Clarke Auction Gallery of Larchmont, NY, held an auction on May 15, 2011, that likely changed the lives of some of its consignors. Two paintings by New York artist Jasper Cropsey were sold for a total of $822,000. Not bad for two ignored paintings from the wall of the basement rec room.
This is the kind of story that shows like Antiques Roadshow thrive on – forgotten items that could easily have been thrown in the garbage but instead turn out to be treasures. Here’s the story in a nutshell – mother dies, children clean up, children go to appraisal clinic, paintings go to auction, children hit the jackpot. The details are what make the story interesting.
The two paintings were removed from the mother’s basement wall, where they had hung since the 1920s. Likely, the mother received them as a gift or payment for seamstress work from one of her wealthy Manhattan clients. One of the cleanup helpers offered to purchase the paintings for $125, which was refused. The paintings were then brought to an appraisal clinic set up by the Larchmont Historical Society at Clarke Auction Gallery. Their appraiser didn’t think much of them, deeming them of little value. The auctioneer, Ronan Clarke, intervened, thinking they could be good. He took them to Newington Cropsey Foundation, where one of the paintings, “Prospect Point, Niagara Falls in Winter”, was authenticated with help from a pencil sketch for the painting found at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The second painting, “Autumn in America”, was a known Cropsey work that had been missing since the 1860s.
“Prospect Point, Niagara Falls in Winter” was the first painting to come to the auction block with the following description.
Description: CROPSEY, Francis Jasper. O/C “Prospect Point,
Niagara Falls in Winter.” N.D., after 1856. Signed lower left. As featured in the April 6, 2011 New York Times. Authenticated by the Newington-Cropsey Foundation and to be included in the Cropsey catalog raisonné. 1856 preliminary sketch (see photo) courtesy of the Boston Museum of Fine Art archives. As found in a West Hartford, Connecticut home. Dimensions: 15″ high x 24″ wide.
Estimate: 40,000.00 – 60,000.00
Bidding started at $50,000 and rapidly soared to the final price of $540,500, including buyer’s premium. Although all of the phone lines had bidders, all of the action took place on the floor, with a New Jersey dealer competing against a Connecticut private collector. The collector won.The next lot was “Autumn in America”, described as follows.
Description: CROPSEY, Francis Jasper. O/C “Autumn in America”
c. 1860. Signed lower right. From the series of “The Four Seasons.” As featured in the April 6, 2011 New York Times. Authenticated by the Newington-Cropsey Foundation and to be included in the Cropsey catalog raisonné. As found in a West Hartford, Connecticut home. Dimensions: 15″ high x 24″ wide.
Estimate: 40,000.00 – 60,000.00
It also opened at $50,000 and had the same active floor bidders. The final price of $282,000, including buyer’s premium, far exceeded its pre-sale estimate, but not with the same fireworks as the first painting — still a very strong result. This time the NJ dealer was the winner.
Kudos to the auctioneer for spotting, authenticating and selling the paintings.
Check out my new acquisitions. First is a vivid Daum fall scenic vase. Soon I’ll be listing a wonderful Tiffany Studios 7-light lily lamp with beautiful shades and a fine patina. Also coming soon will be several wonderful European ceramic items by Clement Massier, Zsolnay and Amphora. Here’s the link. chasenantiques.com