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Fine and Decorative Art

Don Johnson | July 13th, 2013

Friends Forever by Demetre Chiparus (Rumanian, 1886-1947) is a 25" tall (including base) bronze and ivory sculpture on textured marble. It is signed and has a foundry mark of “L.N. Paris J.L.” It brought $60,000.

Coucher de soleil sur la mer (Italie) by Ivan Federovitch Choultse (Russian, 1874-1937) is 17½" square (sight size). The oil on canvas depicts a sunset over the Mediterranean Sea in Italy and is titled on the stretcher. In its original frame and relined with the wax method, it sold for $50,400.

Andrew Clemens (1857-1894) created this 5¼" high sand bottle with the date 1886 over an American flag and spread-winged eagle on the other side and this side with “Minnie” surrounded by a floral wreath, with geometric borders. The bottom label is almost entirely intact. The sand bottle brought $22,800.


The Cellist by Henry Lawrence Faulkner (1924-1981) sold for $11,400. It is oil and casein on masonite and signed. The 23¼" x 15½" (sight) painting sold in its antique gilt and gesso frame.

This Kentucky River scene by Paul Sawyier (1865-1917) of Kentucky is a watercolor on paper. Signed, it is 20¾" x 29" (sight) and sold with its frame for $15,600.

This Charles Tinges (1765-1816) inlaid Baltimore Federal tall-case clock in a mahogany case, 1800-16, has a signed dial with a moon phase disk in the lunette and hand-painted allegorical figures of four continents in the spandrels. The 89½" high clock has feet missing, weights replaced, slight chips and craquelure to dial and case, and sold for $18,000.

A. Elmer Crowell carved and painted this 3¼" high jack curlew and marked the base. It sold for $1920. The Crowell decoys and miniatures sold in the range of $960 to $2400.

A set of John J. Audubon’s octavo Birds of America (J.J. Audubon and J.B. Chevalier, 1840-44) is complete with seven volumes in a later binding, containing 500 hand-colored lithograph plates printed by J.T. Bowen of Philadelphia. In fine condition and with a similarly bound copy of Audubon and His Journals, Scribner’s, 1900, the set brought $27,600.

Original pinup art by Harry Ekman (1923-1999) sold easily for $19,200. The signed 30" x 24" oil on canvas showing a woman having trouble at a fuse box is in untouched condition.

Cowan’s Auctions, Cincinnati, Ohio

Photos courtesy Cowan’s

Artworks continued their trend of outshining three-dimensional antiques during the fine and decorative arts sale held by Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati on July 13 and 14. Significantly larger than normal, having nearly 1400 lots, the event grossed about $1.13 million. At Cowan’s March auction, Kentucky paintings were the standout items. This time around, it was two guys from a bit farther out of town whose artwork resounded.

The top lot was Friends Forever, a bronze and ivory sculpture by Demetre Chiparus (Rumanian, 1886-1947). On a textured marble base, the work depicts a woman standing with two dogs and realized $60,000 (including buyer’s premium).

“It sold to a very well-known Russian collector,” said Graydon Sikes, Cowan’s director of paintings and prints. The size, 25" long, was significant. The sculpture was created in two formats, according to Sikes. This was the larger example. “It had condition problems, but that size just never comes up at public auction.” The sculpture was fresh to the market, having been consigned from a Pennsylvania estate. The previous owners had purchased it in the 1930’s.

From the same Pennsylvania estate came Coucher de soleil sur la mer (Italie) by Ivan Federovitch Choultse (Russian, 1874-1937), an oil on canvas depicting a sunset over the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy. The painting realized $50,400, the second-highest price of the auction. Included with the lot was an original receipt from Ainslie Galleries in New York City, where the work had been purchased for $700 in 1932.

Subject matter a little closer to home brought mixed results. Of the regional artwork, five paintings by Henry Lawrence Faulkner (1924-1981) of Kentucky were strong. The five were led by The Cellist, an oil and casein on masonite that sold for $11,400. The catalog noted, “It is not known why Faulkner became enamored with the subject of musicians, but he did paint the subject occasionally, probably in the late 50s and 60s. We know that Faulkner was impressed with the work of Marc Chagall from his visits to the Armory Show in New York, and his love of music rubbed off on the young artist....”

Other works by Faulkner sold between $6000 and $9600. To generate interest in the artist, Cowan’s hosted a three-day exhibition of 23 of Faulkner’s paintings (including the five offered at auction), complete with a catalog, immediately prior to the sale.

Paintings by other regional artists had a rougher time, especially works by Paul Sawyier (1865-1917) of Kentucky. “We had two Sawyiers. I was not pleased with how they did,” said Sikes. “That was probably due to the aftermath of selling those great pieces in March. We really sucked it out of every collector in March.” (In the spring Cowan’s sold four significant works by Sawyier for a total of $194,400. It might have been more than the market could recover from so quickly.)

The better of the two Sawyiers offered this time around was a signed watercolor of the Kentucky River, 20¾" x 29" (sight size), which sold for $15,600 (est. $20,000/30,000). The catalog noted, “The work is quite large relative to Sawyier’s body of work in watercolor.” Sikes didn’t mask his emotions. “I was really disappointed with what that brought,” he said. The second painting by Sawyier, depicting a stone bridge over a stream, painted  in watercolor and gouache on paper, was signed and 9" x 18½" (sight size). It realized $5400 (est. $5000/8000).

