NEW YORK—A Boston harbor painting by William Bradford (1823-92) fetched $457,000 and led Skinner auctioneers to a strong sale of American and European paintings and prints on March 3. The sale grossed $2.6 million, surpassing its preauction estimate of $1.4/2.2 million. The house sold 85 percent of the 770 lots in the sale after active bidding on several works.
The Bradford painting, an 1861 oil on board, The Frigate USS Congress at Sunset, measuring just 18-by-24 inches, sold for $457,000 ($410,000 hammer). Another Bradford seascape—the 1859 oil Ships in Boston Harbor at Twilight—had sold for a total of $459,000 in 2002 at Phillips, de Pury and Luxembourg, owing to the auction house’s higher premium.
At Skinner the painting of the Congress was estimated at $75,000/ 125,000—“a very conservative estimate,” Colleen Fesko, director of the paintings and prints department, told ARTnewsletter. The work, which came from a New England dealer and was sold to a private collector outside New England, was “in just about original condition,” Fesko reports, “and there was great interest in the piece. There was activity on the floor, but the telephones were where the action was.”
The next-highest figure was $116,000, for an 1890s still life of peaches on a table by William J. McCloskey (1859-1941). The painting had been estimated at $150,000/250,000 but fell short. “That estimate was not conservative,” Fesko says, noting that reserve prices tended to fall between one-half and two-thirds of the low estimate.
A painting that was “attributed to John D. Graham” (1890-1961) and carried a modest estimate of $5,000/7,000—Table Top Still Life with Bird—soared to $64,625. And an oil of a battle waged on horseback, described as in the “manner of Jacques Courtois” (1621-76), with a $4,000/6,000 estimate, realized $28,200. Fesko notes that the two paintings were
purchased by “dealers who must have been comfortable with what they thought they were buying. I don’t think they were gambling.”
An 1862 still life of fruit by Peter Baumgras (1827-1904), which Skinner had expected to bring only $1,000/1,500, produced $32,900. Other high points of the sale: Venetian View, by George Loftus Noyes (1864-1954), with an estimate of $20,000/40,000, brought $56,400; and an oil, Midsummer, by Melbourne H. Hardwick (1857-1916), with an estimate of $15,000/25,000, reached a record $49,938.
Comments Fesko: “Great-quality American paintings are leapfrogging estimates as soon as they get into sale. There’s more demand than supply.”
Two oils by Louis Kronberg (1872-1965)—Lady of Clan-Care, 1911, and Ballet Girl Against the Light, 1934—were both estimated at $3,000/5,000; each of them fetched $23,500.