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Paintings and Southern Furniture Are Highlights

Pete Prunkl | July 20th, 2013


Master cabinetmaker Jesse Needham (circa 1774-1838) had close ties to Quaker families in Randolph and Guilford Counties in North Carolina and influenced many Piedmont furniture makers of the day. The scalloped frame with slipper feet is typical of his work. This 69½" x 23" x 44" chest-on-frame by Needham was the focus of a furious bidding war in which a phone bidder prevailed. It was the sale’s top lot at $77,880 ($25,000/45,000).


Phones were active when General Custer crossed the block. Andy Warhol signed the 36" x 36" color screen print and dated it 1986. The print was published by Gaultney, Klineman Art, Inc. and was 221/250 in the edition. Custer sold to a phone bidder for $40,120 (est. $15,000/25,000).


What’s not to like about this old gentleman? Some thought it was the hat; maybe it was the smile or the eyes. It didn’t hurt that Linnaeus named the gardenia after Dr. Alexander Garden, who is the man in the hat, according to Furman family tradition. A phone bidder claimed the 27" x 22" portrait by John Dabour for $22,420 (est. $3000/5000).


As Floridians are fond of saying, “This is what old Florida looked like.” Kennedy Galleries, New York City, had sold Florida Palms, The Everglades to the consignor in 1985. The circa 1875 22" x 17" oil on canvas by Hermann Herzog was the center of a bidding fight between the floor and phones. A phone bidder won at $64,900 (est. $20,000/30,000).


It wasn’t Tony Hendey’s favorite Buddha that led all others in his consignment of over 200 lots of Asian antiques. It was this finely carved 19th-century Chinese rosewood traveling wine table. Made for the export trade, the 27" x 22¼" table sold to an Internet bidder for $3540 (est. $400/700).


The Furman family called this “The Giraffe.” The two outer drawers are false; the bow-front central drawer has kite escutcheons, oval inlay, and dovetail construction. The 43" x 68½" x 23¾" hunt board sold to an on-site bidder for $15,340 (est. $5000/8000).

Brunk Auctions, Asheville, North Carolina

Photos courtesy Brunk Auctions

Asheville is an ethereal place where the Summer of Love never ended. This funky, laid-back liberal-minded city is hippie central in North Carolina. On July 20, Brunk Auctions did its part in keeping that era alive. The 734-lot sale began with Op Art by Richard Anuszkiewicz, Pop Art by Andy Warhol, dip prints by Robert Petersen, and “Combines” by Robert Rauschenberg.

The 20 lots by Rauschenberg were the most intimate and personal collection of the sale. Each was a gift from the artist to Dodi and Ray Booth during Rauschenberg’s years on Captiva Island, Florida. The area was a mecca for artists, and the Booths became good friends with Rauschenberg. The collection was consigned by Karen Booth Dunn, Ray and Dodi’s daughter, who attended the sale.

Dunn’s collection included 12 lithographs (artist’s proofs) and three archives. The remainder were Rauschenberg originals. Half of the Dunn collection sold within or above estimate. Among the originals, Opal Gospel, ten poems printed on clear panels mounted in a stand, brought $8260 (includes buyer’s premium), and a signed collage, Sunflower, sold for $4956. The top-dollar Rauschenberg artwork at this sale ($9440) was a signed and inscribed but untitled collage of a white paper bag with gouache and pencil and with transfer, all on paper from 1974. In shades of gray, white, and off-white, it is not a photogenic work of art.

The lots by Warhol earned even better results. A crusty General Custer print outgunned sharpshooter Annie Oakley. From the “Cowboys and Indians” series, both color screen prints were signed, numbered, framed, and, until 2011, from the estate of actor John Wayne. The Custer print sold for $40,120. The print of Oakley came in at $33,040.

Paintings dominated the sale’s heavy hitters. The top-selling painting was displayed in the front of the gallery on the auctioneer’s podium. It was impossible to miss. Titled Florida Palms, The Everglades, the oil on canvas by German-born American painter Hermann Herzog (1832-1932) opened at its low estimate, $20,000. It was all phone bidders until $40,000, when a floor bidder jumped in. The phones prevailed at $64,900. A gentleman who traveled from Micanopy, Florida, especially for the Herzog believes the title of the painting is incorrect. He claimed that Herzog painted the palm trees of Staffords Island on the Waccasassa River on the Florida Gulf Coast, not the Everglades. His claim is unverified, and he did not bid on the painting.

