FAIRFIELD, MAINE — James D. Julia Auctioneers’ first sale of the year February 4–7 was deemed a success. The auction was the firm’s largest winter antiques auction to date — both in volume and value — with a final tally of more than $4.7 million.
Comprising more than 1,300 lots of Asian antiques, 1,100-plus lots of early American and Victorian furniture, antiques and accessories, roughly 600 paintings, bronzes and other artworks, the sale also featured significant historical items, commanding attention of museums and private collectors.
One of the key finds was an archive of Civil War-era letters, medals and other military effects of Captain Luis F. Emilio of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. An authority on the subject. John Sexton referred to the find as “among the greatest letter groupings of the Civil War ever to come to market.” Bidders agreed and this cache was sold in two separate lots to attain $207,375.
Continuing to perform admirably here was Asian art and antiques, with more than 1,300 lots in the sale. Cloisonné standouts included a massive pair of Nineteenth Century censers. Having detailed decoration of lotus leaves, the censers saw a spirited bidding battle beyond the $6,5/7,500 estimate. The winner was a floor bidder who beat out several phone bidders to the tune of $248,850 amid applause and congratulations.
A large offering of painted scrolls included a hand scroll, attributed to Xu Beihong, depicting a pack of horses against a rolling landscape, sold for $154,050. A bamboo brush pot finely carved with a woman and attendant also did well at $35,550.
Figures, icons and images appealed to advanced collectors and fetched high prices, again and again. A Tibetan gilt-bronze figure depicting Amida Buddha seated in the lotus position realized $65,175 and a bronze image of Quanyin soared over its $400/600 estimate to $37,920.
American antiques included a wide variety of folk art, early furniture and accessories. Of note was an expansive array of more than 30 figural weathervanes that included some rather unusual forms not typically found. Case in point was a molded and gilded copper example depicting a centaur. Attributed to A.L. Jewell, the half man, half horse with his bow drawn was removed from a house in Illinois in the 1960s and sold to its most recent owner. Of only a handful known, the vane fetched $53,325.
Separating man from beast was a fine horse and jockey molded copper steeplechase weathervane. With a zinc head and a separately crafted rider, it sold above estimate for $20,145, while a full-bodied grasshopper with verdigris patina jumped over estimate to land at $21,870.
Defying category or peer was an important and rare Thirteenth Century gilt-copper and enameled Limoges reliquary chest from a Kentucky estate. Consisting of a footed vessel with a front hinged compartment and decorated with jeweled cabochons between enameled depictions of saintly figures, the piece saw active bidding beyond its $50/150,000 estimate to reach $183,675.
The furniture category saw numerous Gustave Stickley items from a New York home, led by an L&JG Stickley double door china cabinet, retaining original label, glass, and hand hammered copper hardware, at $11,850.
An important set of four leaded glass windows depicting an American eagle and each with patriotic messages resulted in a battle between two phone bidders far past the $3/5,000 estimate to end at $20,737. A 26½-inch hand carved North American Woodlands burled bowl saw bidders battle up to $21,330. A rare antique R.S. Prussia covered chocolate pot decorated with tigers sold above estimate for $11,257.
Leading early English silver was a fine Eighteenth Century handled pedestal bowl that took $4,858 and a Britannia silver tankard with cover that brought $5,628.
In the fine art category, buyers seemed to favor European artists such as Hedwig Mechle-Grossmann, whose oil on wood panel depicted a well dressed young Victorian era girl at playtime with her favorite doll, that realized $31,995. Fellow German artist Hugo Darnaut’s outdoor scene of a duck pond in spring did well at $23,700.
Proving Europeans did not hold the monopoly on fine artwork here, a duo of winter city scenes by American artist Guy Wiggins was well received. His storm scene of New York City’s Flatiron building sold above estimate for $22,515, while “Snowstorm Over the Plaza New York City” brought $18,960.
Modern art also made a strong showing. Among the more than 30 lots of works by the late James Rizzi, whose work has been compared to Keith Haring’s, highlights included his acrylic on canvas work, “Be My Valentine” of two lovers engaged in a kiss that took $3,199. His work of a scatter of yellow birds among flowers sold for $3,792 and his Picasso-esque “This Way, That Way” brought $3,140.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For more information, 207-453-7125 or www.jamesdjulia.com.