Butterscotch in the Press
On the surface, Mel Comberiati and Brendan Ryan make an unlikely pair of sleuths: a passionate professor of music and his former student, a composer of classical music.
What they share is a deep love and respect for the work of Ludwig van Beethoven.
Comberiati, who teaches at Manhattanville College in Purchase, was a Fulbright scholar who studied the great composer in Vienna, while Ryan, who graduated from Manhattanville in 2008, became an art and antiques appraiser, composing music in his free time.
A newly discovered autograph sketchleaf by Ludwig van Beethoven headlined Butterscotch Auction’s November 22 sale at Historic Hall, selling for $120,000 including premium.
The sketchleaf was discovered by one of the gallery’s appraisers, Brendan Ryan, in a Greenwich, Conn., home. “It has been in the same family for about 100 years and was acquired from the collection of Fred M. Steele, a wealthy Chicago lawyer who amassed an important collection of autographs that was auctioned off in 1917. A letter of receipt from a Mr Künzel of Leipzig addressed to Steele and dated 1886 accompanies the lot,” Ryan said.
Observing the staff of Butterscotch Auction Gallery assemble and conduct an auction amid the quirky nooks and crannies of Bedford’s Historical Hall, the 1806 building owned by the Bedford Historical Society and rented out for private parties, meetings and exhibitions, is not unlike watching a well-oiled military logistics crew in action. Leading up to the November 22 auction, merchandise was set up on the main floor, a small stage, narrow upstairs galleries running parallel to the main floor and a tented annex space set up temporarily off the main floor. Oriental rugs and carpets were piled up in the upstairs galleries, the smaller ones displayed by draping them over the sides.
At Butterscotch Auction Gallery’s February 12 estate auction, a monumental still life painting by the Dutch Golden-Age painter Rachel Ruysch (1664‱750) sold for $2.4 million, setting a new world record for the artist at auction. The painting was signed and dated 1700, and at 44 by 35 inches, is one of the largest Ruysch paintings to have ever come onto the market.
Paul Marinucci and his wife, owners of Butterscotch Auction Gallery, knew something was afoot before their July 16 estate sale as they fielded many calls for one lot: a miniature folk art chest.
“People were asking us what the buyers’ premium would be above $50,000,” said Marinucci.
The early Nineteenth Century blanket or storage chest, probably made in New York State (“it was poplar,” Marinucci reported), possessed a tri-color ground – going from green to salmon to white – and was decorated with swag and flower pot motifs. Four floor bidders and one phone participant vied for the 12-inch-long, six-inch-deep lot, which packed a pricey punch for its diminutive size at $195,500.