Turning our focus to the April 29th Americana and International Auction, our pick this week is an oil on poplar painted panel by the renowned folk painter, Edward Hicks (American 1780-1849). It is titled “The Old Democrat,” and features a portrait of Andrew Jackson emblazoned across a background of two American flags. Jackson, though controversial, was a dominating figure in Hicks’ lifetime, and founded the modern Democratic Party. This important portrait by one of the period’s top artists has been exhibited by the Princeton Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Mercer Museum. It comes to Pook & Pook, Inc. from a Bucks County, Pennsylvania family, through which it had been passed down, purportedly originating with one of Hicks’ relatives. It is estimated at $50,000-$70,000.
DOWNINGTOWN, Pa. — Pook & Pook, Inc. Auctioneers and Appraisers announces a new collaboration with the jovial, mustachioed king of toy auctions, Noel Barrett. Barrett, along with Pook & Pook, Inc.’s founder, Ron Pook, expressed excitement about joining forces, a move that will benefit both companies, buyers, and sellers. The big question, however, is why these two well-established auction houses are looking to collaborate after decades of going it alone.
Melchoir Fordney: The story of a Pennsylvania master gunsmith and one of America’s first insanity pleas.
If you met Pook & Pook, Inc.’s Vice President Jamie Shearer at a gun show or exposition recently, he has probably shown you a long rifle coming up for auction and offered to tell you the story of its maker, famed Lancaster, Pennsylvania gunsmith, Melchoir Fordney. It might have seemed like an overblown tall tale, but it wasn’t. In fact, the odd circumstances surrounding Fordney’s death are just as wild as they are true.
Pennsylvania (or Kentucky) long rifles are a truly American art form. Used by frontiersmen, their long barrels and interior rifling made them much more accurate than their European contemporaries. Fordney’s work in the early 19th century fell under the Golden Age of Pennsylvania long rifles and his weapons were as intricately beautiful as they were useful. However, the gunsmith’s career, and his life, were cut short when he was murdered by his neighbor, John Haggerty. Haggerty murdered Fordney with an axe and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. There was an English precedent for this defense, but it was largely untried in America. Haggerty’s lawyers had a legitimate reason for this plea. Based on his statements, Haggerty attacked Melchoir Fordney, his wife, and child because of trouble with Haggerty’s talking horse.
One evening in 1847, John Haggerty came into Fordney’s shop and asked him to shoot his (Haggerty’s) horse. Fordney declined, causing Haggerty to grab a gun from the shop and attempt to shoot at the horse twice, but the gun did not fire. Enraged, he then secured an axe from his house next door and ran into the gun shop after Fordney, brandishing his axe. A witness reported that “the back part of Fordney’s head was entirely cut off, his legs were both broken, and marrow stuck in his pantaloons when taken off, one arm was broken, blood over the floor, wall and ceiling.” Haggerty also killed Fordney’s wife, Catherine Tripple, and struck his six-year-old daughter, who later recovered from temporary paralysis.
The gruesome scene had caused quite a stir and it did not take long for Haggerty to be apprehended. When questioned, he reported seeing strange things, including his horse climbing a tree and tormenting him. The horse occasionally shifted forms to become a dragon or the Antichrist. He described his horse and goat fighting in the tree in accordance with an apocalyptic battle, one in which his chickens represented Martin Van Buren. Haggerty seemed confused as to where the axe or the Fordney family fit in, and his reports of the incident were rambling, contradictory, and long-winded enough to fill up eighty-five pages of manuscript with accounts and hallucinations.
Upon examining Haggerty, Dr. Francis Burrowes noted that he had an indentation in his head from a previous injury. Dr. Burrowes said that he did not consider Haggerty “perfectly sane at the time,” and a group of doctors were called in to evaluate his skull fracture. They concluded that insanity did not usually follow such a head injury, but it was not impossible.
