Purchase Story

Antiques Week on the Potomac

The Potomack Company, Alexandria, Virginia

Photos courtesy The Potomack Company

The Potomack Company kicked off summer with an ambitious four-session catalog auction of antiques, fine arts, jewelry, and specialty collections. During the first week of June, nearly 1600 lots crossed the block. The week began on June 2, with a live sale in the firm’s Alexandria, Virginia, gallery. That was followed by three separate online-only sales the following week, June 5-7.

While there was some overlap among the sales, the lots did fit rather neatly into four distinct groups. The live sale on June 2 featured a variety of consignments of American and Continental furniture, fine arts, and statuary. The June 5 online sale led with a broad array of jewelry lots, followed by Asian, silver, and decorative items. Wednesday offered a large single consignment of items from Woodland, a Virginia estate. The week was rounded out with an interesting collection of philatelic-related lots, primarily those associated with the history of U.S. postmasters general.

The high lot of the June 2 sale was this oil on canvas by Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (Russian, 1817-1900). The 21¼" x 29¼" (sight size) painting, cataloged as Fishermen at Dawn, depicts an ethereal scene of fishermen setting out on a hazy morning, with several larger vessels under sail in the background. The peaceful scene, signed and dated 1876 lower right, sold to a telephone bidder for $162,500 (est. $120,000/180,000).

This oil on canvas by Hudson River school artist Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886) depicts a rugged landscape, with large boulders in the foreground overlooking a distant body of water. The catalog notes that this work was identified as “Near Bolton, Lake George” at the time of the Durand estate sale in 1887. The painting displays a red Durand estate stamp on the reverse. The 17" x 24" landscape sold to a telephone bidder for $34,375 (est. $20,000/30,000).

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (German-American, 1816-1868) is known for his large-scale paintings depicting historical figures and events. He is perhaps best known for his iconic Washington Crossing the Delaware. This oil on canvas is an intimate depiction of a young woman napping in her chair with an open book on her lap. The interior scene includes a table with writing material and a chandelier suspended above. A lute rests on the floor beside the figure, and an ornate leaded window with stained-glass elements completes the scene. The 14" x 20" painting is faintly signed, lower right. The catalog suggests the title of this work as The Letter. It sold to an Internet bidder for $13,750 (est. $2500/3500).


It is difficult to resist strawberries, be they real fruit or still life images. This signed 12" x 18" oil on canvas example by New England artist Emma Levin Swan (1853-1927) depicts freshly picked berries stems and leaf accents, and it sold to an Internet bidder for $3125 (est. $700/900).

The diminutive three-piece enameled and gilt Russian silver coffee set, dating to the late 19th or early 20th century, is struck with marks for Gabriel and Michael Grachev of St. Petersburg. The upper portions feature brightly colored cloisonné enamel in an Eastern style. The coffeepot is only 5¼" high. The set sold for $11,875 (est. $5000/8000).

Generally, examples of fine art were strong throughout each of the four sessions. The high lot of the week came during the live auction. It was an 1876 painting by Russian artist Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817-1900). The oil on canvas was cataloged as Fishermen at Dawn. The image was that of a misty morning with fishermen preparing to set out. The painting sold for $162,500 (includes buyer’s premium), at the middle of its estimate.

The Potomack sale featured several pieces of furniture by mid-century design icon George Nakashima. This walnut cabinet features a four-drawer stack on one side and three open shelves on the other. The piece closes with two fabric-backed sliding grille panels. The two-board top has a curved front edge. The 32" x 71" x 22" cabinet sold to a telephone bidder for $17,500 (est. $10,000/15,000).

These George III satinwood games tables date from the late 18th century. They have tops with wedge segments radiating from a large inlaid shell decoration. The tapered square-section legs are inlaid with oak leaf and acorn decoration at the top and terminate with bold cuffed feet. The tops open to a round baize-covered playing surface supported by swing legs. Closed, each D-form table measures 30¼" x 36" x 18¼". The tables sold for $7500 (est. $3000/5000).

This walnut drop-leaf table in the Queen Anne style is a bit of a puzzle. There is a single drawer with a molded lip and a bail handle. The leaves are rounded, and when they are raised, the top appears as an oval, with concave cutouts on the ends. The legs are tapered and round, terminating in unusual tapered pad feet. It appears that this table may have been reconfigured at some point in its life. With the leaves extended, the table measures 28" x 40" x 18". It sold to an Internet bidder for $750 (est. $400/800).

The live sale also featured eight lots of furniture from renowned 20th-century furniture artist George Nakashima (1905-1990). All of the Nakashima examples sold well, with one piece by his daughter, Mira, and a pair of stools from Nakashima Studios included in the group. A pair of walnut Greenrock stools with cushions brought $13,125 (est. $3000/5000). A George Nakashima signed and dated free-edge Minguren walnut table brought $13,750 (est. $7500/10,000). The high lot among the Nakashima lots was a low cabinet/credenza shown in the accompanying photographs; it sold for $17,500.

