Published: December 1, 2015
Review And Onsite Photos by Rick Russack,
Catalog Photos Courtesy Tremont Auctions
NEWTON, MASS. — Boston’s newest full service auction house, Tremont Auctions held its inaugural sale November 15, and it is off to a good start.
While it may have been the company’s first auction, the owners are well experienced in the business. Doug Stinson was brought up in the business, learning from and helping his dad, Carl Stinson, who has been conducting auctions for decades. Brett Downer is well known in the Boston antiques world, having been a dealer and appraiser for years and having conducted auctions on his own in Wellesley, Mass., for a number of years. He worked in an antiques shop while in high school and conducted his first auction when he was 18. Rounding out the team are Brett’s wife, Ellen Downer, who has been conducting about 30 estate sales annually, and Jim Callahan, a well-respected expert in Oriental art, who has appeared on the Antiques Roadshow numerous times. Their new facility in Newton is large and well laid-out for its intended purpose.
Asked why they started the business, Doug Stinson said that he and Downer believe there’s a need for a full-service auction company in the Boston area. “We want to be thought of as ‘one-stop shopping’ for boomers who are downsizing and estate and trust attorneys who have a houseful of items that they want to dispose of. Some auctioneers in this area don’t want to take everything and be responsible for cleaning out a house. We can do that in different ways, depending on the material. Brett’s wife can do an estate sale, or we can do an auction and then arrange for a clean-up team so that a house is ready for the next owners to move in. Real estate agents and lawyers appreciate the simplicity that we offer.”
Commenting on how the marketplace has changed over the years, Stinson says, “Sometimes one of the biggest challenges in dealing with a prospective consignor is getting them to understand that the market for some things isn’t what it was ten or 20 years ago. It can take a lot of time for people to understand this, and we have to give them concrete examples. Managing expectations can be tricky and sometimes we just have to walk away.”
Tremont had a good assortment of merchandise for its first sale, including a pair of Ming period lacquered and gilt-bronze Daoist figures, two early printings of the Declaration of Independence, an important Impressionist painting, a John Singer Sargent oil painting, along with other good paintings, Eighteenth Century silver by Paul Revere and Bancroft Woodcock, a Paul Manship marble bust, several Audubon prints and good furniture. The sale was well attended, with about 150 bidders in the room, plus active phone lines and online bidding available on two platforms.
The top grossing lot of the day was an Impressionist painting by Pierre Eugene Montezin (French, 1874–1946). The brightly colored river scene included figures and buildings, and it sold for a strong $60,840. Montezin struggled to gain recognition in his early years. Starting in 1893, for ten years, he submitted works to “The Salon,” the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris but was rejected each time. Finally, in 1903, he was accepted and his work gained appreciation and recognition from the French public and his career took off after that. Montezin was the winner of many prestigious awards and prizes during his lifetime and his paintings can be found in major collections.
The sale included several other paintings. Selling for more than ten times its estimate, an oil on Masonite by Romeo V. Tabuena (Philippines, b 1921) finished at $19,890. The title of the painting was “Processional” and it showed 11 women, one of whom was carrying a child. It was signed and dated 1964. Tabuena lived in Mexico for about 30 years and has won numerous prizes. Benjamin Champney’s landscape of cows along the Saco River in the White Mountains finished at a respectable $7,605. A charcoal scene of sailing ships at Anchorage in Alaska, with several large icebergs in the background, by William Bradford (American, 1823–1892) went out at $5,850, and a scene of Mount Hood by Albert Bierstadt (American, 1830–1902) seemed reasonable, fetching $5,557.
The sale got off to a good start as the second lot of the day comprised two drypoint etchings by Frederick Childe Hassam (American, 1859–1935). “One of the things I love about this business is that you never know what you might find,” Stinson said. “The Childe Hassam etchings came from a family that was related to the artist, but they didn’t know they had these. When we were there, we opened an old shirt box that was in a drawer. In the box was this wonderful etching, the ‘White Kimono.’ It was done in Cos Cob, Conn., and it’s a well-known etching.” Examples are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and other major collections. Bonhams sold a copy in 2012 for $26,250, and Tremont did well, with the lot finishing at $26,910.