Despite Haggerty’s novel insanity defense, the jury found him guilty of murder in the first degree and he was hung. To determine if they made the right judgement, doctors investigated Haggerty’s skull after death, noting that “after the most diligent search, no defect was apparent.” The report went on to say that “the functions of the brain were in no manner disorganized, and every physician present, on being respectively asked, gave it as his solemn opinion that the injuries to the deceased’s head, to which his malconduct had been attributed, did not exist in fact.” Haggerty’s brain looked normal and outwardly healthy, meaning that he was not, in their understanding, insane.
The account of John Haggerty, his talking horse, and the sad fate of the Fordney family are most often remembered when viewing a Melchoir Fordney long rifle. What stories are hiding behind your antiques?
Kendrick Eshelman III, M.D., “A History of Psychiatry in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (Until the year 2000),” The Journal of Lancaster County’s Historical Society, vol. 103, no. 3, Fall, 2001, revised August 20, 2014, reprinted at http://edwardhandmedicalheritage.org/images/A%20HISTORY%20OF%20PSYCHIATRY%20revised%208_20_14.pdf
Lancaster Examiner & Herald, January 27, 1847.
What do these things have in common: A house our first president wouldn’t live in, the oldest piece of land continuously owned by African Americans, and a war ship run aground by pirates?
On October 8th, 2016, we are excited to feature a copy of Birch’s Views of Philadelphia, formally titled The City of Philadelphia, in the State of Pennsylvania North America; as it appeared in the Year 1800. This historically important piece is a highlight of our fall Americana auction and a rare chance for a collector or an institution to own a revered piece of national history.
William Russell Birch and his son, Thomas Birch, drew and engraved the twenty-eight plates that comprised Birch’s Views in 1800. Self-published by William Birch, their work is considered a masterpiece of copperplate engraving and is the first book of views to be produced and published entirely in the United States. Birch, an engraver and miniature painter, started on the work in 1798, amidst Philadelphia’s ten-year span as capital of the United States. The frontispiece, map, twenty-seven views, and even the subscribers list provide readers with a hitherto unavailable wealth of information about circa 1800 Philadelphia, a fact of which Birch seemed to be quite conscious. He advertised it as a “Memento for the 18th century,” and attracted several noteworthy subscribers to this first edition, including Vice President Thomas Jefferson, several members of Congress, New York City Mayor Richard Varick, architect Benjamin Latrobe, and artists Gilbert Stuart and Edward Savage.
The relevance of William Birch’s work extends beyond his careful depiction of Philadelphia’s architecture. In each plate, he and Thomas Birch include images of urban daily life and reveal glimpses of 1800’s fashion, political sentiments, economic endeavors, and daily pastimes. Several plates depict Native American delegations and African American figures. Birch also made last minute amendments to reflect current events. Plate 11, “High Street, from the Country Marketplace,” was reworked to include George Washington’s 1799 funeral procession.
Other plates of interest include Plate 13, “The House intended for the President of the United States, in Ninth Street Philadelphia,” Plate 24, “Gaol, in Walnut Street Philadelphia,” Plate 28, “The Water Works, in Centre Square Philadelphia,” and Plate 29, “Preparation for War to Defend Commerce.” Plate 13 depicts an unsuccessful attempt at the capital city title. As the temporary capital, state officials had an executive mansion built in Philadelphia in the 1790s with the hopes of being named the nation’s permanent headquarters. The attempt failed, however, as George Washington and John Adams both declined to occupy the mansion. Instead of presidents, it housed the University of Pennsylvania until 1829.
The Walnut Street Jail (Gaol) is the titular subject of Plate 24, though another structure dominates the foreground. This building was a former blacksmith’s shop purchased by Reverend Richard Allen and rolled, as visible in Plate 24, to his lot on the corner of Sixth and Lombard Streets. In 1794, the structure became the Bethel African Methodist Church, and the plot is one of the oldest in the country continuously owned by African Americans.
