WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Nine oval miniature on ivory portrait paintings of prominent men and woman from colonial-era America, all of them rendered by Charles Willson Peale (Md./Pa., 1741-1827), sold for a combined $94,163 to lead Louis C. Dianni, LLC’s 6th annual Palm Beach Auction, held Feb. 14-16 at the Hilton Hotel & Conference Center in West Palm Beach. More than 6,000 bidders from 70 countries ‘attended’ via the internet, to compete for the nearly 2,000 lots of unreserved offerings, making this the largest antiques, arms and art auction in the state of Florida.
The paintings included portraits of Lt. Col. Richard Cary (an aide-de-camp to then-Gen. George Washington), Gen. Anthony Lamb (who served in the War of 1812), and Robert R. Livingston (one of five men who drafted the original Declaration of Independence).
“This was our most successful auction to date, hands down,” said Louis J. Dianni, LLC (based in nearby Palm Beach).”We had a fabulous mix of merchandise, and so much to choose from, but the Peale portrait miniatures were the big draw. People flew in to bid on them – collectors, dealers, museum curators, you name it. But a local man acquired the group’s top-selling lot.”
That would be the miniature watercolor and gouache on ivory portrait of Robert R. Livingston (1746-1813), a Declaration signer and an American lawyer, politician and diplomat from New York. He is also considered one of the nation’s Founding Fathers, and was known as “The Chancellor,” after the office he held for 25 years. His portrait miniature gaveled for $23,600.
Charles Willson Peale was born in Maryland and was active there and in Pennsylvania. He became one of the first major figures in American art. He created an art and natural history museum that became world famous, especially for the gallery of more than 250 portraits he did of various distinguished Americans. These probably included the miniatures sold in the auction.
Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices reflect a buyer’s premium that ranged from 18-24.5 percent, depending on how the bid was submitted. Online bidding was provided by LiveAuctioneers.com and Invaluable.com. Phone and left bids were also recorded.
An original and early oil on board painting by the renowned Florida Highwayman artist mentor, Albert E. (Beanie) Backus (1906-1990), done in 1941 and depicting what is likely the boat building yard of Backus & Son in Fort Pierce, went for $17,700. Also, an oil on board waterfall scene by John Gadsby Chapman (Am./It., 1808-1889), titled Peyton Falls, Va., painted in 1862, hammered for $7,080.
Asian objects were led by a red coral carving of a Guan Yin figure holding an ingzahi scepter and surrounded by nature and animals, mounted on a carved rosewood base and standing 11 ½ inches tall, sold for $14,580; while another carved Guan Yin, this one ivory, early 20th century, showing a main figure and three smaller Buddha figures praying at the top, finished at $7,470.
Two very different lots realized identical selling prices of $6,847. One was a late 19th century trunk by Louis Vuitton of France, refinished, with brass handles and latches, three clothes holders and padding inside. The other was a magnificent early bracelet watch, with a face measuring a diminutive one-half inch. The bracelet had an openwork gold hinged “wire” for an enveloping fit, along with six carats of diamonds.
A Civil War-era Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver, fourth model, .36 caliber with a 7 ½ inch barrel, factory engraved and shipped to J. C. Grubb & Co. (Philadelphia) on Nov. 23, 1861, rang out at $12,150. Also, an oil on canvas painting by Russian Federation artist Nicholai A. Tarkhov (Russ., 1871-1930), a landscape work depicting pine trees in a forest, changed hands for $5,900.
Returning to the Peale portrait miniatures, the watercolor on ivory portrait of Lt. Col. Richard Cary, Washington’s aide-de-camp, was the runner-up lot in the group of eight, fetching a robust $15,340. Cary was one of Washington’s most trusted men, having been promoted from brigadier major to aide-de-camp in June 1776. He resigned in December of that same year, to get married!
The watercolor and gouache on ivory portrait of Elizabeth Digby Peale (1747-1776) breezed to $9,960. She was the sister of the artist and wife of Capt. Robert Polk, a privateer who died in battle in 1777 during the Revolutionary War. The watercolor and gouache on ivory portrait of John Beale Bourdley (1727-1804), a planter and judge as well as Peale’s best friend, sold for $9,337. Included was a lock of the subject’s hair, encased in a glass window on the reverse side.
The portrait of Jacob Morris (1755-1844), believed to be the son of Lewis Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a general during the Revolutionary War, topped out at $7,470. Also, the portrait of Mrs. Joseph Bloomfield, the wife of Gen. Joseph Bloomfield, the Deputy Judge-Advocate General of the Continental Army and Governor of New Jersey, made $6,490.
The portrait of Gen. Anthony Lamb (at age 19 when he sat for Peale), who served in the War of 1812 and was the son of Brevet Gen. John Lamb, who served during the American Revolution, rose to $8,092; while the portrait of Mary Riche Swift (1755-1790), mounted in a fire gilt brass frame, sold for $6,500. A handwritten note on the reverse side explains Swift died giving birth.
“It's quite astounding, the fact that these miniatures were consigned less than two weeks prior to the auction date, unreserved, with no time for print advertising,” Mr. Dianni remarked.
Louis J. Dianni, LLC, has been in the business of selling antiques since 1973. The firm’s auctions are big events, held at the peak of the season, in lucrative and historic areas of the country. Dianni uses promotional booths at significant and relevant collector’s shows. E-mails are sent to over 150,000 avid collectors and dealers worldwide from the firm’s extensive database.
Louis J. Dianni, LLC, is always accepting quality items for future auctions. To inquire about consigning an item, a collection or an entire estate, you may call them at (954) 895-8727 or you can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Louis J. Dianni, LLC and the firm’s upcoming auction slated for Aug. 8-9 in West Point, N.Y., visit www.LouisJDianni.com.
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