Two early printings of the Declaration of Independence crossed the block. An 1819 printing by John Binns of Pennsylvania sold for $4,972, and one printed by E. Huntington in 1825 earned $3,510. The Binns printing was one of the earliest printed copies offered to the public, and it was decorated with portraits of George Washington, John Hancock and Thomas Jefferson, along with the seals of the original 13 states. Binns dedicated it “to the people of the United States,” which Jefferson approved of and gave Binns his endorsement. It was one of three copies of the declaration that Jefferson hung in Monticello. Huntington’s printing was unadorned, and about 14 years after publishing the print, he offered the printing plate for sale to other printers.
An unusual set of six Regency-style chairs, cataloged as early Nineteenth Century Anglo-Indian, seemed like a good buy at $1,117. They were of rosewood, inlaid with brass, with carved crests and splats, having turned and reeded front legs. Certainly a bargain for someone with a very large house was a very large Eighteenth Century George III mahogany, serpentine breakfront with a carved broken arch pediment. It was 7 feet 4 inches wide, and 8 feet 6 inches tall, and brought $3,217.
A Georgian tall case clock by Samuel Toulin, London, ended up at $4,680. It had a local history of belonging to Governor Caleb Strong of Massachusetts, who was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1789. Some American furniture did well, especially considering how that category has fared in other recent auctions. A small, circa 1810, Salem bowfront server, attributed to William Hook, went out at $4,680. It was only 55 inches wide and had reeded legs with acanthus carving. An Eighteenth Century walnut four-drawer Chippendale bracket base chest, cataloged as “Southern” with yellow pine as a secondary wood, brought the same price, $4,680.
The silver offerings included a marked serving spoon by Paul Revere with an interesting story. Stinson noted the Revere spoon was a surprising find. He said that the consignor had 12 spoons in cloth bags. Opening one bag, he found just a relatively ordinary silver spoon and gave the consignor a value based on that single spoon. When examining the spoons back at the gallery, Stinson found that one was by Paul Revere. “I really looked at the others closely, hoping…But there was just the one.” It sold for $8,190. Finishing slightly under estimate was a silver creamer and covered sugar made by Bancroft Woodstock, an early Delaware silversmith. The creamer was hallmarked and also had a scratched-in date of 1792. The two pieces achieved $11,407. A Nineteenth Century silver covered tureen by Kirk and Son, with overall repoussé decoration, fetched $4,329, almost triple its estimate.
An unusual blue and white Canton pitcher and bowl set, with minor imperfections, reached $936 ,and a large unsigned Wallace Nutting triple bow back Windsor settee earned $702. There were several framed prints from Audubon’s imperial folio edition of The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. This work was sold by subscription by Audubon and his sons between 1842 and 1848. The plate of “Rocky Mountain Sheep” was the top seller and went for $6,142, while some of the others sold for less than $1,000. The Audubons, about a dozen in all, were consigned by a retired Tufts University biology professor with a life-long interest in the outdoors. He’s well known for his research into the lives of the Rocky Mountain Sheep and spent over 30 summers in the Canadian Rockies, studying one particular herd. Perhaps one of the bargains of the day was a Jumeau automaton with an elegantly dressed Spanish dancer playing a tambourine. Working, and in good condition, it earned $3,276.
After the sale, Doug Stinson said that the sale grossed over a half million dollars and that they were quite satisfied. “We had a good crowd and active bidding. The Tabuena painting was a pleasant surprise. It was hanging in the first floor bathroom of the home we got it out of. I thought we might have estimated it a little low but it just kept going. We especially enjoyed visiting with the professor who consigned the Audubons. We spent an hour with him on his porch while he was identifying all the birds coming to his six feeders and talking about his 36 years at Tufts. Our next sale in the spring will be an Asian arts sale and we’re now accepting consignments for that.”
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, 617-795-1678 or www.tremontauctions.com.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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