Plate 28 showcases the Water Works in Centre Square, site of the current Philadelphia City Hall. The Water Works pump house was built around the time that Birch’s Views were completed and was the enlightened brainchild of architect Benjamin Latrobe and engineer Frederick Graff. Its construction made Philadelphia the first city in the United States to have a general water-supply system, a system which centered around a water tower fed by steam pumps. The pumps drew water from the nearby Schuylkill River and sent it to tanks in the Water Works dome. From there, gravity dispersed the water throughout the city via wooden water mains.
Finally, Plate 29 depicts the building of the frigate Philadelphia in preparation for an undeclared naval “Quasi-War” with France. She sailed until 1803, when she ran aground after pirate pursuit off the coast of Tripoli. Rather than deliver the ship to pirates, Philadelphia’s captain attempted to sink her. He was unsuccessful, and the later mission to burn the ship in Tripoli harbor was called by Horatio Nelson “the most bold and daring act of the age.”
From infrastructure to politics, Birch’s Views covers the dynamic nature of a preeminent American city. This particular first edition is inscribed “John Morrison, Montgomery County Abingdon Township, Pennsylvania. Augt. 1801,” and is in Pook & Pook, Inc.’s October 8th Americana auction. Only 156 original copies were published and there are very few copies still in private hands. Pook & Pook, Inc. hosted the most recent public sale of an original Birch’s Views in 2011. October’s copy is estimated at $12,000-$18,000.
Emily S. Warner, “Birch’s Views of Philadelphia,” The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, Copyright 2016. http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/archive/birchs-views-of-philadelphia/
Robert S. Teitelman, Birch’s Views of Philadelphia in 1800, US History.org, Copyright 2013. http://www.ushistory.org/birch/index.htm
BY Sara Roffino, Art+Auction
Devang Thakkar spent 10 years developing new products for Microsoft in the Pacific Northwest before relocating to New York in August to apply his expertise to the field of online art sales at Artsy. “The art world has just started the collection of data,” says Thakkar. “Companies like us and others have been collecting data, and now we’re at the tipping point that allows us to start building algorithms and testing them out.”
If Thakkar and his peers—those with whom he works at Artsy and others working across the online auction industry at companies like Paddle8, Auctionata, and Artnet—are accurate in their expectations for those algorithms, online art sales could change significantly more than just where people buy art.
3/20/17 – This week we are highlighting Lot 441 in April 1st’s upcoming toy auction. The Hubley cast iron Static speedboat is a rare piece and one of several notable examples with provenance from the famed Donald Kaufman collection. Kaufman’s collection was recognized as the largest automotive toy collection ever assembled. It was sold by Bertoia Auctions in five sales over the course of three years, totaling 12 million dollars. With such excellent provenance, the Static speedboat can offer insight into the strength of the toy market. It hammered down in 2009 at $5,500; what will it bring this time around? To view the sale and other Kaufman items, visit Bidsquare.com. Lot 441 is estimated at $3,000-$4,000.
You have a piece of art on paper. Before you can research it, determine the artist, or figure out what it is worth, you need to know what it is. Such a simple question can be surprisingly difficult. Works on paper come in many forms, and if it is a print, telling the difference between methods often requires a trained eye. That is why we are here to help; all you will need is a magnifying glass.
Distinguishing between prints and other mediums such as paint, pen and ink, or charcoal starts by understanding the artistic methods and their corresponding tools. Can you see smooth, defined brush strokes, tiny spots where graphite skipped on textured paper, or the slight bleeding around the edges of ink or watercolor? It is also important to consider texture. Does it work with the grain of the paper? If it appears to be oil or acrylic paint, can you feel the ridges that a brush creates?
If you answered yes, you are one step closer to identifying your piece. Now determine that it does not have the print characteristics listed below, and you can be more confident about your identification. If you answered no to these questions, keep reading to learn more about common print types and ways to identify each technique.