A painting that would have won the Most Popular award, if there were one, was A Gentleman in a Hat by John Dabour (1837-1905). The pastel portrait was believed to have been first a circa 1790 portrait, then a daguerreotype, then finally the Dabour rendition in 1889. By Furman family tradition, the subject was Dr. Alexander Garden, a Charleston physician and botanist. Carolus or Carl Linnaeus, the originator of a system of plant classification, honored Dr. Garden by naming the gardenia after him. The portrait opened at $2000 and progressed to $11,000, when a phone bidder jumped the bid to $16,000. The painting sold to a phone bidder for $22,420.

Included in the top-dollar paintings category were two oils on canvas by North Carolina artist Claude Howell (1915-1997). In 1953, Howell established the art department at Wilmington College, later to become the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He said at the time, “I’ve never been in a college classroom.” Weighing Shrimp, signed, dated 1980, inscribed on the back, and painted in his vibrant Cuban colors, went to an on-site bidder for $23,600. Another beach painting, Beach Porch in Winter Sunlight, was also signed, dated (1982), and inscribed. A floor bidder claimed it for $21,240. An early work (1946) by Howell failed to get an opening bid of $3000 and was passed.

Other top-dollar paintings were Old Covered Bridge in Winter, a 1942 work by Grandma Moses for $21,240 (est. $12,000/18,000); Alpine Torrent, 1851, by Hans Frederick Gude, $21,240 (est. $10,000/15,000); Napoleon, 1966, by LeRoy Neiman, $15,340 (est. $15,000/20,000); Sunflowers and Dahlias by Le Pho, $14,160 (est. $8000/12,000); and Carting Cotton, 1887, by John Bennett, $11,210 (est. $8000/12,000). The seven Anuszkiewicz (b. 1930) Op Art lots were all silkscreen prints from 1965 to 1979, and all sold below estimate, with panels 37 and 40 from his “Reflections II” series selling best at $590 each.

The sale’s top lot was one of the few items given an entire page in the Brunk catalog: a Jesse Needham North Carolina chest-on-frame. From Randolph County, 1790-1800, in walnut with poplar secondary, the chest was “the best we ever offered,” said Andrew Brunk. It opened at $20,000 to a phone bidder, but soon a bidding war erupted between a relentless phone bidder and Randolph County attorney William Ivey, an avid collector of North Carolina period furniture. Scuttlebutt among the crowd was that the phone bidder was from North Carolina. The phone bidder won the chest-on-frame for $77,880. Ivey received pats on the back from many in the crowd. He put a lot of money on the line to to try to keep the Needham chest in Randolph County.

Four other lots of furniture of the South made the noteworthy list. All but one came from the estate of Mary Simms O. Furman (1918-2013) of Greenville, South Carolina.

Perhaps the most endearing Furman lot was a Federal inlaid river birch hunt board from Piedmont Georgia or South Carolina. The hunt board’s height of 43" came primarily from its legs, thus the family nickname for it, “The Giraffe.” The tall legs were turned, and the brasses were believed to be original. A floor bidder captured the giraffe for $15,340.

A tall (72½") Chippendale mahogany chest-on-chest from 1740-55, which originated in South Carolina, had been sold to Furman’s cousins in New York and was then repurchased and brought back to South Carolina. Here it went to a phone bidder for $20,060.

Andrew Brunk said that there were only five Charleston Chippendale mahogany kneehole bureaus known. Furman’s was from 1760-80 with cypress and other mixed woods secondary. It too was returned from Furman’s New York cousins. The kneehole bureau sold in house for $15,340.

An 18th-century Charleston, South Carolina, Queen Anne mahogany dressing table from a private collection rounded out the top southern furniture lots. With its original pulls, scalloped skirt, and cabriole legs, it quickly sold to a phone bidder for $20,060.

Total for the sale was $1,406,678 (including buyers’ premiums). For more information, contact Brunk Auctions at (828) 254-6846 or visit (www.brunkauctions.com). The gallery is located at 117 Tunnel Road, Asheville, North Carolina.

Among the European furniture, this was the price leader, an 87¾" x 42" x 24¾" British 18th-century Chippendale figured mahogany desk and bookcase. The interior of the upper section was elaborately fitted with doors, vertical files, and drawers. It sold on site for $18,880 (est. $4000/6000).

The first carpet sold from among the 38 in the sale (aside from the few from the Furman estate) was the leader of the pack. This 12'2" x 17'4" Ferahan Sarouk carpet brought $11,800 (est. $4000/7000).


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

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