Purchase Story

Hilliard & Co. Offers a Breath of Fresh Air

Hilliard & Co. Auctioneers LLC, Madison, Virginia

Photos courtesy Hilliard & Co.

Hilliard & Co. Auctioneers LLC held a catalog sale at its Madison, Virginia, salesrooms on May 12. This is the first sale by the firm to be reported on by M.A.D. The company is relatively new; it was established in September 2014 and held its first auction in March 2015. The owners are brothers André and Nicholas Hilliard.

While the firm is newly established, André and Nicholas are not new to the auction business. For a number of years André was associated with Harlowe-Powell Auctions in Charlottesville, Virginia. He remained on board when the firm was sold and rebranded as Quinn & Farmer Auctions. Nicholas’s background was in the production end of regional broadcasting. He later joined André at Quinn & Farmer.

Charles and Ray Eames designed one of the most iconic examples of mid-century furniture, the so-called Eames lounge chair and ottoman. The design was introduced in 1956 by the Herman Miller furniture company. Constructed with a molded plywood frame and upholstered in leather, the seating combination has never gone out of style. This example retains the original Herman Miller labels; although there is some minor damage, the popularity of these original pieces is evident. The chair and ottoman sold to a telephone bidder for $3540 (est. $1000/1500).

This Rembrandt van Rijn etching, Beggars Receiving Alms at the Door of a House (Bartsch 176), is from the third and final state of the 1648 etching. The 6½" x 5" etching was accompanied by a 1990s certificate of authenticity from Galerie Michael, Beverly Hills, California. It sold to a left bid for $2360 (est. $4000/6000).

The distinctive style of Grant Wood (1891-1942) is illustrated in this 1937 lithograph depicting a group of children planting a tree in front of their rural Iowa schoolhouse. This impression of Tree Planting Group is signed and dated in pencil, lower right. The state of Iowa honored its artistic native son by using a variation of this image on the 2004 Iowa state quarter. The lithograph sold to an Internet bidder for $3068 (est. $3000/4000).

Rembrandt van Rijn created nearly 100 self-portraits, more than 30 of which were etchings. This etching, Self Portrait with Cap Pulled Forward (Bartsch 319), is from the sixth and final state of the 1631 original. Measuring only 2" x 1 5/8", the framed piece was accompanied by a 1990s certificate of authenticity from Galerie Michael, Beverly Hills, California. Rembrandt’s tiny self-portrait sold to a left bid of $2950 (est. $5000/7000).

In 2014 the brothers organized their auction business and struck out on their own. They currently lease space in an 1894 mercantile storefront in Madison, Virginia. The building serves as their office, gallery, salesroom, and storage facility.

At this time Hilliard & Co. is averaging one sale per month. The sales are comparatively small, offering 250 to 300 lots. André Hilliard allowed that the size of the sales is by design. They want to move consignments through the system at an up-tempo pace. The firm is growing steadily, adding new consignors with each sale. André went on to say that, for the most part, their consignors prefer their items to be brought to sale quickly rather than held for a themed auction.

Each of Hilliard’s sales has offered a very wide variety of material. There are traditional antiques from every category, from furniture to fine art and pottery to silver and ephemera. The sales also include examples of modern fine art, sculpture, and branded furniture and art glass. André explained, “We want to offer something for everyone” at every sale. He acknowledged that getting the word out to everyone is always a challenge.


This 19th-century Chinese bottle-form vase likely dates from the reign of Emperor Daoguang, Qing Dynasty (1821-50). The vase is 11" high with a 6" diameter bulbous body that shades from a mottled red and green up to the white rim. The round footed base shares the same coloration. The interior of the vase and underside of the base are glazed in a pale crystalline blue. The vase sold for $236 (est. $400/600).

This stoneware crock is likely Pennsylvania in origin, from the latter part of the 19th century. The 8¼" high pot features a slightly tapered bulbous body, with a single incised ring below the flat rim. The piece is decorated with a nicely formed brushed cobalt tulip. The crock sold for $118 (est. $100/150).

