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February sales mark a controversial return and a first

| Monday, Feb. 1, 2010

A century after being rejected by a local major arts institution, a once scandalous painting bares all at Dargate during the East End's gallery's first sale of 2010. In addition to a pair of auctions, J. S. Dill unveils the company's first online sale.

Dargate Auction Galleries

Sometimes, you can't help lose for winning. Take the case of French Post-Impressionist painter Gaston La Touche, who earned the top prize at the 1907 Carnegie International. Aside from winning $1,500 for his idyllic "The Bath," La Touche earned the scorn of local clergy and the Carnegie Museum's art committee, which refused to buy the work. Instead, they sent it packing back to Paris.

The reason behind the furor was that the nearly 7-foot tall, oil-on-canvas work portrays the full torso of a nude woman, from the rear, dressing after a dip in a nearby stream as a satyr watches in the background.

Art lovers and potential bidders can reach their own conclusions as the painting goes on the block during Dargate's upcoming three-day sale, Feb. 12 through 14.

On its long, circuitous trip from Paris to Pittsburgh to Paris to Pittsburgh during the past century, "The Bath" showed up in the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and was purchased by Robert Hall, president of the Pittsburgh Stock Exchange, before landing in the possession of a previous incarnation of Oakland's prestigious University Club.

The sale also includes a half-dozen stellar Tiffany lamps that are on the good side of the tipping point. With pre-sale estimates in the $50,000-plus neighborhood, among the standouts are three rare models with blown-glass bases. Typically, most Tiffany lamps featured solid metal bases. However, these lamps sport bases with glass popping through openings in the metal. The precision needed to achieve uniform bubble of glass in the openings was a difficult task to master, lending another layer of artistry to the lamps.

The shortlist of other sale notables includes a collection of Archibald Willard paintings, a George Sotter landscape of a house at night, Chinese ceramics and porcelain pieces, and jewelry of all types and materials.

Previews are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 9, noon to 8 p.m. Feb. 10 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 11. Bidding starts at 10 a.m. Feb. 12, 13 and 14, at Dargate, 214 N. Lexington Ave., Point Breeze.

Details: 412-362-3558.

J. S. Dill Auctions

J. S. Dill opens February with a sale this Thursday that is stocked with clocks, early photography, postcards, dolls, bears, glassware and household goods.

The top picks among the tick-tocks are a pair of Morbier clocks. Known as "provincial" timekeepers, they were crafted during the winter by farmers in the rural agricultural French village of Morbier. From the late 18th century to the Great War, locals built clocks and sold them to finishers, who would assemble the various pieces to produce a complete clock.

A vast collection of tintypes, daguerreotypes and ambriotypes, and a Victorian celluloid photo album should provoke a myriad of thoughts and questions about the subjects caught by lens crafters of days gone by.

On Feb. 11, the company will conduct its first online auction debut, with Artfact.com as its web provider. The sale features a fine lineup of advertising tobacco tins, carnival items, and advertising pieces.

Preview times for this Thursday sale are from 4:30 to 6 p.m., with the bids starting immediately afterward. Preview times for the Feb. 11 sale are from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 10 and 2 to 3 p.m. Feb. 11. Bidding starts in-house at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. online. All previews and sales are at the J. S. Dill showroom at 2341 Evans City Road, Zelienople.

Details: 724-453-0853.

Constantine & Pletcher

During his lifetime, Max Bell pursued many passions, from architecture to typeface design. Mostly, however, he'll be remembered as the creator of sculptures and paintings based on geometric designs and shapes, including an oil-on-board painting on sale at Constantine & Pletcher this Saturday. The 24-inch by 24-inch work consists of a series of squares within squares at different angles and in an array of colors. A relatively small creation, Pletcher places a sizeable estimate of $17,000 to $20,000 on the painting.

In addition, the sale features more fine art at prices in the three- and four-figure range, along with jewelry, silverware, and porcelain.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, from a masculine point of view, Constantine & Pletcher brings out the gavel for a Feb. 13 sale of the contents of a local sports bar, including more than 150 vintage advertising signs, banners from Three Rivers Stadium, photos of football and baseball stars from years gone by and other sports and bar miscellany.

Previews for this week's sale are from noon to 5 p.m. Friday and 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday, with the auction following. Previews for the Feb. 13 sale are from noon to 5 p.m. Feb. 12 and 9 to 11 a.m. Feb. 13, with the first bids at 11 a.m. Details: 724-275-7190.

The Three Rivers Auction Co.

Tripp Kline says bidders can expect a "nice country sale" on Sunday at his Washington, Pa., showroom with Victorian furniture, folk art, rag rugs, a vintage Coca-Cola cooler, brass beds and more. For bookish types, a pair of oak library rolling ladders promises to be a novel purchase. The merchandise lineup includes hat molds, Spatterware, country-style furniture and a huge Tibetan trunk, complete with a trap door.

The auction previews are from noon to 7 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Sunday, prior to the noon sale, at West Beau and Washington streets, Washington, Pa.

Details: 724-222-8020.

Royal York Auction Gallery

Bob Simon might just start the Royal York's Feb. 13 auction with a call of "ready, aim, fire" as he sells a collection of firearms at his East Liberty gallery. The sure shots in this sale are names like Winchester, Smith & Wesson and other legendary brands. For more genteel tastes, the bill of goods includes glassware, porcelain, dinnerware, lighting and furniture.

Previews are from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 11 and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 12. The sale starts at 9 p.m. Feb. 13 at Royal York Auction Gallery, 5925 Baum Blvd., East Liberty.

Details: 412-661-1171.

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