Van Cleef & Arpels Jewelry, Marsden Hartley Painting Lead $2.9 Million Grogan Sale
On-site review and photos by Rick Russack, additional photos courtesy of Grogan & Company
BOSTON — The May 1 sale of Grogan & Company continued the company’s streak of grand slam home runs. According to the revised schedule, this sale had only 211 lots, only jewelry and paintings, and brought in just under $3 million. Five lots fetched over $100,000 each, four of which were jewelry, with over 40 lots winning five-figure prizes. Using these numbers, the average sale price per lot was over $13,000. Only 20 batches were passed. Estimates were conservative and GIA documentation was available for many jewels. The online catalog descriptions are detailed and include several photographs of each item.
Four of the lots that sold for more than $100,000 each were fine jewelry. The sale was led by a Van Cleef & Arpels 18-karat gold and diamond “Fuchsia” pendant/brooch and necklace, which fetched $537,500, and a pair of 18-karat gold and diamond “Fuchsia” ear clips. diamonds, also from Van Cleef & Arpels, which made $375,000. . The two lots had been bought by the seller’s husband as a present for his 40th birthday. The fuchsia flower head pendant/brooch and necklace were both signed and the diamonds weighed a total of 19.02 carats. To make the brooch more versatile, the couple had commissioned Van Cleef & Arpels to design a complementary necklace, adapting the brooch to be worn alone or on the necklace. This lot came with a letter discussing the order, the fitting of the brooch and a rendering of the necklace. Taylor See, director of the jewelry department, noted that the necklace and brooch, being a custom design, had never been seen before by collectors, which adds to the interest. The next lot, also signed, was a pair of 18-karat gold and diamond “Fuchsia” clip-on earrings, intended to be worn with the necklace, with diamonds weighing a total of 15.43 carats. He made $375,000.
Two platinum and diamond rings also fetched over $100,000 each. One was centered on a round brilliant cut diamond weighing 5.19 carats flanked by tapered baguette cut diamonds weighing an additional 4.22 total diamonds. The accompanying GIA report indicated that the large diamond was E, VVS2, with no fluorescence. The E indicates that the diamond is colorless and the VVS2 indicates “very slightly included”. In other words, the stone in this ring was high quality and it sold for $175,000. The second ring was centered on a pear-shaped diamond weighing 6.00 carats, flanked by trillion-cut diamonds weighing around 1.00 carats in total. The GIA report for this ring said the diamond was D, VVS1, with low fluorescence, also a very fine diamond and it fetched $150,000.
When, after the sale, See was asked if any of the items in her department surprised her, she mentioned a platinum “fruit cart” brooch, set with gems and diamonds, which reached 16 $250. “It was a very well done and very colorful piece,” she said. “He got a lot of attention.” It included rubies, diamonds, emeralds and sapphires and had an indecipherable maker’s mark as well as French test marks. When See was asked at the preview what her favorite item in the sale was, she picked up a South Sea pearl necklace with a white gold clasp set with diamonds. With 37 cultured pearls, it sold for $4,375.
Since four of the five lots selling for six-figure prices were jewelry, the fifth was a painting, “Wild White Rose” by Marsden Hartley (1877-1943), which fetched $343,750. The painting depicted a single white rose and its leaves on a bright dark red background. The catalog noted that this painting is included in the Marsden Hartley Legacy Project: Complete Paintings and Works on Paper. It was an important painting for Hartley personally, as noted in the catalog. “Hartley painted ‘Wild White Rose’ in 1936. In September of that year, Hartley was living in Nova Scotia with the Mason family when their two sons and nephew drowned at sea. The deaths of his dear friends deeply touched Hartley, as evidenced by his repeated portrayal of the iconic wild rose, or “rosa rugosa,” which blooms along the Atlantic coast. In the years that followed, Hartley produced many iterations of the rose to commemorate the event. The stark contrast, bold colors, exaggerated form, bold black outlines and flattened space of ‘Wild White Rose’ exemplify his work from this period.
Many paintings fetched over $10,000, with two completely different works earning $50,000 each. One was a tempera on Masonite, “Cambridge in May” by Grandmother Moses (1860-1991), signed and dated 1943. It depicted a rural town scene in summer, with cultivated fields in the background, as well as horse-drawn wagons, many houses, a large barn, etc. Most of his scenes are in winter settings, which makes this work a bit unusual. Cambridge, NY is only a few miles from her home in Eagle Bridge, NY The other painting at the same price, $50,000, was a 1928 work by Austrian artist Rudolf Wacker (1893-1939). This painting was an example of the scenes for which he was best known – the homes and backyards of working-class neighborhoods. Another work by Wacker fetched $34,375. Both were descended in the artist’s family and both sold to buyers in Europe.
An oil on canvas, “Mountainside Road,” a rural landscape by Marguerite Thompson Zorach (1887-1968), a pioneer of modernism in America, fetched $25,000. Her well-known resume includes her appearance at the 1913 Armory Show, and she was the only female exhibitor at the Forum of Modern American Painters Selective Exhibition of 1916.
There were a number of paintings by Rockport School artists, the most popular of which, selling for $11,875, was Emile Albert Gruppe’s depiction of Smith Cove in Gloucester, Mass. This is the type of port scene for which Gruppe (1896-1978) is well known. Two autumn scenes by Antonio Cirino (1889-1993) were sold. One won $2,500, and the other, a sunset street scene with several houses, a large church, and people going about their business, won $3,438.
Georgina Winthrop, vice president and director of fine arts, said she especially loves paintings, like the Hartley, with stories to tell. “Another I really liked was ‘Monhegan Burial’ by James Edward Fitzgerald (1899-1971). For me, that scene really told its own story – mourners on a rainy day, in yellow oilskins moving a coffin in a village street with a harbor full of boats. You could feel the emotion in this painting. And I think the price, $34,375, reflected that emotion.
A few days after the sale, Michael Grogan said he was understandably pleased with the results. “One of the things that really caught my attention was the fact that we sent around 145 invoices,” he said. “This indicates that most of our sales are to people with a very specific appeal for what they buy, as opposed to resellers who buy multiple items for inventory. We’re very selective in what we sell, and I think our customers know they’re looking at things they may not see again any time soon. They decided that it was worth researching these select items. Sometimes this makes it difficult to accurately predict what an item will sell for.
The prices shown include the buyer’s commission as quoted by the auction house. For information, www.groganco.com or 617-720-2020.