East Dennis, Mass. – A winter landscape by 19th Century Dutch/German artist Barend Cornelis Koekkoek may have been the top lot at Eldred’s April 6-7 Americana + Paintings Auction when it sold for $132,000, but the greatest star of the sale was the collection of Lewis “Julian” Kotekas, an art dealer and collector from Manchester, N.H., which sold for more than double its pre-sale estimate.
“It was a resounding success and a testament to Julian’s eye,” said Joshua Eldred, president of Eldred’s and head of its Fine Arts Department, speaking about the collection, which included 84 lots of paintings, prints, sculpture and decorative art. Kotekas passed away last summer and Eldred’s has handled the bulk of his vast estate in a variety of auctions over the past several months, with the best American pieces grouped together in this sale. “While everyone who met him agrees Julian was a bit eccentric, everyone also agrees he had a wonderful eye, especially for period unsigned works.”
Two of those unsigned 19th Century works, an expansive mountain landscape and a scene of haying in the mountains, flew past their $1,000/1,500 and $1,500/2,500 pre-sale estimates to both finish at $25,200. Other highlights include a Tiffany Studios “Greek Key” table lamp, which sold for $54,000, two oils by John Ross Key (Maryland/Washington, D.C., 1837-1920), which brought a combined $75,600, and a Cyrus Edwin Dallin (Massachusetts/Utah/France, 1861-1944) bronze “On the War Path”, which sold for $25,200. Many of the pieces in the collection had never been offered publicly or had been off the market for many years, and it was all offered without reserve, which added to the excitement, Eldred said.
“It garnered an unprecedented amount of interest from both trade and private buyers, and bidding on nearly every lot was vigorous. Twelve phone bidders chased a Neville T. Johnson view of Mt. Chocorua upward of $20,000 on a $3,000/5,000 estimate, plus there was healthy bidding from the audience and online. Having known Julian for more than a decade, I was truly thrilled to see his collection perform as well as it did.”
Eldred was also thrilled with $132,000 result of the Koekkoek, which carried a $30,000/$50,000 pre-sale estimate. “It more than exceeded my expectations,” Eldred said. “I thought it was an exceptional price given the current market for European art. It was a fresh-to-market museum-quality work in excellent condition and I’m delighted the buyers responded so positively to it.” Koekkoek (Dutch/German, 1803-1862) was known during his lifetime as the “Prince of Landscape Painting” and is regarded as a founding father of Dutch romantic landscape painting.
The finely executed work, which features wood gatherers in a winter landscape dominated by a massive oak tree, is signed and dated “B.C. Koekkoek 1854” and came from a private collection in Massachusetts.
Provenance plays such an important role in today’s market, Eldred said, citing two other private collections featured in the sale – items from the estate of Ambassador Charles Richard Crane and items from the Claflin Estate of Marion, Massachusetts – which also saw very strong results.
Highlights from the estate of Ambassador Crane (1858-1939), an American businessman and diplomat who had a deep interest in Eastern European and Middle Eastern culture and helped finance the first explorations for oil in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, included a Russian icon depicting the Theophany, which sold for $13,200 on a $1,500/2,500 estimate, and three lots of Kornilov Bros. porcelain, which brought a combined $3,937, more than three times the pre-sale estimate.
Early textiles and Oriental rugs, however, were the biggest draw from the collection, with an 18th/19th Century Caucasian embroidery selling for $6,875, a central Asian suzani bringing $6,250 and a Shirvan rug selling for $3,000. All far outpaced their sub-$1,000 pre-sale estimates.
The top lot from the Claflin estate, which Bill Bourne, head of Eldred’s Americana department, described as “a really nice batch of mostly New England antiques and accessories”, was a portrait of a young woman attributed to Zedekiah Belknap (New England, 1781-1858), which brought $9,600 on a $5,000/7,000 estimate. An exceptional early 19th Century fire bucket with spread-wing eagle decoration, a New Hampshire tall-case clock by Elisha Smith, Jr. and a lot of eleven pieces of blown glass also all sold over estimate for $7,200, $3,900 and $2,875.
“It’s getting rarer to see this kind of old estate collection,” Bourne said. “Bidding was energetic, and prices were good across the board.”
Both Eldred and Bourne mentioned how encouraged they were by strong prices on American furniture, including pieces from the Claflin estate. A Hepplewhite secretary brought $2,750 on a $900/1,200 estimate and a Hepplewhite lolling chair sold within estimate for $1,320. The sale’s top furniture lot was a Seymour sideboard, which brought $19,200, followed by a Queen Anne bonnet-top highboy, which sold for $13,200. A pair of Regency-style girandole mirrors sold over estimate for $3,900 and a two-drawer stand, also attributed to Seymour, sold within estimate for $4,800. “Many of the furniture lots were purchased by new bidders, which is a nice thing to see,” Eldred remarked.
More than 550 bidders took part in the auction, which was held at the firm’s headquarters in East Dennis, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. Other highlights from the sale include an abstract “Flight Form” by Charles Green Shaw (New York, 1892-1974), which sold for $15,600, a Newport, Rhode Island needlework sampler, which brought $4,800, an illustration of factory workers by Gordon Ross (California/Scotland, 1873-1946), which sold for $11,400, and a Pauline Lennards Palmer oil depicting three women, which brought $15,600. Two American native pieces, a beadwork trapping an an Eskimo walrus ivory carving of figures riding on the back of a polar bear, both exceeded estimate, selling for $3,000 and $3,360. A large collection of similar American Native material will be included in the firm’s Summer Americana Auction, scheduled for August 1-3, 2018.
The firm’s Summer Americana sale will also feature items from the noted folk art collection of Carl and Sonia Schmitt, highlighted by a cigar store figure of Punch and an L.W. Cushing & Son gilt grasshopper weather vane. Consignments for the summer sale are still being accepted. The firm’s next auction, its Spring Asian Art Sale, will be conducted May 3-4, also at the firm’s headquarters. All lots from that sale are available to view on the company website, www.eldreds.com. The full slate of upcoming auctions can also be found on the website.
The Robert C. Eldred Co. is New England's oldest established antiques and fine arts auction house, now in its third generation of ownership under the Eldred and Schofield families. In addition to its headquarters on Cape Cod’s historic Old King’s Highway in East Dennis, Mass., the firm also has an office at 5 Roosevelt Avenue in Mystic, Ct. Eldred’s conducts approximately 25 auctions per year encompassing Americana, paintings, Asian art, European decorative art, maritime antiques, sporting art and collectibles. It was recently named one of the top worldwide auction houses by Art + Auction and holds auction records across a wide range of collecting areas.
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1483 Route 6a
East Dennis, Massachusetts
Eldred's is New England's oldest established antiques and fine arts auction house. Approximately 25 auctions are held year-round encompassing Americana, Asian Art, Americana and European paintings, European decorative art, Maritime antiques, and collectibles.