Artworks, 1834 Fraktur In Sale

Posted: May 18, 1996

In one of the more decorative sales of the spring, the Alderfer Auction Co. on Thursday will offer more than 100 original works of art, many by Bucks County artists, many others by prominent illustrators - plus a fraktur that Alderfer officials are calling ``the most important to come on the market in recent memory.'' Done in 1834 by Samuel Gott-schall, it is expected to sell for well over the $70,000 that a previous Gottschall brought at Alderfer's.

Fraktur (the word is the same for singular and plural) were decorative drawings inscribed with sentimental sayings, reminiscent of medieval illuminated manuscripts. They were popular among the Pennsylvania Germans and took their German name from the fact that their lettering was ``broken,'' that is printed, not in flowing script.

Samuel Gottschall and his brothers, Jacob and Martin, all the sons of an 18th-century Mennonite bishop, were schoolmasters but also experts in the fraktur field, according to Willard McKay, who catalogued the sale for the auction company. ``They usually sold the fraktur birth certificates,'' McKay said yesterday, ``but gave out others as awards to favored students.''

Their significance as folk art today is reflected in the use of a Gott-schall fraktur as the poster for the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Pennsylvania German exhibition a decade or so ago. The one to be sold at the Thursday auction, which begins at 9 a.m. at the Alderfer Auction Center, 501 Fairgrounds Rd., Hatfield, was probably done for a favored niece or nephew, since Samuel never married, and descended in the family to the present consignor.

Approximately 8 by 12 inches, it depicts two standing women in blue-green dresses and four hearts, the largest of which contains a sonnetlike poem comparing youth to the month of May and its inevitable transition to autumn and old age.

Hardly a novel sentiment, but in this case a valuable one.

Five-figure prices are also expected for some of the paintings, including a Florida scene by Ben Austrian pictured in the American Art Analog, a matched pair of lanscapes by Edmund Darch Lewis, and an early Fern I. Coppedge depicting a creek and a distant farm. Other local artists in the sale include Walter Baum, Christopher Shearer, Antonio Martino, and Ranulph Bye.

Also of interest are a half-dozen or more works by the Bucks County illustrator Charles Hargens, including a cowboy in a nightshirt. There also are two pencil-sketch groups by Milton Caniff, creator of Terry and the Pirates.

The sale also features good Oriental carpets and decorative objects. There is some furniture, including an early 19th-century decorated tall-case clock from Northampton County.

Inspection is from 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the auction center. For more information, call 215-393-3000.

COLLECTIBLES AND QUILTS. The Penn View Christian School will wind up its spring auction today with two special sessions at the school's Christopher Dock campus, 1000 Forty-Foot Rd., Lansdale. The 11 a.m. session will feature a large collection of limited-edition model trucks, including more than 50 Winross trucks representing local businesses such as Herr's and Wampler/Longacre foods.

At 1 p.m., more than 40 quilts, many of them locally made, will be offered. The session today will begin at 9 a.m. with a general auction sale. For more information, call 215-723-1196.

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