.cottoneauctions.com) or call (585) 243-3100.
This early 19th-century carved giltwood eagle console table with marble top, some repair and loss to gilding, 34" x 36½" x 15", went to an East Coast buyer on the phone for $8337.50 (est. $800/1200). Shaheen collection.
This Russian bronze of a mounted warrior in full battle regalia was sculpted by Evgenii Lanceray (Russian, 1848-1886). Signed and dated, it was consigned from a Buffalo, New York, family and went to an East Coast phone bidder after quite a bidding war, starting at $52,000 and ending at $115,000. There was lots of clapping for the first six-figure achievement at the sale.
The most unusual piece? This Egyptian sarcophagus, 1069-945 B.C., for Djeserkare Amenhotep, ruler of Thebes, 36" high x 19" wide, sold for $31,050 (est. $3000/5000). It came with great provenance, consigned by an upstate New York museum that wishes to remain unidentified.
This circa 1905 Gustav Stickley oak corner cupboard with its original finish and red compass mark paper label, 69½" x 46" x 24", sold to a New York City buyer on the phone for $92,000. A matching sideboard without its original finish from the same consignors had been appraised on Antiques Roadshow in August 2002 at $75,000 to $100,000.
Originally published in the July 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest