OCTOBER 21, 2021–With an eye for fine materials and a sharp sense of humor, Jerry and Deena Kaplan formed an important collection of contemporary American art and craft. Passionate, focused, and philanthropic collectors, they have donated works of art and given funds in support of their interests to such institutions as The Carnegie Musem of Art, The Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Yale University, and The Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Their extensive collection contains some of the greatest artists working in glass, ceramics, wood, textiles, and weaving. It embodies the whimsical, surreal, and serious. Included objects are Dan Owen Dailey’s Upside Down Man (Estimate: $25,000 – $35,000), William Morris’ Rhyton Vessel (Estimate: $20,000 – $30,000, Donald Keith Sultan’s Green Lilies, White Lilies, Yellow Lilies, Pink Lilies (Estimate: $15,000 – $25,000) and Jun Kaneko’s Dango (Estimate: $15,000 – $25,000).
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SEPTEMBER 30, 2021–Known widely as one of the most prominent figures in the history of contemporary American wood turning, Rude Osolnik (1915-2001) led an accomplished career as an artist and teacher. In over sixty years in the field, Rude produced over 100,000 pieces – each the unique product of a lifetime spent developing his craft. Now, twenty years after his passing, Rude’s children have decided to bring a collection of his work to market. Brunk Auctions is pleased to offer a selection of Rude Osolnik’s turned bowls, platters, candlesticks, and more in our Modern & Design Auction this November 11th, 2021.
Rude was born in Dawson, New Mexico in 1915, and grew up in Johnston City, Illinois, where he gained his first experiences with wood turning throughout high school and college. Following his graduation with a B.F.A. from Bradley University in 1937, he accepted an offer to work at Berea College in Kentucky, where he taught for the school’s Industrial Arts Department for over forty years. He continued to produce his own work in addition to teaching, and with the help of his wife, Daphne, created a thriving business from his home in Berea. He attended and organized craft fairs, taught numerous workshops, and went on to become a key member in several craft organizations – most notably, the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild (for which he served on the board of directors multiple times), the Kentucky Guild of Artisans and Craftsmen, and the American Craft Council.
Rude worked with a wide variety of wood types from an equally wide range of sources, often creating works from discarded log spurs and fencepost tops. His resulting body of work is robust, exemplifying not only the artist’s technical skill, but his knowledge of and eye for design. In his own words, Rude actively worked towards “achieving a pure, simple, unadorned style containing a sense of proportion and a perfect balance between material, purpose, and contour.” His work has been exhibited in numerous galleries and shows across the country, and resides in the permanent collections of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, the J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, the Museum of Sciences and Industry, Chicago, and other institutions.
Brunk Auctions will offer a grouping of nearly fifty lots containing works by Rude Osolnik, as well as works by several other notable wood turners, including Dale Nish, David Ellsworth, Frank Sudol, and others. The Modern & Design Auction begins November 11, 2021 at 9:00 AM. A second grouping of Rude’s work will be offered in a future sale in the spring of 2022.
SEPTEMBER 16, 2021–The Walker family served the United States Army and Military for over eight decades. Both father and son achieved the rank of Four Star General; the only time this has happened in United States history. Walton H. Walker first saw action in World War I, and served as a battalion commander with the 15 th
Infantry Regiment from 1930-1933 at the American barracks in Tietsin, China. It was at this point that
he and his wife, Caroline, became avid collectors of Asian art, porcelains, furniture and textiles. The
diverse collection encompasses Chinese, Japanese and Korean objects from years spent living abroad in
service to the United States Military. Of note is a finely enameled famille rose and yellow ground vase
with a Jiaqing reign mark, along with its original fitted cloth case. The collection will be sold in two
sections, during our September 23 rd Asian Art sale and our January 2022 Asian Art sale.
After an illustrious career in World War II in the European theater, Walton Walker was given command
of the 8 th Army in Japan in 1948. His son, Sam Walker and his wife, Charlotte, also served in Japan in the
post war years. In 1950, both men served in Korea. Walton Walker is considered a pivotal figure in the
defense and maintenance of the Republic of Korea, a distinction he achieved by leading his forces to
successfully defend the southern end of the peninsula and its vital port of Pusan. Sam Walker earned the
Silver Star and held the post of Secretary of the General Staff of the United Nations/US Forces of Korea.
Among the collection are fine examples of Japanese and Korean art and furniture.
