NEW YORK — Swann Galleries’ Focus on Women auction is scheduled for Thursday, June 1. The sale pulls together an eclectic selection of material representing women’s contributions to art, life and society. From Louisa May Alcott to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Catherine the Great to Susan B. Anthony, and Jane Austen to Amelia Earhart, the works of many famous women are included, but the sale wouldn’t fulfill its brief without emphasizing the everyday lives of women and their unsung accomplishments and triumphs. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Literary works are among the sale’s top lots. Leading the auction is a first edition of Sojourner Truth’s Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Northern Slave, Boston, 1850, at $10,000-$15,000. Also of note is a third edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, London, 1817, from the library of Supreme Court Justice and early supporter of Austen, Joseph Story, estimated at $6,000-$8,000; an autographed large paper edition of The Writings by Harriet Beecher Stowe in 16 octavo volumes, estimated at $3,500-$5,000; and a first edition of Compendio de la Vida, y virtudes de la venerable Catarina de San Juan, Puebla, 1692, the story of Catarina de San Juan, who was reportedly abducted from South Asia and sold into slavery by the Portuguese. She eventually found her way to Mexico and the church and is credited with creating the China Poblana style of dress. The tome has an estimate of $5,000-$7,000.
Religious texts include The Women’s Bible, an 1898 publication signed and inscribed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton — a collection of essays and commentaries on the Bible compiled in 1895 by a committee chaired by Cady Stanton, one of the organizers of the Seneca Falls Convention (the first Woman’s Rights Convention held in 1848) and a founder of the National Woman Suffrage Association, which has an estimate of $7,000-$9,000; and the Bible translated by Julia Evelina Smith, estimated at $3,000-$5,000.
Archives featured in the sale include photographs and letters of Fanny Stevenson documenting her time in Vailma in Somoa with her husband Robert Louis Stevenson circa 1866 to 1904, which carries an estimate of $4,000-$6,000; photo albums and travel diaries kept by Lorette Belle Tulian Eaton during her time in the American West and across the globe from 1905 to the 1920s, estimated at $3,000-$5,000; and the family archive of author Charlotte Perkin Gilman, estimated at $700-$900.
Art features in the auction in a variety of media including photography, prints and sculpture. Of special interest is a large collection of Mary Beth Edelson’s working files, an archive related to her lifetime correspondence and work, estimated at $5,000-$7,000; Cindy Sherman’s 1978 silver print Secretary, printed in 1993 and estimated at $6,000-$8,000; and Ruth Berhnhard’s 1972 silver print Knees & Arms, which bears an estimate of $2,500-$3,500. Also of note are works by Tina Modotti, Sister Mary Corita Kent and Alice Baber.
Developing collecting areas is a strong component for this sale, as the house works to shine the light on the underrepresentation of women. The field of women’s provenance boasts several interesting lots, as well as books printed by woman printers and periodicals published and dedicated to the interests of women and their dedicated causes. Further items of interest are the yearbook for the 318th Women Army Airforce Training Detachment, World War II, class of 1943, estimated at $700-$900; and an autograph script for a performance of Mrs. Jarley’s Waxworks by Louisa May Alcott circa 1867 to 1879, estimated at $2,000-$3,000.
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