Leland Little Auctions, Hillsborough, North Carolina
Photos courtesy Leland Little Auctions
Before his 275-lot fall “Signature” auction September 9, Leland Little reflected on the future of the antiques auction business. “I’m looking forward, not back,” he said. “The best is yet to come as baby boomers begin to downsize.” Most of that downsizing will occur on the Internet, he said. Everyone from collectors to dealers seems to prefer bidding online and not in person. To reflect that trend, none of the sale’s 100 jewelry lots were in display cabinets. No one was there to try on bracelets, rings, and necklaces. The days of large in-house audiences are over, said Little. “Only a fraction of those that attend auctions bid on anything; most come for entertainment.”
Little is probably reassessing that notion. Only 22 were in the audience on September 9, a far cry from pre-pandemic attendance, but they included bidders who captured several of the lots selling for over $10,000.
Here is a painting that tells a story. North Carolina native Claude Howell (1915-1997) painted Heading Shrimp in 1981. The 50" x 40" oil on canvas shows how workers from Cape Fear, North Carolina, inelegantly but efficiently beheaded shrimp with an old license plate. Heading Shrimp sold to a man in the room for $39,600 (est. $20,000/30,000).
The best example was a gentleman wearing a T-shirt, shorts, and sandals who drove from the coastal city of Wilmington, North Carolina. He came to bid on Heading Shrimp, a framed, signed, and dated 1981 oil on canvas by Claude Howell (1915-1997). The bright, colorful painting depicted workers using old license plates to whack the heads off shrimp just caught off the Outer Banks. Heading Shrimp opened at $33,000, and the Wilmington bidder quickly responded to every increase, He won the painting at $39,600 (includes buyer’s premium). He preferred not to be identified but said that he has a family connection to Howell, who was also from Wilmington.
Leland Little has done well with paintings by North Carolina native Maud Gatewood (1934-2004) in his recent sales. Her framed Breakers (Red Ball), an acrylic on canvas, 60" x 72", dated 1985 and with the artist’s monogram, sold on the Leland Little website for $49,200 (est. $30,000/40,000) mere seconds after opening.
Catalogued as Mujer cargando ayate, this work by Diego Rivera (Mexican, 1886-1957) is titled Woman with Apron on a Gimbel Brothers, New York City, label on the reverse. The 15 3/8" x 10¾" work in India ink and watercolor on paper was purchased by the Gimbel Brothers department store from Alberto Misrachi in January 1944 for 450 pesos. In 2023 it came from the estate of John M. Stratton, a New York City lawyer who lived in Greenwich, Connecticut, and it sold to a phone bidder for $27,600 (est. $10,000/20,000).
Howell’s painting was not the sale’s top lot, however. That distinction belonged to a work by another North Carolina artist, the popular Maud Gatewood (1934-2004). Her framed, monogrammed, and dated 1985 acrylic on canvas Breakers (Red Ball) was raised to $40,000 during presale Internet bidding. The large, exuberant painting of bathers among ocean waves sold on the Leland Little website for $49,200 mere seconds after opening.
Other paintings made the sale’s top ten. Two phone bidders and the Internet chased Woman with Apron, a signed and dated 1941 India ink and watercolor on paper by Diego Rivera (1886-1957). The title given in the write-up was Mujer cargando ayate, but it was marked as Woman with Apron on a Gimbel Brothers tag attached to the back. The Rivera work sold to a phone bidder for $27,600.
In 1967 Wally Findlay Galleries, New York City, held a solo show of Paul Émile Pissarro’s paintings to introduce the 83-year-old painter to a broader audience of collectors. The gallery consigned to the auction Gerbes de Blés, Soleil Couchant (Sheaves of Wheat, Setting Sun) by Pissarro (1884-1972), this 18" x 24" (stretcher size) oil on canvas. The painting sold on the Leland Little online platform for $30,000 (est. $5000/10,000).
Paul Émile Pissarro (1884-1972) was schooled in Impressionism by his famous father, Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), and godfather, Claude Monet (1840-1926). Paul Émile painted Gerbes de Blés, Soleil Couchant (Sheaves of Wheat, Setting Sun), oil on canvas, in the 1920s when he returned to painting after working as an auto mechanic, test driver, and textile designer. The painting sold on the Leland Little online platform for $30,000.