What is a Print?
Prints are created for two purposes: as original works of art or as reproductions of existing pieces. In either scenario, creating a print is an indirect transfer process in which an artist manipulates a hard surface (a “matrix”), and then uses the artistically altered matrix to imprint an image on paper, again and again and again.
Common methods: woodblock, linocut
In relief printing, the artist sketches onto a matrix and then carves out areas that will not receive ink. The remaining raised areas are inked, much like a rubber stamp, and pressed to paper. Woodblock printing uses a carved wooden matrix and is the earliest known printing method. It was practiced in 9th century China shortly after the invention of paper, later picked up by Europeans and then skillfully manipulated by the Japanese from the 18th century onward through the ukiyo-e style. Linocuts incorporate the same technique using a sheet of linoleum on top of the wood block to create a smoother printing surface.
The matrix pressing against paper often leaves the resulting image indented. Additionally, working with wood requires certain tools. Look for strokes that indicate knife carving, rounded scoop marks from gouging, or angled chisel marks. Woodcuts differ from linocuts in that sometimes the wood grain is transferred to the image. Linocuts have a smoother appearance and more even areas of color or ink with the same carved aesthetic.
Common methods: etching, aquatint, engraving, drypoint, mezzotint
Intaglio Printing is derived from the Italian intagliare, meaning, “to incise.” Whether using acid, as etching and aquatints do, or a sharp tool, this process is the opposite of Relief Printing, removing the image instead of the background from the matrix surface. The artist then covers the entire plate with ink, allowing it to fill the image crevices, before wiping it away and pressing the matrix to paper. Evidence of a plate mark, an indented ridge that frames the image, is a common identifying factor, caused by the unobstructed pressure of the plate against paper. Additionally, because it is drawn out by the paper rather than pressed on, ink used in these methods often has a slightly raised appearance.
Etching- With etching, an artist first applies acid resistant ground to a metal plate, then incises an image through this layer to expose the metal beneath. The plate is next placed in acid, which “bites” the metal where it is exposed, creating grooves for ink to fill. Artists add contour or shading by changing the shape, direction, and quantity of their incised lines. Because of the tool use, the lines are a uniform width. When an artist stabs through the ground to make dots or slashes, this is called stipple etching.
Aquatint- Aquatint images are created using rosin dust that bonds to the metal plate when heated. The dust resists acid, making the image appear lighter or darker depending on particle sizes as the acid bites around them. This technique is often used together with etching and can be identified by an allover grainy texture when viewed up close.
Engraving- To create an engraving, an artist removes his or her desired image from a plate using a handheld tool called a “burin.” The Spencer Museum of Art described the process as similar to apple paring because the ground, often copper, is scrapped away in small spirals. One can identify engraving because of its distinctive lines. Lines start at a point, grow and then taper at the conclusion of the artist’s stroke. Though etching and engraving are very similar in appearance, remember, etching lines are uniform. Triangular flicks or stabs, characteristic of a burin stroke, are also indicative.
Drypoint- Drypoint involves directly scratching the metal plate and differs from engraving because it displaces metal rather than removing it. Under close inspection, drypoint lines are ragged and natural as compared to neatly-cut engraving lines. The ragged edge, or “burr” on either side of the lines create a feathery look. The burr holds ink well, but gets worn down under pressure, limiting the number of editions that drypoint prints can produce. Early editions are often described as having “lots of burr.”
Mezzotint- Mezzotints differ from other intaglio techniques in that the artist works from dark to light. He or she uses a multi-pointed tool called a “rocker” to score the entire plate surface. If it were inked in this stage, the print would come out entirely black. Lighter variations appear through selectively scraping and burnishing the plate to smooth it out, allowing less ink to collect in the grooves. This polishing effect gives mezzotints a smooth, hazy tone and occasionally allows the rows of uniform tiny dots created by the rocker to show through.
