MT. CRAWFORD, VA.- The Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates
June 20, 2015 Americana and Fine Antiques Auction was a success by all accounts and boasted strong prices in virtually every category. The sales top lot, an extremely important Shenandoah (now Page) County, Shenandoah Valley of Virginia yellow pine blanket chest (c.1800) decorated by Johannes Spitler, perhaps the last example remaining within the family of the original owner, sold for $356,500. The price exceeded the pre-sale estimate and set a new record for a Spitler-decorated blanket chest at auction (Lot 492).
The Long family, for whom the chest was made, settled in the Massanutten area in the 18th century, and the chest had stayed within the family for six generations, residing at historic Wallbrook Farm for the last 100 years prior to its appearance at auction with Evans & Associates. The artistry of the geometric and figural imagery attracted strong bidder interest, with a private Virginia collector triumphing over a Virginia institution.
In his commentary after the auction was over, Jeffrey S. Evans said, It was a great pleasure to handle the Long family Spitler-decorated blanket chest. It is not often that such an important piece comes to market directly from the original owners family where it has resided for more than 200 years. We are proud to now hold the #1 and #2 record auction prices for a piece of folk-decorated furniture by Johannes Spitler.
Another Shenandoah Valley item of nearly equal rarity in the auction, an important fraktur taufschein attributed to Jacob Strickler, made for Susanna Rothgeb and dated 1806, sold for $29,900, more than doubling its $8,000 - $12,000 estimate. This fraktur, densely packed with vivid imagery, including a perhaps unique pair of Federal eagles in the upper corners, attracted interest from collectors and institutions across the country (Lot 389).
In a sign of market strength, fraktur remain popular with collectors, and the sale included a number of fine examples. A rare group of Frederick County, Virginia fraktur birth records made for the Carter family, by the Record Book Artist, comprising three informational sheets and three accompanying pictorial pages, dating to the first quarter 19th century, sold for $21,850 (estimate: $8,000 - $12,000). The six pages offered in the sale included a unique representation of a human figure and had remained in the Carter family until their discovery in the 1980s (Lot 393).
Other areas of the sale produced positive results as well, demonstrating some signs of vigor in what is often an unpredictable market. Silver was just such a category that exhibited strength. Leading the way was a fine pair of Thomas Bradbury & Sons, Sheffield, sterling silver candelabra (c.1930), made for the Scott family of Richmond, Virginia. Modeled after 17th-century examples from a Scottish castle, the stunning pair achieved $18,400 (Lot 946). Likewise, uncommon furniture forms in good condition continue to hold value, and several pieces with these qualities produced strong results at the auction. Outside of the aforementioned Spitler chest, the top furniture lot was a Pennsylvania paint-decorated step-back Dutch cupboard (c.1830). Formerly in the collection of Dr. E. R. Eller of Pittsburgh, this example, in very good condition and retaining its original paint-decorated surface, brought $12.650 (Lot 505). Native American material was also met with bidder enthusiasm and included a range of objects such as stone tools, toys, ceramics, and textiles. This sections leader proved to be a rare Northwest Coast Chilkat childs ceremonial blanket (c.1890). Fresh from the attic of a local estate, the impressive weaving brought $10,350 from a private collector in Alaska (Lot 271).
Folk pottery remains a staple at Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates, and this sale did not disappoint. Featuring a single-owner collection of Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia stoneware, the pottery portion of the auction included 200 lots of material with strong prices achieved throughout. Top lots included a rare Zigler Pottery, Timberville, Rockingham County, Shenandoah Valley of Virginia decorated stoneware diminutive cream pitcher (c.1835) at $6,325 (Lot 1); and an East Tennessee / Southwest Virginia Great Road decorated earthenware honey pot (c.1850) at $5,750 (Lot 50).
Folk art (apart from fraktur) is also regularly featured at the auction house, and the diverse selection in the June 20, 2015 auction garnered a significant amount of interest from bidders in house and online. One noteworthy example from this group was a fine Thomas Jefferson Craddock (Albemarle County, Virginia, b.1845) carved cane / walking stick (c.1890) with imagery including a bold spread-wing eagle (Lot 352). Craddock was a full-time carver, and a number of his walking sticks have come to market over the years. The present example brought $3,750, establishing a new auction record for the artist.
After the sale, Jeffrey S. Evans said, The auction was a great success across the board. But of course the stars of the sale were the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia folk art objects. The auction room was electric when the Spitler chest and the three lots of fraktur came to the block. The market for great Southern material has never been hotter. With a nod to the future, Evans added, Two days after the auction we were busy packing a fine estate collection of Virginia stoneware for our November 14 Americana auction. Our fall sale is already looking very strong."
The next auction at the house is of 19th and 20th Century Glass, on July 18, 2015.