Asheville, NC –
We have all heard that art and antiques can “talk” – that they speak to us about the craftsman who made them and the place they were made, and that they give us clues about the people who owned them and how they were used. For centuries, art historians have been weaving lovely stories about the makers and users of fine and beautiful objects.
Andrew Brunk, formerly of Christie’s, has admittedly been on the lookout for a Shearer piece for twenty-five years. In a romantic series of events, he finally found this particular desk from a local consignor; a friend and neighbor of his. (On a side note, he found a Shearer side table in South Carolina just weeks later, and it will be offered in Brunk’s next auction in January)
This previously undiscovered 1808 piece was not without secrets. Concealed inside the construction of this fall-front desk is a note that was pasted in by its maker, John Shearer, over 200 years ago. To read it one needs to take the back boards off, open the tambour slides in the front “just so” and use a special scanning camera that can take images in a narrow space. It’s all sounds like a network crime series. Even the world of antiques can be high-tech.
The note reads: “I made this desk for an Honest Dutchman of the name of Philip Stover in Frederick County Maryland Close by the River in the year 1808–the same year that I made John Mitchell’s desk close by Late’s? Mill? in the same County, but a biger Rascle as well as fool Is not to be found in this county than this John Mitchell. The running doors that is in this desk was made for this very Rascle’s Desk Jno. Mitchell My Name is John Shearer joiner from Edinborough North Britan Not forgetting a Sarha Skags the Bigest Whor in this county lived there at that time”
Oh dear, not very charitable Mr. Shearer. Your client must have done something that made you very mad!
John Shearer was a cabinet maker who worked in Virginia and Maryland at the turn of the 19th century, but very little is known about his life. His body of work is documented in a recent book by Elizabeth A. Davison, “The Furniture of John Shearer.” On a number of occasions, John Shearer pasted secret notes into his furniture and he was known to sign date and inscribe his work in multiple locations.
It can be traced back to the family of Charles H. Folwell of Mount Holly, NJ in the 1930’s. It may have descended from the original owner (Philip Stuber) through the Neill family family of Hagerstown, MD.
This fantastic example of Early Southern furniture is proof that there is still intrigue in the antiques market. The desk sold for $354,000 to a buyer who wishes to remain anonymous until the transaction is completed. It was the top lot in the three-day sale.
Bidders flew in from all over the US and participated from over 65 countries online during Brunk’s first Friday night jewelry sale. Just in time for the holiday season, bidders fought over hundreds of lots of jewelry including modern and vintage works by makers including Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, and others. The highest of the group was a lovely Aquamarine and Diamond Necklace, which ended up selling for $54,280.
A number of marvelous Russian icons drew considerable interest during the sale as well. The most notable of the group was a depiction of Christ Pantocrator with Sotheby’s provenance which brought $42,480.
Art Glass again proved sound at a Brunk Auctions sale. Tiffany, Daum Nancy, Gallé, and Lalique pieces excited bidders and often brought prices above estimates. Though it’s hard to choose a winner from such a fine selection of works, one of the most fantastic was a Daum Nancy acid-etched and hammered vase, which sold for $11,210.
Brunk experts have again demonstrated their keen eye for spotting quality Asian ephemera. Competitive bidding on Asian items led to soaring prices, once to the point where a buyer in the room jokingly yelled “Sold” in hopes that he could coax the auctioneer in to hammering down at a lower price. Starting the Sunday session out with a bang, Ding Ware and other porcelain, jade, panels, and other ephemera all brought outstanding prices.
The sale of maritime and sporting art was also a high point in the sale. Perhaps the “pick of the litter” was a Percival Rousseau depiction of four hunting dogs in a stream, which totaled $51,920.
Yet another notable work of art in the sale was a sculpture by Deborah Butterfield. It sold for $87,320.
This was Brunk’s last sale of the year. It totaled $4,361,221, and is their second highest sale total to date. The next sale at Brunk Auctions will take place on the weekend of January 18th.