PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Collectors of marine and China Trade art and artifacts look forward to Northeast Auction’s annual sale of the material, the densest, most richly packed stateside auction of its kind. Boosting results of this year’s $3.6 million event on August 16 and 17 were historical documents and artifacts, among them the 199-lot collection of maritime Portsmouth and Piscataqua River material assembled by Jean E. and Joseph G. Sawtelle. From other sources, caches of letters, manuscripts and documents yielded an important Revolutionary War map describing the 1778 Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey.
“It was a very strong sale. We had good property and it did well,” said Northeast founder and principal auctioneer Ron Bourgeault. There was hardly an empty seat under the tent behind Portsmouth’s Treadwell Mansion, where Northeast conducts its marine sales, and absentee bidding — left, phone and Internet — was robust. Estimates were low and buy-ins were negligible.
Battle Of Monmouth Map
Diligence, as Benjamin Franklin said, is the mother of good luck. Two years ago, Northeast auctioned property for the descendants of Robert Hartshorne (1866–1927). Pleased with results, the consignor this year commissioned the firm to sell an important Revolutionary War map documenting the Battle of Monmouth, which took place in and around Freehold, N.J., on June 28, 1778. A private collector bidding by phone claimed the map for $486,400.
Signed by its maker and inscribed in French and English, the exceedingly rare work — hand drawn in ink with watercolor highlights on paper and measuring 16 by 30¼ inches — is by Michel Capitaine du Chesnoy (1746–1804). As described in a January 1998 article by Paul E. Cohen in The Magazine Antiques, the French engineer and cartographer served the Marquis de Lafayette in his American campaign against the British on behalf of George Washington. The map indicates troop locations and movements. A three-column legend in French and English lists towns in the area of the battle.
The map descended in the Marquis’ family along with other Lafayette relics until its auction, along with four other hand-drawn Capitaine maps, on February 29, 1912, by the American Art Association in New York. As reported at the time by the New York Times, Belle de Costa Greene bought Lafayette letters in the group for J.P. Morgan. They today reside at the Morgan Library in New York. According to the Times, the Battle of Monmouth map sold to Charles Scribner’s Sons, a dealer in new and antiquarian books, for $225. An account in the Red Bank Register six months later acknowledged New Jersey resident Robert Hartshorne as the map’s new owner. At Hartshorne’s death in 1927, the map was valued at $750.
According to Northeast Auctions, about 15 Capitaine maps are thought to survive. Most are in institutions, among them Yale, Brown, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Preservation Society of Newport County and Colonial Williamsburg. In 2000, Gerry Lenfest and his wife underwrote the purchase of six Capitaine maps, including a vertical format version of the Battle of Monmouth example, by the Library of Congress, which owns the largest group.
Sawtelle Collection Of Portsmouth Artifacts
Also featured were just under 200 lots relating to the maritime history of Portsmouth and the Piscataqua River region surrounding the New Hampshire town.
“Joseph Sawtelle loved Portsmouth and gave a lot back to it,” said Bourgeault.
The local property developer and his wife, Jean, assembled the collection with an eye toward creating a maritime museum in Portsmouth. Plans for the museum foundered after their deaths and the assortment was ordered sold by the estate’s trustee. Mrs Sawtelle’s collection of Portsmouth needlework had previously gone to the Portsmouth Historical Society. Society president Richard M. Candee edited Maritime Portsmouth: The Sawtelle Collection, published by the Portsmouth Marine Society in 2011.
“The Portsmouth Historical Society would love to know who bought the Sawtelle pieces, especially ‘Coming From The Navy Yard, Portsmouth, 1867’ by Thomas P. Moses,” Candee told Antiques and The Arts Weekly. The society is offering winning bidders a year’s membership in return for identifying themselves to the institution, which hopes to create a permanent record of the Sawtelle collection.
Leading the selection was the Moses harbor scene, which sold to a collector by phone for $192,000. Rich in detail, the Civil War-era painting first belonged to Richard Henry Dana, author of Two Years Before the Mast and a summer resident of Kittery, Maine. A second painting by Moses, “The Ship Jean Ingelow Taking A Pilot Off New York,” 1871, made $24,000.
Views of Portsmouth ships included Thomas Buttersworth’s dramatic “Wild Duck in Rough Seas,” $52,800, and “Witch of the Wave,” a China Trade painting, $36,000, of a local clipper.
Childe Hassam’s signed and dated 1883 watercolor and gouache on paper illustration of Church Point in Portsmouth, published in The Wheelman in 1883, reached $20,400.
A John Haley Bellamy carved and painted eagle plaque with Sawtelle provenance garnered $78,000, while a rare deer-head plaque, on view in the Bellamy show currently at Discover Portsmouth, left the room at $4,320.
Several local history museums acquired Sawtelle property. To Strawbery Banke went a gold mourning ring, $5,040, inscribed in the memory of Betsey Hickey, who died at age 14 in 1783. The only daughter of Captain and Mrs James Hickey is buried at St John’s Church.
On behalf of the Portsmouth Historical Society, a private buyer acquired a set of six portraits, $30,000, of the Badger family of Kittery, Maine, by Joseph Treadwell (1813–1885), an itinerant known to have advertised his services in Portsmouth in 1846–1847. Candee said that a portrait of a seventh family member, a young woman in a green dress with a coral necklace, has been promised to the museum. All seven are referenced in the family record that accompanied the lot.
At $6,000, one of the sale’s great buys was the circa 1855 Piscataqua River “View of Salter’s Island, Portsmouth” by Timothy M. Newhall, a Lynn, Mass., painter.
For additionalinformation, www.northeastauctions.com or 603-433-8400.