Auctions | January 24, 2018

Broadside Printing of the Declaration of Independence Leads Sotheby's $13.9-Million Americana Week Auctions

New York, NY — After five days and eight sessions, Sotheby’s annual Americana Week sales concluded on Sunday with a total of $13.9 million and nearly 1,000 lots sold across two auctions. The week kicked off with the sale of Important Printed and Manuscript Americana, including Cartography, which was led by The Declaration of Independence printed by E. Russell that sold for $1.2 million. The Important Americana sale achieved $9.6 million and saw strong results across a diverse group of works, including American furniture, silver, and ceramics. 

Erik Gronning, Head of Sotheby’s Americana Department, remarked: “We are very pleased with the results from last week’s auctions, which demonstrated wonderful depth across a number of categories, with a particular emphasis on Pilgrim century, William & Mary and Classical furniture. In addition, we saw a strong appetite among collectors for exceptional objects emerging from distinguished private collections, as illustrated by results for the collection of Patricia M. Sax, the estates of Price and Isobel H. Glover and property from the Dudley and Constance Godfrey Foundation.” 

The sale of Fine Printed and Manuscript Americana, Including Cartography on 17 January was led by a magnificent printing of The Declaration of Independence by E. Russell which sold for $1.2 million. Beautifully preserved and appearing at auction for the first time, this broadside is the authorized printing for Massachusetts - a colony central to America’s struggle for independence from Great Britain. Of the Ezekiel Russell broadside copies, three are in private collections while others are in institutions including the Boston Public Library, Harvard Library, Peabody Essex Museum and American Antiquarian Society. 

An Important Federal Highly Inlaid Cherrywood and Mahogany Tall Case Clock, by Nathan Lumbard circa 1800, topped the Important Americana sale when it sold for $471,000 to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Emerging from the collection of Anne H. and Frederick Vogel III, the tall-case clock is an icon of rural New England craftsmanship in the Federal style and is the most extravagant of a group of clocks attributed to Lumbard - a cabinetmaker working in the Sturbridge and Sutton areas of Massachusetts. Lumbard's distinctive and unique inlay reveals his great skill and creative craftsmanship. The wild and whimsical decorative motifs include an anthropomorphized sun, swirling oval paterae with alternating dark and light rays, an eagle surmounted by an arch of stars (perhaps alluding to the recently adopted Great Seal of the United States), and a double-headed eagle clutching a shield on the base. Thanks to strong donor support, this masterpiece will be the first example of Lumbard's work to enter the MFA collection. 

One of the earliest and most important Wainscot chairs ever to appear at auction highlighted an exceptional group of pilgrim era furniture, selling for $375,000. The Important Mansfield-Merriam Family Wainscot Armchair circa 1640-1660 was likely owned by one of the first settlers of New Haven, Connecticut, Richard Mansfield, and has since descended through his family and the Merriam family of Meriden for over 365 years. Twenty-one other extant Wainscot chairs are included in public collections, but only two remain in private collections. The last time a chair of similar quality appeared at auction was in 1995, and it has remained the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art ever since. 

An American silver and copper "Indian" punch bowl and ladle created circa 1900-15 and attributed to metal molder and finisher Joseph Heinrich led the sale’s silver offerings when it fetched $312,500 -far surpassing its pre-sale high estimate of $175,000. Heinrich’s punch bowls featuring Indian heads and arrowheads are some of the best examples of the uniquely-American aesthetic that became popular during the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial. Many industries during this time produced objects that celebrated North American flora and fauna, as well as Native American imagery which lasted through the early 20th century. 

The exceptional ceramics on offer were led by Two Rare Chinese Export Figures of a Horse, each of which achieved $150,000 (estimates $20/30,000, respectively). Exhibiting a major genre in Chinese art, the present examples of horse portraiture adhere closely to the style of Giuseppe Castiglione (Lang Shi Ning) - an Italian Jesuit missionary who travelled to China in 1715 and later became the most well-known and prolific of European painters working at the Qing court. Known for his ability to combine European techniques and Chinese themes, Castiglione’s works have had a clear influence on the present figures. Likely included in a small group of works, the present two figures are among five extant examples. Of the other three works, one can be found in a private American collection and the other two are in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.