Although fine furniture and a rare first edition of William Birch's view book of Philadelphia as it looked in 1800 should bring the top prices at Pook & Pook's first catalog sale of the new year, the most striking of the more than 750 lots might be an oil-on-canvas -
The Dead Canary
by Harry Herman Roseland - with the relatively modest presale estimate of $6,000 to $9,000.
During the 19th and early 20th century, Roseland (1866-1950) was one of the United States' greatest producers of genre paintings, scenes from the late Renaissance on, that forsook deities and heroes in favor of homelier topics - sometimes comic, sometimes tragic.
Roseland's works usually depicted post-Civil War scenes, but perhaps his most famous is To the Highest Bidder. The searing depiction at an American slave market of a soon-to-be-separated mother and daughter is now in the collection of Oprah Winfrey.
The Dead Canary, to be offered at the auction's first session beginning at 6 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Downingtown gallery, depicts shallower grief. One of more than 50 paintings in the session, it is signed and dated '86. It shows a young girl sitting with her face buried on a table next to the pet she mourns, its cage and an equally lifeless but unmourned doll nearby.
No such sentimentality clouds the 28 plates in Birch's Philadelphia picture book, whose complete title is The City of Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania North America as it appeared in the year 1800. The book, which will be offered at the second session, beginning at 9 a.m. Jan. 15, has a presale estimate of $70,000 to $90,000, the auction's highest. The pictures in the book, from a private consignor, depict homes and public buildings, including the First Presbyterian Church, the Spruce Street Alms House, and the Arch Street Ferry.
Birch, according to the description in the auction catalog (also accessible online at www.pookandpook.com), was the first person to successfully publish engraved view books in the United States.
Among the 156 original subscribers to the work were Gilbert Stuart and Thomas Jefferson, who ultimately sold his copy to help form the Library of Congress. The last copy to be sold publicly was in 2000 at Sotheby's.
Antique furniture, early U.S. coin The nearly 500 lots in the Jan. 15 session offer a number of other items with five-figure presale estimates. A U.S. 1796 $10 gold coin should bring $25,000 to $40,000; a rare carved-maple William and Mary armchair, made around 1700 and that belonged to the Mancius family of Ulster County, N.Y., is expected to sell for $40,000 to $60,000.
Antique furniture in the session includes an English oak long bench made around 1700, with a modest presale estimate of $800 to $1,200. It is one of half a dozen pieces being sold by the Philadelphia Museum of Art to benefit acquisition funds.
The session also offers two dozen lots of silver; Chinese porcelains and decorative arts, notably a 19th-century carved-ivory-and-wood model of a junk ($3,500 to $4,500); scrimshaw and sailors handicrafts; American Indian basketry; samplers; Shaker furniture; jewelry; and rugs.
The Jan. 14 session also offers several lots with five-figure presale estimates: a Philadelphia Chippendale mahogany dining chair identical to one illustrated in John T. Kirk's American Chairs: Queen Anne and Chippendale ($15,000 to $25,000); a Pennsylvania or Maryland Chippendale walnut dining chair made around 1770 and identical to one illustrated in Joseph Downs' American Furniture: Queen Anne and Chippendale ($20,000 to $30,000); a Pennsylvania Queen Anne walnut tall chest made around 1760 ($30,000 to $50,000); and an oil-on-canvas landscape titled Waterville, Vt. by the 20th-century American painter Emile Albert Gruppe ($20,000 to $30,000).
Other paintings in the session include works by Cullen Yates, whose Incoming Tide, Ogunquit, Maine has a presale estimate of $4,000 to $7,000; Thomas Henry Hope, represented by a still life with apples ($5,000 to $10,000); Elizabeth Washington; Hermann Herzog; Carl Philipp Weber; Albert Van Nesse Greene; Christopher Shearer; the contemporary Chinese American artist Zhiyue Zheng; and the contemporary Polish painter Vladislav Chmielinski, whose pair of winter landscapes with horse-drawn sleighs have a presale estimate of $5,000 to $8,000.
Previews are noon to 5 p.m. Jan. 8 and Jan. 9; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 10, 11, 12, and 13; 10 a.m. to sale time Jan. 14; and 8 a.m. to sale time Jan. 15 at the gallery at 463 E. Lancaster Ave. For further information, call 610-269-4040.
Advertising items at Morphy's More than 800 lots of advertising memorabilia, including signs, clocks, shaving mugs, serving trays, cigar boxes, and ephemera for a wide variety of products will be offered by Morphy Auctions beginning at 10 a.m. Jan. 8 at the gallery outside of Reading at 2000 N. Reading Rd., Denver. Online bidding has already begun at www.morphyauctions.com.
Most lots have presale estimates in the low-three-figure range, although a half a dozen or so should bring four-figure prices. They include: a wooden Ever-Ready Safety Razor clock in working order; a occupational-portrait shaving mug depicting the owner of an Iowa seed company (each $1,000 to $2,000); a 1954 tin Coca-Cola die-cut 12-pack sign ($2,000 to $2,800); a 42-inch porcelain two-sided Oldsmobile service sign from around 1940 ($2,500 to $4,500); and a Dr. Daniels veterinarian cabinet advertising Dr. Daniels medicines ($3,000 to $4,000).
Preview hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday to sale date Jan. 8. For further information, call 717-335-3435.