Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos courtesy of Schwenke Auctioneers
WOODBURY, CONN. – Of the 489 lots that Tom Schwenke walked across the block at his Dec. 12 Fine Estates auction, the most notable piece was a large reddish abstract painting by Richard Art Hambleton (Canadian, 1952-2017) that s sold to a phone bidder for $170,800. Prior to its sale, it belonged to a private collector in Litchfield County, Connecticut.
For those unfamiliar with Hambleton, he is best known for his work as a street artist; Schwenke’s catalog wrote: “He was a surviving member of a group that emerged from the New York art scene during the booming art market of the 1980s, which also included Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat .”
The rest of the sale saw more traditional and modern offerings, including 118 from the collection of Rod Pleasants and Steve Godwin of New York-based interior design firm McIver Morgan. McIver Morgan was present in Washington, Connecticut; their collection ran the gamut from bespoke designer furniture to continental and Asian pieces in a variety of vintages.
The McIver Morgan collection was responsible for many of the top lots in the sale, including a modern walnut dining table made by Charak. It featured a chamfered top supported by two large blackened spheres on a smaller rectangular base. The table sold for $8,540 to a telephone bidder, from South Carolina, who Schwenke said “was very excited to get it.”
“I was pleased with how the McIver Morgan parts were received. Some went fairly reasonably; others have attracted good competition. says Schwenke.
Part of the McIver Morgan collection included a set of four neoclassical Scandinavian birch side chairs and a sofa, which came in two sets. Schwenke said he would have bet all of them would stay together, but he would have lost the bet: the chairs fetched $6,710 from a bidder in Germany, while the sofa fetched $3,556 from a commercial buyer in the south the United States.
A room-sized Agra Sultanabad rug that Pleasants and Godwin bought at a New Orleans Auction Gallery auction in 2020 more than doubled its estimate, dropping to $3,660. It was a better result than the $1,220 made for a coin-sized Persian Tabriz that had also been acquired at the same New Orleans Auction Gallery sale.
The McIver Morgan collection offered both the traditional and the modern. For the former, a carved and painted Louis XV Duchess for $2,806, a carved and gilded Georgian mahogany bookcase for $2,440, and a door frame of white-painted Federal pine with a glass transom section that carried out $2,318. Collectors of mid-century modern works had many choices, including a long organically shaped console table in black lacquer for $2,440, a pair of brass pedestal-shaped console tables for $1,342, nearly triple their low estimate; and a pair of open mahogany armchairs that fetched $732 on a $100-200 estimate.
Several objects in the collection offered visual diversity to an American or European aesthetic. Bidders fetched a glazed Chinese porcelain bowl for $3,172, while a pair of Chinese porcelain vases now mounted as lamps brightened the sale for $1,952. If the boulder of a large Chinese scholar in spinach green hardstone on the stand was just below expectations at $488, but expectations were exceeded in an 18-inch tall African bronze portrait bust of a chief which sold for $397.
There was more to the sale than the McIver Morgan collection. Much more. Schwenke got $7,320 for an abstract oil-on-canvas painting of a costume ball in a carved and gilded wooden frame measuring 16½ by 14½ inches. The work had been found in Chester, Connecticut, and was estimated at $100/200.
“I was very surprised by that,” Schwenke said. “But we had two people who really wanted it. The buyer was a Midwestern collector, the underbidder was online. This may have set a record for the artist.
Herman Miller chairs for Charles Eames are bidder favourites; a vintage black leather armchair with ottoman from a collector in Essex, Connecticut was no exception. Estimated at $1/$1,500, it fetched $6,100.
There were several treasures to be found in an estate in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Topping the $3,660 bunch was a 9 3/8 inch tall antique Indian bronze sculpture of Krishna playing the flute. It was followed by an 82-inch-tall totem pole attributed to the Haida tribe; it was signed “Kathy Woodruff” on the back and fetched $3,050. Alfred Steiglitz’s ‘Venetian Courtyard’ photo soared to $2,684, a rolled-up coin-sized Heriz rug to $2,196 and an unsigned impressionist view of the Essex boat launch , Connecticut, oil on canvas, was released for $1,952.
Western pottery options were led by an extensive porcelain service hand-painted in Herend’s Fruits and Flowers pattern. For those looking for a nearly complete set for eight people, there were dinner plates, lunch plates, bread and butter plates, cups and saucers for coffee and the demi-cup. It went for $3,660.
No room for a large dinner service? A single stoneware pot by free African-American potter Thomas Commeraw, who worked in lower Manhattan in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, fetched $2,806 against an estimate of $500/700. Decorated with its signature cobalt garlands and finger grips, it belonged to a collector in Roxbury, Connecticut.
The Asian furniture in the sale was topped with a pair of Chinese caned rosewood coffee tables from a collection in Litchfield County, Connecticut, which fetched $2,318. An ancient dragon-carved Chinese hardwood altar table from the same seller ended up an estimated $580.
The date of the next Schwenke Auctioneer sale has not yet been announced.
Prices shown include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house, but may not include additional online auction surcharges.
For more information, 203-266-0323 or www.woodburyauction.com.