Fresh-to-Market Americana, Historic Pieces, and Rare Sand Bottles Highlight Cowan’s Fall Americana, Including Fine & Decorative Art: Premier Auction

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  • September 25, 2018

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John James Audubon's Favorite "Long Tom" Fowler, the first portrait of Henry Clay by Matthew Harris Jouett, an exceptional John Henry Belter parlor suite with political and literary portrait busts, and two rare Andrew Clemens sand bottles are expected to be the top lots of the day.

CINCINNATI -- Cowan’s will offer a strong selection of over 500 lots of Kentucky rarities, painted furniture, folk art, ceramics and silver in its Americana, Including Fine & Decorative Art: Premier Auction on Saturday, October 6, 2018. The auction features items for collectors of all interests and budgets from historic pieces worthy of exhibition in a museum to well-crafted antiques that will be a welcome addition to any living room.

First Portrait of Henry Clay by Matthew Harris Jouett

“We’re quite proud of this auction,” said Sam Cowan, Cowan’s Director of Fine and Decorative Art. “We’ve held a lot of Americana auctions, but this may be one of the strongest catalogs from start to finish we’ve ever put together. If you love Americana, you can’t miss this sale.”

A trio of historic pieces are expected to be among the top lots of the day. The favorite hunting rifle of John James Audubon (1785 – 1851), one of America’s most acclaimed naturalists, carries the highest estimate of the day, expected to sell for between $60,000 and $80,000. Audubon’s journal indicates and family records support that his “Long Tom” fowler was his preferred hunting rifle during the period that he was preparing his seminal book, The Birds of America. It’s likely that this rifle was used to take many, if not most, of the birds collected by Audubon for the book that made him an international sensation.

“The history surrounding this rifle is truly remarkable,” said Wes Cowan, Cowan’s Executive Chairman and Principal Auctioneer. “This could be the single most important tool Audubon used to become one of the most famous naturalists in history. His incredibly detailed, life-sized illustrations were only possible because he was able to capture specimens and this ‘Long Tom’ was his preferred way of doing that.”

Inlaid Kentucky Desk and Bookcase Purportedly Owned by Isaac Shelby

The first portrait of Henry Clay (1777-1852) by famed Kentucky portraitist Matthew Harris Jouett (American, 1788-1827) should be another highly coveted lot. Jouett rose to prominence thanks in large part to his portraits of Clay, the most prominent Kentucky politician of the time. His Clay portrait was so popular that he produced several copies beginning in 1818 but until recently, it was unclear which was the original.

Recent discoveries in the Jouett literature, however, reveal that the first portrait was painted for James Weir, an influential Kentucky businessman, who had come to Lexington to hear Clay speak at the court house. Weir was so taken with Clay’s speech that Weir sought out Jouett and hired him to paint a portrait of Clay before either had even left the courthouse. A lengthy trail of documentation tracks the portrait offered in this auction from this moment all the way to Cowan’s auction block where it is expected to sell for $50,000 to $70,000. 

A year after setting the record sale price for Kentucky furniture, Cowan’s offers another significant antique desk from the Commonwealth. An inlaid Kentucky desk and bookcase that was purportedly owned by Isaac Shelby (1750-1826), Kentucky’s first and fifth governor, is estimated to sell for $30,000 to $50,000. Standing nearly seven feet tall, the two-piece secretary bookcase in cherry with walnut and poplar secondaries has a well-documented history beginning in the 1920s when it was purchased by the family of the current consignor. Prior to that, it had been known as the Shelby Desk virtually from the moment it was purchased at auction in Shelbyville, Kentucky sometime between 1886 and 1907.

Staying in the furniture category, a rare and exceptional parlor suite attributed to John Henry Belter (1804-1863) should be another highlight of the sale, with an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. The suite is composed of a triple back settee, a pair of meridiennes, and four side chairs, each having carved historical busts, a scrolled and pierced back, shaped seat, foliate apron, turned stop-fluted legs, and casters.

