Keno Auctions, New York City
Photos courtesy Keno Auctions
"We had a total of 642 registered bidders from 28 countries, including the 18 registered to bid by phone with Keno Auctions,” said Leigh Keno after his five-lot white-glove sale on Saturday, January 23, that brought a tidy $930,470 (including buyers’ premiums). He said that 62 bidders had signed up on Bidsquare, 75 on LiveAuctioneers, and 487 on Invaluable, and 18 arranged to bid on phones. “I paid Invaluable to post a banner the week before the sale, and they did email blasts; online bidding is a new world.”
Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), Diana, bronze with dark brown patina, with the mark of Aubry Brothers bronze foundry, New York, circa 1895, sold for $506,250 (est. $200,000/400,000) to collectors. The figure of the Roman goddess Diana holding a large bow and arrow stands on a hemisphere on a square plinth. The overall height is 387/8", the figure is 31" high, and the depth from the tip of the arrow to the extended foot is approximately 27". It is incised at the bottom edge of the integral half-orb “AUGUSTUS SAINT-GAUDENS” and at the bottom edge of the bronze plinth “COPYRIGHT·BY·A·SAINT-GAUDENS·M·D·C·C·C·X·C·V.” It was purchased in 1959 by Constantine “Gus” Sclavos (1896-1985), owner of the Glasgow Arms restaurant in Glasgow, Delaware, from Frank P. Ewing of Wilmington, and it descended to Sclavos’s daughter Mary Sclavos Murphy (1925-2020) and then to the consignor. According to Keno’s catalog, until its discovery there were only six known examples of the 31" high Diana cast by the Aubry foundry in downtown Manhattan.
Conservator Steve Tatti wrote a detailed report, giving its condition and patina high marks. The arrow within the figure’s hand had been previously repaired at the juncture between the arrow and the proper left hand using epoxy and a metal sleeve; Tatti removed the failed repair and corrected it and other problems. The bow, the bow string, and the arrow are all original.
A monumental version of Diana was conceived as a weathervane for the tower of Stanford White’s Madison Square Garden in 1886. Unfortunately, Saint-Gaudens’s original 18' rendition of Diana proved oversize, unwieldy, and unbalanced, and in 1892 it was removed from the building. The figure was then installed atop the Agriculture Building designed by McKim, Mead, and White at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, where the lower half was burned in a fire in 1894. The artist created a second version, 13' feet high, that was installed atop the Madison Square Garden tower. After that version of Madison Square Garden was demolished in 1925, that Diana was acquired in 1932 by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it is now at the top of the grand staircase.
Half the sale total came from the $506,250 paid for a 31" high bronze sculpture of the Roman goddess of the hunt, Diana, by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, one of just seven of this size known. Estimated at $200,000/400,000, it was sold and underbid on the phone.
“According to ArtNet it was the third-highest sale price for any size Diana and the fifth-highest price for any work by Saint-Gaudens,” Keno said. “It was encouraging that it was purchased by a young couple with determination and a discerning eye.”
The bidders were also patient. The sale, which was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., started at 1:35 p.m. Keno said the delay was because a bidder from London wanted to see the George Washington portrait by Gilbert Stuart under black light via FaceTime on his phone. Keno said he did it in a dark bathroom. Apparently, it was worth it; the delay produced the underbidder.
This portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), oil on canvas, 30½" x 25½", sold for $356,250 (est. $150,000/300,000) to a southern collector, underbid from London. Philadelphia merchant Israel Kinsman (1789-1862) purchased the painting from a previous owner in 1817, and it hung in his house at 359 Arch Street, Philadelphia, shortly after his marriage that year to Elizabeth Walker (1797-1848). The portrait is mentioned in an 1835 inventory of Kinsman’s possessions completed by Robert Morris, Esq., as “Stuart-Washington in oil color” in “Front room 2nd story.” According to Keno’s catalog, it descended from the Kinsmans’ daughter Louise to her nephew. It was sold by the family in 1919 to Ralston Galleries, New York City, and was purchased from Ralston by Philadelphia dealer James E. McClees (1858-1954) for his Walnut Street shop. McClees sold it to John H. Earley (1869-1925) of Germantown, and it descended in the Earley family to the consignor. Keno said the portrait dates from the second period of Stuart’s portraits of Washington, 1803-05, made for patrons in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., before Stuart moved to Boston in 1805. It is based on the portrait Stuart painted of George Washington from life in the autumn of 1796, when Washington was 64 years old. The unfinished portrait was sent to the Boston Athenaeum after Stuart’s death. It is this image of Washington that we see on the one-dollar bill. The copies are known as Athenaeum portraits. Stuart made numerous copies—some say 130—that he sold for $100 each. This version survives with its original stretchers and original frame but is in need of cleaning and restoration.
