Purchase Story

Miniature Portraits Lead at Evans Americana Sale

Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates, Mt. Crawford, Virginia

Photos courtesy Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates

Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates held its 33rd cataloged auction of Americana and fine antiques on November 10 and 11, 2017. These semiannual sales are designed to emphasize items from Virginia and the South.

As is his custom, Jeff Evans began Saturday’s sale with stoneware. This sale offered 120 lots of the utilitarian items. Examples of earthenware, redware, and stoneware in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, glazes, and decoration were available. While there were no blockbuster lots among the offerings, and most of the pieces sold within their conservative estimates, the larger and more elaborately decorated crocks did well. The sheer volume of the number of available pieces allowed buyers an opportunity to fill voids in their collections and for dealers to purchase good quality items for stock.

The high lot of the two-day sale was this pair of miniature portraits. The watercolor images are not signed or dated. The sitters are identified on the backs as Mary Jane Mason and Emma Harris Mason, who are mother and daughter. The daughter is seated, holding the foot of a gray cat that is perched on the back of her chair. Her image is surrounded by a band of braided hair. The mother is shown holding a white dove. Both images are presented in oval gilt frames. The catalog states that the sitters are thought to be members of a Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, family and that the portraits are circa 1830. The frames carry a framer’s label for J. W. Sargeant, a mid-19th-century Cleveland, Ohio, firm. The 2 1/8 " x 1 3/4" (sight size) portraits were quite popular, ultimately selling to a New York City private collector for $64,350 (est. $1000/2000), underbid by a prominent Virginia collector in the room.

High lot among the Native American pieces was this Hopewell culture stone point or blade made of flint or chalcedony from the Knife River of North Dakota, dating 1900-1800 B.P.* According to catalog notes supplied by Wallace Gusler, this blade was excavated from the Ross County, Ohio, mound group, and is illustrative of “the economic power of the Hopewell culture to trade precious materials from such great distances.” The 6¾" x 2 3/8 " translucent blade is in excellent condition, and it sold to a telephone bidder for $12,870 (est. $5000/8000).

*Note: B.P. (Before Present) dating is a reference scale applying radiocarbon dating technology in geological, archaeological, and other scientific disciplines. The scale measures time with January 1, 1950, as the baseline. Thus, an artifact or geological specimen with a 2510 B.P. date would date to 560 B.C. using the more common reference.

A run of more than 50 lots of Native American artifacts were offered. The majority of those items represented a continuation of the sale of selected pieces from the personal collection of Wallace Gusler of Williamsburg, Virginia. In November 2016 Evans sold some of Gusler’s pieces; this sale consisted of some prize examples. The high lot among the Native American lots was a stone point or blade found in a Hopewell culture mound in Ohio. The point is fashioned from a piece of stone from North Dakota. At the sale, Gusler took time to discuss the significance of this piece, as it illustrates the sophistication and complexity of the Native American cultures as they conducted commerce and exerted their influence over great distances. The point sold for $12,870 (est. $5000/8000). All prices include the buyer’s premium.

The high lot of the sale came from the folk art category. A pair of miniature portraits brought $64,350, destroying the estimate of $1000/2000. The portraits are described in the photo section of this report.

Here is an example of one of the most recognizable forms of Shenandoah Valley pottery. This slumbering lamb is attributed to the Eberly family of Strasburg, Virginia, potters. The solid-body lamb is 12" in length and displays an old white-painted surface over the original yellow-glazed surface. These figures are often referred to as doorstops, but many are thought to have been capstones of infant grave markers. This lamb sold to a telephone bidder for $1404 (est. $1000/1500).

This little turned wood saffron box is attributed to John Lehn (1798-1892) of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The box exhibits a polychrome surface with floral and foliate decoration. The lid has a compressed acorn-form finial. The circa 1870 box stands 4½" in overall height. It is in very good, as-found condition. This piece of Lehnware brought $263.25 (est. $300/500).

This Chippendale spice cabinet is from Pennsylvania, dates from the late 18th century, and is constructed of walnut, with yellow pine as its secondary wood. The cabinet has eight dovetailed drawers. The case features a molded cornice and is raised on ogee bracket feet. The door is inlaid with a Basque cross within an inlaid frame. Both decorative elements appear to be figured maple. The door is likely a replacement. The cabinet measures 18¾" x 14½" x 12¼". The spice cabinet sold for $2808 (est. $300/500).

Here is a reverse-painted wall mirror from the second quarter of the 19th century. The rectangular frame is constructed of pine and is boldly painted with stripes. The tablet is painted with the image of a bird perched on a branch. The original mirror plate is present and measures 16½" x 9½". The catalog states that the mirror is probably from Pennsylvania but does hint at a Virginia connection, this being the third example to have been recovered in the Shenandoah Valley. The mirror sold to an Internet buyer for $497.25 (est. $100/200).

