The bottle, featured in an episode of Antiques Roadshow filmed at Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 2002, estimated at $4,000-6,000, set a record at Skinner’s American Furniture & Decorative Arts online auction on November 23rd when it sold for $275,000.
The most ideal attributes and auction elements were all present: artist, design, condition, provenance, and competitive bidding (the presale estimate was $50,000-70,000). The meticulously crafted sand art bottle, one of a small group that survives today, was made by Andrew Clemens (1857-1894) circa 1885-90. The 7 1/4 inch tall bottle, decorated with an eagle, flag, mortar and pestle, and outstretched arms, was dedicated to Dr. Prosper Harvey Ellsworth “From Two Friends.”
Born in Iowa, Clemens was a young child when he contracted encephalitis, he later attended the Iowa State School for the Deaf. During his summer breaks, he visited Pikes Peak State Park along the Mississippi River in his home state. At the Pictured Rocks, waters percolating down through the overlying limestones, charged with various minerals, stained the sand with a vibrant palette of natural colors. In bottles of different sizes and types, Clemens constructed works of art grain-by-grain using specially devised tools—fish hooks and wands made of hickory—to position the sand into meticulously detailed images, often patriotic constructs.
The bottle was presented to Prosper Harvey Ellsworth. Born in 1838, Ellsworth graduated from Rush Medical College in Chicago in 1860. He served as a surgeon in the 106th Illinois Volunteer Infantry before moving to Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1866. The bottle descended in the family.
“The fact that the owner is known and the subject matter is occupational adds to the rarity of the piece,” says LaGina Austin, Director of Appraisal & Auction Services, an Arkansas native.
Consignments welcome for winter and spring 2021 auctions.
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