The Donald Sledz Collection: From Antiquities To Modern

Earning $25,312 and setting the high water mark for the sale was “Low Tide, Maine” by Fern Coppedge, which had at one time been in an Ohio collection of the artist’s works. Oil on canvas, 14 by 16 inches.

Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Tom Hall Auctions

SCHNECKSVILLE, PENN. – More than 325 lots from the collection of the late Dr Donald M. Sledz were sent across the block at Tom Hall Auctions on August 29, in an online-only sale on HiBid that was a testament to the Lehigh Valley, Penn., collector’s passionate eye. Sledz began his collection in 1969, buying ancient pottery shards from Christie’s London. Over the years, with expanding knowledge and as his interests changed, his collection expanded to include African art, ancient and primitive money, antiquities, art pottery, classic cars, coins, gems and minerals, modern and contemporary glass, photographs, rugs and carpets, and fine art by American, German and Russian artists. A final chapter for the collector would expand even further, embracing Midcentury Modern furniture, Southeast Asian works of art and Outsider art, including pieces from self-taught artists from Pennsylvania.

In a collection that represented works of such a globally diverse nature, it is perhaps most fitting that the top lot of the day was “Low Tide, Maine,” a work by a comparatively local artist, Fern Isabel Kuns Coppedge (Pennsylvania, Kansas and Illinois, 1883-1951). Prior to joining Sledz’s collection, the 14-by-16-inch oil on canvas, in an ornate gilded frame, had been in a private collection of Coppedge paintings in Ohio. It set the high water mark for the sale, closing at $25,312.

Fellow Pennsylvania artist Walter Emerson Baum (1884-1956) scored a third place finish when his “The Tipple,” an early coal scene in oil on board measuring 22 by 26 inches achieved $2,825. Other American artists from the collection included Jane Peterson (1876-1965), who was represented in the sale by a watercolor of Venice ($1,695), and another watercolor titled “Christmas Greetings” ($542). Vernon Wood’s untitled oil on board landscape of the Pennsylvania countryside, 11¾ by 13½ inches, was an attractive and reasonable buy for $271.

Other fine art in Sledz’ collection had strength in modern art, from American, English and European artists. Alfeo Argentieri’s (Austrian, 1878-1955) “The Fisher Woman” was impressive at 33 by 28½ inches tall and finished at $2,034 despite some minor wear and paint loss.

Moissanite eyes on the figural bird handle and intricate cloisonné designs were some of the distinguishing characteristics of this Russian silver vodka cup or charka, that was an early piece — and rare survivor — made by Faberge. Bidders topped the 2-inch piece off at $5,876.

Achieving a second place finish at $5,876 was a Russian cloisonné and silver vodka cup or charka made by Faberge. It depicted a figural bird handle with moissanite eyes and intricate wire cloisonné designs, as well as worn visible Faberge marks on the bottom, and “88” and “Faberge” in Cyrillic. The catalog noted that it was an important historical piece “as most imperial Russian Faberge items were lost or hidden in the war.” Other Russian silver in the sale was limited to a pair of cloisonné spoons made in Moscow in the 1890s by Gustav Klingert (working 1865-1916) that featured twisted and enameled stems and enameled bowl backs. The pair served up a tempting $192.

Sledz collected little traditional Western furniture from the look of the offerings, preferring either early primitive furniture or pieces with a considerably more modern aesthetic. Catapulting to the top of the category at $2,091 was a 1981 Mitzi sofa, designed by Austrian Hans Hollein, for Poltronoa, that was distinguished by red, black and blue textile upholstery on a light burlwood veneer frame. Making only slightly less at $2,034 was a vintage Midcentury Modern chair designed by Garrit Rietveld for Cassina, that also favored brightly colored upholstery – red in this case – on a dark and lightwood frame.

Two virtually identical lounge chairs, designed in 1966 by Warren Platner for Knoll, featured steel rod constructed base and soft fabric upholstery. Sold separately, each found a new home for $1,865. More unusual was a purple upholstered “Djin” loveseat, designed in the 1960s by Olivier Mourgue for Airborne. With upholstery that sported a small hole, it nevertheless had appeal to the tune of $1,808. A pair of molded wood lounge chairs designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller earned $1,300 despite one of them having a detached back.

Gaetano Pesce’s “ball chair” for B&B Italia, was cataloged as “very comfortable” and was accompanied by wear – a tear in the fabric and described as in need of “a cleaning – that was a testament to its comfort. Bringing $1,045, its rounded silhouette contrasted sharply with that of a triangular unmarked chair that had been cataloged as a George Nelson yellow coconut-style chair that finished at $904. The same price was realized for a “Bouloum” chaise longue designed by Olivier Mourgue with a form that corresponded to the human form, with flat back and divided leg rests.

Topping an ample selection of modern furniture was this 1981 Mitzi sofa designed by Hans Hollein for Poltronova. Despite some veneer loss, and cataloged as needing a cleaning, it went out at $2,010.

For modern artwork, Bengt Lindström’s untitled gouache on paper, large at 37 by 49¼ inches, was the top earner in the category, making $1,469. Also achieving that price was “Attachment,” a shaped canvas with acrylic paint made in 1993 by Shozo Nagano (Japanese/American, 1928-2007). Rounding out the category was a large oil on board signed but untitled work made in 1985 by Peter Keil (German/American, b 1942). It found a new home for $1,300.

Antiquities were in good company, with figures from Southeast Asia and Egypt providing global diversity. The former, a Khmer torso of a female deity, wearing a tied and pleated sampot in the Baphuon style, stood an impressive 31 inches tall and made $1,695. As for the latter, an Egyptian Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure, standing not quite so tall at 22½ inches, was made of painted gesso covered wood in earth hues of burgundy, tan and greens, with hieroglyphs that continued down the back band. Gesso losses and a crack contributed to the aged aesthetic of the piece, which bidders pushed to $1,300.

Tom Hall Auctions will sell the contents of an Upper Lehigh Parkway estate September 18.

Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, or 610-799-0808.


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