Purchase Story

Potomack’s Fall Sale Is a Gem

The Potomack Company, Alexandria, Virginia

Photos courtesy The Potomack Company

The Potomack Company’s most recent fine art and period antiques auction was held at the firm’s galleries in Alexandria, Virginia, on September 29 and October 2 and 3. The Potomack Company has settled comfortably into a schedule of staggered sales, with a traditional live gallery sale on a Saturday and targeted online-only sales conducted the following week.

Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886) was a second-generation naturalist painter of the Hudson River school. This oil on canvas by Durand, Landscape in the Catskills, 24 7/8" x 19", depicts a tunnel-like view through a densely forested area toward a distant horizon. It is signed lower left but not dated and sold for $46,875 (est. $30,000/50,000).

Saturday’s 377-lot catalog sale offered a wide variety of material, with fine art leading the way. It seemed that examples of all genres, styles, and time periods were well represented. The top performer within the fine arts category was a landscape painting by Hudson River school artist Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886). This was the second of the artist’s paintings to be offered by The Potomack Company in less than six months. In June the landscape Near Bolton, Lake George [New York] brought $34,375. The painting at the September 29 sale, Landscape in the Catskills, sold for $46,875 against its $30,000/50,000 estimate. All prices include the buyer’s premium.

The works of William Aiken Walker (1838-1921) frequently appear at auction. Walker is best known for his scenes of impoverished sharecroppers in the post-Reconstruction South. This double portrait shows an elderly black man and woman at the edge of a cotton field. The catalog notes that this 6¼" x 12" oil on academy board will be included in the forthcoming Walker catalogue raisonné by John Fowler. This little painting sold for $8750 (est. $8000/12,000).

A second American artist of note whose work was offered was William Aiken Walker (1838-1921). Walker’s paintings depicting post-Civil War life in the rural South frequently appear at auction and are very well received. Two of Walker’s works are shown among the photos accompanying this report. Two other Walker-related pieces also crossed the block. An etching and aquatint by Phillip Anthony Sage (b. 1942) of Walker’s Sadie, from an edition of 250, signed and dated 1973, sold for $281.25. An oil on canvas painting attributed to Walker, depicting two black children in a snowy landscape, sold for $4000. Both sold within their estimates.

The high lot of the Potomack sale was this ring with an 8.21-carat round brilliant-cut diamond solitaire set in a platinum band. The band is set with six pairs of graduated diamonds totaling 3.60 carats. The band carries the mark of JB Star jewelers. This beautiful ring was offered with accompanying certification documentation and sold for $125,000 (est. $150,000/180,000).

On October 2 the first of two online-only sessions was conducted. Just over 450 lots of fine jewelry, silver, and porcelain were offered. The high lot from this entire series of Potomack sales came from among those jewelry offerings. A round solitaire 8.21-carat diamond in a platinum band sold for $125,000, a bit below its low estimate. The single stone was set in a well-styled band that held an additional 3.6 carats of smaller diamonds, graduated in size and arranged in pairs on the sides of the ring.

An iconic piece of Americana, this late 19th-century barber pole is painted in the traditional spiral red and white stripe pattern. Standing 61" high overall, the pole has a gold-painted ball on top and is fixed to the rectangular base. It appears that some other signage may have been attached to the pole at some time. It sold for $406.25 (est. $500/700).

Sunday Beach, this pleasant oil on board scene by Edward Henry Potthast (1857-1927), 8¾" x 10½", is signed lower left but not dated. It depicts a group of bathers swimming in the surf and children playing in the sand. Potthast is known for his depiction of turn-of-the-20th-century New Yorkers at leisure. The painting sold to a post-sale offer for $37,500 (est. $40,000/60,000).

The subjects of this undated 33" x 44" oil on canvas portrait of a horse and jockey by Peter Watts (1849-1918) are not identified. A similar Watts portrait of the same horse and rider sold at Americana Auctions, Rehoboth, Massachusetts, in December 2017 for $600. This portrait rode away for $4375 (est. $1500/3000).

These two French bronze bathers were sold as a single lot. Both are thought to be late 18th-century castings. The example on the left is after a model by Etienne Maurice Falconet (1716-1791). On the right is a similar composition after a piece by Christophe-Gabriel Allegrain (1710-1795) that is referred to as Allegrain’s Venus. The two 19¼" high bronzes sold for $4687.50 (est. $5000/7000).

Among the luxury fashion lots were examples of Louis Vuitton handbags and luggage. One lot consisting of four handbags sold for $750, and a small, well-worn suitcase brought $1062.50. All of the Louis Vuitton articles exhibited the firm’s interlocking monogram logo, and all sold slightly above their high estimates.
Session three on the following day offered another 400-plus lots of rugs, furniture, and artwork. Many of those lots consisted of assembled groups of articles, affording dealers the opportunity to add to stock.

Furniture continues to be a curiously mixed bag. Of the approximately 100 traditional furniture lots offered on the first day of the sale, one-third were passed. With few exceptions, those that did find a new home did so at prices at the low end of their conservative estimates. The category’s lackluster performance was shared equally among American and Continental offerings. Interestingly, and slightly bucking that recent trend, larger case pieces were among those that sold better than expected.

For additional information, contact The Potomack Company at (703) 684-4550 or see (www.potomackcompany.com).

Bartholomeus van der Helst (Dutch, 1613-1670) was considered one of the premier portrait painters of his day. This portrait captures an unidentified military officer dressed in military finery. His brocade doublet is accented with a row of bows, the protective sleeves and neckpiece are accented with a lace collar and cuffs, and his plumed helmet and spurs rest on the nearby table. The 48" x 36" oil on canvas, signed lower right, brought $10,000 (est. $8000/12,000).

In the 1920s the Hubley Manufacturing Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, commissioned Anne Harriet Fish (1890-1964), a well-known English cartoonist/illustrator, to create designs for several of its painted cast-iron products. Among those designs were six figures in Art Deco style that were used in the company’s line of doorstops. This example, a pair of colorful footmen, displays the artist’s distinctive caricature style. The base is impressed with Fish’s copyright mark. The 12" x 8½" doorstop has some loss to the painted surface and sold for $625 (est. $600/800).

Here is one of a pair of six-panel Japanese screens that was among the top performers at the Potomack sale. The 19th-century screens are ink and color on paper fixed to a hinged frame. The images depict extensive battle scenes involving mounted warriors in a siege-like setting that includes various vessels approaching on waterways. The two-screen lot sold for $25,000 (est. $3000/5000).

This circa 1853 antislavery and anti-President Franklin Pierce broadside was a response to enactment of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and newly elected President Pierce’s enforcement of the act. It illustrates the temperament of the antebellum abolitionist movement. The 14" x 12½" broadside is complete, though it exhibits staining and separation at the folds. It sold for $4062.50 (est. $800/1200).

The base of this 17" high patinated bronze harp-style desk lamp is stamped “Tiffany Studios / New York / 424.” The base features clearly defined lobes radiating from the shaped column. The shade is green and gold pulled Favrile glass. The lamp sold for $5312.50 (est. $3500/5500).

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

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