Four auction houses open the season with notable sales
Pull down the storm windows. Turn up the furnace. Autumn is here. And a quartet of area auctioneers kicks off the season with some winning sales.
Constantine & Mayer
“We have a zinger to start off the fall,” says Jeff Constantine. Between his last big sale this past summer and prepping the final touches of his new Oakmont gallery, the co-owner of Constantine & Mayer steadily amassed 525 lots of outstanding artwork, furniture, glassware, Oriental rugs and miscellaneous goods for an Oct. 7 sale.
With property drawn from estates in Shadyside; Fox Chapel; Sewickley; Upper St. Clair; Oakmont; and Canfield, Ohio, next Tuesday’s event comes with a special four-hour preview the day before — a new twist for a Constantine & Mayer auction. The additional examination time should help buyers better plan their bidding strategies.
Almost certain to attract the most attention are three oil paintings by Pennsylvania artists A.F. King, George Hetzel and Daniel Ridgeway Knight. A recently discovered early Knight piece shows the French influence that is obvious in most of his work. Although the untitled oil on canvas focuses on his preference for French landscape, what’s missing from the marsh scene is the presence of comely young maidens who populate many of his pieces. Still, Constantine calls this a “classic” and expects it to generate intense bidding.
While Ridgeway is currently “hot” on the art scene, the King and Hetzel paintings, with roots closer to home, probably will outsell the native Philadelphian who spent most of his life in France. Once owned by area collector Tony Picadio, the King still life renders an assortment of summer fruits tastefully scattered across a tabletop. It carries an estimated $9,000 to $12,000 hammer price.
Adding a more rugged-outdoors touch, Hetzel’s “Rocky Run” captures in fine detail every jagged edge of a nearly dry mountain creek bed. From foreground to background, the Scalp Level artist provides great depth and illumination often missing from his work, Constantine says.
Biding one’s time is important. For nearly two decades, Constantine patiently waited for a classic Western Pennsylvania tall clock with a moon face and original works to come to market. “I’ve been chasing the clock for 17 years,” he says. “The case is outstanding with inlaid birds, vines and flowers. Everything about it is right as rain.So when the client called, of course, I said yes.”
A bit of fun also gained an affirmative vote. When glass was king in the city, blowers often created fanciful pieces, known as whimsies, after finishing a shift. A white opal, double-gourd glass pig with a small fowl riding on its back dates to the early 19th century.
For more formal creative tastes, a 40-inch-tall Italian school marble statue depicts a couple of happy, dancing children. A large Majolica jardiniere and planter towers above many of the sale goods. Also included in the art lineup are a Picasso print, 18th-century botanicals and Japanese prints.
Look for good buys under foot with a 1920s Persian room-size Heriz and several Kirman throws and other Oriental rugs.
Under the miscellaneous file, you’ll find autographed photos of St. Louis Cardinals great and Donora native Stan Musial, photos of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, an early Pathe movie projector, a brass cash register, bisque dolls and more.
The extended preview will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday, with the Tuesday sale running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The preview and sale will take place at the Fireman’s Banquet Hall, 398 Perry Highway, West View.
Details: (412) 828-7015.
Royal York Auction Gallery
If you ever find yourself looking for that needle in the haystack, here’s a tip: Call Bob Simon. Even during a sale best described as a jumble, count on the longtime Royal York auctioneer to pull out a gem or two.
For instance, a sublimely simple mission oak kneehole writing desk stands out. As basic as it gets, the straightforward piece is nothing more than a writing surface with a single center drawer and two open side shelves. Yet, the compact no-nonsense creation holds more appeal than a dozen of its behemoth modern-day, multi-tasking counterparts designed with acres of space for computers, fax machines, scanners and other desktop “musts.”
Two china-cased clocks prove timely finds. A delicate, blue-and-white, hand-painted Delft model features French movements and a Dutch motif complete with a windmill and tulips. A more substantial brightly colored Ansonia sports wildflowers and a blue-tinged border. Either clock would sit pretty on many a mantle.
Nostalgia rules at auctions. Which is why yesteryear’s playthings bring out the child in many bidders. Look for a pair of 1920s porcelain-head dolls to awaken maternal extinct and intense competition to take these babies home. Although not quite twins, the P. Grace Putnam and Armand Marseille Bye-Lo tots bear enough resemblance to pass as siblings with their blinking “sleepy eyes” and nearly identical original clothing.
Of course, fine furniture always finds a home at the Royal York. This week’s offerings include 10 Queen Anne-style dining chairs, a Hepplewhite-style dining room set with six chairs and a large crown-glass mahogany breakfront.
For those searching for newer items, the contents of a real estate developer’s “model” home offer a choice of furnishings and accessories with a Far Eastern accent. Along with a wicker setter and chair, the choices include decorative rugs and art.
And, yes, crystal, silver and china, including 400 pieces of Wedgwood in more than 15 patterns, are on the must-sell list as well.
Previews will run from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. Doors will open at 9 a.m. for the Saturday sale. Royal York is at 5925 Baum Blvd., East Liberty.
Details: (412) 661-1171.
