Carlsen Gallery Marks Anniversary Auction As ‘Trophy’ Silver Lots Lead The Way

FREEHOLD, N.Y. — The Carlsen Gallery conducted an exceptional auction on September 8, marking the firm’s 29th anniversary. “We gave out 100 buyer numbers in the room, we had more than 50 customers leave absentee bids, more than 75 people participated by phone and more than 800 were approved to bid via the Internet,” said Abby Carlsen. Preview for the sale was exceptionally busy, with about 300–400 people going through the gallery prior to the sale date.

“We were thrilled with the results,” said Russ Carlsen, noting that in this case much of the fresh-to-the-market material that he relies on for his auctions came from a Laconia, N.H., estate. “It came from a family estate in which the mother and father had passed away and their children felt that this was the time to make that personal collection available,” said the auctioneer.

Valuable and exquisite silver was a major lode in the collection, he added, and leading the sale was a Martele sterling silver vase, 18½ inches high, which brought $69,000. A Martele sterling silver dolphin-handled presentation loving cup followed, realizing $37,375.

“I knew the vase was going to do well,” said Carlsen. “Early on I had a colleague do some research and thought it might bring $20,000 or so.” Offering it unreserved with a modest presale estimate paid off. “Great material brings great results,’ said Carlsen.

Starting at $5,000, the vase with its Art Nouveau influence, terrific size and floriform motif with large poppy blossoms soon became contested by two major determined collectors, pushing it to its final price.

Equally exquisite was the Martele sterling silver dolphin-handled loving cup. “Everything was so beautifully packed,” recalled Carlsen about his visit to the New Hampshire house where the silver was stored, “each piece had been wrapped in paper that didn’t allow it to tarnish.”

The trophy had been presented to Robert Gallaudet Ervin, a railway official and lawyer who was president of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company. The company served the Southeastern part of the United States from 1900 to 1967 when it merged with predecessors of CSX. The presentation date on the piece was May 12, 1902, obviously a special ordered item, according to Carlsen, with “wonderful” dolphin handles and a gold wash interior. He said the same two major collectors tangled on the cup, which started at $2,000, with the same collector that snared the vase claiming victory. Even happier, no doubt, was the consigner — and Carlsen himself, who had thought the cup might fetch $10,000.

A magnificent sterling silver figural centerpiece by Kriter & Biddle of Philadelphia of .925 silver and depicting a goddess in diaphanous gown holding scales also performed well, realizing $21,240. “And period silver did well, too,” added Carlsen, noting a mid-Eighteenth Century pair of candlesticks by Ebenezer Coker, 1767, bringing $8,260 and an A. DuBois, Eighteenth Century Philadelphia coin silver coffee pot finishing at $7,965.

Also found in the New Hampshire home was a cloisonne covered jar with four-character mark, 37/8 inches tall that belied its diminutive size by bringing a big price to the tune of $12,980.

Fine art crossing the block was led by another gem found in the New Hampshire home, this one quite a bit less pristine than the prized silver. “I found the Egyptian landscape [by Elihu Vedder] in the basement of the house,” recalled Carlsen. “It is a terrific picture, but was very dirty. Very deserving, though, of the results.” Fetching $7,188, the oil on canvas, signed lower right, 1891, will no doubt be cleaned up for its next debut, as it was purchased by the trade present in the gallery.

Another fine art highlight was an early Nineteenth Century portrait of Robert James Hay Cunningham (1815–1842). Dated 1817 and signed indistinctly (perhaps J. Ainslie) verso, the 35-by-27-inch portrait depicted the childhood version the man who would grow up to be one of the earliest geologists to work and map in Scotland, his mischievous left hand hiding a cookie from his pet dog, his right hand holding out a posy. The lot sold for $2,950.

An estate in Woodstock, N.Y., provided much of the jewelry crossing the block, with an 18K gold necklace marked “Made in Italy” bringing $6,490 and a diamond solitaire ring eliciting $5,605.

Furniture remains “bargain” territory at auction. Well, clarified Carlsen, “sometimes a bargain. If someone sees something they want, it will fly. The rest…” An example was a Dunlop school highboy with tiger maple drawer fronts that coasted to $4,720, considerably less than it would have commanded in years past. Had you been there, you could also have picked up a Baltimore drop leaf table that could seat six, all original, for $472 or a mid-Nineteenth Century tilt top candlestand for $83.

Some other highlights of the sale included a Whiting sterling silver oyster pitcher that was bid to $5,310; a Kazak antique carpet, 9 feet 6 inches by 6 feet, that took $1,652; and a pair of New York City Federal chairs with saber legs that sold for $4,425.

Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.

Carlsen Gallery’s next sale is the firm’s annual Americana-oriented estate sale, slated for November, date to be announced.

For additional information, or 518-634-2466.

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