Brunk Auctions is honored to represent the collection of the Walker family, which has been in private
hands for decades.
SEPTEMBER 16, 2021–During the 1970s and 80s, Ray Olivier became passionate about researching, investigating, and acquiring Chinese earthenware and porcelains. Ray and his wife, Joyce, would travel far and wide to hunt down treasures and fill any gap in his collection. Upon Ray’s passing the Chinese Art collection was sold in its entirety to a new owner. After having been the steward of the collection for many years, the new
owner has decided to bring this group to market. Ray collected all types of Chinese porcelain, including Tang dynasty pots and figures, Song ceramics, Hare’s fur, monochrome glazes of greens, blues and reds, Peach Bloom, Sang de Bouef, and crackle glazed wares from the Ming and Qing dynasties. A finely enameled lotus blossom cup with a reign mark is a special object and of fine quality. It is not often such a group is offered to the public in its entirety. The examples are a testament to Ray and his breadth of knowledge and understanding of Chinese ceramics. A very well-rounded collection, Brunk Auctions is pleased to bring this group to the market just as Ray had envisioned it.
Historic preservation was a central part of the lives of Joan and James Loeb, and the collecting of fine American antiques was a natural extension of that passion. Among their many accomplishments in support of preservation and the arts, in 1967 they helped establish Landmarks Foundation of Montgomery in their Alabama hometown, an organization that now includes 50 historic properties.
They variously served on numerous boards, including the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. And, together they sought out and collected fine American antiques to furnish their Montgomery home, patronizing the best dealers of the time including Israel Sack, Bernard & S. Dean Levy, C.L. Prickett, and others.
Some things are hard to square about Joel E. Finn. He loved speed, but collected with infinite patience. Solitary by nature, he was inseparable from his wife and soulmate, Ann Y. Smith. A visionary who excelled in the technology sector, Finn was as canny about the future as he was fascinated by the past.
Finn’s habit of looking at things from the inside out, of understanding beauty as an expression of design, construction and inner belief, calls to mind another former resident of Connecticut’s northwest hills, sculptor Alexander Calder (1898-1976). Art critic Holland Carter recently characterized Calder’s genius as “a marriage of poetry and physics,” something that could be said of Finn’s instinctive approach, as well. Finn worked with purpose and industry to assemble several notable collections. His initial love was the dominant cultural icon of the twentieth century, the automobile. He acquired his first car when he was ten and later distinguished himself as a driver, competing in the United States and Europe, and as a historian of vintage race cars and racing. Portions of his formidable holdings of automotive memorabilia will be preserved in the Revs Institute at the Collier Museum in Florida. Finn’s early work for IBM brought him from upstate New York to suburban Connecticut. After moving to rural Litchfield County in the 1980s, he began assembling parcels of land, much of it now conserved by the Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust. Acquiring land was another way of understanding beauty from the inside out, of experiencing landscape by placing himself in it, by shaping its contours and knowing intimately its ridges and declivities, its movement and solitude. If the landscape paintings Finn and Smith lived with seem to echo the views from their hillside perch, it was because Finn designed the house, collection and contoured setting as a synergistic whole.
Finn’s desire to furnish with locally-made pieces prompted him to seek case furniture by eighteenth-century craftsmen from the then largely agrarian communities of Woodbury, Southbury and Newtown, Connecticut. A less resourceful collector might have abandoned his search for these scarce, quirky, little understood specimens. Finn’s hunt instead led him to Waterbury’s Mattatuck Museum, and to its curator at the time, Ann Smith. As she later recalled, “He liked to tell people we were introduced by someone who had been dead for 200 years: the maker of the furniture he collected from Litchfield County. He was fascinated with trees and lumber and the local pull of the places he lived. He was a brilliant man with wide-ranging interests.” On her first visit, she climbed a ladder to the door of the still unfinished house, passing from one life into another. Their interests were soon intertwined. Collector and curator, impulse and insight, their fascination with Connecticut furniture leading to exhibitions, accompanied by catalogues, at the Mattatuck Museum and Litchfield Historical Society.
