Published: September 21, 2004
Two collectors slugged it out on the phone so fiercely for Philip Leslie Hale’s impressive “Girl with Gulls” that they drove it to what may be a record price of $70,700 in the second day of Eldred’s Americana sale on August 5-6. The painting, which was exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1928 and at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 1931 as “Aphrodite of the Sea Gulls,” measured 8 by 4 feet and depicted a sinuous nude emerging from the blue ocean surrounded by fluttering white seagulls. Estimated at $30/50,000, the picture came from a Martha’s Vineyard home and was in fine condition. The unidentified successful bidder had vowed before the sale that he would be the owner of the painting. He was right.
Paintings generated the liveliest bidding action, and they combined to make this Eldred’s best sale in its history.
A late addition to the sale was the next high lot. Ralph Cahoon’s framed oil on Masonite “A Balloon Ride” portrayed mermaids and sailors in a sky full of hot air balloons with ships and a lighthouse in the background. The picture, which came from a Boston-area home too late to be included in the catalog, brought $46,000.
An oval Ralph Cahoon painting of a sailor in a dory pursued by a mermaid clutching a bouquet of flowers sold for $31,050. The painting had come from the collection of Rosemary and Jim Lonborg, who, as a Boston Red Sox pitcher, became known as “Gentleman Jim.” He later played for Milwaukee and the Phillies before retiring to practice dentistry outside Boston.
Martha and Ralph Cahoon were decorative furniture painters before they came to making the pictures that are so coveted in the marketplace. This sale included a lot of furniture decorated by Ralph Cahoon that comprised two signed bureaus with mirrors, two stands and two spool beds. Estimated at $1,2/1,500, the lot fetched $10,810. A three-piece lot of bedroom furniture decorated by Cahoon, estimated at $700/1,000 realized $2,300.
John Whorf’s signed watercolor of a couple rowing a skiff showed the light playing across the waters in Provincetown Harbor. It sold for $12,650 to the same Pennsylvania buyer who bought the Hale. Whorf’s “Dark April,” depicting New England spring at its darkest and most drizzly, fetched $8,625.
Charles D. Cahoon, cousin to Ralph and Martha, was a big draw as his oil on board view of a house near Pleasant Bay opened above the high estimate at $8,000 and sold for $14,950. Jane Peterson’s watercolor and gouache Palm Beach scene sold well above estimate at $5,520, and Henry Rittenberg’s 1937 oil on canvas sketch of sailboats at Concarneau in Brittany, France, was estimated at $500/1,000 and sold for $2,875.
An American tall case clock with a dial signed by David Wood of Newburyport came from a Rhode Island consignor moving to smaller quarters and brought $23,000.
Objects related to the Cape Cod town of Sandwich attracted strong interest. A framed needlework in crewel and petit point stitch with a detailed image of a vase of flowers surrounded by trees, flowers, a reclining stag and lion and insects went for $18,400. It carried provenance of the Wing family, early settlers of Sandwich, and sold to Stephen Huber. A selection of watercolor maps made by children of Sandwich in 1831 and also owned by the Wing family drew exponential results. A framed watercolor of the United States by Penelope P. Crocker, age 10, brought $2,760; a framed watercolor of the West Indies by 15-year-old Eveline W. Handy, brought $1,035; and another of the West Indies by 11-year old Azubah B. Handy, also brought $1,035. A watercolor map of South America by 13-year-old Trizah Bearse’s was also $1,035.
A set of eight Hepplewhite mahogany dining chairs with delicate urn and swag splats between two ribbed stiles went for $15,526 to the same phone bidder who bought four American Chippendale dining chairs with volute ears and pierced vertical back splats for $4,888.
A one-drawer tavern table in pine and maple with a breadboard top had fancy turned legs and some restoration. Bidders wanted it badly, and drove it past the estimated $400/600 to $4,255.
Bidding on a rare tin lamp advertising “None Such” products with a pierced star, circle and flower design to the sides and top opened above the estimated $800/1,200 at $1,500 and raced to $4,600. Eldred’s Eric Mulak found it hanging in the basement of a local home.
As auctioneer Bob Eldred hammered down a 38-inch pair of Nineteenth Century silver plate and nickel hearse lanterns, he advised bidders to plan for the future and buy ahead. The gleaming lanterns, which he and John Schofield had cleaned themselves, sold for $1,610.
All prices quoted reflect the buyer’s premium of 15 percent of the first $50,000 of the purchase price and ten percent thereafter.
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