"A trove of finery rarely seen in one home": these were the words Stuart Holman used to introduce a three day auction he conducted in Cincinnati on March 6, 7 and 13, at the Business Club of Montgomery. It was the entire contents of a fine Cincinnati home, sixteen rooms filled with all the essentials for elegant entertaining, as well as fine decorative arts. The auction was conducted with a 10% buyer's premium.
Artwork was displayed throughout the rambling home. The long upstairs hallway was a procession of Cincinnati painters, including one of Frank Duveneck's favorite students, Dixie Selden (1871-1936). Her Dutch scene with people walking along a canal, 24 by 30in oil on canvas, topped the sale at $49,500, exceeding all known prices for this artist. Another waterfront scene, Le Port a Loguivy, Brittany, a watercolor by Cincinnati expatriate to the Paris Salon, Elizabeth Nourse (1859-1938), sold for $20,900.
There were two oils on canvas in the sale by John Hauser Jr (1859-1918). His 17 by 11in portrait of Chief Iron Tail, Sioux, sold for $22,000. And his portrait of Lord Baltimore, Indian Scout, fetched $4,400. Charles A. Meurer (1865-1955) was a painter of trompe l'oeil early in his career, and his unsigned depiction of Civil War artifacts, 18 by 30in oil on canvas, sold for $4,400. A floral still life, oil on canvas, by Elizabeth H. Alke (1877-1938) landed at $2,200. Two works by John Rettig (1860-1932) were sold: an oriental theme still life oil on canvas for $2,310; and a personalized ink drawing of a harbor in Volendam on the artist's stationary reached $1,210. Another unusual piece of Cincinnati art memorabilia was a small watercolor Christmas greeting by Paul Ashbrook (1867-1949), which brought $770. John C. Arter's (1860-1923) oil on canvas floral still life reached $1,925, and an oil on canvas floral still life by Martin G. Dumler (1868-1934) brought $2,640, an auction record for Dumler.
Holman reported a flood of pre-auction inquiries for a 32 by 38in oil on canvas depiction of two children playing in fallen leaves, signed A. Roestel. Although little is known about this 19th century European artist, the subject matter, quality of the work, outstanding frame, and an army of phone bidders drove the final price to $19,250, which is believed to be another record. Another painting that sparked heavy interest was a portrait of the young Russian Tzaravitch Alexis, son of Tzar Nicholas. This unsigned 58 by 35in oil on canvas sold for $6,050.
Along the elegant stairway in the home hung four oils on canvas by 19th century Italian painter Giuseppe Mazzolini. Each 24 by 20in canvas depicted a beautiful woman as an allegory of one of the four seasons. Their sales totaled $13,145. Another Italian painter in the auction, Giuseppe Magni (1869-1956), fetched $8,250 for his oil on canvas of a mother and children feeding pigeons.
A watercolor of two lounging Harem girls by well-listed Austrian artist, Rudolph Ernst (1854-1932), sold for $8,800. An unsigned formal portrait of two girls in fancy lace dresses, dating from the 19th century, 42 by 34in oil on canvas, was prominently displayed in the home's main foyer. It was hammered at $7,150. There were many floral still life paintings in the home, including a large tole-style oil on canvas by Dutch artist Jan van Doust (20th century) selling for $3,300.
Two oversized landscape oils on canvas filled a large office wall in the home. One, an unsigned scene of men in a rowboat surrounded by dense trees, reached $9,350. The other, a grand Yosemite Valley scene, signed T.F. Laylock and dated 1883, landed at $4,510. Another unsigned landscape, 28 by 46in oil on canvas, sold for $3,025.
Statuary added to the rich decorative touches in the home, especially an Austrian bronze figural centerpiece aquarium, signed by T.H. Ullman. Two bathing maidens standing opposite a large swan with outspread wings sat atop a thick marble base with 5in high glass walls. A later custom-made fancy wooden base with dolphin legs converted the aquarium into a free-standing piece that drew widespread interest and a final bid of $12,100.
A green marble fernery box with fancy brass skirt and feet, 22 by 15in, sold for $6,325. A rare monstrance, with hand painted medallions, rhinestones and beveled glass center, 30in high, sold for $5,225. Two 28in Louis XV style alabaster lidded urns with mountings of mountain goats, scrolls and blossoms, were hammered at $4,950. Two hand-painted parian busts of French lasses, incised Le Maire, 20in, achieved $3,960 for the pair. A marble, onyx and travertine bust of an elegant lady, 23in high, sitting atop a tall marble column, sold for $4,290. Among the many marble ewers, urns and center bowls, the favorite was a pair of ewers with brass mounted angel handles, selling for $3,850. A carved limestone bust of a man, 24in, incised J. Engel 1838, sold for $2,145.
