Two 19th-century carvings are centre stage at Brunk Auctions' sale on September 24-25 in North Carolina. Both descended in notable families and the stories and mysteries that surround each carving should encourage us to reopen our history books for more fascinating details.
Leading the way are two carved wooden figures of firefighters, circa 1820. The two descended in the family of Ely Heaslden (died 1855), a colourful man who combined firefighting with street fighting.
In 1842 as the boss warrior of Engine Company 27 in lower Manhattan, Heaslden led his men in a brawl with their bitter rival, Engine Company 34. The battle is reminiscent of scenes from Martin Scorsese's 2002 film Gangs of New York.
Haeslden obtained the 23 inch firefighter figures that had been designed for display on Engine 27 during parades and balls. Each figure is leaning on a gilt fire horn and dressed in period attire. Estimates for the pair are $60,000/$90,000.
Ezekell Hubbell (1768-1834) was a noted China trade merchant and ship owner. For many years the Hubbell family of Connecticut, was involved with trade in the West Indies and China.
A large 19th century Chinese reticulated Rhinoceros horn libation cup, possibly acquired by Ezekell Hubbell, descended in the Hubbell family.
Among the carvings on the 18¾ in. horn are The Eight Immortals on rocky ledges, trees, clouds, a dragon, a tiger and goats. The horn sets in an openwork base with its original black finish. The pre-sale estimate is $60,000/$80,000.
One of the sale's 100+ paintings comes with a noteworthy connection. It is Les fleurs en plein, Parisby Constantin Kluge (1912-2003), the first of 86 lots consigned by Miss America in 1971, Phyllis George.
She was America's first female sportscaster for CBS and the First Lady of Kentucky during the administration of her husband, John Y. Brown Jr. George was devoted to the public recognition of Kentucky art and founded the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft in 1981.
Her Kluge painting from Wally Findlay Galleries is estimated at $3,000/$5,000.
Of the ten lots that descended in the Murchison and Sprunt families of Historic Orton Plantation in Wilmington, North Carolina, one is especially important and extremely rare. The earliest English expedition in the Cape Fear region of North Carolina was led by William Hilton in 1662.
On his second voyage, Hilton produced a promotional pamphlet with the first printed map solely of the Carolinas. The pamphlet was also the first to name Cape Feare (later Fear). Orton Plantation is located on the Lower Cape Fear River and was established in 1725.
Kenneth Murchison purchased Orton after 1862 when it was abandoned. He passed the property to his son-in-law, Dr. James Sprunt in 1904. The Hilton promotional tract is estimated at $20,000/$30,000.