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Surprises at Skinner and Sales Above Year-Ago Totals

An 1863 still life of flowers by Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904) earned $281,000 at the Skinner sale of American and European works in Boston on May 19. The Heade sale capped a successful $2.1 million auction in which 85 percent of the 487 lots found buyers—surpassing last spring’s total of $1.5 million, with 83 percent

NEW YORK—An 1863 still life of flowers by Martin Johnson Heade (1819- 1904) earned $281,000 at the Skinner sale of American and European works in Boston on May 19. The Heade sale capped a successful $2.1 million auction in which 85 percent of the 487 lots found buyers—surpassing last spring’s total of $1.5 million, with 83 percent of lots sold (ANL, 6/7/05).

The painting, which came from a private New England collection and was sold to another New England collector, carried a $300,000/500,000 estimate and was featured on Skinner’s catalogue cover. However, the final price, with premium, fell short of the low estimate.

The work had been in the family of the consignor since its purchase in 1899 for about $10, Parry Headrick, a San Francisco publicist and friend of the family, told ARTnewsletter. It had hung in their Massachusetts house since then. However, within the past five years, “curiosity caused some of the family members to look at the name on the painting,” says Headrick. “They became aware of the significance of the work.”

If the Heade made the most money, a number of other lots produced considerably more than estimated by the auctioneer. For instance, a 1947 abstract oil on canvas by Robert Motherwell (1915-91), titled Blue with Crosses, fetched $127,000, far exceeding the $25,000/35,000 estimate.

“All 10 phones were going,” Robin Starr, assistant director of Skinner’s paintings department, told ARTnewsletter. Starr notes that the consignor was a Massachusetts institution and the buyer an overseas dealer. She adds that the estimate was kept on the conservative side, primarily because of the condition of the work.

Other over-estimate prices were achieved for pieces including: Fruit Steamers Riding Out a Blow by Childe Hassam (1859-1935), which had been estimated at $10,000/15,000 and produced $24,675; a posthumously cast bronze head by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), which took $37,600 (estimate: $15,000/25,000); and Harbor Scene, by Emile Albert Gruppe (1886-1978), which drew $24,675, ahead of its $15,000 high estimate.

Unexpected Winners

Some works by less-prominent artists created even greater surprises, such as the $99,500 (estimate: $40,000/60,000) that was given for the painting The Upland Stream, by Walter Palmer (1854-1932); and $27,025 for The Hawaiian Child, by Grace Carpenter Hudson (1864-1937), which had carried an estimate of $4,000/6,000.

Windward Oahu, Hawaii, by David Howard Hitchcock (1861-1943), fetched $82,500 (estimate $4,000/6,000); Autumn, by Charles Harold Davis (1856- 1933), realized $39,950 (estimate $10,000/15,000); and Key West Florida Beach, by Mabel May Woodward (1877-1945), took $57,575 (estimate: $2,000/4,000).

The Sealskin Muffs, by Josephine Paddock (1885-1964), won $27,025 (estimate: $3,000/5,000); and A Branch of Roses, by Margaretha Roosenboom (1843-96), made $44,650 (estimate: $3,000/5,000).

The paintings by Davis and Hitchcock were among two-dozen works consigned to Skinner by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

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