A rare late 18th- to early 19th-century paint decorated chest of drawers by Samuel Dunlap of New Hampshire is another notable antique furniture piece in the sale. Signed in chalk below the right-hand upper drawer, this chest is one of a handful of signed Samuel Dunlap (1752-1830) case pieces still known to exist. A chest of drawers in cherry with white pine secondary, dry, untouched vinegar painting on the case, the top with a red wash. Having a dovetailed and step molded cornice, above three aligned and five graduated lap molded dovetailed drawers with brass pulls, having a shaped skirt and sides, all rising on tapered legs. Stylistically, the 52.25-inch tall chest was likely produced in Dunlap's Salisbury shop, sometime between 1795 and 1810 after he left Henniker, New Hampshire in 1787. The chest is expected to sell for between $8,000 and $10,000.

Among the rarest items in the auction is a pair of sand bottles from one of the masters of the form, Andrew Clemens (American, 1857-1894). An inverted sand bottle depicting a nautical scene is expected to fetch the higher hammer price of the two, with an estimate of $35,000 to $45,000. The other bottle depicts an American spread-winged eagle underneath a flag of thirty-six stars and should sell for $25,000 to $35,000.

The auction begins with over 100 lots from the Americana Collection of Dr. Dale and the Late Ann Knight Gutman. The result of 45 years of meticulous, carefully curated collecting, the Gutman Collection includes antique furniture, textiles, 18th century ceramics, and folk art spanning centuries. Among the many highlights of the collection are a pair of Patrick Henry Davenport (1803-1890, Kentucky) attributed portraits expected to sell for $3,000 to $4,000; a polychrome squirrel attributed to Wilhelm Schimmel (Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania, 1817-1890) for $3,000 to $4,000; a rare early 19th century toleware cottage form tea caddy for $3,000 to $4,000; an early 18th century William and Mary Massachusetts daybed for $3,000 to $4,000; and a rare 18th century pictorial American crewelwork petticoat border for $3,000 to $4,000.

In the realm of specialized collections, the Don L. and Retta Park Coffee Mill and Advertising Collection offers an excellent group of American coffee grinders and advertisements from the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries. The result of 30 years of thoughtful collection, the auction offers more than 30 lots of grinders and advertisements in fine, original condition with the majority still possessing their original paint, decals or other decorations, catch cups, paper labels, drawers, and lids. None have any reproduction parts and not only make great decorative pieces, but are as fully functional today as they were when they were originally produced.

Other highlights of the sale include an Edouard Léon Cortès (French, 1882-1969) oil on canvas of Place de la Concorde estimated to sell for $15,000 to $20,000; a Tiffany Studios hanging shade in Greek Key pattern for $15,000 to $20,000; a Guy Carleton Wiggins (American, 1883-1962) oil on canvas of a New York City sunset for $15,000 to $30,000; an exceptional early folk art watercolor of Mount Vernon for $10,000 to $15,000; and a painted cigar store Indian for $10,000 to $15,000.

The Americana, Including Fine & Decorative Art: Premier Auction will be held in Cowan’s Cincinnati Salesroom on Saturday, October 6 beginning at 10:00 am (ET). Absentee bids are now being accepted on Cowan’s website and bidders can also register to bid in-person or via phone by visiting the website or by calling Cowan’s at 513-871-1670. Online bidding will also be available on the day of the auction using Cowan’s in-house bidding platform, Cowan’s Live.

The day before the Premier Auction, Cowan’s will be holding a Live Discovery Auction in its Cincinnati salesroom with over 500 lots of Americana from the Gutman Collection and many of the same collections offered on Saturday. The Friday auction begins at 10:00 am (ET) and bidders are welcome to stay and preview the Premier Auction offerings once the Discovery Auction is complete.

Cowan's Auctions, Inc.
6270 Este Ave
Cowan's Auctions, Inc., Ohio

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