The couple’s deeply knowledgeable approach to collecting nineteenth century New England landscape paintings originated with Smith’s training at the University of Michigan, where she studied with David Carew Huntington (1922-1990), the Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) scholar credited with helping save the painter’s home, Olana, in the 1960s. Hudson River School paintings appealed to Finn, always drawn, as his wife recalls, to the great sweep of unpopulated landscapes. Working in tandem, the couple acquired “View from Narragansett” by John Kensett (1816- 1872) around the time Smith produced Images of Contentment: John Frederick Kensett and The Connecticut Shore, a catalogue and exhibition at the Mattatuck Museum in 2001. Meticulous in their approach, they drove to New York’s Catskill Mountains to study Kaaterskill Clove, a touchstone for nineteenth-century artists, and the subject of one of two paintings by Sanford Gifford (1823-1880) in Smith and Finn’s collection. Also in their collection, “Sunset” by William Sonntag (1822-1900) and “The Grey Month” by Bruce Crane (1857-1937) are superlative examples by much praised artists, the latter associated with the art colony at Old Lyme. Closer to home are Litchfield County views by John Casilear (1811-1893) and Edward Nichols (1819-1871). The couple’s gathering of paintings by Alexander Theobald Van Laer (1857-1920), whose house still stands on West Street in Litchfield, is unsurpassed. Finn’s fascination with the little-known Van Laer, whose sketchbooks he pursued and ultimately acquired, ran parallel to his love for the sometimes-overlooked furniture of northwestern Connecticut. Undeterred by the furniture’s scarcity, the obscurity of its makers or the complexity of its stylistic origins, Finn was instead challenged to know more. Collecting casepiece furniture seriatim is no longer common in an era more characterized by its eclectic, if not random, approach to objects. But in Joel Finn and Ann Smith’s perfectly designed living room, one welcomes as stately physical presences the chests-on-chests and high chests of drawers that circle the space. Even as they did for Finn and Smith, these august relics prompt lively conversation in a setting of thoughtful repose.
Laura Beach, Antiques and The Arts Weekly
Special thanks to Jeffrey Tillou Antiques, Litchfield, Connecticut and Laura Beach, Antiques & The Arts Weekly.
Published: June 17, 2021
By: Jori Finkel
The speckled brown storage jar looks humble, even homely, from a distance — something you might find on a back porch in the South. Come closer and you see the wild runs of alkaline glaze up and down the surface, and some revealing marks by the artist known as Dave the Potter or David Drake, who made powerful stoneware pottery in the Edgefield District of South Carolina while enslaved by different owners.
At the bottom of the pot are three marks that look like fingerprints, where someone — possibly Drake — dipped the pot into glaze. Across the shoulder runs one word that Drake inscribed, with a sharpened stick or similar tool: “catination,” a variant of catenation, the state of being yoked or chained. Just as notable, experts say, is that the jar is dated “12 April 1836,” two years after South Carolina passed an especially punitive anti-literacy law designed to prevent slaves from writing, making this single word an extraordinary act of resistance or defiance by Drake.
It’s not quite 15 inches tall, but this jar points to the artistic achievements of enslaved African Americans and the persistent erasure of their work from America’s cultural institutions for nearly 300 years.
So when the jar went up for sale in November at Brunk Auctions in Asheville, N.C., art museums across the country paid attention. The estimate was $40,000 to $60,000. But competing museums pushed the price to $369,000 with the buyer’s premium, setting a world auction record for David Drake’s work and capping off a year of major institutional purchases of his distinctive pottery.
In 2020, buyers included the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as the more historically oriented International African American Museum, currently under construction in Charleston, S.C. At a time when museum leaders are both highly motivated and heavily pressured to rethink the racial biases built into their collections, acquiring and showcasing the extraordinary work of Drake offers a dramatic way to do so, while also offering a window onto the history of slavery.
Timothy Burgard, curator in charge of American art at the Fine Arts Museums, who placed the winning bid on the “catination” jar, called these acquisitions a “turning point” in the stories that American art museums tell about slavery. He plans to install the jar prominently in a Civil War-era gallery at the de Young Museum by July 1, “symbolically centering the issue of the slavery system, which historically has been minimalized and marginalized by museums.”
According to the auctioneer Andrew Brunk, “There’s no question institutions are driving this market at the moment.” He described the demand for jars bearing writing by Drake — ranging from one word to short but expressive poems — as especially strong.
These inscriptions help to tell the story of David Drake when much biographical information is missing. Judging from census records, Drake was likely born in 1801 and died in the 1870s. Auction records show that he had several enslavers in the Edgefield area, and that he was used at least once as collateral for a loan. A voting register indicates that he adopted the name Drake after emancipation, taking the surname of his first owner. But his biography still has major gaps. It’s not clear who trained him on the potter’s wheel. (He also made pots by hand using the coil technique.) And there is no consensus about how he learned to read and write.
