Ammi Phillips’s circa 1855 double portrait of the Ludington children. But will the work live up to its $300,000 to $500,000 estimate? In general, Phillips’s work is not rare to the market, having appeared at auction in 18 of the past 22 years (Fig. 10).
And his rich auction history reveals tremendous value discrepancies: 73 percent of his works sold for less than $30,000, but in rare cases they have achieved six or more fi gures. Perhaps as a result of this wide range, estimates of his work are not very accurate. Although 25 percent of his sales have been recorded in range, 42 percent either sell for less than their estimates or are bought in (Fig. 12).
Moreover, since 1988 Christie’s has done the worst on Phillips’s estimates, having recorded more buy-ins and sales below estimate than any other house (Fig. 11). Yet, there is reason to be optimistic about this lot: Not only is it larger than average (as Fig. 13 shows, size is fairly well correlated with price in Phillips’s market), it is also one of only 10 known examples of Phillips’s portraits featuring two sitters.
Northeast auctioned one in 2007, establishing Phillips’s auction record of $1.3 million, and in 1988, a double portrait of Edward and Henry Bronson brought $170,500, or $311,550 in infl ation-adjusted terms at Sotheby’s. So even though Phillips’s name is more often associated with the folk-paintingunder-$ 30,000 category, past results of double portraits suggest Christie’s is on target with its six figure estimate.