A private collector from Charlotte, North Carolina, hit a jackpot of sorts with the consignment of this 19" tall Chinese sang de boeuf glazed porcelain jar with cover. Internet bidders elevated the bidding from a $7000 opener to a $26,400 selling price (est. $1000/2000). The cover on the 19th-century jar is finely carved wood and is topped with an agate-colored hardstone finial.
Women in the Family, a 48" x 96" (sight size) lacquer painting with pigment and foil by Bui Huu Hung (Vietnamese, b. 1957), sold to a bidder on LiveAuctioneers for $32,500 (est. $4000/8000).
Internet enthusiasts ran the bidding for this 50" tall Japanese carved and painted wood sculpture of a woman from $4400 to $30,000 on a $2000/4000 estimate. The consignor’s parents, Cynthia (1936-2022) and Charles Salzhauer (1928-2018), had purchased the figure from a New York City interior designer in 1972 for $1920.
Auction observers will not be surprised that three Asian lots demolished their inauspicious estimates. The “Little Engine That Could” award goes to a 19" tall Chinese sang de boeuf porcelain jar with a carved wooden cover and base. Internet bidders raised the opening price on the jar from its humble $1000/2000 estimate to a $7000 opener. From there only Internet bidders drove it up the mountain to $26,400.
A large Japanese carved and painted wood sculpture of a woman was one of 44 lots consigned by the estate of electrical engineer Charles Salzhauer (1928-2018) and his wife, international farming professional Cynthia Salzhauer (1936-2022). The estate had consigned 255 lots from the couple’s Oxford, North Carolina, home for Little’s summer “Signature” auction. The Meiji period wood sculpture opened at $4400 on a $2000/4000 estimate and finished at $30,000; bidding was all on the Internet.
Women in the Family, a two-part lacquer painting by Vietnamese Modernist painter Bui Huu Hung (b. 1957), had the highest estimate ($4000/8000) of the three top Asian works. The large signed painting depicted a young woman in traditional dress with women and girls behind her. Women in the Family sold to a bidder on LiveAuctioneers for $32,500.
The Leland Little staff described this loose oval-cut Ceylon sapphire as having “violetish blue hue, medium dark tone, and moderately strong saturation.” The 6.44-carat stone was the top jewelry lot of the sale. It sold to a bidder on Leland Little Live for $32,400 (est. $5000/10,000).
Jewelry comprised 37% of the lots in the sale and 20% of sales over $10,000. The jewelry leader was a stunning loose oval Ceylon sapphire. The 6.44-carat bright blue stone was sold to a bidder on Leland Little Live for $32,400.
Ann P., the on-site winner of this 15½" long Italian gold collar necklace, knew the consignor, Elaine Miller, of Raleigh, North Carolina. Ann P. paid $9600 (est. $4000/5000) for the polished 18k yellow gold necklace.
A personal jewelry story emerged when a woman who identified herself as “Ann P.” bought an Italian gold collar necklace from the Elaine Miller collection. Both consignor and buyer are from Raleigh, North Carolina. “I remember Elaine wearing that necklace a lot,” said Ann, who paid $9600 for the ribbed 18k gold necklace.
The large Leland Little campus was designed to accommodate lectures, auctions, exhibitions, and outdoor events such as the car show at the September sale. Members of the Triangle chapter of the Porsche Club of America rallied in the campus parking lot before Saturday’s sale, but a drenching rain ended the meet by noon. The meet was part of Carbs and Carburetors, a gathering of car enthusiasts at Leland Little’s on the second Saturday of each month.
On September 7, two days before the sale, Little invited Andrew Ownbey, owner of Longleaf Antiques, Tar Heel, North Carolina, to talk about the origin, evolution, and function of cellarets. Ownbey brought 16 cellarets for his lecture and spoke for 45 minutes on this southern form of a bottle case. Before and after Ownbey’s talk, 110 participants sampled free hors d’oeuvres and wine while they browsed the furniture, paintings, and jewelry coming up in the Saturday sale. Now, that’s the way to do a preview!
