A more than 800-year-old pottery bowl was the top seller at Willis Henry’s American Indian & Ethnographic Art Auction last month, which saw all of its top 10 lots sell for well above their estimates.
The 14½-inch-diameter bowl painted with two animalistic forms sold for $33,930 or more than eight times the low of its $4,000-$6,000 estimate. It was among four lots of pottery made by the Mimbrenos, prehistoric Indians who lived in the area that is now southern New Mexico, and discovered during archeological digs in the early 20th century.
The three other Mimbres bowls were also among the auction’s top 10 sellers, with a 6¾-inch bowl depicting a bee bringing $7,605, more than seven times the low of its $1,000-$2,500 estimate; an 11-inch-diameter bowl depicting a fish selling for $4,680, more than doubling the low of its $2,000-$3,000 estimate; and a 7½-inch-diameter bowl bringing $3,510, more than tripling its $1,000-$2,000 estimate.
All four bowls were from the estate of Stefan Brecht, the late New York theater historian.
The auction’s second-highest price was the $29,250 paid for a rare 18th-/
19th-century fan made in the Marquesas Islands of split pandarus leaves. Its estimate was $3,000-$5,000.
Other top sellers included a Plains war shirt ($5,265 against a $1,000-
$1,500 estimate), a beaded pouch ($4,212 against $700-$900), an Iroquois false face mask ($3,276 against $1,000-$2,000), and a Sioux pipe bag ($2,691 against $1,000-$1,500).
A Plains Indian tomahawk, brought back to Hingham by botanical artist Isaac Sprague from his trip west with the John James Audubon expedition in 1840, sold for $3,159 against a $300-
$400 estimate. It was from the collection of the late John P. Richardson of Hingham.
The 26 lots from the collection of the late Roland E. Engstrom
(1913-84), who as a young boy started collecting Indian stone artifacts that he found in plowed fields on the South Shore, all sold. The top prices were $614 for 41 stone relics in a frame (estimate $100-
$300) and $497 for a double-sided ax with a $300-$400 estimate.
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June was a bonanza for book and manuscript auctions.
At Christie’s June 20-21 auctions of books and manuscripts, a signed letter written by George Washington at Mount Vernon on April 25, 1778 to John Armstrong, a Revolutionary War officer, sold for $1.4 million.
In the seven-page letter, offering positive views on the recently drafted Constitution, Washington wrote that the framers “have given the rights of man a free and fair discussion.”
The letter was consigned by a private collector and purchased by an anonymous phone bidder.
The two-day sales, which totaled $7.5 million, included Part 3 of the celebrated book collection of the late Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow of Newton, which sold for $3.4 million.
The first two parts of the collection were sold in April, grossing $15.8 million. The final sale featuring neoclassical, romantic, symbolist, and modern books will be held in October.
The top price realized at this month’s sale of Baroque and rococo period books was $81,250 for “Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire des Plantes” by Dionys Dodart (1634-1707); Paris: By Sebastien Mabre-Cramoisy at L’imprimerie Royale, [Colophon Date: 1675]-1676. Completing the top 10 was “The Anatomy of the Horse” by George Stubbs (1724-1806) London: J. Purser for the author, 1766, which brought $50,000.
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At Sotheby’s June 4 auction, the library of a distinguished American book collector sold for $4.8 million.
The 188-lot auction was led by seven signed books from George Washington’s library at Mount Vernon that sold in one lot for $1.2 million. The books, one of which was published in two volumes, was the largest group of books from Washington’s library to appear at a single auction since 1904. The books were purchased by the antiquarian book dealer William Reese of New Haven.
At Sotheby’s June 11 auction, a first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” (Scribner’s New York, 1825), which was once owned by the late literary critic and author Malcolm Cowley, sold for $112,500.
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At Skinner’s Fine Books and Manuscripts Auction on June 1, a first edition in seven large octavo volumes of John James Audubon’s “Birds of America” New York: J. J. Audubon; Philadelphia: J. B. Chevalier 1840, sold for $60,000.
Audubon (1785-1851) inscribed Volume 1 to “Miss Lydia E. E. Greene with the affectionate good wishes of her friend and servant John J. Audubon.” It was dated “Boston, June 1844,” which also was the date on Volume 2 inscribed to “Miss Lydia E. E. Greene, and may God bless her, with the sincerest wishes of her old friend and servant, John J. Audubon.” The Boston Athenaeum lists a Lydia E. E. Greene as a member in 1854.
A first edition 35-volume set of “Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers,” par une Société des Gens de Lettres, by Denis Diderot (1713-84) brought the second-highest price of $48,000.
It was followed by the $42,000 paid for the first edition of Biblia Latina, the first printed edition of the Latin Bible, printed in 1475 by Anton Koberger at Nuremberg.
Topping the 20th-century novels sold was the first trade edition, first issue of Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” published in 1929 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. It sold for $1,920.
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First Bytes: Iconic Technology from the Twentieth Century, Christie’s online-only auction featuring vintage tech products, is open for bids at www.chris
ties.com/firstbytes through July 9.
The auction includes the original Apple computer, now known as Apple-1, which was designed and hand-built in 1976 by Steve Wozniak, who later signed his work. The estimate is $300,000-$500,000.
Other highlights include the 20th- anniversary Macintosh computer (1997), an Apple Macintosh SE in a translucent plastic case (circa 1987-90), a 1983 Apple “Lisa’’ computer (named after Steve Jobs’s daughter), and a prototype Macintosh portable computer (1989).
Virginia Bohlin can be reached at vboh