Woodland is a restored plantation home south of Petersburg, Virginia. It has recently been sold, and a substantial number of its furnishings were consigned to the Potomack Company. Woodland is the ancestral home of one of its most recent owners, Rick Burton. Burton, along with Mike Shebelskie, purchased the property in 1989. For the past 30 years Burton and Shebelskie have undertaken restoration and furnishing the property. Restoration and rehabilitation of historical homes is not uncommon, especially within the original colonies. What perhaps sets Woodland apart is that it is thought that Burton’s ancestors were likely British Loyalists. No apologies are made for that, but the furnishings from Woodland do represent a mix of period British and American pieces, with a definite leaning eastward across the pond.

In addition to acquiring traditional furniture, Burton and Shebelskie developed an extensive collection of items related to English royals. Among the more interesting royals-related lots sold at Potomack was a small framed coach panel from one of Queen Victoria’s coaches, which sold for $2000 (est. $150/300). Also selling for the same amount was a lot consisting of a pair of velvet and oak chairs from the 1937 coronation ceremony for George VI at Westminster Abbey. The chairs had been estimated at $2000/4000. A 1952 Christmas card from HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh with a family photograph and printed holiday greeting, signed “Elizabeth R” and “Philip,” brought $4687.50 (est. $300/500).

This envelope bears the franked signature of Alexander Hamilton. It is post-stamped September 19, 1799, three months before Hamilton left his law practice and accepted the position as commanding general of the United States Army. The content of Hamilton’s letter is unknown, but the recipient was Aaron Ogden, a Revolutionary War officer and a fellow Federalist. The envelope sold for $1250 (est. $1500/2500).

Once a stamp design is approved by the postmaster general, a proof is created, showing the final version as it will be printed and sent into circulation. One lot consisted of the proofs of the three-stamp air mail series approved in 1923. Shown here is the 24-cent stamp (Scott’s C6-P1), depicting a De Havilland DH-4 biplane. The three-proof lot brought $5000 (est. $1500/3000).

The final online session was led by more than 150 lots of philatelic material from a single collection. Many of the items offered were related to the office of U.S. postmaster general, and as such displayed autograph signatures of U.S. presidents, postmasters general, and other notable figures from the 18th through 20th centuries. The collection also included numerous examples of United States and international postage stamps, some offered individually and others in albums. Of particular interest were a small group of stamp essays and proofs. Essays are proposed stamp designs that are not necessarily accepted for circulation. Proofs are stamp designs that have been accepted, and the “proof” is printed exactly as the stamp will appear when it goes to press and into circulation. Examples of both an essay and a proof are shown among the accompanying photographs.

For additional information, contact the Potomack Company at (703) 684-4550 or on the web at (www.potomackcompany.com).

These George III mahogany side chairs were the objects of intense Internet bidding. The chairs feature carved serpentine crest rails, pierced back splats, and trapezoidal seats upholstered over the rails. The seat rails and cabriole legs are heavily carved, the front legs terminate in bold scroll feet, and the back legs terminate with pad feet. The chairs sold to one of the Internet bidders for $7500 (est. $800/1200).

More than 3' in diameter, this very large terrestrial globe is installed within a mechanical iron frame that is geared so that the globe may be rotated by a hand crank. The globe is by French globe maker/publisher Ikelmer, circa 1890. The information is printed in French and includes the expected geographical information as well as then-current ocean shipping routes and estimated times of passage. With some losses to its printed surface, the globe sold to a telephone bidder for $6250 (est. $1000/1500).

Chinese export armorial plates, circa 1755, featuring the coat of arms of Frederick the Great of Prussia. The 10" diameter plates have shaped rims with gold- and black-trimmed borders. The intricate designs feature a crowned black eagle breasted with the initials “FR” on the rim above the arms of the Hohenzollerns, flanked by bearded men standing on a platform holding standards, above the motto “Gott mit uns” (God is with us), all under a cape-like ermine throne canopy. The plates sold to an Internet bidder for $18,125 (est. $8000/12,000).

Here is a Roman marble portrait head of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (reigned 117-38 C.E.). The head is mounted on an 18th-century draped cuirassed bust and stands 39" high overall. Hadrian is depicted with a mustache, a short beard, and snail curls across the forehead. The nose has been broken off. This over life-size carving sold to a telephone bidder for $50,000 (est. $40,000/60,000).

The catalog identified this framed 15" x 20" lacquered wood coach panel as depicting the coat of arms of the City of London. The central element features two shields with four-legged winged creatures as supports with a crossed sword and scepter behind the shields. One shield displays the cross of St. George with a sword in the upper left quadrant, as adopted by the City of London. The second shield bears the heraldic emblem of the County of Essex, London’s northeastern neighbor. The coach panel sold for $2375 (est. $400/600).

The high lot among the jewelry lots was this three-stone diamond ring set in platinum. The stones are emerald cut. The center stone weighs approximately 2.46 carats. The smaller stones have a combined weight of approximately .95 carat. The band is marked as 90% pure platinum. This ring brought $50,000 (est. $40,000/50,000).

Originally published in the September 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest

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