MANCHESTER, N.H. — Northeast’s annual August sale in Manchester is put together with an eye toward the buyers who flock to the area for Antiques Week in New Hampshire. For the most part, the sale — like the shows that follow it — represents the middle and high end of Americana market. To some extent it gauges the health of that market.
Ron Bourgeault pronounced himself pleased with the August 2–4 event at the Center of New Hampshire that grossed $2.3 million on nearly 1,600 lots. “We had over 300 retail customers,” said the auctioneer, emphasizing the importance of offering a range of material at all prices to attract new clientele and younger buyers.
The juggernaut got going Friday with just over 300 lots assembled by the late Eve and Bruce Wilson. Northeast Auctions consultant John C. Newcomer met the couple in 1968 when they visited his first shop in Harper’s Ferry, W.Va. Over the years the Wilsons collected painted furniture, textiles and “all things country,” Newcomer said.
The hoard contained hat boxes by the dozen. An 11-by-16-inch box bearing the label of the S.M. Hurbert Paste Board Band Box Manufactory, 25 Court Street, Boston, went above estimate for $1,920, slightly less than the $2,574 it fetched at Northeast in 2009. A hatbox depicting the US Capitol Building with an American flag and cavalry troops ($9/1,200) achieved $4,800, more than its 2009 price of $4,095. Labeled Hannah Davis boxes garnered $1,440 and $840.
The prize of the Wilson ensemble was five watercolor on paper portraits by Rufus Porter (1792–1884). Representing three generations of the intermarried Greenleaf, Plummer and Bartlett families of Massachusetts, the group, framed as one, achieved $25,200 ($2/3,000).
Saturday began with a single-owner session of property from the collection of Suzanna and Milton Miller of Baltimore. In the preface to the standalone catalog, the couple’s sons Jeff, Mickey and John wrote of their parents’ love of British ceramics and American folk art.
Heading a large selection of Liverpool pottery was a 9½-inch-tall printed and enameled jug decorated for the American market with a Boston fusilier holding a Massachusetts flag. It went to William Kurau for $11,400. The Pennsylvania dealer also claimed a Herculaneum Pottery tankard, $4,200, printed with a bust-length portrait of George Washington.
“I’d been after that tankard for 20 years,” said Kurau, pleased with his purchases. Overall, prices for most of the pottery were about right, he said. “It’s always been a specialized field. What sells depends on who is looking for what at any given time.” 111/8 inches.
Measuring 111/8 inches tall and estimated at $3/5,000, a jug decorated with an American packet ship, Thomas Jefferson and an American eagle crossed the block at $10,320. Standing 87/8 inches tall, a jug embellished with a view of the signals at Portland Observatory and an American ship on reverse made $5,700. Two mugs — one decorated with a cameo portrait of George Washington, the other inscribed “Union to the People of America” and “Civil and Religious Liberty to All Mankind” — fetched $4,080 and $3,360, respectively.
The market for portrait miniatures, academic and folk has seen an uptick since several prominent dealers began cultivating interest in them. A charming watercolor on ivory portrait miniature by Clarissa Peters Russell (1809–1854), better known as Mrs Moses B. Russell, depicting a girl holding a basket of strawberries ($4/8,000) sold in the room to Jack O’Brien, bidding on behalf of Leigh Keno for $30,000. With fewer bells and whistles, a second Russell portrait of a girl brought a comparatively restrained $6,000.
There were more folk portraits from the estate of Kristina Barbara Johnson. Two pastels by Micah Williams, the subject of a current retrospective at the Monmouth County Historical Society in New Jersey, fizzled. A circa 1830 portrait of the pretty Mrs Valentine Smith Alison of New York passed. Northeast had follow-up interest in the piece at its reserve price of $8,000. A pastel of New Jersey notable Robert Field Stockton sold for $6,000.
Sculpture included a 47-inch-long molded copper and zinc horse and sulky weathervane ($15/25,000) that sold in the room to Gary Green, a buyer from upstate New York for $49,200. A carved and painted cigar store figure of an Indian princess, 78 inches tall and possibly by Samuel Robb, left the room within estimate at $19,200.
Currier & Ives
One hundred, twenty-eight lots of popular Nineteenth Century American prints, many by Currier & Ives and some formerly in the collection of Ladd Macmillan, crossed the block on Sunday. Leading the group was “The Road — Winter,” a large folio lithograph published by N. Currier in 1853. Against a $7/10,000 estimate, it brought $24,000 including premium, selling to a New York collector. Skinner sold a copy of this print in 2008 for $30,810. The celebrated lithograph is ranked 22 in the original “Best 50” and one in the “New Best 50,” large folio. Bourgeault said interest in Currier & Ives was stimulated by a Saturday evening presentation by John Zak, president of the Historical American Print Collectors Association.
Currier & Ives prints inspired by the paintings of Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait found favor, with “Life on the Prairie: The Trapper’s Defense — Fire, Fight, Fire” selling for $7,200 and “Brook Trout Fishing — An Anxious Moment” bid to $4,560. A complete set of large folio prints from “The Life of a Fireman” series failed, however, at an estimate of $7/10,000.
Formal furniture produced mostly respectable results. Some major lots passed. Bay State craftsmanship got a bump from the ongoing promotion for “Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture,” the joint venture launched by Winterthur and ten Massachusetts institutions that gets fully underway with exhibitions and programs this fall.
Illustrated in the 1974 anthology Boston Furniture of the Eighteenth Century, a reverse serpentine slant lid desk ($10/20,000) with cabinetmaker Benjamin Frothingham’s label achieved $42,000; a Boston mahogany card table of circa 1770 made $26,400; and a Massachusetts mahogany serpentine chest of drawers garnered $20,400.
From Connecticut, a Queen Anne cherry highboy and lowboy from the Wethersfield area, both ex-collection of Bernard Spillane, sold above estimate for $27,600 and $15,000.
A New Hampshire Queen Anne tiger maple Dunlap School chest on chest that fetched $26,000 in 2007 resold just above estimate for $31,200 and a paint decorated, chair back settee marked with the brand of L. Barnes of Portsmouth commanded $8,400.
A Rhode Island clock, maker unknown, in a shell carved tall case left the room at $26,400. By tradition, the clock was owned by Colonel John Spurr of Dorchester, Mass., who married Sarah West in Newport, R.I., in 1777.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
Northeast Auctions is at 93 Pleasant Street, Portsmouth. For information, 603-433-8400 or www.northeastauctions.com.