BOSTON, MASS. — It was an old-fashioned country auction devoid of trophy Americana; instead replete with good and interesting objects that went to appreciative new owners at Skinner’s March 2 American furniture and decorative arts sale.
Watercolors with historic importance were very desirable. A highlight that was rare — there are no comparable pieces — was the highly expressive watercolor on laid paper “Portrait of Major John Pitcairn on Horseback,” signed by patriot, engraver and silversmith Paul Revere Jr, that sold to a knowledgeable collector/dealer for $39,975.
Typed notes on the back of the frame indicated that the painting had come from the estate of Duncan Phyfe, grandson of the cabinet maker. Pitcairn himself was something of an anomaly, a Scottish-born British marine officer who lived sociably and harmoniously among Bostonians during the British imposition of martial law and subsequent hostilities.
A watercolor and ink on paper fraktur birth certificate by Reverend Henry Young of Centre County, Penn., in 1844 commemorated the birth of John Hiram Gentsel on June 26th of that year. It realized $15,990. Three watercolor and calligraphy pages of a problem book with drawings of the front and back of four Federal-style houses, each with detailed calculations for measuring and pricing, roofing, flooring and paving. The lot, said to have been the work of Christian Miller, a student at the Chestnut Hill Seminary near Philadelphia, around 1815, fetched $3,690.
The Eighteenth Century gouache on paper “A North View of the City of Washington,” attributed to the British-born artist George Beck who worked in Philadelphia and Baltimore and later Kentucky, went to a phone buyer for $13,530.
Three Nineteenth Century Chinese school oil on canvas portraits of ships in Chinese waters were unsigned and sold for $19,680, against the estimated $1/1,500. One ship was portrayed at anchor with all but one sail furled and flying British flags, another ship was pictured under sail and flying British flags and the third, also underway, appears to fly an unidentified flag.
William Gay Yorke’s “Portrait of the American Ship Weston Merritt off Liverpool” was signed and dated January 1862. It realized $28,290 from a phone bidder.
Two oil on board paintings by Southern artist William Aiken Walker descended from Cornelia Brigham Taft, wife of cotton factor Calvin Taft who acquired the pictures while he traded with Southern plantation owners, and came from a Worcester mansion house flattened to make way for a parking lot. “Two Cotton Pickers by a Cotton Field with Distant Cabins” brought $10,455 from a phone bidder. “Female Cotton Picker in the Field with a Basket of Cotton” went for $5,228 to the same phone buyer. Both paintings retained the original frames.
Three ships portraits by Antonio Nicolo Gasparo Jacobsen sold. The image of the four-masted Scottish bark Strathgryfe was $7,995; a portrait of the elegant screw steamer yacht Atlanta fetched $6,930; and the portrait of the screw steamer cargo ship Oregonian brought $6,765.
Connecticut-born artist James Sanford Ellsworth traveled New England and New York painting miniature portraits. Lucy B. Mitchell of Longmeadow, Mass., collected his work, wrote about it and curated several exhibits of his work. Six lots of his watercolor on paper portraits sold here had descended from Mitchell’s collection. A single half-length portrait of a gentleman from the 1840s was reportedly a self-portrait and was inscribed “Jas. S. Ellsworth Portrait Painter.” It went for $8,610. A pair of husband and wife half-length portrait miniatures signed “Ellsworth Painter” brought $6,765, as did a circa 1843 pair of portrait miniatures of Samuel A. Gager and Wealthy Ann Huntington Gager
Rufus Porter’s small profile portrait of Moses Hale Pillsbury of Boscawen, N.H., was unsigned, but the sitter was identified on the reverse, and it sold online for $4,095.
A set of 12 Federal mahogany shield back dining chairs with reeded and fish scale carved splats converging on a petal carved lunette brought $39,975. The chairs from about 1790 were attributed to Burling or Robert Carter of New York. The two armchairs were made with reeded legs on spade feet; the others with plain legs on spade feet. Catalog notes reported evidence that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson each owned sets of similar chairs made by Thomas Burling. A set of eight Philadelphia Chippendale walnut chairs, seven of which were period (1760–1780) and the eighth a very good reproduction went to the phone for $12,300.
