Auction Report: November 17, 2008 (Pickfair)

Editor’s Note: Mary Pickford was the queen of Hollywood from the silent movies days. She lavished her home, Pickfair, with incredible antiques and collectibles—which will be sold next month in a live, online auction. Here are some of the crème de her crème.

Antiques, fine and decorative Art, furniture, collectibles and memorabilia are on offer at this glamorous and stylish auction of Pickfair, the estate of Mary Pickford.

The auction is being held by Julien’s Auction at the Beverly Hills Hilton Nov. 22 and 23. Auction Network will broadcast live streaming video of the sale and provide viewers with real-time, interactive bidding. I will be there to add color and commentary on some of my picks, best buys and best investments during the auction.

In the golden age of silent movies, Mary Pickford, “America’s Sweetheart,” captured the hearts of the moviegoing world. In addition to her illustrious film career, her achievements in the Hollywood movie industry include being co-founder of United Artist Studios, co- founder of the Academy of Arts and Science and the first hand and footprints in front of the famous Grauman’s theater on Hollywood Boulevard.

She and husband Douglas Fairbanks Sr. were Hollywood royalty and during their marriage, created Pickfair, the legendary house and grounds that served as host for dignitaries, foreign heads of state and all the leading stars of the day.

Many of the items featured in this sale have at one time throughout the years been featured in press releases and magazines such as Architectural Digest, House and Garden and the Los Angeles Times. Of the more than 700 items for sale, many will garner high bids. Here is a sampling of my picks.

Lot 268, a 103-piece porcelain dinner-service collection of the Napoleon and Josephine pattern made by Capo di Monte. It’s exquisitely over-the-top and includes decorative devices such as raised allegorical figures, gilding, latticework and central coat of arms with a blue underglaze mark. Made in the early-20th century, its estimate is $8,000 to $10,000. This service will appeal to the serious porcelain-designer collector.

Capo di Monte dinner service

Lot 652, a Continental silver, gold, enamel and garnet-studded jewel casket, gifted to Mary Pickford by Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, has dual appeal—celeb and royalty. Designed and crafted by Luigi Pallotti, this will far surpass its $3,000 to $4,000 estimate.

Jewel casket from the Russian Grand Duchess Maria

Lots 412 and 413, two paintings by Paul de Longpre (1855-1911). Longpre is known for his botanical paintings, particularly roses. French by birth, Longpre relocated to New York and established himself as a successful artist. In the late-19th century, he moved to Los Angeles and became the city’s first major still-life painter. It is likely that he is the first Southern California painter to earn major national reputation.

In 2007, Bonham’s and Butterfield, in their sale of California and American paintings and sculpture, sold a Longpre oil on canvas titled, “Bouquet of Pink and White Peonies,” for $144,000. The estimates of $20,000 to $30,000 each are conservative at best.

Lots 412 and 413, two paintings by Paul de Longpre

Lot 417 is a landscape by American Hudson Valley artist Asher Durand (1796-1886). This impressive oil-on-board depicting an expansive vista of trees, lake and a sailboat is typical of the lush style of the Hudson River School. Signed Durand A, the 21¼-by-35-inch painting is a fine example of Durand’s work.

It does not have the same draw as the “Kindred Spirit,” a painting he did that featured artists Thomas Cole and William Cullen Bryant positioned in a natural setting in the Catskills. That painting sold at the 2005 Sotheby’s auction for $35 million, which set the mark for the highest-selling painting of an American artist at the time.

It’s anyone’s guess what this painting will go for with an estimate of $25,000 to $30,000. I suggest that it will cap at around $45,000.

Asher Durand landscape

Lot 433, a group of three 19th-century needlework samples is a sleeper at $1,200 to $1,800. These three, polychrome needlework on homespun textile feature alphabets, flowers, biblical verse and animals. The market for American needlework holds its own and continues to sell well. It’s a curious homespun addition to the sale when stacked against the European furniture and decorative items. I think these three will walk home at a good price.

One of the three needlework samples

Note: Most, if not all, the still shots, film memorabilia and letters of Pickford, Fairbanks and Buddy Rogers, Pickford’s third husband, are going up with low estimates.

Items that consistently sell much higher than the posted estimates are personal diaries, appointment books and guest books of celebrities.

Lot 749 is going in with an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000, which will be blasted out of the water. Autographs include notables such as FDR, Marconi, Mussolini, Thomas Edison, George Bernard Shaw, Henry Ford, Grand Duke Alexander Mikailovich of Russia, Pearl S Buck, Lillian Gish, Amelia Earhart, H.G. Wells, etc. etc.

– By Christopher Kent, a member of the WorthPoint board of advisers and director of evaluations for WorthPoint. He is also an antiques and collectibles generalist, fine-arts broker and president of CTK Design.

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Lot 268