What is known is that he made many stoneware pots for sale, some as large as 40 gallons, that demonstrated his physical strength and virtuosity with clay and signed his name, “Dave,” on more than 100. He wrote verses or sayings on at least 40 that have survived.
Together these poem-jars, as they’re known, serve as a sort of diary, offering a different voice than the slave narratives that dominate Black literature from this period. Some, like the jar recently acquired by the Met, or the one owned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1997, describe the function of the pots or boast about the amount of beef or pork they could hold. Others share religious messages or witticisms. One poem from 1857 says: “I made this Jar for Cash —/though its called — lucre trash.” Another, dated 1854, says: “Lm says this handle/will crack.” Scholars have established that the initials refer to one of his owners, Lewis Miles, who ran the Stony Bluff Manufactory, making pottery using slave labor. And in the maker’s ultimate rebuke, the handle remains intact today.
Other verses can be read against the political upheavals of the time. “I, made this Jar, all of cross/If, you dont repent, you will be lost” was dated May 3, 1862, about one year into the Civil War.
The most heart-wrenching inscription begins, “I wonder where is all my relation.” The jar, at the Greenville County Museum of Art in South Carolina, is dated Aug. 16, 1857, several years after an enslaved woman from his household named Lydia and her two sons were sent away to Louisiana, according to Leonard Todd’s 2008 book “Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter Dave.” It is not known whether Lydia was his wife.
While praised for its original research, Todd’s book has also been criticized for frequent speculation that casts Drake’s enslavers — some of whom were Todd’s ancestors — in a favorable light. For example, Todd related a story, passed down for generations but debated by experts, that Drake lost a leg after falling asleep on the train tracks one night because he drank too much.
Jason Young, an associate professor of history at the University of Michigan who specializes in African American religion and culture, finds this account unreliable. “What we do know about slavery and disability is that there were large numbers of enslaved Africans who found themselves disabled either through dangerous work regimes they were living under or because it was a popular form of punishment to take a foot or leg in response to some infraction,” Young said in an interview.
He has teamed up with Adrienne Spinozzi, an assistant research curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and Ethan Lasser, head of Art of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, to organize a traveling show on the legacy of African American potters from Edgefield that will feature about a dozen jars by Drake and open at the Met in September 2022. While smaller museums in the South, among them the Charleston Museum and the Greenville County Museum of Art, have long owned Drake’s pottery, the upcoming show will be the first of its kind in New York and Boston.
Lasser first got to know Drake’s work when he organized “To Speculate Darkly,” a 2010 show at the Milwaukee Museum of Art by the Chicago artist Theaster Gates, inspired by Drake’s pottery. Frustrated by Todd’s sometimes-cheery narratives, Gates sought to “amplify” Drake’s work, as the artist put it, through his own pots and music, including a hymnal Gates composed for a gospel choir. (One of Gates’s works had the decidedly un-sunny saying: “Bitch, I Made this Pot.”)
Another aim of the exhibition is to understand how the use of slave labor supported the brisk, high-volume business of 19th-century ceramic manufactories in the Edgefield area, which is celebrated for its rich red and white clays and its glossy, alkaline glazes. In 2011, archaeologists excavated a partially buried kiln there, in a site known as Pottersville. They had expected the kiln to be around 25 feet long. It turned out to be 105 feet.
“The discovery of a kiln at that scale has led us to rethink our understanding of Edgefield pottery,” Spinozzi, the Met curator, said. “It wasn’t some small operation in someone’s back yard but a massive undertaking, involving many people.” Scholars see it as a relatively rare example in the United States of “industrial slavery,” which took place in industries like mining or manufacturing domestic goods for consumption, compared with the more familiar agricultural model associated with cotton and tobacco plantations.
Spinozzi and her colleagues are currently researching Drake’s contemporaries, including an enslaved potter named Harry who also signed his name to jars. (The auction house Crocker Farm sold a circa 1840 jar signed by “Harry” in April for $120,000 to a private collector.)
This biographical erasure is one of the biggest challenges facing museums that seek to exhibit work by enslaved artists. Another is a longstanding art-world disdain for everyday functional objects.
