Pristine Portrait, Folky Wares Lead Skinner Americana Auction

BOSTON, MASS. — A pristine portrait by Sturtevant J. Hamblen of a child seated in a Boston rocker brought $252,000 at Skinner’s Americana sale October 27. The child is beautiful and wears a blue dress, coral beads and holds a dog on a pink ribbon.

The picture came from the estate of an Oregon woman who saw a television episode where Skinner’s Stephen L. Fletcher appraised a portrait of a boy from the early Eighteenth Century. She attached a note to her picture with Fletcher’s name and “Boston Art Gallery.” The executor of her estate made contact with Fletcher and the picture, which had never been cleaned or touched in any way, came to market. The successful bidder was Jack O’Brien, co-author of Harbor & Home: Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts, 1710–1850, and now senior specialist at Keno Auctions.

The silver, furniture and paintings from the Framingham, Mass., estate of Charles Paine Fisher brought to market some important objects unearthed from a pantry. A silver cann by Paul Revere Jr, circa 1780, was pear-shaped and engraved with a coat of arms and the monogram “GPA.” It descended from Robert Treat Paine, signer of the Declaration of Independence and prosecutor in the Boston Massacre trial. It went to Jonathan Trace for $120,000. A lot of six Boston coin silver spoons, one by Revere, another by Jacob Hurd and the others made possibly by William Simpkins, Ephraim Brasher, Stephen Emery and an unknown maker sold for $4,500. A pair of Revere silver casters went unsold.

The top lot of furniture that sold came also through the Fisher estate. A Federal lady’s secretary bookcase was attributed to Boston maker Thomas Seymour, with eglomisé painting attributed to John Ritto Penniman and the turnings possibly by Henry and or Thomas Ayling. In a gallery walk before the sale, auctioneer Steve Fletcher pointed out its distinctive construction detail.

Fletcher noted that he first set eyes on it in 1989 in Fisher’s parents’ home outside Boston and reported that the original price in 1807 was $39. This time around it brought $120,000 from furniture scholar Clark Pearce, who, bidding for a client, also paid $32,400 for a Boston maple and oak low back chair with sausage turning, also from the Fisher estate. The chair, from about 1660–1680, stood for many years in 87 Mount Vernon Street, Boston, and was found with a plywood seat, along with vestiges of early linen webbing. An identical chair, without feet, is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A Massachusetts Queen Anne upholstered back stool, circa 1740–1760, had a serpentine crest and cabriole legs and realized $14,400 from a phone buyer.

A New York Chippendale mahogany games table spent most days of the preview flat on its top as potential buyers scrutinized it. Dating from between 1760 and 1780, it had a velvet playing surface and concave game piece wells and was carved with floral elements and C-scrolls. It sold to O’Brien for $57,000.

A Connecticut Chippendale cherry chest on chest was made by Samuel Furgarson of East Granby for the 1802 marriage of Hannah Forward and Horace Clark of Granby. Its pierced and scrolled pediment was carved with an asymmetrical cartouche that incorporates two entwined hearts and the initials of the bride and groom on the center finial. With extensive history and identical to an example in the Mabel Brady Garvan collection at Yale, it sold on the phone for $48,000. A Connecticut cherry desk and bookcase, late 1700s, was thought, to have been made in Colchester with a fine interior with shaped dividers and shell carving, it went to the phones for $20,400.

A neoclassical carved mahogany worktable with bird’s-eye maple, thought to have been made in New Brunswick, Canada, around 1815 and with a lift top above a work surface and interior compartments brought $27,600 from a collector.

Lagina Austin, head of Skinner’s appraisal and auction services, found a Massachusetts oval gate leg table with black vase and ring-turned legs and double ball feet, circa 1720–1750, in a warehouse. Fletcher said that while such tables often have problems, this one had only minor flaws. Bidders thought so, too, and pushed the table above the estimated $1,5/2,500 to $19,200 from a phone buyer.

Choice clocks included a Roxbury Federal carved mahogany tall clock, circa 1800, by Ephraim Willard, brother of Simon, Aaron and Benjamin, with brass stop fluting, inlaid stringing and a tombstone dial in white paint with polychrome and gilt, with a rocking ship. It sold on the phone for $39,000.

