Single-owner collections dominate sale
The well-publicized collection of old American Navy flags by the late Richard Dietrich Jr., including the colors of “Old Ironsides,” is the top attraction at Freeman’s sale on April 30 of American furniture, silver, folk and decorative arts. But several other single-owner collections are also gaining major attention. Among the more than 580 lots to be offered at the first session, for instance, beginning at 10 a.m. at the gallery at 1808 Chestnut St., are more than 100 from the estate of Virginia H. Knauer.
The well-publicized collection of old American Navy flags by the late Richard Dietrich Jr., including the colors of "Old Ironsides," is the top attraction at Freeman's sale on April 30 of American furniture, silver, folk and decorative arts. But several other single-owner collections are also gaining major attention.
Among the more than 580 lots to be offered at the first session, for instance, beginning at 10 a.m. at the gallery at 1808 Chestnut St., are more than 100 from the estate of Virginia H. Knauer.
Knauer, who was married to Wilhelm F. Knauer and died in 2011, became involved in Republican politics during the Eisenhower presidential campaign. She is now nationally remembered as a consumer affairs advocate under presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan whohelped establish the Federal Citizen Information Center.
But she also had a local history. Born here in 1915, she attended the University of Pennsylvania and the University of the Arts before becoming active in city and state Republican politics. And she also had an eye for acquisitions.
A William and Mary table with turned legs and stretches that was exhibited at "A Man Full of Trouble" tavern has a presale price estimate of $10,000 to $15,000, according to the auction catalog (also accessible at www.freemansauction.com). Two Queen Anne walnut pieces made here around 1760 - a dressing table and chest-on-stand - each have presale estimates of $6,000 to $10,000; and a pair of Chippendale carved walnut side chairs have a presale estimate of $10,000 to $15,000.
A Chippendale mahogany tester bedstead has a presale estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. And a walnut dressing table attributed to the Philadelphia carver Martin Jugiez , and listed in the estate catalog of Dr. William H. Crim of Baltimore (1845-1902), has a presale estimate of $80,000 to $120,000.
Paintings include a portrait of Dolley Madison attributed to Samuel F. B. Morse, and also exhibited at "A Man Full of Trouble," that has a presale estimate of $10,000 to $15,000.
Another collection in the sale belonged to the late Janet Brown, a Philadelphia native and Temple University alumna who, before her death in 2007, ran a trendy fashion boutique in Port Washington, N.Y. Among items from her estate are a dozen lots of sterling and mid-20th century furniture, notably a 1940s Gilbert Rohde laurel and rosewood sideboard ($3,000 to $5,000).
The sale also features 92 lots from the estate of another family with Philadelphia ties, William R. Wister (1904-1992) and his wife, the former Hanna Willets (1917-2011). Although their estate was in the wealthy northern New Jersey community of Oldwick, Wister was the son of Owen Wister, author of "The Virginian" and a member of the family that came here in the early 18th-century and built the Germantown mansion Grumblethorpe. (For a long time, William Wister, Jr., and his former wife, Ethel Benson "Peppi" Wister, had a large estate in Berwyn.)
Among the Wister estate items are Chinese export porcelains; three silhouettes of Wister family members that were formerly in Grumblethorpe; a Regency mahogany secretary bookcase ($8,0000 to $12,000); and a signed autograph letter from George Washington dated Philadelphia Jan. 7, 1795 ($15,000 to $25,000).
The morning session ends with 250 lots of American furniture, notably a Chippendale carved walnut dressing table made here around 1770 ($35,000 to $65,00); decorative arts, including a painting of Hamlet and Ophelia by the English-born Philadelphia artist George W. Pettit ($10,000 to $12,000); and folk art, notably a painted and decorated yellow blanket chest, attributed to the Virginia carver Johannes Spitler (1774-1837), that has a presale estimate of $8,000 to $12,000.
The 13 lots from the Dietrich collection have their ownsession, beginning at 6 p.m. – and their own catalog, which details not only the flags, 12 of which were flown by the USS Constitution, as "Old Ironsides" is formally known, but also a history of the young nation at the time of the War of 1812 and of Dietrich himself.
The lots begin with a rare English naval red ensign, flown between 1801 and 1854 by the Constitution when making courtesy calls to English ports, and an Imperial Brazilian ensign for similar courtesy calls to Brazil (each $30,000 to $50,000). The only really affordable lot is a three-pound cannon ball retrieved from a Constitution swivel gun ($300 to $500).
Three-figure prices are expected for at least four of the flags: a circa 1816, 19-star ensign ($100,000 to $200,000); a 31-star, circa 1851 ensign ($150,000 to $250,000); a 28-star "Texas Flag" ensign dating to about 1846, with two stars patched on with the admission to the United States of Iowa in 1847 and Wisconsin in 1848 ($100,000 to $200,000); and a commodore's broad pennant hoisted when the flag officer took command of the squadron ($150,000 to $250,000).
The 13th flag in the collection is a large 18th-century/early 19th-century, 13-star naval color that is one of Dietrich's earliest acquisitions. Its presale estimate is only available upon request.
Previews: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through next Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 28 and 29. For further information call 215-563-9275.
Military items at Rago A military item of local interest is also being offered at a "discovery" auction beginning at 9 a.m. Friday at the Rago Arts and Auction Center, 333 N. Main St, Lambertville.
Although it would be difficult to get to the entire auction on such short notice, a few of the top items in the 996-lot sale will go on the block late enough to be biddable.
Along with Asian and native arts, bronzes, arts and crafts, including 20 lots of contemporary Stickley, there is a 52-inch airplane propeller expected to bring $400 to $600. It was presented to Master Sgt. Peter J. Solometo from Mitchel Field, Long Island, in New York.
Now living in California, Peter Solometo, Jr., long a Philadelphia-area resident and active in the Log Cabin Republicans, recalls that it belonged to his father, a career Air Force NCO. He was content to let other family members dispose of it, he said this week.
For further information call 609-397-9374.
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