Sales put a shine on a bleaker time of year
A quartet of auctions brightens the sale calendar as we head into mid-month. Highlights include another parcel of goods from a legendary East End antiques shop and a sale of signatures from the famous and infamous.
Constantine & Pletcher
When Constantine & Pletcher launched its Feb. 9 sale of goods from Lillian Goldsmith's nearly iconic River House antiques shop in Shadyside, C&P owners considered it the opening chapter of what could almost be a never-ending story of a life devoted to collecting the finer things.
On Feb. 23, Constantine & Pletcher will add a few more pages to the Book of Lillian with a stellar sale of goods from her store and home. The plot line this time around centers on a large selection of period furniture and artwork with roots tracing back to the mid-1700s.
Nearly 90 percent of the sale merchandise is from River House. Two notable exceptions are a pair of Cadillac DeVilles from one owner. A 1992 model with 77,000 miles sports a gray exterior with a gray-leather roof, while its 1998 counterpart, showing 76,000 odometer miles, comes with a beige paint job and cloth roof. Both autos are in excellent running condition largely thanks to being garage kept and maintained regularly.
Furniture will be the main attraction during this sale. The selection of about 100 lots spans styles from Georgian to Empire and periods from the 1700s to the early 20th century. Much of the made-in-America choices date to the early to mid-1800s. A Queen Anne oak cabinet carries its age well with roots reaching to the late 1700s. From the 1850s, an Empire brass-and-mahogany mirror nicely reflects its lineage. And the roster continues with a Dutch inlaid-marquetry Bombay chest, Beidermeier mahogany secretary, many pieces of Georgian and Regency furniture and a smattering of French armoires.
Moving on to the art group, a familiar name reappears in the form of an oil painting by British artist George Romney, who is, in fact, a distant relative of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Working in the mid- to late-1700s, Romney often struggled to earn a living. At one point, he separated from his wife and family for nearly 40 years as he worked in London and Italy. His “Portrait of a Lady” is one of many Romney paintings bearing that title. The art group also includes portraits by American and British painters, early primitive European art from the 1700s and a large group of 18th- and 19th-century prints, many of which feature Western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh scenes.
The jewelry portion includes a 4.71-karat diamond-and-platinum ring. And a platinum-and-diamond necklace with 500 diamonds totaling 10 karats is a true dazzler. For his-and-hers accessories, an 18-karat gold pin and 18-karat gold set of cuff links make a nice coupling.
Pletcher admits that it's nearly impossible to mention every single piece or type of merchandise in the sale, which includes a German-made porcelain figure of Frederick the Great, a 27-inch model of a 1950s Chris Craft boat with an inboard motor, a French ship's clock and many of the fabulous lamps and chandeliers that were a mainstay at River House.
Previews are from noon to 5 p.m. Feb. 22 and 8 to 9 a.m. Feb. 23. An uncataloged sale, also chockfull of River House goods, starts at 9 a.m. followed by the catalog sale at noon. Previews and sales are at the Constantine & Pletcher showroom, 1306 Pittsburgh St., Cheswick. Details: 724-275-7190
Three Rivers Auction Co.
Let's call it a signature event as Three Rivers Auction Co. stages a Feb. 23 sale featuring a large and diverse autograph collection from a former Ohio industrialist. Along with the John Hancocks of just about everyone but John Hancock, the collection includes sports stars of yesteryear, high-flying astronauts, Broadway luminaries, U.S. presidents and even a mass murderer.
While four other consignors contributed about 15 signatures to the sale, 90 percent of the autographs belonged to the Buckeye State resident who amassed his collection by acquisitions and asking notable personalities to sign their names on Playbills, book covers and any other piece of paper upon which they could make their mark.
America's military men earn a well-deserved salute in the collection, where the ranks are filled by the likes of World War I flying ace Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, astronauts Neil Armstrong and John Glenn and World War II. Army Gen. Omar Bradley. Local celebs include legendary Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner, Steelers great Franco Harris and crooners Bobby Vinton and Perry Como. Among the oddities is a baseball inked by Fab Four mop-top Paul McCartney.
With the Oscars broadcast ready to premiere, the collection includes the names of enough silver-screen legends to line Hollywood Boulevard. Earning top billing are the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Jack Lemmon, Sir Laurence Olivier and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Our country's chief executives are well represented by Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Gerald Ford. Fittingly, the name of the woman who covered every president from Eisenhower through Obama, press correspondent Helen Thomas, is also up for grabs.
One painting on the block will command star treatment and, possibly, make a name for itself when the hammer comes down. An oil portrait of American statesman Daniel Webster carries a low five-figure estimate. Hailing from a Gibsonia consignor, the work is attributed to American artist Chester Harding, who was a friend of Webster and painted him many times. Most likely based on a daguerreotype of Webster, the painting has been credited to Harding by the Chicago Appraisers Association.
The sale also includes prints, paintings, rare books and other ephemera.
The sale previews are from noon to 6 p.m. Feb. 22 and 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 23, followed by the sale. Previews and the sale are at the Three Rivers showroom, 382 W. Chestnut St., Washington, Pa. Details: 724-222-8020.
If you manage to survive Cupid's arrows, you might just want to take aim at BHD Auction's next online sale, which starts Friday, and is a single-consignor affair. What this North Hills estate lacks in antiques, it compensates for with many good collectibles. One of the few older items is a photo album that tracks the family's growth through tintypes from the Victorian age to images of more-recent vintage.
From the not-so-distant past, a collection of Beatrix Potter figurines can be tracked down to the 1950s. Especially rare is a sly and slightly devious-looking fox. Also, a few hard-to-find Hummel pieces are in the mix, such as a Nativity scene, along with pieces from Roseville and Rookwood.
A pair of music boxes from Thorens and Reuge should hit the right note for some bidders, while mass-transportation history buffs will look for a “fare” deal on a collection of Pittsburgh Railway tokens.
The 'net-only sale ends Feb. 28. Details: 724-816-0683 www.bhdauctions.net
Royal York Auction Gallery
With merchandise still coming in, the Royal York Auction Gallery is preparing for a Feb. 23 sale that includes goods from several local estates, including one with a Shadyside address. Sale previews are from 5 to 9 p.m. Feb. 21 and 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 22. The sale starts at 9 a.m. Feb. 23. The previews and sale are at 5925 Baum Blvd., East Liberty. Details: 412-661-1171.
John Altdorfer is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media.