A late Nineteenth Century molded flattened full-bodied copper stag weathervane was the highlight of a group of weathervanes when it achieved $19,680. A late Nineteenth Century Cushing and White running horse weathervane had a cast zinc head on a molded copper full body mounted on a tubular copper rod with the manufacturer’s plaque. It realized $14,760. A late Eighteenth Century sheet iron rooster silhouette weathervane with a pierced eye and “LWSM 1771” brought $8,610. It was one of several examples that had come from Edith Halpert’s American Folk Art Gallery. Another example with Halpert provenance was a molded gilt-copper fish form from the early to mid-Twentieth Century that brought $6,930.
Bidding on a Federal mahogany inlaid tall clock by Aaron Willard, circa 1810, opened at $7,000 and ended when the clock sold to a phone bidder for $18,450.
A walnut and walnut veneer high chest of 11 drawers, circa 1735–50, possibly by Joseph Davis of Portsmouth, with a carved scrolled double arch and carved with a fan on the top and the bottom, with inlay and acanthus carving above stop fluted columns, sold on the phone for $14,760. As he hammered it down, Americana department deputy director Chris Barber said he had found the piece on a house call.
Another piece with New Hampshire origins was a mahogany card table, circa 1805–10, by Keene cabinetmaker Eliphalet Briggs that descended from Samuel Dinsmoor, governor of New Hampshire in 1831–1884, and was inscribed in chalk “bot in 1836 in Keene, NH in the Old Gov. Dinsmoor Auction.” It sold to a phone buyer for $4,305.
The North Shore, Mass., Queen Anne walnut scroll top high chest, circa 1740, had thumb molded drawers and two central drawers with concave fronts. It had some slight condition matters but brought $10,455 from a phone buyer. The same bidder paid $10,455 for a late Eighteenth Century Federal mahogany demilune card table, with stringing, urn and bellflower inlay, attributed to Thomas and Samuel Goddard. A Salem mahogany work table, circa 1810, with walnut and rosewood inlay, waterleaf carving and reeding to the tapered legs, sold to the same phone bidder for $9,225.
A Massachusetts Queen Anne maple, walnut and walnut veneer high chest of drawers, circa 1730–50, with matched veneer drawer fronts and a deeply formed apron was passed initially and sold later for $7,380. Another Queen Anne piece was the Rhode Island maple chest on frame, circa 1740–60, with a case of six thumb molded drawers, a deep apron with a drop and short cabriole legs. It had old refinish and went to the New Hampshire trade for $6,765. A Massachusetts tiger maple and pine high chest of drawers, circa 1730–50. It was said to have descended from a Georgetown, Mass., family and sold for $7,995.
Slant lid desks demonstrated rising popularity. A North Shore Chippendale mahogany block front slant lid desk, circa 1760–80, with a fine fitted interior with a fan-carved prospect drawer with concave and serpentine front drawers, went to a phone bidder for $8,610. A late Eighteenth Century Chippendale tiger maple slant lid desk, thought to have been made in Chester County, Penn., sold online for $6,150.
The Boston classical carved mahogany sofa with mahogany veneer was made by Thomas Seymour, with carving by Thomas Wrightman for James Barker. It brought $8,610 on the phone. A Federal carved mahogany drop leaf table with mahogany veneer, also attributed to Thomas Seymour, went to the Internet for $2,772, more than three times over low estimate.
Two Federal mahogany tall case clocks sold on the phone. A Concord example by Daniel Munroe, circa 1800, had a white painted iron dial with the moon’s age indicator in the arch and sold for $7,995. The other, a circa 1810 tall case clock by William Stanton of Providence had lambrequin inlay and checkered banding, a white painted iron dial with a rocking ship and brought $5,535.
A Federal mahogany lolling chair, circa 1800, with double heart inlay on the arm supports may have been made in New Hampshire. It was branded “I Waterman” on the seat rail and fetched $4,920.
From the estate of the late Wilton, Conn.-dealer Peter Rosenberg, who ran Vallin Galleries for many years, came a handsome pair of Chinese Export porcelain covered garniture vases in the mandarin palette and in rectangular baluster form. The pair realized $11,970 from an Internet bidder.
A miniature covered firkin in blue paint by Edmund Hersey of Hingham, Mass., was impressed with his initials and sold for $8,610. A cake mahogany board carved in detailed relief by John Conger and James Y. Watkins in 1850s New York with a basket of flowers with a bird was estimated at $1,5/2,500 and sold for $6,765.
Rounding out the auction was a leather fire bucket painted with a stylized flower and leaves, with a banner reading “Eben. Francis” above the inscription “AFS / 1810.” It sold on the phone for $6,150.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.skinnerinc.com or 508-970-3200.