The highlight of the home's small Rookwood collection sold for $7,700: an uncrazed 12in scenic vellum vase from 1926 by E.T. Hurley. Two pairs of bookends brought $825 per set: Egyptians (#2510) in ocher matt glaze, and floral bouquets (#6001) in polychrome matt. A standard glaze loving cup, decorated with cherries in 1901 by Elizabeth Lincoln, sold for $770.
Holman struck a deep vein of silver in the home's dining room and foyer closet, resulting in over a hundred lots of fine sterling. There was a five piece sterling tea service by Tiffany & Co. with relief processions of Romans on foot, horseback and driving chariots, vine and leaf detailing, and plumed helmet finials. This outstanding Tiffany example brought $8,250.
Sterling flatware services found in the home included 151 pieces of Reed & Barton Francis I, selling for $4,675; 31 pieces of Tiffany & Co. Hampton, $2,640; and 125 pieces of Stieff Williamsburg Restoration, $1,870. A nine-piece sterling repoussé dresser set with Northern Plains Indian Chief faces sold for $4,675. A Tiffany sterling four-light center bowl with a strong Arts & Crafts look brought $1,650. In an offering of Loring Andrews sterling repoussé Castle Scene Motif, a footed urn, 8in high, brought $2,200; and a pair of footed vases, 7in, sold for $2,090. A sterling repoussé water pitcher, 9in, by S. Kirk & Sons sold for $1,155. Sterling drinking vessels by Gorham sold for $1,045 per set for 12 barrel-form tumblers and 12 stemmed water cups.
An elegant nickel silver swan form centerpiece, with cut crystal ovoid bowl and mirrored base, reached $2,090. A four-piece peacock-form silver plate serving set sold for $1,760. There were also many large and ornate silver plate serving pieces: a complete Lazy Susan banquet server, 22in in diameter, totaled $1,540; and an oversized covered tureen sold for $1,320.
Large hand painted porcelain was another reason for the auction's success. An outstanding Nippon footed and bolted vase with a scene of Venetian boats, standing 24in high, sold to a phone bidder for $9,350. An ormolu mounted 19th century porcelain urn lamp, 24in high, brought $6,600. Despite damage to the cobalt neck, a three piece lidded urn painted with women, putti and lake, 38in high, reached $5,500. An unusual Dresden nodder, with moving hands and tongue, made $2,310.
A mirror top plateau table was the surprise of Day Two. With an ornate gallery around its rounded ends and straight sides, this highly sought after example caught the attention of bidders to the tune of $11,000. Showcasing many pieces of porcelain in the home was a tall and fully inlaid French-style flame grained étagère; it sold for $4,565. A five-piece French style bedroom set with unusual beveled glass headboards and intricate brass trimming in vine and leaf pattern brought $4,125. A mid 19th century English flamed mahogany chest on chest brought $3,355. A pair of heavily carved "King's" chairs went for $3,080. A fully ormolu mounted Louis XV style mirror, with figural corners, landed at $2,420. And an outstanding ornate draped fireplace fender sold for $1,430.
An item with strong decorative appeal was a three-piece, Art Deco style mantle set with Egyptian motifs: central bust of Isis, with a pair of three-light candle stands with goddess figures. Spirited bidding on the set ended at $7,150. A high bid of $4,950 brought home a Le Verre Francais cameo cut lamp. Two alabaster urn lamps, with full relief putti supporting lidded globes, brought $2,640 and $2,420. An oversized Sumida Gawa crescent form table lamp, 18in high, fetched $2,640.
In glass, a monumental Dresden style hand painted vase, 20in high with wide mouth and foot, created lively bidding ending at $4,400. Topping the enormous offering of fine stemware, 12 Moser etched and colored cameo stems sold for $1,155. The home also boasted a large collection of cut crystal: a pair of vases brought $1,760, a large two-piece compote landed at $1,320, and two-piece punchbowl with nine cups reached $1,210.
Two bar boxes sold: a brass embossed example with shakers and tumblers reached $2,200; a lacquered box with brass and mother of pearl boullé inlay, with cut crystal cordials, sold for $1,870. A green marble cylinder-form hinged cigarette box with rooster finial and intricate silver interior, probably the work of an ex-Faberge worker after the Russian Revolution, sold for $1,100. The Bobb'n Beatles, 1964 car mascot nodders in their original box, sold to a happy buyer for $742.50.
Prices throughout the three-day offering were very strong from start to finish. Buyers attended from eight states and many attended all three days. "It was an auction of high quality, superb condition and good taste," Holman said. "It was an auction we will always remember."