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Plenty of Variety at Cottone's March Sale

Fran Kramer | March 29th, 2014

This 16" x 20¼" signed oil on canvas genre painting by Felix Schlesinger (German, 1833-1910), in original condition and its original frame, opened at $10,000 and went all the way to $39,100 (est. $15,000/25,000) to a Pennsylvania buyer.

This appealing 11" x 14" signed oil on canvas by Cornelius David Krieghoff (Canadian, 1812-1872) , Caughnawaga Indians in Snowy Landscape, with a small repaired puncture, was consigned by an estate from Buffalo, New York, whose owners had bought it from Cottone on September 27, 2008, when it brought $47,300. This time around, it sold to a New York City dealer on the floor for $36,800.

Krieghoff was known for his winter season Canadian outdoor scenes and his renditions of Indian life. One of his oil paintings, Caughnawaga Indians at Camp, was sold in May 2007 by Toronto auctioneers Joyner Waddington for $158,350.

This 23" x 31" signed Alexander Calder (1898-1976) gouache on paper in excellent condition, Loops Filled In, 1972, tied for top lot of the sale. It opened at $52,500 and kept on going with at least a dozen phone bidders pushing it to $78,200 from the buyer on a phone. It was one of 29 lots consigned from the estate of William Levine of Rochester, New York.

Tiffany Studios Daffodil lamp, 25" high with 20" diameter shade, base and shade signed, $56,925 (est. $35,000/45,000) to an absentee bid.

Carved and painted songbird display by a Rochester, New York, carver, 30" x 24", ex-The Strong in Rochester, $7705 (est. $300/500) to a floor bidder.

Cottone Auctions, Geneseo, New York

Photos courtesy Cottone Auctions

One thing we always expect at Cottone Auctions is lots of variety. It is one of the big keys to Sam Cottone’s success, and his March 29 auction in Geneseo, New York, was no different.

Some lots had 20 bidders competing, including phone, absentee, and floor bids; others had only two bidders, but it takes only two to tango. Competition was fierce on all of the top lots and on most of the lots overall.

Between 60% and 75% of the lots went to phone or left bids, but bidders in the room managed to capture Picasso’s Faunes et Chèvre, signed and numbered, for $78,200 (including buyer’s premium); a Canadian landscape by Cornelius David Krieghoff, Caughnawaga Indians in Snowy Landscape, for $36,800; and a Milton Hopkins portrait of a young girl for $42,550. Lots by American craftsmen or artists included an Alexander Calder gouache at $78,200, a Wendell Castle walnut “mushroom” table at $48,300, a Tiffany Studios Daffodil lamp at $56,925, and a cigar-store Indian at $42,550.

Other superstar lots came from Germany, France, and Russia. Feeding the Rabbits by Felix Schlesinger (German, 1833-1910) brought $39,100; a lithograph by Marc Chagall (1887-1985), Vue sur Notre-Dame, sold for $39,100; and a lot of three small Russian medals made $24,150.

Who needs to go to art museums? Seriously, though, one could get up close and personal with some very fine art, much of it from one collector, William Levine of Rochester, New York. His estate consigned to Cottone artworks by Picasso, Calder, Chagall, Miró, and Jean Dufy and furnishings by James Mont.

The 455-lot auction began in its usual order: Oriental works, then silver, Victorian furniture and accessories, statuary, paintings, art glass, Arts and Crafts objects, more paintings, Tiffany and more art glass, more paintings, and finally American folk art and furniture, along with a couple of Native American items. Not to forget the private collection of 20-plus Russian icons and the 28 lots from the Levine estate.

For those who collect high-style Victorian furniture, including this author for her 1860s house (she mixes it with her love of Shaker—quite a contrast, to say the least), the news is not good. Even ex-museum pieces, perfectly respectable and attractive, remain in the doldrums. For any young collectors reading this, they are great buys.

The crowd was bigger than at the last major Cottone sale we covered, and the dealers and collectors who were there did have some success. At least two New York City dealers discovered that a drive to Cottone’s—about 5½ hours from Manhattan under good driving conditions—could be fertile picking, especially for the dealer who bought two early Islamic illuminated manuscript pages for a fraction of their value. Iraj Kashanian was ecstatic, telling us about his great buy. It pays to know your specialties, and even Sam Cottone himself said, “Good for him.”

Cottone thinks that he and his auctions are only tools of the market. He works hard, fine-tunes, and does his homework, but the marketplace calls the shots. These days, the market is worldwide and “connected.”

“It was a good sale, and steady from the modern to the folk art,” he said. The usual detailed color catalog, friendly staff, mainly home-cooked food, easy parking, and easy viewing completed the recipe.

For more information, contact Cottone at (585) 243-1000; Web site (

Another winner from the Levine estate was Vue sur Notre-Dame, a 46½" x 30¾" (overall) color lithograph by Marc Chagall (1887-1985), signed and numbered 32/50, in excellent condition. It brought $39,100.

Wendell Castle (born 1932) is a well-known name in the area of Rochester, New York, where his workshop/studio/school is a mecca for those whose interest and talent are connected to the art furniture movement. Even future homebuilders can apprentice there, as did the owner of the construction company that built our Shaker-style addition. The furniture from this master craftsman and his students is always a conversation piece.

This 1972 stacked walnut mushroom-shaped table in original finish and in excellent condition, initialed “WC,” was 31" high overall and 46" wide. Bought directly from Castle by William Kaiser of Rochester, the table opened at $28,000 and finally ended at $48,300 after bids from the Internet and many phones.

Faunes et Chèvre, a 24½" x 39 3/8" (overall) color linocut by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), also from the Levine estate, tied for the sale’s top lot. It brought $78,200 from longtime Buffalo-area dealers/collectors James and Suzanne Hofmeister, who said they bought it for themselves, as its color and rarity were exceptional, and they have another Picasso from the same series. Formerly teachers, then dealers (quilts and folk art), and now makers of gold and silver jewelry, the Hofmeisters love “modern art,” from Miró to Warhol and Jasper Johns and, of course, Picasso.

A big surprise was this early 20th-century engine and tender copper weathervane with minor loss and wear, ex-The Strong in Rochester, New York. Measuring 10" high x 28" long, it chugged to $12,305 (est. $1000/1500) from a phone bidder.

Sam Cottone’s favorite item in the auction was this unsigned Milton Hopkins (1789-1884) oil on board portrait of Marietta Ryan, 21" x 17½", formerly owned by Congressman Barber Conable of Rochester, New York. It sold to a floor bidder for $42,550.

Originally published in the June 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

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