Other artwork included an original oil painting of a pinup model by Harry Ekman (1923-1999). Depicting a scantily clad woman sitting in front of a fuse box with a fuse in one hand and a puzzled look on her face, the painting sold for $19,200. Unframed, untouched, and in need of a cleaning, it sold for nearly four times the upper estimate. “I knew that painting would go crazy because of the subject,” said Sikes. “It’s just a great example of a pinup.”

There was similar excitement over some of the three-dimensional items in the auction, including 23 Civil War carved pipes from the estate of Jan Sorgenfrei of Old Barn Auction, Findlay, Ohio. Cowan’s had probed the market for the pipes during the company’s June auction of American history. Half a dozen examples were offered then, led by one commemorating the Battle of New Bern, selling for $4500. That was nothing compared to July’s results.

The best of the grouping was a pipe carved by Reuben T. Woodward to commemorate the Massachusetts 21st Volunteers. Dated 1862 and showing olive branches, a Masonic symbol, and raised text, it sold for $15,600. One pipe with the image of Lady Liberty standing atop the earth and flanked by American flags brought $10,800.

Putting more than 30 pipes on the market in such a short time was a risk, but it worked for Cowan’s. “Oftentimes when you have too much of a good thing, it’s too much of a good thing,” said Diane Wachs, the company’s director of fine and decorative art. “In the case of this collection, we broke it out….What we’re seeing, it’s no secret. If it’s good, people will find it on the Internet.”

They found the other good stuff too.  For example, there was a complete bound octavo set of John J. Audubon’s Birds of America, which sold for $27,600, and a Baltimore Federal tall-case clock by Charles Tinges (1765-1816) that brought $18,000.

“You don’t often have a full set,” Wachs noted of the Audubons. As for the clock, it was a matter of rarity and condition. The catalog noted, “There are currently fewer than a half dozen signed clock faces known to be by Charles Tinges, but each has an elegant painted dial and ­Baltimore case. These known Baltimore cases are distinctive in their form, proportions, Baltimore ogee feet (missing here), and distinctive inlays. A frequently seen pattern of inlays seen on these cases is the grape cluster, draped in the spandrels. On this clock case, the spread eagles with banners in their beaks, flying in the spandrels, is an exception to the group, with exceptional inlays.”

Wachs added, “There were only so many of those clocks made. This one had just a very unusual inlay pattern that was exceptionally well done. We’re all a lot smarter about clocks in general these days.”

Other timepieces included a Read & Watson tall-case clock made in Cincinnati, 1810-16, the cherry case in an early dry finish, the works not running, that sold for $3900. “It was owned by a ninety-two-year-old consignor who had owned it all his life. It hadn’t been messed with. It had been worked on over the years,” said Wachs. “It was a great example. The guy who bought it was a Cincinnatian. People are much more interested in regionalism than they used to be.”

That concept covers Kentucky coin silver as well. Cowan’s has offered a steady supply over the years. The best from this auction was a julep cup by Asa Blanchard of Lexington, Kentucky, who worked from 1808 to 1838, that sold for $4800. “The juleps did very well. Southern coin silver, especially Kentucky, in this area, especially agricultural premiums, they rock,” said Wachs. “We continue to get them.”

The auction house also continues to get sand bottles made by deaf/mute Andrew Clemens (1857-1894). One bottle having the date 1886 over an American flag and a spread-winged eagle on one side and “Minnie” surrounded by a floral wreath on the other, sold for $22,800.

“That’s a success story that we can brag about,” Wachs said of Cowan’s reputation for handling sand bottles. “Wes [Cowan] has become the man on Clemens sand bottles. When we get one, we know it’s vetted from the best guy.”

Other highlights ranged from a selection of 17 carved and painted birds by A. Elmer Crowell of Cape Cod, Massachusetts (led by a miniature wood duck at $1560) to Victorian Rococo Revival rosewood furniture attributed to Mitchell & Rammelsberg of Cincinnati (with a bed frame selling for $6600).

One noticeable change to the auction was the inclusion of hundreds of additional lots at the end of each day—what Wachs referred to as “our second-tier sale.” Only briefly described in the print catalog, the items were illustrated and more fully detailed in the on-line catalog. The assortment ranged from toys to artwork to furniture. The top lots included a George Brown “Excelsior” clockwork locomotive, 14" long, painted and stenciled tin with cast-iron wheels, and having notable paint loss, that sold for $5535.

The end-of-the-day session had mixed results, ranging from competitive bidding to bargain prices. All in all, Wachs noted, “We had quite a good response.” For more information, phone Cowan’s Auctions at (513) 871-1670 or visit (

This Civil War folk art pipe bowl, created by Reuben T. Woodward of the 21st Massachusetts Volunteers, was made circa 1862. It is carved with olive branches, a Masonic symbol, and raised text,  “Fraternal.freindship[sic] This.pipe.made.from. wood.dug.on.NewBern/ R.T.Woodward.of.Mass.21st Vol. who.was/ 14th 1862.” The pipe bowl is 3" long, and it sold for $15,600.

Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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