Leland Little Auctions, Hillsborough, North Carolina
Photos courtesy Leland Little Auctions
Two bright, cheery paintings that portrayed the sheer joy of summer set the tone for Leland Little Auctions’ signature summer sale held on June 12. The perky paintings also far exceeded their estimates. They were produced by an Iowa farm girl who evolved into an Abstract Expressionist during the 1950s and by an insecure North Carolina artist influenced by the Hudson River school.
After her work attracted considerable attention at Hansa Gallery, Jane Wilson (1924-2015) went on to find representation with better-known Manhattan galleries. Her Fresh Season, 88" x 68",with a bright summer sky, from the James H. Craig and Randy S. Johnson collection, sold to a phone bidder for $45,600 (est. $8000/12,000).
Jane Wilson painted Fresh Season in 1961, two years after New York City’s Hansa Gallery closed. Wilson was a founding member of Hansa, a grungy lower Manhattan cooperative for starving artists, before moving her work to midtown. Her Expressionist landscape opened at $4000 on an $8000/12,000 estimate and slowly built to $45,600 (includes buyer’s premium) from a phone bidder. Fresh Season was consigned by James H. Craig and Randy S. Johnson of Sarasota, Florida. The couple has sold selected items from their collection in several Leland Little sales (see M.A.D., July 2020, p. 96, and March 2021, p. 98).
Danny Robinette (1954-2005) must have used every color available in his acrylics cabinet for Still Life with Fortune Cookies, 41" x 41". The happy summer-infused painting sold for $30,000 (est. $1000/3000). Somerhill Galley owner Joe Rowand (1942-2021) provided Robinette with gallery space in the early days of the artist’s career.
Self-taught artist Danny Robinette described himself as isolated and filled with personal doubt. You would never know it from Still Life with Fortune Cookies, a joyfully wacky work inspired perhaps by a box of Crayola crayons. Colors abound in the 41" x 41" acrylic on canvas modestly estimated at $1000/3000. Still Life with Fortune Cookies opened at $500 and slowly moved higher and higher until a telephone bidder bought it for $30,000.
This marble sculpture, The Telegram of Love, 56" x 34" x 19", by Emanuele Caroni (Italian, 1826-1876) sold to a phone bidder for $96,000 (est. $50,000/80,000). A drawing of the sculpture was included in the publication The Masterpieces of the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, volume I, for the 1876 Philadelphia World’s Fair.
The sale’s top lot was also an ode to summer, specifically summer love. The young woman in Emanuele Caroni’s charming marble sculpture The Telegram of Love seems to be telling her fluttering dove a message regarding a lover’s rendezvous. The 56" tall statue created in 1875 sold to a phone bidder for $96,000. The Telegram of Love was one of three Caroni sculptures in the Philadelphia World’s Fair of 1876. Its home from 1900 until the sale was a stately mansion in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Caroni’s world record price is for Leda and the Swan, which sold at Sotheby’s London for £138,600 ($185,672 U.S.) in 2020.
Maud Gatewood (1934-2004) was the founding head of the art department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Leland Little has featured her work in several recent auctions. Gatewood’s Summer Landscape, 41½" x 61½", sold to a phone bidder for $9600 (est. $8000/12,000).
North Carolina native Maud Gatewood is among the most collected and sought-after artists from that state. Her Summer Landscape Quattro Cento Mode, a colorful 1980 signed acrylic on canvas, perfectly fit the auction theme. The scene of a field, garden, and vines sold to the phones for $9600 (est. $8000/12,000).
Gorham collectors refer to this six-piece set as the “Mary Todd Lincoln coin silver tea service.” The set, 129.5 troy ounces, includes two teapots, a creamer, a sugar bowl with cover, a waste bowl, and a butter dish with a domed cover. The silver service sold for $4080 (est. $4000/8000).
One of the featured lots was a six-piece coin silver tea service nearly identical to the one Mary Todd Lincoln had ordered for the White House. The new First Lady spent over $26,000 redecorating the White House beginning in March and extending through the summer of 1861. Her purchases included a Gorham tea service that can be found in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The service in the Leland Little sale was marked for retailer George W. Webb of Baltimore, Maryland, and monogrammed “MEM” for Margaret Ellen Morton. The service sold on the gallery website for $4080 (est. $4000/8000).
Rowand Homestead is a house portrait of Joe Rowand’s home in Homer, Illinois, by Luminist landscape painter Michael Dubina. The signed and dated 43" x 65" oil on shaped canvas sold on Leland Little Live for $960 (est. $800/1200).
Although far from the top of the heap, Michael Dubina’s Rowand Homestead was a sentimental favorite. It depicted the home of a friend of Leland Little Auctions and many North Carolina artists, Joe Rowand (1942-2021). Rowand, the owner/operator of Somerhill Gallery, formerly of Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina, commissioned Dubina to paint a portrait of his farmhouse at sunrise. The result was a bright, inviting scene reminiscent of a Maxfield Parrish summer landscape. The painting was consigned by Rowand’s estate and sold for $960 (est. $800/1200).