An early Eighteenth Century Boston mahogany tall case clock by William Claggett with a double sarcophagus top and a tombstone brass and silvered dial went to the Pennsylvania trade for $36,000. The clock came from the Fisher estate.

The ship’s portrait of the American clipper Helen Clinton under the command of Captain Stephen C. Sprague was unsigned but attributed to William Howard Yorke. The ship was built at the Quincy shipyard in 1863 and the portrait descended in the Sprague family until it sold at W. Torrey Little’s September 1970 auction to the current consignor. This time around, it sold online for $28,290. The newspaper account of the Torrey Little sale from the Patriot Ledger of Quincy and Sprague’s bible, along with an advertising card for the ship, accompanied the lot.

The phones took the Susan C. Waters’ 1845 portrait of the 2-year-old Ann Eliza Collins holding a bunch of grapes for $15,600, while an Erastus Salisbury Field portrait of a child in a blue dress and vivid red shoes, holding a watch, brought $18,000.

A Nineteenth Century Nantucket sailor-made yarn swift/sewing box had a turned ivory shaft with whalebone slats atop a mahogany box with ebony and whalebone mounts. The box was decorated with a mother of pearl inlaid star and other elements and its sides were inlaid with two whalebone plaques, one engraved with the Coffin family crest and the other with an American eagle, flag and a banner. Estimated at $4/6,000, it realized $18,000.

A Nineteenth Century pair of scrimshaw whale’s teeth — one depicting Neptune on one side with an American frigate on the other and the other depicting a banner proclaiming “Liberty and Freedom” above a figure of Liberty offering a cup to a spreadwing eagle — brought $10,200.

Of the selection of weathervanes sold, a flattened molded copper leaping horse example by A.L. Jewell & Co., of Waltham, Mass., was $17,220.

Textiles were topped by a pictorial needlework petticoat worked with a couple in a landscape with flowers, butterflies, a stag, a duck and a horse that realized $14,760 from an online bidder.

Two Anthony Elmer Crowell birds sold, each for $10,200. One, a carved raised wing yellowlegs mantel figure, was a standing preening example from around 1930; the other was a calling greater yellowlegs mantel figure from about 1910.

Forty lots from a carefully gathered and well-loved Ohio collection merited their own detailed catalog. Fletcher lauded the collection’s consistency of quality and appeal; each object had well-documented provenance. The star was a southeastern Massachusetts tiger maple tea table, circa 1750–1780, with an oval top and an interesting cutout apron and tapered and splayed legs ending in pad feet on balls. In a presale gallery walk, Fletcher described it as “the textbook example in Eighteenth Century tables…it’s a dream.” It realized $45,000 from the trade.

A diminutive pine chest over drawer, circa 1830–1840, retained the original putty paint in ochre and burnt sienna with red and green highlights in an abstract pinwheel pattern. It went to a phone bidder for $42,000.

The subject of a 1915 watercolor and gouache on paper was an almost architectural view of a Vermont farm around Lake Champlain, in a faux bois frame, by an unknown artist, several of whose other works are in major collections. The picture sold for $42,000 to one of the six phones that chased it. The 1811 reverse painted on glass portrait by Benjamin Greenleaf was signed and dated by the artist depicting 11-month-old George Brackett of Randolph, Vt., holding a highly colored bird. The picture realized $27,600.

Another phone bidder took an arresting rearing Arabian horse flattened, full-body copper weathervane with a forelock and a pierced eye and a repoussé mane and tail attributed to A.L. Jewell & Co., and dated about 1860. It sold on the phone for $36,000. A cast zinc and molded copper Index prancing horse weathervane by J. Howard, also circa 1860, brought $20,400. And yet another phone buyer got a flattened, full-body rooster weathervane, circa 1860–1880, carved from a single piece of wood for $19,200.

The phones also came alive for a late Nineteenth Century game board that Fletcher described simply as “a work of art.” One side was decorated with a black and white checkers game with a geometric border and the other with a Parcheesi board, also with geometric elements. A phone bidder paid $25,200.

A Lancaster County pine and poplar dome top box attributed to the Compasswork Decorator was richly ornamented in red and white on a blue ground and fetched $21,600.

All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.

For additional information, or 508-970-3200.

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