Bunch Auctions’ fall Decorative & Fine Arts catalog auction took place on September 20th. 811 lots were offered, totaling over $680,000 with buyer’s premium. The Estate of Daniel Dietrich, II with Additions showcased 218 lots of primarily 20th century modern & contemporary art, as well as 132 lots of decorative arts from the Dietrich collection. Daniel Dietrich was a well-known philanthropist, art collector, and patron of the arts living on the Main Line of Philadelphia. He was on the board of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. Before his passing in September of 2015, he gifted $10 million to the institution.
Very conservative estimates attracted over 4,000 registered online bidders who participated in bidding on virtually 100% of the 811 lots offered. The sale’s success exemplified the strength and vitality of today’s fine art market. Half of the top ten lots were works of art.
Allegorical Painting (Insects) by Gregory Gillespie(Lot 8559) was the top-selling piece of art in the sale, and the second highest selling item overall. The oil on wood was an early piece from the Hirshhorn Museum’s 1977 touring retrospective of his work. The painting features an array of meticulously detailed insects, demonstrating his early enthrallment with creating hyper-realized artistry. The lot sold for $36,000.
Two Heads by Nancy Grossman(Lot 8409)was an especially appreciated lot, receiving massive competition from all bidding outlets. The ink on paper sold for at an impressive $17,000. Grossman’s drawing features two heads dressed in bondage leather and straps. She refers to the pieces as self-portraits that demonstrate the ambiguity of gender.
Stella’s Carnations by Jane Wilson(Lot 8575)also far exceeded its auction estimate. The oil on canvas sold for $12,000 at the hammer. Wilson is best known for abstract expressionist landscapes such as her work Night and Day that sold for $4,750. However, there was a brief period in the late 60s through the early 70s where Wilson focused on still lifes set in her apartment, creating atypical works such as Stella’s Carnations.
Other highlights included a Portrait of Harvey Dinnerstein (Lot 8487) painted by David A Leffel, which sold for $12,000 – exceeding its high estimate by over tenfold. An abstract diptych by Warren Rohrer, Caernarvon II (Lot 8672), brought $5,500 – nearly doubling it’s high estimate. Other artists that brought notable returns included Lennart Anderson ($3,000), John Zurier ($2,800), Thomas Birch ($10,000), Kenneth Noland ($2,400), and Bill Walton ($2,100).
Dietrich’s cultural collectibles exceeded expectations and performed above and beyond pre-auction estimates. The top-selling ethnographic antiquity was a British Colombian Northwest Coast mask (Lot 8340) depicting a bear, which brought $2,800. A Native American carved polychrome Kachina doll (Lot 8341) sold for an impressive $2,400. The doll was a fine example of early Hopi ceremonial figures.
The Dietrich Collection was joined with 350 + lots of powerful estate consignments including a stunning array of porcelain rarities. Fifteen lots of Meissen porcelain were offered, all of which brought excellent results. The top lot of the sale was a 28” Meissen multi-part figural centerpiece (Lot 8251) depicting groupings of Neptune and Amphitrite with cherubs, maidens, and sea creatures. The piece attracted worldwide interest and had the entire staff overseeing competing phone bids. After a lively bidding bout, the hammer dropped at $43,000.
Five pieces of Mintons pate-sur-pate porcelain were offered in the sale, two of which made it into the top ten lots of the evening. A pair of Minton’s Louis Solon decorated pate-sur-pate vases & covers (Lot 8266) were definitely one of the stars of the show. The vases had gilded wreath handles adorned with ribbons, dark blue ground with white slip, and allegorical figures holding shields against Cupids arrows being fired by winged cherubs. The pair had a pre-auction estimate of $8,000 – 16,000 and drew in $27,500 at the hammer. A second pair of Louis Solon pate-sur-pate vases (Lot 8267) sold for $17,000. The pair had looped handles, green ground with white slip, and depicted cherub figures building a playhouse. On the second vase, a chaotic scene showed the structure collapsing on the cherubs.
Additional porcelain highlights included two Minton’s pate-sur-pate white on blue tiles ($6,000 & $5,500), a KPM (Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur) plaque of ‘Jesus in the Temple’ ($3,250), and an English enameled porcelain plaque decorated with Chinese pheasants ($3,750).
A PCGS graded MS63 1907 St. Gauden’s high relief $20 gold coin (Lot 8025) brought $18,000 on Tuesday afternoon. Designed by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, it is considered by many to be the most beautiful of U.S coins.
Along with the big-ticket items in the modern art and prized porcelain categories, we encountered some unexpected earners. Spatterware was full of surprises, with a blue and yellow rainbow ‘Thistle’ cup & saucer set (Lot 8112) selling for $,5,500. The combination of blue & yellow rainbow is quite rare and valued highly amongst collectors. A similar green and black rainbow ‘Thistle’ cup & saucer set (Lot 8113) brought $2,900. A red spatterware ‘School House’ plate (Lot 8116) rose above its $800 high estimate and sold for $2,000.
Other unforeseen breadwinners included lot of 15 small decorative articles (Lot 8305) that was estimated at a mere $40-80. The inclusion of a rare patinated-metal seated Buddha figurine led to fierce bidding competition with bidders battling it out on the floor and online until the lot sold for a remarkable $2,000.
Another stunner in the Asian arts was a beautiful Japanese Byobu 6-panel painted screen (Lot 8354). The screen was ornately decorated with extensive detail, illustrating vivid battle scenes and sights of war. The piece stirred up extensive interest, closing at $4,250.
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Ashley A Suszczynski
William Bunch Auctions & Appraisals