Common methods: lithography, serigraphy
This category of prints is known for flat surfaces resembling paintings. Ink is neither pulled from incisions nor pressed down onto paper, it exists on the same plane, thus “Planographic.”
Lithography- To create a lithograph, an artist uses a greasy crayon or liquid to draw an image on a slab of limestone. The stone is wiped with a solution that will encourage the greasy image to pick up ink (blank areas will repel ink and pick up water). Next, the artist dampens the stone with water that is absorbed by the blank areas, and applies printing ink with a roller. The oily ink does not stick to the wet areas, but adheres to the image. Finally, a sheet of damp paper is placed on top and the whole piece is run through a press. Artists use separate, layered stones for each color. Called a chromolithograph, this is the most common, non-mechanical technique for reproducing paintings. Lithographs demonstrate a stippling pattern throughout. The texture mimics its limestone matrix with dots that appear smaller than mezzotint roller marks, are not in a set pattern, and are less defined than aquatint grains.
Serigraphy- To generate a serigraph, an artist creates a stencil, cutting away areas that will receive color, and places it over a mesh screen. Ink or paint is then squeezed through the open areas of the screen onto paper. A separate screen is used for each color and applied one at a time, creating a layered effect that is the best method for identifying a serigraph.
Other Possibilities for Works on Paper:
Offset Prints- Offset prints, or mechanically-printed reproductions of artwork, are easily identified through close viewing. Colors are composed of a series of uniformly-sized, colored dots in a consistent, pattern that looks computer-generated. Check for this before further identifying your piece.
Hand-Coloring- Intaglio prints are often over-painted to add color, a process called hand-coloring. One can identify a hand-colored, or hand painted, work by looking at the borders between colors. A hand-colored work will demonstrate small flaws such as color overlaps or imprecise lines. Prints done in color will have more accurate borders and solid edges.
Did this article help? If you are still unsure, see the sources below for more information. Share your findings and tag us on Twitter @Bidsquare or Instagram @bidsquaredotcom.
Sources for Further Exploration:
The Museum of Modern Art’s “What is a Print” Interactive: offering step-by-step illustrations for different printing processes
The University of Kansas’s Spencer Museum of Art Print Center, “Image Maps of Printmaking Techniques”: descriptions and helpful magnified views of each printing type to distinguish amongst techniques.
International Fine Print Dealer’s Association, “Glossary”: a glossary of printing terms
by Antiques and the Arts Weekly
DOWNINGTOWN, PENN. — Pook & Pook will host an auction weekend event April 22, 23 and 25. Boasting something for bidders of all interests, the sale starts with a Friday sale of international highlights, followed by Saturday’s Americana sale and concluding with an online decorative arts auction Monday.
Saturday’s Americana auction features a wealth of fine art. Pieces of note include a Hobson Pittman oil on board titled “The Garden” ($15/25,000) and an Edward Hicks oil on canvas landscape with three figures ($25/35,000) exhibited at the Princeton University Art Museum from its American Art from the Class of 1953 Collection. From fine to folk art, the fraktur of Johann Adam Eyer and Johann Conrad Gilbert add interest, as does a watercolor by Jacob Maentel. Maentel’s portrait of John George Kitzmiller of York County and his wife, Anna Christina, features the two in blue ladder back chairs with a courting mirror between them and was exhibited by the Historical Society of York County.
3/13/17 – We are honored to offer the steam collection of Eberhard Luethke in our upcoming March 31st and April 1st toy auction. Mr. Luethke was a well-respected and discerning collector, but even those with prolific collections have favorites. Mr. Luethke’s was a brass live steam locomotive named “Magnet.” Magnet was finely crafted, highly detailed, and is presented on a track within a fitted glass case. Noel Barrett described it as “…one of the finest live steam locomotives I have ever seen,” and estimated it between $6,000 and $8,000. Come check out Magnet and the rest of Mr. Luethke’s collection at one of our previews, starting on March 25th!