PLAINFIELD, N.H. — William Smith’s Thanksgiving weekend auction sparkled with wonderful jewelry, beautiful paintings, interesting American and European furniture and some desirable Asian items, along with choice country pieces. The atmosphere was festive, the wine and cheese preview adding to the feeling that this is as much a social gathering of friends as it is a marketplace. The breadth of categories of the offerings at this annual auction makes this an event worth keeping on one’s calendar.
The jewelry offerings were something special. Yes, there were three exquisite Tiffany pieces, but the other offerings were all of superior quality. Before the sale, Bill Smith said he was pleased to note that the jewelry came from local sources. But, as usual, with this energetic young man, he finds consignments from a large geographic area, including Tucson, Ariz.
For under $1,000, there were dozens of pieces of estate-fresh tables, bureaus and sets of chairs. A Hepplewhite mahogany four-drawer chest with curly maple banded drawers sold for a reasonable $880. Another bowfront chest with two over three drawers brought $605. A Portsmouth, N.H., card table with tiger maple panels was a good buy at $770. And a pretty Federal Pembroke example in cherry and with an arched cross stretcher was reasonable at $825.
For those in the market for a fine piece of vintage jewelry, Plainfield was the place to be on this Saturday after Thanksgiving.
The auction firm is known as a reliable source for estate jewelry, but the staff outdid themselves for this sale. From one source, a home in Canaan, N.H., three gorgeous diamond and ruby Tiffany pieces were the stars of the show. A Tiffany Art Deco ring, with the ruby certified as natural, no heat enhancements, of Burmese origin and with its original box, opened with a left bid of $2,000 and quickly escalated with action from two phone bids and an in-house bidder. It sold for $14,850. During the brisk bidding, Bill Smith reminded the audience that the ruby did need polishing. The next Tiffany piece to be offered was an Art Deco straight line diamond and ruby bracelet set in platinum, 7 inches long. It opened to a left bid at $3,000 and then it was competition from a phone bidder and a gentleman in the front row until it sold for $11,175. The last Tiffany piece was an Art Deco ruby and diamond brooch, which opened at $1,000 and ended up selling to a phone bidder for $6,050. A classic 14K gold large-scale linked necklace and matching bracelet sold to an in-house bidder for $4,070.
One of the loveliest pieces of jewelry in this sale was an Art Nouveau enameled gold pin set with a 2.9-carat European cut diamond. Just a great classic design, it opened at $5,000 from a left bid and sold to the youngest bidder in the audience, an 11-year-old boy named Patrick, bidding for his grandmother, for $15,400. A fabulous Art Deco diamond and sapphire ring set in platinum sold to a buyer in the audience for $6,600.
Sets of sterling flatware were on the want lists of the clients who viewed this sale. A 185-piece set of Gorham’s King George pattern sold for $13,200, and a gorgeous 160-piece Tiffany flatware set in a fitted oak Tiffany case and in the Richelieu pattern went for $12,650.
This Smith sale offered some desirable forms of American furniture. A classic form, a Massachusetts Federal two-drawer mahogany server in old finish with reeded legs, sold for $7,700 after active bidding from three phone bidders. An unusual Sheraton checkerboard stand with an intricately carved skirt, which originated in Vermont but was found in a Sarasota, Fla., condo, sold to a phone bidder for $3,300. A cherry bonnet top Chippendale chest on chest, cataloged as Upper Connecticut River Valley in old finish, opened at $5,000 and sold to a left bid for $11,000.
A Nathaniel Monroe, Concord, Mass., tall case clock sold for $3,300. Ken Labdon, fellow auctioneer and an invaluable staff member known for acquiring great consignments, said he got this from a woman who was donating the proceeds to charity. A sweet size yellow painted cupboard, two doors above drawers, which the Smith firm originally sold back in the 1970s from a Canaan, N.H., home and described as Shaker, sold to a left bid for $3,300. New Hampshire antiques dealer and Shaker expert Doug Hamel bought it the first time around. And certainly no surprise, a lovely Chippendale Newport, R.I., wing chair sold for $8,250 after opening for $1,000. Newport objects are rare, and this particular chair had lovely proportions, stop fluted carved front legs and an elegantly designed wing back.