Dr. Tonya Matthews, chief executive of the International African American museum, said her museum plans to show Drake’s work alongside objects such as sweetgrass baskets in an effort to help “dismantle this long-entrenched myth about enslaved people not having skill sets.”
Burgard, the San Francisco curator, said that Drake’s jars also make a strong case for fine art museums to recognize the importance of functional and utilitarian objects.
“If you don’t pay attention to these objects, you are never going to adequately embrace the history of women artists, artists of color or enslaved artists, because you have to look at what they were ‘allowed’ to make,” he said. “You have to look at pots, you have to look at quilts, you have to look at the beautiful ironwork on balconies in New Orleans.
Where to see important stoneware pottery made by David Drake
Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gallery 237.
Charleston The Charleston Museum, in the museum’s First Hall.
Chicago Art Institute of Chicago, to be installed this winter.
Greenville, S.C. Greenville County Museum of Art, on view when it reopens this winter.
New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Wing, Gallery 762.
Philadelphia Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gallery 216.
San Francisco de Young Museum, Gallery 23, “Catination” jar on view from July 1.
St. Louis Saint Louis Museum of Art, Gallery 336
A Collection of Chinese Art from the Estate of the Late Janet N. and Clarence L. Adams, Jr., Raleigh, North Carolina
In the 1970s, Clarence L. Adams, Jr., experienced a heart attack at his home in Raleigh, NC. The medical scare required quiet and calm recovery. During that time he began reading and researching Chinese history and art, which led him into studying porcelain and the different styles produced during the dynasties. With increasing interest and curiosity, he became enthusiastic about collecting. Alongside Clarence in his journey to acquire knowledge was his wife, Janet, and together the two began their pursuit of finding antique dealers specializing in fine Chinese ceramics and porcelain.
During one of their many excursions to Washington, D.C., the couple visited the antique shop, Peking Arts, where they browsed through the abundant porcelain wares on display. The shop’s owners, Lin and Lee Kiang of Beijing (formerly known as Peking), soon became friends and mentors to the Adamses, thus expanding their acquired knowledge of Chinese history, dynasties, and the many styles of porcelain.
Throughout the decade of collecting, prior to his death, Clarence focused on further study and diversifying the collection. Janet meticulously handwrote each item’s catalog entry with detailed descriptions, notes, and purchase history, and later travelled to China where, with Lin Kiang’s letter of introduction, she was entertained by some of his family and acquired additional pieces for the collection. The couple’s combined efforts resulted in the formation of a fascinating collection of porcelain examples that represent both fine quality and rarity, from the coral-ground Jiaqing vases to the jun type conjoined double gourd vase.
After almost 40 years in private hands, Brunk Auctions is proud to introduce this collection of Chinese porcelain, which beautifully illustrates an impressive range in decoration, construction, and function of the material.
Inspired by the Dutch, the Swedish East India Company was founded in Gothenburg in 1731 for the purpose of establishing maritime trade with the East. The company successfully operated for 75 years, dispatching over 130 expeditions and supplying Swedish socialites with an abundance of teas, silks, spices, porcelains, and more. Chinese aesthetics and objets d’art became the height of luxury, and the prosperous reigns of the Qing dynasty sparked a national interest in the culture.
The country’s strong commercial links with Europe and the East allowed for new influences to be embraced, and this ethos promoted the development of art as part of the national culture. Many prominent Swedish aristocrats became patrons of Chinese art, acquiring historically and artistically significant works for their private collections. Over the years, many of the country’s art museums have benefited from this artistic focus, and now house world-famous collections of Chinese artifacts: the collections of King Gustavus II Adolphus and his daughter, Queen Kristina, now in the Far Eastern Museum in Stockholm; of Count Carl Gustav Wrangel, housed in the once private Skokloster Castle; Queen Lovisa Ulrica’s Chinese Pavilion, given to her as a birthday present in 1753, furnished with silks, lacquer ware, and porcelain; and in more recent history, the collection of King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden (1882-1973), which was exhibited at six museums in 1966 through the support of the International Exhibitions Foundation. It is with this heritage of Swedish patronage that this Private Collection from Durham, North Carolina takes shape.
In the early 1950s a young Swedish woman spent time traveling back and forth across the Atlantic—visiting and working in New York City, and returning home to Sweden. Having a keen eye toward design and form, she worked as a model and shop display designer at Bloomingdale’s in New York City. After a few years in Sweden, she and her new husband moved permanently to the United States, and the young Swedish couple started a medical practice.