As expected, the folk art category did well. Two full-body running horse weathervanes performed very well. A molded copper Black Hawk running horse stamped “Harris & Co.” made $4095, and an unmarked molded copper example brought $4387.50. Both finished well above their estimates. A circa 1840 theorem-style watercolor on paper rendering of a single violet sold for $643.50 (est. $100/200), and a large (40¼" x 29¼") oil on canvas, dated 1857, depicting Natural Bridge in Rockbridge County, Virginia, brought $2457 (est. $500/800).

The most surprising and certainly the most encouraging aspect of the Evans sale was the overall strength of the furniture category. Dare I say it? Brown furniture sold very well. When asked about that via e-mail, Evans confirmed the observation, stating, “This sale really demonstrated that collectors are paying a big premium for original dry surfaces on vernacular pieces of furniture.” Evans and his staff are known for their attention to detail and the accuracy of their catalog descriptions. The phrase “outstanding original dry surface” is not used indiscriminately. Some variation of the phrase was found in the catalog descriptions of more than a dozen individual case pieces. They all sold for over their high estimates.

This Shenandoah County, Virginia, birth fraktur is attributed to the as-yet unidentified Stony Creek Artist. The watercolor and ink on paper document features a large central heart-shape reserve announcing the birth of Sarah Haas on July 19, 1796. The entire inscription is written in English. Above the heart are drapes with tasseled cords and a winged angel. The heart is flanked by stylized pomegranates and tulips. The 8" x 10" document has been professionally conserved. This fraktur sold for $4095 (est. $800/1200).

At the opening of the sale, Evans announced that in December 2017, Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates would be launching its own online bidding platform. He stated that he will continue to use existing platforms LiveAuctioneers and Invaluable. Adding a proprietary service is certainly worth watching.

For additional information, contact Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates at (540) 434-3939 or online at (www.jeffreysevans.com).

Carvings by Bridgewater, Virginia, carver John L. Heatwole (1948-2006) frequently cross the block at Evans auctions. This is the largest example that we have seen. The spread-wing eagle perched on a branch measures 16¾" high x 30½" wide. It is signed by the artist and dated 1977. The consignor purchased this piece directly from the artist. John L. Heatwole’s eagle soared to $11,700 (est. $2000/4000).

One of the featured lots of the sale was this colorless lead glass tumbler. The piece is attributed to Bakewell, Page & Bakewell, Pittsburgh. The tumbler features a sulfide portrait of Andrew Jackson encapsulated in the base. The sides are cut with the initials “A” and “J” along with one star and two sunburst patterns. The catalog suggests that this tumbler may have been made as a gift specifically for Jackson. The Jackson tumbler sold to a telephone bidder for $11,700 (est. $10,000/15,000).

The high lot within the furniture category was this Baltimore Federal inlaid mahogany hunt board/sideboard. The table features a serpentine front, with conforming top. The square-section tapered legs are cuffed. The entire table displays extensive inlay. The 36" high table, circa 1810, sold for $10,530 (est. $2000/3000).

The carved mahogany Chippendale open armchair was another top performer within the furniture group. The slightly bowed crest rail features a shaped underside and distinctive spiral-carved ears. The arms are serpentine, resting on shaped posts, with carved scroll terminals. The trapezoidal seat frame has a molded edge. The square legs are straight and are joined by an offset box stretcher. The chair dates to about 1785 and is identified as a member of the Alexandria, Virginia, chair group. The chair sold for $9360 (est. $3000/5000).

This two-piece walnut cupboard in a classic Pennsylvania Dutch form is thought to be from Lebanon County. It exhibits all of the expected characteristics: a simple cove-molded cornice, two nine-pane doors, a generous pie shelf flanked by dovetailed candle drawers, the lower section with three waist drawers, and two split-panel lower doors, all raised on simple turned feet. And, of course, it is big: 86½" x 68" x 20". This sturdy storage piece sold to a telephone bidder for $4680 (est. $2000/3000).

One of the top performers within the furniture category was this one-piece walnut corner cupboard from Rockbridge County, Virginia. The cupboard features a cove-molded cornice with a deep carved dentil frieze above two six-pane doors. The waist displays a narrow frieze with a carved dentil band. The lower portion of the piece has two fielded-panel doors and two shelves. The entire cupboard is raised on an applied base with full-height bracket feet. The surface is dry and appears to be unaltered. The catalog notes that this cupboard is one of several pieces attributed to an as-yet unnamed Lexington, Virginia, cabinetmaker. The late 18th- or early 19th-century piece stands 85½" high, and it sold to a telephone bidder for $8775 (est. $4000/6000).


Originally published in the February 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest

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