The first sale of 2019 was a dazzling success for Downingtown auction house Pook & Pook. Pook’s Americana & International auction drew its strength from a number of single-owner collections, achieving a total of $1.77 million (including buyer’s premium) with a 95% sell through rate over 750 lots. The two-day event was well-attended; day one of the sale saw standing room only on Friday evening, having drawn guests in with cocktails, small appetizers and a final opportunity to preview the sale. On Saturday morning bidders were back and their bid cards were flying. Online bidding was also available through bidsquare.com, and saw a total of 1,172 online users approved and bidding on 97% of the lots offered. The massive amount of registered users is a record number for Bidsquare. In house, a total of 481 requests for phone bids over the two day sale kept Pook’s entire bidding staff on their feet, while absentee bids numbered 451.
With an emphasis on fine furniture in this sale, it was no surprise that many bidders were willing to stretch their wallets to earn the winning bid. The first four lots boasted a provenance from Titus Geesey, and auctioneer James Pook preceded the first lot by noting that it hadn’t been on the market for close to a century. With that, bidders were off to the races and Geesey’s charming Chester County, Pennsylvania walnut spice chest with line and berry inlay and turned bun feet, ca. 1755, was hammered down for $67,100. The Connecticut Pilgrim Century sunflower chest, from the collection of Bruce & Edie Smart incited quite a competition as well, with a result of $24,400. It was underbid by an adolescent boy in the front row who was bidding on behalf of his father, and although he wasn’t successful on the chest, the young man did place a winning bid on other treasures in the sale. This sunflower chest offered was the second in so many sales for Pook & Pook, with a similar example selling in Pook’s last Americana auction in September. Other New England furniture from the Smart Collection included a Massachusetts Chippendale mahogany block front chest of drawers, ca. 1760, for $10,980 and a Connecticut Chippendale cherry tea table, ca. 1775, with an excellent old warm finish, achieving $9,760.
With a vividly chatoyant surface, the Philadelphia Queen Anne tiger maple dressing table from the Estate of Charlene Sussel generated much interest with a winning bid of $34,160. Another item from Ms. Sussel’s estate, the miniature American Neoclassical mahogany chest of drawers, ca. 1830, with gilt outlined drawers and painted columns had many guests eager to inspect its surface and was won by an in-house buyer for $3,660.
The most anticipated lot of the sale was the important Philadelphia Chippendale mahogany ball and claw foot easy chair, ca. 1755, with dramatically flaring rear cabriole legs and pronounced pad feet. With an estimate of $100,000-$150,000, the chair generated a buzz in the weeks preceding the sale and was the first item to greet guests in Pook’s main auction gallery. Completely stripped of its upholstery, the chair demonstrates the diversity of furniture forms found in Colonial era Philadelphia, due in part to the city’s influx of immigrants from across the Atlantic. This chair is an important addition to the existing catalog of Philadelphia’s mid-eighteenth century furniture and helps tell a richer story of the inventiveness of Colonial era craftsmen. After a tense bidding volley, a local dealer bidding on behalf of a client ultimately won the exquisite chair for $183,000.
Exceptional clocks are still achieving exceptional prices, as evidenced by the Boston Federal mahogany shelf clock, ca. 1810, with a dial signed by Aaron Willard, which ticked past the $5,000 high estimate to ring in at $13,420. Another outstanding Willard clock was the Massachusetts Federal mahogany banjo clock, selling for $4,392. A Reading, Pennsylvania Chippendale cherry tall case clock from the Titus Geesey collection, with a floral carved tympanum and columns and carved potted flowers on the door sold early in the sale for $24,400.
A boon to the sale was a selection of 18K yellow gold jewelry hand cast by local Brandywine Valley sculptor André Harvey (1941-2018). Incredibly realistic pieces included a miniature sea turtle necklace ($12,000), a life-sized praying mantis brooch ($3,904), a ring featuring a tiny frog clutching an emerald ($2,684), dangly cornhusk earrings ($1,708), and a small honey bee guarding an emerald honeycomb brooch ($3,904).