Hilliard & Co. advertises using word of mouth, social media, and traditional print. The company accepts all forms of bidding: in person, absentee, telephone, and over the Internet, through LiveAuctioneers.

André Hilliard calls the sales. He moves quickly and is not hesitant to pass an item rather than beg for an insignificant bid. He allowed that many, if not most, of the items that are passed will be offered in future sales.

The May 12 sale was representative of Hilliard & Co.’s previous auctions. The accompanying photos illustrate the range of the 277 offerings. The high lot of the sale was a lounge chair and ottoman designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller, complete with original labels. The classic seating set sold for $3540 (includes buyer’s premium), well over the $1000/1500 estimate.

This lot consists of six watercolor and ink on paper botanical illustrations, each matted and framed to 21¼" x 15½". The illustrations depict various plants, shown along with their fruits, leaves, seeds, and flowers. The lot sold to an Internet bidder for $2006 (est. $300/400).

Hilliard & Co. is worth keeping an eye on. Their consignors are supplying very fine material, and it is selling within what appear to be realistic and reasonable estimates in today’s antiques environment. The firm is evolving and seems to be working very hard to establish itself within the competitive mid-Atlantic auction world. My only complaint after this visit is that some of the catalog descriptions are a bit thin. Perhaps that will work itself out as the firm continues to grow and settle into its own.

For additional information, contact Hilliard & Co. Auctioneers LLC at (540) 317-1947 or online at (www.hilliardandco.com).

The 19th-century carved Chinese figure is an elderly male with a dragon-headed staff and holding a branch with peaches. The catalog notes that the figure dates from the Qing Dynasty, although it displays an earlier incised mark. The figure s is more than 22" high, excluding the carved wooden base, and is carved from bone that appears to be tinted. This figure is likely meant to depict one of the legendary eight Chinese Immortals, but it is unclear which one. The piece sold for $649 (est. $400/800).

This mahogany bowfront chest of drawers likely dates from the early 19th century. The chest features four graduated cockbeaded drawers, with dovetail joinery and lightwood inlaid escutcheons. The case is trimmed with narrow inlaid bands along the exposed edges of the top and above the shaped skirt. The feet are slightly flared. The 35½" x 43" x 22 1/8" chest sold to an Internet bidder for $566.40 (est. $600/900).

This oil on canvas by James Hagaman (1866-1946) depicts a canal work boat and dinghy at low tide. The image is signed and dated 1896 lower right. The location is indicated as Dordrecht, the Netherlands. The painting has been relined and was presented in a 24" x 25" gilt gesso frame of the period. It sold for $708 (est. $600/800).

Here is a very pleasing portrait of a young woman with auburn hair secured with an Edwardian-style headband. She is wearing a pale blue dress. The oil on canvas likely dates from the turn of the 20th century. Neither the subject nor the artist is identified. The painting was offered in a 23" x 19" period gesso frame and sold for $188.80 (est. $200/400).

This little Rookwood vase is glazed in a shaded red coloration and displays the impressed factory date mark for 1937. The compressed ball form is designated as shape #6199D, and that number is also impressed under the base. Standing only 5" high, the vase appears to be undamaged. It sold for $64.90 (est. $60/80).

This lithograph by Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), Sorghum Mill, is likely from the 1969 limited edition of 250 prints issued by Associated American Artists. Signed in pencil “Benton” lower right, the 9¾" x 13¾" image sold to an Internet bidder for $1416 (est. $2000/3000).

Here is an original 13" square tin serving tray from the Charlottesville (Virginia) Ice Company. The tray likely dates from the first quarter of the 20th century and advertises one of the company’s products, Mello-Rich Ice Cream, a “Pal for Your Palate.” The lithographed image has some scratches and staining. The tray sold for $177 (est. $50/80).

Here is a single-socket George IV adjustable silver candlestick from the shop founded by silversmith and entrepreneur Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) of Birmingham, England. The 3" high stick rests on a footed shell-form base that is shaped to accept the snuffer in a slot in the finger loop. This piece dates circa 1820, after Boulton’s death. The candlestick sold for $259.60 (est. $100/200).

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

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