Copley Fine Art Auctions’ July 12-13th Sporting Sale of over 650 lots of paintings, works on paper, bronzes, books, folk art, antique bird decoys, and decorative carvings brought $3,357,389, with session one accounting for $2,126,849 and session two for $1,230,540. Held in the Radisson Hotel in Plymouth, Massachusetts for the sixth consecutive year, the sale had participation from a company record 650 live, telephone, absentee, and online bidders, and auction results were up 31% from Copley’s Sporting Sale 2011.
The top lot of the sale was Friedrich Wilhelm Kuhnert’s (1865-1926) Roused, A Tiger and Tigress, which far exceeded its pre-sale estimate of $150/250,000 reaching $333,500. The work was highly sought after, with numerous phone bidders vying for the painting.
Copley sold all seven of the original Carl Rungius (1869-1959) oils from a private Virginia collection above or within estimate, but it was Charles Schreyvogel’s (1861-1912) The Last Drop ($60/90,000) from the same collection that broke a record, selling for $109,250, the highest price paid for this casting at auction.
Another highlight of the sale was Ogden Pleissner’s (1905-1983) On a Scottish Grouse Moor ($40/60,000). Pictured in Peter Bergh’s book The Art of Ogden M. Pleissner, the painting brought $94,875.
Lynn Bogue Hunt (1878-1960) works showed signs of life with all four offerings by the artist finding buyers, and Pointer and Quail coming in at $34,500, above its $20/30,000 estimate.
Like Lynn Bogue Hunt, Arthur Burdett Frost (1851-1928) paintings rebounded, with two of the works, Wild Duck Shooting and Wild Goose Shooting selling within their $30/40,000 estimates and Snipe Shooting ($20/30,000) doubling its high estimate at $66,125.
Lot 2, On Quail ($15/25,000), by Gustav Muss-Arnolt (1858-1927) set the record at auction for a single painting by the artist at $26,450. Dog bronzes also saw solid results, with all seven finding buyers and Medor ($5/7,000) by Pierre Jules Mêne (1810-1877) going towards the high estimate at $6,325.
David Hagerbaumer’s (b. 1921) watercolor of bobwhite quail was a world record, bringing $5,750 on its $1/2,000 estimate. Maynard Reece’s (b. 1920) Turkeys ($3/4,000) was another auction record for Copley, hammering down at $7,475.
Folk art remained strong, with the John Tully (1862-1931) Atlantic Salmon ($8/12,000) reaching over the high estimate at $12,650. Copley sold a Clark Voorhees (1911-1980) whale estimated at $2/4,000. Although similar to the record setting example offered at their Winter Sale 2011, it was just short of that benchmark at $9,200.
Copley continued their success with rare books to close out day one, selling William J. Schaldach’s (1896-1982) Carl Rungius, Big Game Painter: Fifty Years with Brush and Rifle ($3/5,000) for $6,037 and Herbert Stoddard’s (1889-1970) The Bobwhite Quail: Its Habits, Preservation and Increase ($2/4,000) for $3,220.
Session two started off with the Roy A. Conklin, Jr. (1909-1967) mini flyers, which soared above estimate with the top lot coming in at $1,840. Allen J. King (1878-1962) miniature bird carvings followed, with the always popular pheasant pair ($25/3,500), bringing $4,887 and the mallard family ($25/3,500) hitting just below estimate at $2,185. Good quality Lincoln minis performed well, with the golden eye ($1/2,000) going above ($2,530), the wood duck ($2/3,000) going well over ($4,887), and the mallard ($2/3,000) just below ($1,840) their respective estimates.
A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952) shorebirds were solid with the miniature snipe ($2/3,000) and mini ruddy turnstone ($2/3,000) leading the way, bringing $5,462 and $4,025, respectively.
Decoratives by the maker continued to show strength. The outstanding and early running golden plover ($40/50,000) sold strongly with active bidding, bringing more than the high estimate at $57,500, and a rigmate black bellied plover ($25/35,000) landed with the same phone bidder at $28,750.
The bobwhite quail ($25/35,000) also soared past its high estimate, coming in at $46,000. The life-size standing green-wing teal ($60/90,000) by the carver also cleared its high estimate at $92,000. Commenting on the result, Copley Chairman Stephen O’Brien, Jr. said “We were pleased with the results of the teal, however, given the interest before the auction we expected it to go higher.”
The hissing Canada goose pair ($200/300,000) by Harry V. (1861-1920) and Harry M. Shourds (1890-1943), brought the top price for day two, coming in at $201,250.
Lot 366, the red-breasted merganser hen from the Captain Samuel Augustus Fabens (1814-1899) rig was the mover of the auction. It shattered its $15/25,000 estimate, with two phone bidders driving it up to $184,000. Many people commented that it was the best duck decoy in the room, with the only lot topping its price being the Shourds hissing geese.
O’Brien noted “We knew that the bird would go well over our conservative estimate, but with virtually no comparables to go by (only three others in original paint by this maker are known, none of which have ever come on the market) we had no idea where this exceptional bird would land.” Commenting on this bird, Joe Engers, editor of Decoy Magazine said “If there is one decoy from the sale that I could bring home it would be the Fabens merganser, no question.”
The Dave “Umbrella” Watson (1851-1938) market stayed strong with the maker’s hollow Canada goose pair ($50/70,000) bringing $43,125, almost the same price that they sold for in 2007 ($44,850).
The John Tax (1894-1967) goose sold within its ($30/50,000) estimate at $34,500. Another Midwestern bird, the Enoch Reindahl (1904-2000) mallard hen also went within estimate ($9/12,000) bringing $9,200.
The Illinois River market continued to recede, with the exception of the finest birds, among them the Robert Elliston (1849-1915) turned head mallard. Estimated at $35/45,000 the bird went for $34,500.
Rounding out the sale, Chauncey Wheeler (1888-1945) flyers continued to soar and had active bidding from the floor and the phone. The broadbill hen performed especially well easily clearing its $10/15,000 estimate, reaching $19,550.
Summing up the auction O’Brien stated “We’re extremely happy with the sale and pleased to see the painting market making a comeback. The market is still a bit finicky, but there have been new buyers entering at the high end- especially with the decoys- and the strong prices of the top 25 decoy lots reflect this positive trend.”
All prices include a 15% buyer’s premium. Copley Fine Art Auctions, LLC is already preparing for its 2013 Winter Sale, which will be held January 21, 2013 and welcomes consignment inquiries. Please call 617.536.0030 for information regarding the upcoming auction or private sales. A full list of official prices realized from Copley’s 2012 Sporting Sale is available at www.copleyart.com.