Press Release – February 1, 2019

ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA — Idyllic, Iconic, Italian, Icy: What a Rare Devotional Panel, a Long-Unseen Icon, an Italian Bertuzzi Shotgun, and the Pennsylvanian Schuylkill River Have in Common.

Etching formative lines in the historic landscape, these four items claim Brunk Auctions’ top lots in the Premier and Emporium Auction January 25-26, gathering total sales of $1,679,799.50.

A highlight from a private collection in Florida was one of three known paintings by Master H. B. of the Griffin Head to exist– Christ Blessing the Children, circa 1550. Estimated at $80,000-$120,000, this tender scene flew to an incredible $192,000 including buyer’s premium to another private collector, who intends to restore the panel. Hanging over the enthusiastic crowd in gilt is the German inscription of Matthew 19:14– “Lasset die Kindlin zu mir komen . und weret in nicht . Denn solcher ist das Reich Gottes”, or “Let the Children come to me, forbid them not, for such is the Kingdom of God.” This subject, which was rarely depicted before the 16th century, “occupied a central role in reformation iconography” according to the Lucas Cranach Digital Archive. Only two other signed and documented works by this artist are known to exist, one is held by the Episcopal Cathedral and Diocesan Museum in Mainz, Germany and the other by The Louvre, Paris, France.

“If you can call an icon painter an innovator, Angelos was exactly this,” reports Laura Crockett, Fine Arts Specialist at Brunk Auctions. Angelos Akotantos (pronounced Eng-uh-lohs) is considered to be the most important painter bridging the late Byzantine period and the beginning of the Renaissance. When the center of art shifted from Constantinople to Crete amidst sieges and war, Angelos was perfectly positioned for his art to expand into Europe. He became extremely significant as a painter, setting standards of iconography that would be followed in subsequent centuries. So revered was his painting that Domenikos Theotokopoulus, better known as El Greco (1541-1614), was one of many artists to be influenced by his paintings. Until now, only twenty-two icons were known to have been signed by the artist. This rare piece Anastasis (Descent into Hell) was reviewed by scholar Maria Vassilaki, who confirms that this is a “completely unknown Angelos icon”– until now. Selling for $144,000 (with an estimate of $10,000-$15,000), this important piece of early art illuminates the immense hand, concentration, and parameters of the bridging of two eras.

“Ingenuity. Investment Beyond Currency. Elegant.” With an estimate of $75,000 – $125,000, the Fine and Rare Flli. Bertuzzi Gullwing Shotgun was sealed and delivered to a regional buyer for $96,000.  All existing F.Llli. Bertuzzi shotguns are of remarkable technicality and stunning detail. This is in part due to the tight intergenerational lineage of brothers Elio and Remigio following in the footsteps of their mastercraftsmen father and grandfather. In addition to family tradition, this workshop was small– just two brothers– which allowed for exquisite quality and control over each shotgun. This piece is a stunning example of engraving by Giancarlo and Stefano Pedretti, with semi-relief engraving of game bird scenes and a retriever on underside.   

Philadelphia was a center of skating in the mid-nineteenth century, drawing much artistic attention. William H. Willcox (American, 1831-1929) captured Skating on the Schuylkill in a most attractive, frigid moment in 1875. Totaling a grand $66,000, this painting crossed a line for Willcox, becoming his highest grossing piece ever at auction. a fine selection of skating posters also from the Dick Button collection drew in $46,200, many of which commemorate the visual revolution of the Belle Époque. Sublime combinations of font and color became possible with Jules Cherét’s “three stone lithographic process,” achieving every color of the rainbow by using three stones in red, yellow, and blue. Quite extraordinary considering the particular constraints and materials of the time– even reproductions today do not carry the same textural appeal as these original posters.

Other highlights to note included:

With 250 floor bidders, along with our three online bidding platforms and two banks of phone bidders equally active, the January 25th and 26th sale was memorable.  All prices listed include appropriate buyer’s premium.

Brunk Auctions’ next Premier and Emporium Auction will be March 21-23 in Asheville, North Carolina and online via three platforms (BA Live!, LiveAuctioneers, BidSquare).