For more information, visit the website (www.lelandlittle.com) or call (919) 644-1243.
Chinese artist and nature lover Chen Chi (1912-2005) relocated to the United States in 1947 as part of a cultural exchange program. He spent the next 40 years in an apartment/studio at the National Arts Club in New York City. His signed and dated (1980) watercolor painting Flying Geese and accompanying title page and colophon (artist’s statement) with calligraphy were together on a scroll in a presentation box. Chi donated Flying Geese to the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Georgia, in 1989. An Internet bidder, challenged by a phone bidder, won the lot at $16,250 (est. $8000/12,000).
In 1973 a relative of the consignor had purchased Two Gibbons by Chen Wen Hsi (Singaporean, 1906-1991) at a Singapore gallery. The 20¾" x 27" work in ink and colors on paper sold to a phone bidder for $18,000 (est. $5000/10,000). Another gibbon painting by the artist was included in the 1972 art series on Singapore postage stamps.
Suzanne, an 8 7/8" x 7¼" molded opalescent glass statuette, 1925, by René Lalique (1860-1945), was featured in a Leland Little-produced introductory video a few weeks before the sale. Her “fiery peach body” contrasts with “the whiteish-blue hues of her open robe.” Suzanne sold on the LiveAuctioneers platform for $5500 (est. $4000/8000).
On-site bidder Olin Melchionna of Vero Beach, Florida, purchased this set of ten late 18th-century English Chippendale carved mahogany dining chairs for $12,600 (est. $2000/4000). The eight side chairs are 38½" high with an 18½" seat height. The two 39" high armchairs have an arm height of 27". The set was consigned by the Salzhauer estate.
Those who focused on the photo of Orpheus in the online catalog may have missed the height of the wood figure by Ernest Wijnants (Belgian, 1878-1964). The signed circa 1930 carving is 100" tall (8'4") and dominates a room. Unfortunately, no one answered Leland Little’s call for a $3000 opening bid, and Orpheus was passed. Prunkl photo.
The Salzhauer estate consigned these fierce-looking, club-toting, helmet-wearing Renaissance Revival wooden warriors. The unsigned circa 1900 figures measure 54" x 14" x 15" and are standing in mirrored poses on modern plinths. Five phones were active during the bidding, and one of them took this ripped pair and the plinths for $13,800 (est. $3000/5000).
On-site bidder Olin Melchionna purchased Winter, Auvergne, France by Victor Charreton (French, 1864-1936), a signed 28" x 35" (sight size) oil on board, for $13,800 (est. $5000/10,000).
This handsome 40" x 29½" x 22" Philadelphia Queen Anne carved walnut armchair is attributed to William Savery (1721/22-1787). Note the scrolled ears, the turns and curves of the shaped arms and arm supports, and the cabriole legs with shell-carved knees and raised stocking feet. The attractive chair had sold to the Salzhauers at Leland Little Auctions in 2011. A buyer on Leland Little Live bought it in September for $11,400 (est. $10,000/15,000).
Count ’em. There are 16 southern cellarets on the stage at the Leland Little gallery. The cellaret lecture by Andrew Ownbey of Longleaf Antiques, Tar Heel, North Carolina, drew a crowd of 110 people who also previewed the lots for the sale.
Gibson introduced its top-of-the-line semi-hollow stereo electric Spanish guitar, the ES-355, in 1959. The guitar in the Leland Little sale was one of those early models, but its electronics were not working, the hard-body case had several inches of fabric loss, and there was fist-size wear to the finish on the back. Presale Internet bidding drove the opening price to $18,500. One bid later, the guitar sold to the Internet for $23,750 (est. $4000/8000). The high-end ES-355 never achieved the popularity of the stripped-down ES-335, a favorite of Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry, and other notables.
By 8:30 a.m. on September 9, several members of the Triangle chapter of the Porsche Club of America had lined up for a show in the Leland Little Auctions parking lot. By noon all had left as a rainstorm drenched the area. Prunkl photo.
Originally published in the December 2023 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2023 Maine Antique Digest