Saint Sebastian by John Koch (1909-1978) measures 100¼" x 60½", dimensions that include the painting’s ornate gilt composition frame. A phone bidder paid $33,600 (est. $30,000/50,000) for the painting. It was from the James H. Craig and Randy S. Johnson collection.
Despite placing third in the sale’s top ten lots, John Koch’s depiction of the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian did not advance the summer theme. From the Craig and Johnson collection and in stark contrast to Jane Wilson’s Fresh Season, Koch’s monumental oil on canvas depicted the agony and ecstasy of Sebastian’s death and ascension. The artwork sold to the phones for $33,600 (est. $30,000/50,000).
The big news at Leland Little Auctions is a new gallery building. It seems like yesterday that the successful auction house moved into its new digs at 620 Cornerstone Court. By the end of 2021, staff and audiences will make use of a combined space at Cornerstone Court twice as large as the building that opened in 2009.
Leland Little Auctions remained closed to on-site bidders for the June 12 sale. Your reporter followed the sale remotely, with telephone conversations and email exchanges after the sale. For more information, visit the website (www.lelandlittle.com) or call (919) 644-1243.
The top jewelry lot of the sale was a 14k gold ring with a Colombian emerald that weighs approximately 13.67 carats. The stone is prong set in a white gold size 6.5 band. The stunning ring brought $32,400 (est. $20,000/30,000).
A certification from Bailey, Banks & Biddle Co. and original presentation boxes accompanied this stainless steel Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer II wristwatch. Of the five men’s watches in the sale, this one emerged at the top at $21,875 (est. $1500/3000). In 1926 the Rolex Oyster was the world’s first waterproof watch. Adding “Explorer” to the name means the watch was tested in polar, mountainous, and cave environments and kept on ticking.
There were nine Elizabeth Locke jewelry lots in the summer sale. This simple and elegant 18k gold and diamond Rimini necklace led the pack. Each hand-hammered fluted bar link contains a small brilliant-cut diamond. The 18" long stunner sold for $13,800 (est. $3000/5000).
Sri Lankan artist Senaka Senanayake (b. 1951) uses vivid colors to reflect his country’s native costumes and vegetation. This untitled 39" x 50" oil on canvas of women working in a Sri Lankan tea field was acquired in 1996 by the consignor’s parents. It sold on Leland Little Live for $10,200 (est. $8000/12,000).
English burnt bamboo usually does not make it to Leland Little sales. This 108" x 42" x 20" hall tree was an exception. With a large beveled mirror, hat racks, an upper shelf, ten divided slots for walking sticks or umbrellas, and lower side panels, the impressive tree went to a bidder on LiveAuctioneers for $2625 (est. $2000/3000).
This monogram-free seven-piece sterling silver tea and coffee service with tray was retailed by Loring Andrews Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, in the early 20th century. The catalog said the set is decorated in the “Baltimore repoussé manner.” The set, from the James H. Craig and Randy S. Johnson collection, sold to a bidder on LiveAuctioneers for $13,750 (est. $10,000/15,000).
The top southern furniture lot was this Federal walnut lazy Susan dining table attributed to Virginia. The central swivel top measures 36" diameter, give or take a quarter inch. The 32¼" x 60" x 59½" table sold for $10,200 (est. $1500/2500).
This portrait of stage actress Elsa Evans Sanvito by Elmer W. Greene Jr. (1907-1964), from the James H. Craig and Randy S. Johnson collection, 83½" x 43½", oil on canvas, sold to the phones for $30,000 (est. $4000/6000).
At the March 2020 sale, Leland Little Auctions sold a photo by Sally Mann (b. 1951) for $19,680 (see M.A.D., July 2020, p. 96). From her “At Twelve” series, At Twelve (Leah and Her Father), 10 1/8" x 12 11/16", this silver gelatin print from 1983-85, sold in this sale for $4800 (est. $2500/4500).
Leland Little’s new 20,000 square foot gallery is taking shape. The new space will link to the existing 20,000-square-foot gallery, which opened in 2009. The new space will include a pavilion for Little’s automobile auctions. The new space is designed to accommodate events such as conferences and receptions. Its debut will occur later this year, possibly by the winter signature sale the first weekend in December. Prunkl photo.
The catalog referred to the two over two drawers on this Federal walnut hunt board as “an unusual configuration.” The 42" x 51½" x 21" case attributed to a North Carolina furniture maker sold on the Leland Little Internet platform for $9600 (est. $2000/4000).
The top furniture lot of the sale was this Gothic Revival rosewood bookcase, 1860s, attributed to Boston. Acorn and oak leaf carvings trail up and over the three arched cabinet doors. Oak leaf and acorn carvings are also applied to the drawers in the stepped base. The 123" x 87½" x 19" bookcase sold to the phones for $10,800 (est. $4000/8000).
Originally published in the October 2021 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2021 Maine Antique Digest