The copy of the Athenaeum portrait of George Washington that Gilbert Stuart painted 1803-05 sold for $356,250 (est. $150,000/300,000). Keno called it the Kinsman portrait of Washington because it was bought by Philadelphia merchant Israel Kinsman (1789-1862) shortly after his marriage in 1817 to Elizabeth Walker (1797-1848), and it hung in their house at 359 Arch Street in Philadelphia. According to Keno’s cataloging, it is listed as “Stuart-Washington in oil color” in “Front room 2nd story” in an inventory of Kinsman’s possessions completed by Robert Morris, Esq., in 1835.
“The painting is a diamond in the rough. It hasn’t been cleaned or restored since the early 20th century, but it has its original stretchers and frame,” said Keno. “That is the way some collectors like to find pictures so they can oversee cleaning and conservation to their own specifications.”
The large black-glazed baluster vase with a Kangxi six-character mark (1661-1722), 17" high, sold for $5120 (est. $4000/8000). It had last sold at Christie’s in New York City on May 30, 1991, for $7150. It is of impressive size, with a cylindrical flared neck and spreading foot, and the exterior is covered in a lustrous black glaze thinning subtly to dark chocolate brown just below the white-glazed rim. The interior has white glaze, and the base has white glaze and the Kangxi mark.
Flambé-glazed meiping with an incised Qianlong seal mark (1736-95) and with a glaze of deep crushed-strawberry hue, with light blue and turquoise streaks, thinning to a mushroom-tone glaze at the rim, 12¼" high. The recessed base has an incised six-character Qianlong seal-mark. It is covered with a mottled cafe au lait glaze. With an 18th-century or earlier carved hardwood (possibly huanghuali) stand (not shown) with ruyi feet and covered with darkened old varnish, it sold for $21,250 (est. $6000/12,000) to a Chinese buyer on the phone. It had been in an English collection. It was offered at Christie’s in London on May 14, 2018, with an estimate of $81,060/108,080 and was unsold. It was offered at Doyle in July 2020 and sold for $7500 (est. $12,000/15,000).
The sale opened with a large black-glazed Chinese porcelain baluster vase with a six-character Kangxi mark. It sold on Invaluable for $5120 (est. $4000/8000). Another Chinese porcelain vase, a flambé-glazed meiping with an incised Qianlong seal mark, sold on the telephone for $21,250 (est. $6000/12,000) to a buyer in China.
Lot three was the George Washington portrait. It sold on the phone for $356,250 to a southern collector after 28 bids, mostly on the phones.
By the time Saint-Gaudens’s Diana came on the block it was 1:53 in the afternoon, and 49 viewers were logged on watching, according to Invaluable, which posts the number of viewers during sales. After 50 bids in ten minutes Diana sold on the phone for $506,250. It’s a first-rate work of art in remarkably good condition after spending many years in a Delaware restaurant.
Frankenstein by William Hawkins (1895-1990), enamel paint on repurposed beaverboard with sand, inscribed along the bottom and on the right side, “WILLIAM L. HAWKINS JULY 27, 1895 / JANY. 18, 1983.” Measuring 57" x 42", it sold for $41,600 (est. $25,000/50,000) to a midwestern dealer. At Sotheby’s October 2006 sale of the collection of Josephine and Walter Buhl Ford II, it had sold to Leigh Keno for $78,000 (est. $30,000/50,000). Keno hung it over his fireplace.
The last lot of the sale was William Hawkins’s Frankenstein, which had once belonged to Josephine and Walter Buhl Ford II of Grosse Point, Michigan. It sold on Invaluable for $41,600 (est. $25,000/50,000). Keno said the painting was on its way back to Columbus, Ohio, where Hawkins had painted it. It had hung over Keno’s fireplace in his townhouse on East 69th Street in New York since he bought it at sale of the Ford collection at Sotheby’s in 2006 for $78,000.
For more information, see the website (www.kenoauctions.com) or call (212) 734-2381.
Originally published in the April 2021 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2021 Maine Antique Digest