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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Fine Arts Take the Lead at Northeast Auctions

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A cache of ten Old Master drawings headed sales at Northeast Auctions.  This one, formerly in the collection of decorator Elsie de Wolfe, brought $35,400. A cache of ten Old Master drawings headed sales at Northeast Auctions. This one, formerly in the collection of decorator Elsie de Wolfe, brought $35,400.
Northeast Auctions has a reputation as an Americana powerhouse but its Memorial Day weekend sale in Portsmouth, N.H., proved that it knows its way around the market for fine art, as well.
On Sunday, May 29, ten Old Master drawings executed in chalk, pencil, ink and gouache set Northeast’s phones ablaze. Altogether, the works on paper generated nearly $150,000, six times their low estimate. Most were acquired by European dealers, auctioneer Ron Bourgeault said afterward.
Leading the group was a 19 ¼ by 13 inch pen, ink and wash architectural capriccio by the Venetian master Francesco Guardi. The signed piece more than tripled its low estimate to bring $54,280.
Two drawings with storied pasts also fared well.  Once the property of society decorator Elsie de Wolfe, known as Lady Mendl after her marriage, the drawings are inscribed with her name and an address to conjure with: 10 Avenue d’lena in Paris’s leafy  XVIe arrondissment. Sir Charles and Lady Mendel had an apartment in the former mansion of Prince Roland Bonaparte. The most costly of de Wolfe’s two drawings, a pencil and sepia wash on paper of a fountain flanked by nymphs, brought $38,940. A chalk study of women and children fetched $35,400. Both works are initialed but not signed.
Harriet Whitney Frishmuth (1880-1980)’s ebullient 46-inch bronze of a leaping woman, “The Joy of the Waters,” surpassed estimate to bring $79,650. It is one of more than 40 Roman Bronze Works castings of the figure and dates to around 1920. The sculpture is the first and favorite of the garden fountains made by the Philadelphia-born artist, who created two versions of “The Joy of the Waters.”  The Belgian girl Janette Ransome modeled for the first version, which dates to 1917.
Day one of the two-part sale was devoted to English pottery and porcelain from a private American collection.
“The rarest pieces in the best condition did quite well. Condition was an issue on some  items but collectors overlooked blemishes if the form and decoration was rare enough,”  said Rebecca J. Davis, Northeast’s specialist in ceramics, glass and silver.
One “stellar” offering, said Davis, was a late 18th century Worcester porcelain “Chequered Tent”  fluted coffeepot and cover. Ex-collection of Leo and Doris Hodroff, it achieved $4,838. A matching cup and saucer garnered $2,360.
The highest prices were for armorials. Painted with the arms of Richard Temple Nugent Brydges Chandos Grenville, 2nd Marquess of Buckingham, and his wife, Lady Anna Eliza de jure Baroness Kinloss, a Barr, Flight and Barr porcelain stand from the Stowe service doubled low estimate to bring $24,190. Said to have been made for the younger brother of King George III, a late 18th century Worcester platter from the Duke of Gloucester service achieved $18,880.
“Overall, it was a very strong auction,” said Bourgeault, noting the return of retail buyers to his May event, long a favorite with furnishers. “People have reduced the prices of their houses in order to sell them.  Now they are furnishing for less, too.”
Prices include the buyer’s premium.
Write to Laura Beach at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
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