There were two exceptional pieces originating from England and both brought strong prices. An elegant English Queen Anne burl walnut secretary had all the bells and whistles — beautifully grained veneers, a lovely interior in both sections and mirrored doors complementing the pull-out candleholders. Bill Smith mentioned that the secretary top was not as old as the desk but that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the bidders. It sold for $13,750. And a surprise came late in the sale as a delightful Eighteenth Century chinoiserie decorated narrow Queen Anne mirror, missing the brass candle sconce, sold to an observant auctiongoer for $7,150. A rather elegant carved walnut Eighteenth Century French etagere brought $2,200.
Showing the diversity and quality of the items that is a hallmark of William Smith Auctions were items like the letter by J.D. Salinger, consigned by a local family, neighbors of Salinger for years. It was written to console the widow of Salinger’s longtime friend, Howard Clow, dated 1972, and sold for $4,675. A spiffy, two-tone green 1935 Buick Super 8, meticulously restored, was pursued by three phone bidders until one lucky guy bought it for $12,100. This automobile sat in front of the gallery for months, tempting all who saw it to daydream of simpler times. And then there were five sketches of “Peanuts” by the creator of the cartoon, Charles Schultz, which he drew for his neighbor Anne Robb, a professional tennis player. One bidder won this lot for $5,500.
A 12-gauge shotgun, beautifully engraved and signed George Gibbs, had stiff competition from several bidders up until the final price of $3,850. From an estate in Tucson, a large pair of Nineteenth Century European pedestals with marble tops and hardstone inlay had been used as movie props. Whether the history added to the value is unknown, but the final price was $4,400.
An Italian specimen marble top table set on a lovely American Victorian walnut base, made especially for this Grand Tour souvenir, was signed and dated “Roma 1859.” It sold for a solid $3,300.
Asian items retain their popularity, and the Smith gallery had some unusual and choice pieces in its offerings. A Chinese famille rose porcelain plaque, 12½ by 17½ inches and signed, opened for $300 with action from several phone bidders. It sold to a determined bidder in the audience for $6,600. A pair of early Nineteenth Century famille rose covered urns were especially unusual in that they were decorated with full-bodied figures. Not surprisingly, they sold for $5,280. A lot of two well-carved wooden Buddhas, 7½ inches tall, however, did surprise the audience, as they sold for a strong $4,620, and a 12-inch-high bronze and mixed metal Chinese vase converted to a lamp was also a surprise, taking $2,200.
Paintings are always a popular category in the north country. Plainfield is close to Hanover, home of Dartmouth College, and near to some of the most beautiful and charming Vermont towns along the Connecticut River. A haven for artists and art lovers for more than 100 years, it is a good source for finding local artwork. Local collectors are knowledgeable and willing to spend money to buy what they like.
A Nineteenth Century Orientalist painting, signed Frank Waller and in its original frame, was a study of golden tones. Meticulously painted, the scene was of architecturally interesting buildings set in a desert against a startling blue sky. It opened for $5,000, with active phone bidders pushing it to a final price of $13,200.
A gorgeous oil on canvas painting of a house on the shore of Cuttyhunk, a small island off Cape Cod, was signed Harry Neyland. A large and brilliantly colored painting, 26 by 32 inches and in a period frame, it came from a Sharon, Vt., collection and had been purchased directly from the artist. It opened for $5,000 and after active bidding from two phone bidders sold for $11,000. Another Neyland painting from the same collection titled “Stinkpoint” opened at $3,000 and finished at $4,950. Bill Smith noted that the firm had in past auctions sold paintings by the artist from the Sharon home and these were the last of the collection.
From another era was a pair of American Nineteenth Century portraits on poplar boards, with the gentleman depicted holding a Rochester, N.Y., newspaper dated 1834. They were consigned from a Tucson estate. The pair opened at $2,000 and sold to a woman seated in the front row for $3,850. A contemporary painting by artist Pierre Bittar, still very active, had surprisingly good results, selling for $5,775, on the “secondary” market. It was a large and very decorative painting and elicited a lot of interest during the preview. Two small oil on board paintings, meticulously rendered portraits of a Newfoundland and a mountain dog, sold for a reasonable $2,420. The 5-by-6-inch paintings were signed C. Reichert (1836–1918) and would delight any dog lover.
The overall sale totaled $750,000. There was not one item that brought six figures. Instead, the gallery was filled with choice pieces in every category, displayed in room settings. It was as if one was invited to a party at a collector’s house, and wherever one turned, there were objects to delight the eye. Now, 600 items have found new homes, enhancing people’s lives. A great way to start the holiday season.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, 603-675-2549 or www.wsmithauction.com.