Sarah Cunningham’s first auction as the newly-installed Fine Art Specialist and Gallery Director of Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers is an apt reflection of her passion and focus. Cunningham arrived in St. Louis, home of Selkirk, in July 2015 after a broad base of work in sales and acquisitions, fine art appraisal, consulting, curating, and collection management based in Boston, Massachusetts - where she operated Walker-Cunningham Fine Art. The May 21 Selkirk auction has a distinctive fine art focus, with over 560 lots of paintings, prints and bronzes.
Among the notable items is a fresh-to-market painting, held in a family collection for over 50 years: Evening Prayers, a 1909 oil on canvas by Otto Pilny (1866-1936). A fine example by the artist and a prime representation of the Western World’s immense interest and fascination with Middle Eastern culture during the 19th Century, the large-format Orientalist work depicts four figures engaging in prayer in the desert sunset and is expected to sell between $70,000 - $90,000.
A second featured painting in the auction is Lotus Amongst Leaves and Floral, by one of the most well-known and significant Chinese artists of the twentieth century, Zhang Daqian (1899-1982). The work emerges after a lengthy stint in a family collection located nearby the artist’s Carmel, California studio. Lotus Amongst Leaves and Floral couples two works framed vertically, including an ink and brushstroke grayscale depiction of lotus and a colored brush-work floral, and is estimated at $40,000 - $60,000. Recent sales of Zhang’s work include record-setting prices for two works during Sotheby’s April auction in Hong Kong.
The auction includes many more fine paintings and prints including a 19th Century portrait by of a gentleman by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (French, 1780-1876), signed, inscribed and dated “Jean Ingres/Rom: 1816”, also bearing a faint embossed mark and the initials “T.C.,” which may the initials of the sitter (Est. $30,000 to $50,000). Worth a mention is a landscape by favored American artist, George Inness. The oil on board was featured as the frontispiece of S.G. Benjamin’s Our American Artists (published in 1881) and includes a label with detailed provenance (Est. $9,000 - $12,000). American art enthusiasts will be pleased with the charming genre scene by Edgar Ward (1839-1915), showing cobblers in a workshop (Est. $3,000 - $5,000) and a classic Edmund Henry Osthaus (1858-1928) watercolor of hunting dogs (Est. $9,000 - $12,000).
The first lot of the auction kicks off an interesting selection of Chinese art and decorative objects. The delicate, finely carved lotus form white jade bowl with deep sides and a flared rim is estimated at $8,500 - $9,500. A large, pale celadon jade vase with lid is carved in low relief with scrolling patterns and flanked by reticulated elephant head loop handles (Est. $12,000 - $14,000). Rounding out the jade highlights is a 19th Century Qing Dynasty moon flask carved from a beautiful pale celadon jade and bearing an image of a Qilin surrounded by clouds (Est. $5,000 - $7,000). Other jade items include carved pendants and archer’s rings. A collection of snuff bottles holds many fine agate examples, as well carved forms in pudding stone and Peking glass. Roof tiles, bronze Buddha, wood carvings, porcelain and furniture should appeal to the ever-enthusiastic Chinese marketplace.
A model M Steinway grand piano segues the auction from Chinese to Decorative Arts with an estimate of $5,000 - $7,000, and is followed by an ever-escalating selection of prints, paintings, and bronzes, with a variety of furniture and decorative objects coming behind. A monumental Pennsylvania Masonic initiation chair is a rare, and possibly unique, example of the form with a carved oak hooded, high back, ram-mask arm rests, and a scenic hunt panel with various mythical creatures. Dating to the late 19th - early 20th century, it stands 80" high and carries an estimate of $7,000-$9,000. An 18th century English Welsh carved oak two-part cupboard bears a rich, dark surface and equally picturesque presence at 86” high (Est. $5,500-$7,500). The auction includes many more approachable items in the furniture category; for example, a lovely Continental vitrine, with inlay and a brass gallery is reasonably estimated at $700 - $1,000; while a late 19th Century French iron and marble-top console is expected to fetch $1,800 - $2,200.
Select items from the Wedgwood Collection of W.C. and Mary Whitlow of Fulton, MO comprise lots 300-326, which share a small glimpse of the Whitlows passion for the classical and, sometimes fanciful, patterns. The Whitlows were members of the Wedgwood Society for five decades and they scoured North America and Europe for pieces which spoke to them. One of the featured lots is two black basalt wine and water ewers, each showing mythical figures of satyr or triton, their arms wrapped around the spout, grasping horns and fins, fluted stems on square bases. The 15.5" and 14.75" high ewers were purchased by Hensley Wedgwood personally for Little Cote House, and acquired directly by Whitlows in 1976 (Est. $3,000-$5,000). A Wedgwood & Bentley variegated agate lidded vase was purchased from Sotheby's on April 24, 1982 (Est. $1,000-$1,500). The Saxon Blue Portland white on blue jasperware vase has double handles and an estimate of $1,000-$1,500. A Wedgwood Rhode Island pitcher is a jasper white on dark blue Dutch jug showing the Rhode Island state seal, with "1636" and "1790" to the opposing panels (Est. $100-$150). One of the favored Fairyland lustre pieces is a celestial dragon lidded potpourri vase with a flambe background and gilt dragon decoration under slightly iridescent glaze (Est. $400-$600)
Over 70 lots of fine and vintage jewelry will cross the block near the end of the day. A pair of exceptional diamond stud earrings (Est. $42,000 - $48,000), with combined weight of 8.32 carats, headlines the jewelry session which features a sparkling array of diamonds, sapphires and emeralds in the from cocktail and engagement rings to brooches, watches, tennis bracelets. A selection of men’s and ladies’ Rolex watches, Masonic pieces, and Bakelite will also be offered.
Selkirk’s Spring Gallery Auction full catalog may be browsed online at selkirkauctions.com. The Gallery is located at 4739 McPherson in the St. Louis Central West End. Preview hours will be held from May 15th through the auction on May 21st. Meet the new director at a VIP Reception on Thursday, May 19th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Admission is free with RSVP by May 16 to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 314.696.9041.
For upcoming auctions, Selkirk is inviting fine art, prints and multiples; furniture & decorative arts including silver and objets de vertu; jewelry and timepieces; firearms and militaria; and vintage couture and accessories. The Summer Eclectic Auction will be held on July 16, 2016 and the Fall Gallery Auction on September 24, 2016. For further information regarding how to sell at Selkirk or for a valuation of your item(s), please contact email@example.com or call 314.696.9041. For more information visit www.selkirkauctions.com, or find us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.