Like so many of their fellow countrymen before them, they fell in love with art from the Far East– in particular, the luminescence of porcelain and exotic glaze colors. They sought advice and encouragement from a friend in their home country, who himself was an expert in Chinese art and aesthetics. They began collecting all kinds of Chinese porcelain beginning in the 1970s, purchasing from antique stores during their travels, and from auction houses—namely, Sotheby Parke Bernet in New York—evidenced by the stacks of sales catalogues and invoices in their home.
Purchasing from the best, their well-rounded collection highlights excellent examples of the material culture of porcelain, including Longquan celadon jars, hare’s fur tea bowls, blue and white from the Ming dynasty, and finely enameled porcelains from the glorious Qianlong reign.
Over the course of the following 30 years, the Swedish couple lived a private life in North Carolina, building their treasured collection of porcelain wares. With their combined love of art history, material culture, and her eye for design, the European couple amassed an extraordinary collection, spanning reigns and dynastic styles from the Tang dynasty to the Republic period, and Brunk Auctions is honored to offer this collection to the public.
Boston Schoolgirl Filigree & Wax Sconce Blows Out For $221,000 At Brunk, Antiques And The Arts Weekly
PUBLISHED: DECEMBER 8, 2020
By Greg Smith
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – More than doubling the $90,000 high estimate at Brunk Auctions’ three-day Premier Auction December 3-5 was an American Queen Anne filigree and wax sconce that sold for $221,000. The auction house wrote that it was probably made in Boston and dated to the early to mid-Eighteenth Century. The piece featured an elaborate display of wax fruit, shell flowers and cut fabric leaves inside of a scrolled paper gilt-edged urn on a textured papered ground with scattered mica or glass chips. A wood analysis revealed that the double arched painted white pine shadowbox was original though the brass candle arm was replaced.
“Some might assume these are English,” said Brunk’s decorative arts and textiles specialist Karen Swager, “but when the wood analysis test showed the case was American pine, that was a game changer.”
The work sold to an American private bidder, underbid on the phone by Philadelphia dealer Amy Finkel. It had provenance to Pennsylvania dealer Joe Kindig, who sold it into the collection of Dudley and Constance Godfrey.
Swager said, “I had never seen one before when we got it, so we started looking into some of the comps and how rare they are. We realized it might do well, but we were pleasantly surprised it did what it did. They are hard to find, it’s a strong but limited market.”
Brunk began selling the Godfrey collection in its October sale, working through Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century needleworks as well as early brass candlesticks. This example was a crossover piece, or a combination of both of those craft traditions.
Swager said, “They were pretty discerning collectors, so they had some very good things come up for sale.”
The description noted, “American filigree or quillwork sconces are rare and most of the approximately 25 documented double arch examples are currently in important institutional collections, including Colonial Williamsburg, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Winterthur Museum… Waxwork variants are even more rare and most have been attributed to schoolgirls in the Boston area during the early Eighteenth Century.”
In a 2006 issue of Antiques & Fine Art, Anne Vogel wrote that there were only eight waxworks known to exist from colonial times, only six appearing in sconce-form like the present example, half of which were in the vertical rectangular form.
Vogel wrote, “Waxworks have been dated through estate inventories as well as documented examples, and newspaper advertisements from Boston finishing schools confirm the making of waxworks as part of their curricula. The works even share enough formal and stylistic elements to suggest the same teacher or school, with most sharing allegorical themes with well-known paintings, mezzotints and needlework of the period.”
She continued, “Extraordinary skill and agility were required to carefully attach small wires to the wax figures, fruits and flowers, then anchor those forms to wooden posts, cover the posts with green tape for camouflage, and hide those construction techniques with more wax decoration. The figures themselves may have been simple in form but their assembled compositions were complex, akin to an elaborate theater set or three-dimensional puzzle.”
Swager said that this piece had been in the Godfrey’s collection for decades and was likely not included in any reference count as far as they knew.
“These young girls were likely well-to-do young women,” Swager said. “It took resources to make the cases, to buy the paper, put together the wax, and fix the candle arms that were created by silversmiths in the area.”
On the sale, the firm’s president Andrew Brunk said, “It was an esoteric thing, but obviously a combination of rarity and quality.”
For additional information, www.brunkauctions.com or 828-254-6846.