As Pook & Pook is known for their knowledge of early American folk art, it was no surprise to see many fine examples in this sale. A rare stoneware hanging flowerpot sold over the phone for $2,928, a Pennsylvania four-gallon stoneware crock reached $1,708, and a 19th century primitive pine lantern saw a remarkable $2,684, more than ten times its low estimate. A massive carved and painted wooden recumbent lion retaining an attractive old ivory surface, who welcomed bidders in the auction house’s foyer, achieved $8,540. Other great Pennsylvania pieces included a selection of Pennsylvania German fraktur scattered throughout the sale; the vibrantly colored birth certificate by the Earl Township Artist of Berks County reached $18,300. Another piece of distinguished Pennsylvania craftsmanship included the Jacob Haeffer full stock flintlock long rifle, one of eight Pennsylvania long rifles offered, with a tiger maple stock and patchbox with brilliant floral engravings and figural silver inlay, achieving a price of $9,150 across the block.
Textiles with great results include a broderie perse quilt depicting two peacocks perched on an elaborately decorated tree and featuring a lacy fringe. In such a fine condition, the quilt saw many bidders and was hammered down with a price of $4,148. A Chester County, Pennsylvania silk embroidery was right at home at the Chester County auction house, and surpassed its $2,500 high estimate to land at $4,148.
The sale featured a very large selection of fine art, including an assortment of bronze sculptures and scores of paintings. Oil on canvas seascapes prove to be ever-popular with one example featuring three American schooners breezing past its $2,000 high estimate to sail home at $13,420. Selling at the same price was a luminous Eric Sloane landscape featuring a covered bridge, and an Arthur Meltzer snowy landscape with an expertly executed example of low winter sunlight sold for $14,640. Winter scenes were plentiful in January’s sale, with a Walter Emerson Baum miniature selling for $2,318 and an Emile Albert Gruppe Vermont scene selling for $3,172. Many bidders were hopeful for greener landscapes, with a springtime farm scene by Daniel Owen Stephens doubling its high estimate to sell for $4,392 and a Florida shore scene by Albert Ernest Backus heated up to sell for $13,420. Noteworthy bronzes in the sale included a hound by Antoine Louis Barye selling for $1,952, a painted bronze fox by Isadore Jules Bonheur hammered down at $3,416, and a selection of four Walter Matia bird groupings from the Smart Collection, with a remarkable signed and numbered green heron reaching $1,586.
International items with first-rate results include a pair of 18th century English silver candlesticks, which proved extraordinarily popular during preview for the sale, with many guests eager to inspect the centuries-old craftsmanship. Boasting a crenellated castle and stag decoration on the base, the candlesticks crossed the block to sell for $3,416. An English mahogany and rosewood campaign desk on stand, ca. 1850, was among the last hundred lots of the 750 lot sale, and nearly quadrupled its high estimate of $600 to sell for $2,196.
Pieces of Chinese export in this sale elicited a very strong turn-out with bidders, a testament to the current strength of the market. A porcelain punch bowl, ca. 1780, depicting John Bull and a Frenchman exchanging scathing remarks surpassed its $5,000 high estimate to sell for $12,000. Won by an English phone bidder, the bowl will soon be making another trip across the Atlantic. Four pieces of Chinese Qing dynasty porcelain, including a koi fish reticulated dish and a small lantern, flew past its $500-$1000 estimate to be hammered down at $17,080.
On Monday January 14th, Pook & Pook held an Online Only sale directly following the in-house sale, where yet another piece of Chinese art dazzled. In Monday morning’s sale, held exclusively on bidsquare.com, a Chinese cloisonné vase standing at a remarkable 22” h. and decorated with a double dragon motif generated quite the buzz, opening at $30,000. Selling over the internet, the urn would eventually be bid up to $126,000 by a number of bidders from across the world. The item was a fantastic surprise to both the auction house and bidders following along online. It was clear that Asian art buyers with a keen eye and a quick hand knew the value in such a rare and exquisite piece of Chinese art, with one lucky Chinese bidder earning the right to finally return the exceptional vessel to its mother country. At Pook & Pook, we are all eager to learn what the next chapter holds for this marvelous object and revel in the opportunity to be a part of its journey. You never know what treasures you might find at Pook & Pook!
Pook & Pook’s next sale will be an Online Only Toy sale, to be held Saturday February 6th 2019. The next in-house auction will be on Friday, March 15th with the Furnishing and Decorative Items of a Prominent Collector. Pook & Pook is located at 463 E. Lancaster Avenue, Downingtown, PA 19335.
By Pook & Pook, Inc
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