J.S. Dill Auctions
Volume matters. Over a 10-day stretch starting Thursday, J.S. Dill will pack three sales into the early days of the month. The first will offer a nice choice of 1920s and ’30s furniture, followed by a sale Monday that will offer up some vintage advertising odds and ends. Completing the trifecta on Oct. 12, a perfectly fine assortment of photographic equipment will come up for grabs.
First up is a Regent Square estate best described by Dill partner Bob Hanks as “stopped in time.” Nearly everything from the home dates back at least 50 to 60 years, with many even older items. Qualifying as historical, several pieces of Civil War memorabilia include a tintype portrait of a soldier and period revenue stamps.
As might be expected in a home once owned by five brothers, the furniture might be best described as no-frills. What might surprise, though, is the good condition. Heavy on oak, the chairs, desks and other pieces from the household retain their original finishes and are in excellent shape. Among the standouts are matching armchairs, an Empire parlor set and a round dining set with two boards, six chairs and a sideboard.
Next Monday, an interesting mix of advertising wares, architectural artifacts, furniture and assorted finds will begin the week. The odds and ends collection also features baby-buggy wheels, a folding bicycle, a Pittsburgh seltzer bottle, wooden theater chairs and an old-fashioned amusement park car. Not quite so offbeat are an Empire chest, Wallace Nutting prints, Depression glass and an oak table.
Closing out the threesome, a Lawrence County estate will come to the fore by executor order. Billed as “one not to miss,” the sale will include a huge selection of furniture, bisque dolls, glassware, quilts, china, prints — just to mention a few hundred or so biddables. In fact, even a small sampling of merchandise covers five pages on the J.S. Dill Web site.
With so much furniture on the block, the offerings run from Queen Anne and Chippendale to Empire and modern.
Fans of radio’s golden age will warm up to a vintage Atwater Kent model. Meanwhile, local history buffs can discover the back story of Allegheny, Butler, Lawrence and Washington counties through several volumes recounting the region’s earlier times. And those who remember 1950s TV cowboy heroes can turn back the clock with a Hopalong Cassidy wristwatch.
As always, the auctions will be at the J.S. Dill headquarters, 360 W. Main St., Evans City. Preview times are at 5 p.m. for the Thursday and Monday sales, with auctions at 6 p.m. The Oct. 12 preview will begin at 11 a.m., with the sale at noon.
Details: (412) 362-9001, (724) 538-3700 or www.jsdillauctions.com .
Three Rivers Auction Co.
Open for business at his new Washington, Pa., gallery, Three Rivers Auction Co. owner Tripp Kline also inaugurates a regular schedule of sales this month. Well known for his on-site estate sales, Kline says the permanent space gives him the opportunity to successfully handle smaller lots and individual items — which this Sunday’s sale perfectly illustrates.
With a nice selection of goods from several estates and consignors, the sale includes paintings by Asher Durand, DuBois Hasbrouck and Austin Wooster — all purchased by a woman who snapped up finds at country auctions and yard sales during the 1950s and ’60s. Kept in storage for years, the works also include an oil-on-canvas portrait that Kline attributes to expatriate painter James Whistler, who gained renown in France during the mid-19th century.
“The quality, age and canvas are certainly consistent with Whistler,” Kline says. “Plus, he signed his work in a variety of cryptic signs and splotches that have come to be known as ‘Whistler Butterflies.'” Although the painting captures an aristocratic boy holding a ball, buyers might choose to focus on a dragonfly-like marking that might indeed be a Whistler ID.
Another notable name in this week’s auction will sound familiar to Pittsburghers as a vintage Egyptian revival mantle clock hails from the family of the late mayor Richard Caliguiri. The three-piece bronze and marble set includes a clock topped by a winged Sphinx and a matching pair of obelisks. Crafted in the late 1800s, the highly decorative set shows how the style influenced art deco during the 1920s and ’30s.
While arts and crafts aficionados scuttle for all things Stickley, pyrographic furniture can light a flame under knowledgeable collectors searching for a “bargain.” Practiced widely throughout Europe and the United States from the mid-1800s to the 1930s, pyrography (Greek for “writing with fire”) involved stamping designs on furniture with hot metal plates. Though mostly found on smaller items, a desk and chair from a home in Eighty Four are rarer finds. Along with a vine and leaf design, the desk bears the motivational inscription: “Look then into thine heart and write!”
Rounding out the sale are a large spatterware Peafowl-design platter; a Berkey and Gay oak and walnut Jacobea-style dining suite; crock loads of stoneware; fine stemware and glass; a photo of the Wright brothers’ first Kitty Hawk flight, signed by Orville Wright; and ceramics.
A note about the new gallery: Although the official address is 362 W. Chestnut St., the space will open its doors onto the intersection of West Beau and Washington streets, at the rear of the building. Look for additional Three Rivers auctions on the first and third Sundays of every month.
The auctions will start at noon Sunday, with previews at 10 a.m. The sale will be at the intersection of West Beau and Washington streets, at the rear of the building, in Washington, Pa.
Details: (724) 222-3332 or www.3riversauction.com .