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A Folk Art Masterpiece Became A Huge Sale At Fairfield Auction

Published: September 17, 2004 at 12:00 am

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A Folk Art Masterpiece Became A Huge Sale At Fairfield Auction

For those in attendance last Sunday morning at Fairfield Auction in Newtown it was a day to remember. As lot number 17, a weathervane in the form of a centaur, came to the auction block and started to sell the reaction was at first snickers, then gasps and some nervous laughter, and in the end pure astonishment.

At $253,000 it was among the most expensive pieces of American folk art ever sold at auction.

The recently discovered weathervane attracted dealers and collectors from the apex of the folk art collecting community and sold to a major collector. The rare and important 19th Century weathervane is one of a handful known in the form of a centaur with a molded body and cast zinc head. But to the experts it was more than a weathervane; it was a folk art masterpiece.


Despite overwhelming interest the vane opened on the floor at only $10,000. But it took just seconds before several of the nine telephone bidders chimed in and took the bidding rapidly up over $100,000. Then a bidder on the floor, the eventual buyer, jumped into the fray and finally prevailed at $220,0000 plus buyer’s premium for a total purchase price of $253,000.


Woodbury dealer David Schorsch and his partner Eileen Smiles, who were standing near the bank of phones, joined the bidding after it climbed to over $100,000, according to a story in the September 17 issue of Antiques and The Arts Weekly (the sister paper of The Newtown Bee). The Woodbury dealers were the winners of the rare piece.


“We bought it for stock,” Mr Schorsch told David Smith of Antiques and The Arts Weekly. “It is one of three examples that I have seen and is in by far the best condition of the three.” The dealer additionally stated that the unusual weathervane had a “neoclassical feeling about it” with a “great balance between elegant and delightful. It’s one of the rarest weathervanes I have seen in years, and it just surfaced out of nowhere.”


Auctioneer Rosie DeStories commented: “It was as exciting as the auction business gets. The consignor had modest expectations, but when we placed our advertisements the reaction was immediate and it was clear we had an important piece.


“The results just go to show that museum quality objects are still out there in barns and basements,” she continued.


Of course the auction didn’t end at Lot 17, the centaur weathervane. Other highlights included a Tiffany art glass vase at $10,062; a painted KPM porcelain plaque at $8,050; a pair of 17th Century English side chairs at $6,900; and a painting by Emile Gruppe which sold at $4,600.


A box of baseball cards discovered at the dump in the 1950s by a Newtown gentleman sold in several lots for a total just over $12,000. Another lot of old Lionel trains which was going to be thrown out before they were brought into the gallery sold in two lots for over $1,700.


Other interesting lots included a Revolutionary War canteen and ammo box which brought just over $2,000 and a group of three atlases dating to the 1870s sold for $1,150.


Jack and Rosie DeStories, the owners of Fairfield Auction, offer free evaluations of up to five items every Tuesday from 10 am to 1 pm at their gallery, located at 53 Church Hill Road. They can also be reached at 364-1555 or online at www.FairfieldAuction.com.


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