Works by Agnes Pelton, Rembrandt Peale and Joseph Leyendecker lead Heritage to $4.3 million American Art auction

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Works by Agnes Pelton, Rembrandt Peale and Joseph Leyendecker lead Heritage to $4.3 million American Art auction
Joseph Christian Leyendecker (American, 1874-1951), Marbles Game, The Saturday Evening Post cover, March 28, 1925. Oil on canvas, 26-1/2 x 20 in.

DALLAS, TX.- On May 15, Heritage Auctions continued to prove its strength in the American Art category with a tightly curated event that saw a number of works by America's beloved artists sell for far above their estimates. It also broke an artist auction record and landed a freshly discovered Agnes Pelton painting in new hands.

The May 15 American Art Signature® Auction realized $4.3 million over just 91 lots, with a dollar-value sell-through rate of 93%. It was led by the sale of a much-discussed, newly surfaced work by Agnes Pelton, which sold for $525,000. Pelton's Purple Star Icon emerged as an exceptional piece among her rare transcendental abstractions; only four of her Desert Transcendental paintings — her most iconic and sought-after works — have graced the auction block in the last 29 years, and this larger and pristine variant of her historicized Purple Star Icon was until now known only through archival records.

"With nearly 500 clients bidding on 91 lots, our outstanding results further establish Heritage as a leader in American Art," says Aviva Lehmann, Heritage's Senior Vice President of American Art. "We are delighted to place these remarkable works, spanning over a century of artistic achievement, into new collections."

Another lead in the auction, going for $425,000 and well above its estimate, was Rembrandt Peale's authoritative 1857 oil-on-canvas Portrait of George Washington. Here the artist intentionally rivaled the work of fellow portraitists John Trumbull, Gilbert Stuart, and his own father, Charles Willson Peale, as he made it his professional mission to render "the national portrait and standard likeness" of George Washington.Blue-chip, Golden Age Illustration Art is always a strong anchor in Heritage's American Art events, and two works made for covers for the Saturday Evening Post by Joseph Christian Leyendecker landed with top results on Wednesday: His Marbles Game for a 1925 issue of the magazine sold for $300,000, above its high estimate, and his Caught in the Rain for a 1914 cover brought $200,000. Also leading the auction from the illustration front, and well above their estimates, comes this 1910 watercolor book interior by Jessie Willcox Smith titled A Child's Book of Old Verses, which sold for $200,000 and his Scribner's Magazine interior watercolor from 1903 titled Five O'clock Tea, The Child in a Garden which sold for $112,500. Two more covers for the Saturday Evening Post, this time by the great John Ford Clymer, also landed among the event's top 10 sellers: His Rustic Daydreams (Abandoned Equipment), South of Jackson, Wyoming, from 1959, sold for nearly twice its high estimate at $200,000, and his Putting Up Birdhouses, from 1951, sold for $187,500.

A stunning 1918 painting for a Red Book illustration by Dean Cornwell, The Den of Iniquity, The Valley of the Giants, came from a collection built by a distinguished academic woman and sold for nearly twice its high estimate at $125,00. Cornwell's mastery is evident in the elaborate architectural details that frame the central group engaged in an intimate yet intense conversation.Rounding out the top ten sellers in the event: A rare Augustus Saint-Gaudens marble, Psyche of Capua, came from the Estate of Princess Maria Romanoff, New York City, and sold well above its estimate for $100,000. Exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, the 1873-74 masterpiece stands as a testament to the sculptor's productivity during his Roman sojourn from 1870 to 1875. It was originally commissioned by William M. Evarts, a prominent New York lawyer and statesman, and was eventually acquired by Princess Maria Romanoff.

The event set an auction record for William Ashby McCloy when his oil-on-Masonite Agricultural Lassitude from 1936 sold for $10,625.

"From George Washington to Agnes Pelton, May 15 was a truly stellar event," says Lehmann. "The growth and strength of our category are a testament to the exceptional quality of our offerings and the high level of connoisseurship accompanying each lot."

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