Less than a week after closing out its Marine auction, the Robert C. Eldred auction company continued with the second sale of its popular three-week-long summer auction schedule. The Americana at Auction sale, Thursday and Friday, August 3 and 4, was attended by standing-room-only crowds and was also subject to a near record number of telephone bidders as well as an active crowd participating via the Internet.
Bob Eldred, one of the quickest, no-nonsense auctioneers in the business, got the auction underway establishing a blistering pace of well over 80 lots per hour. Not only was the pace Eldred set blistering, but so was the summer heat with temperatures hovering in the mid-90s, perhaps even higher under the auction tent.
With the large number of phone and Internet bidders, it almost seemed as if some opted to stay home due to the heat and bid from their sofa or from their air-conditioned hotel rooms. The brave that attended the sale got the nod, however, as the auctioneer did not dally when it came to advancements. Lots were hammered down quickly with the vast majority of them selling in the gallery.
Day one was filled with interesting smalls, such as bird carvings, stoneware, needlework, prints and Staffordshire, along with a good assortment of country furniture. Day two was weighted with most of the important furniture and the better paintings.
The first lot to cross the auction block was a carved wooden eagle on a stand with a 14-inch wingspan that sold well above estimates at $540. A nice pair of architectural wooden gates with arched tops in a Gothic design attracted attention during preview; however, they sold reasonably, well below the $600/800 presale estimates, bringing only $230.
A large group of stoneware was highlighted by a large straight-sided jug that had a cobalt decorated three-masted ship on it. Estimated at $1/2,000 the rare piece sold for $4,025.
Things cooled down for the second session of the auction with temperatures dropping at least ten degrees. The action under the tent, however, remained heated. Another standing-room-only crowd was on hand for the second day and the bidding was once again quick paced.
Ralph Cahoon paintings are a mainstay of an Eldred Americana auction and there is always a good representation. The selection for this sale surpassed previous offerings as ten different paintings of exceptional quality were to cross the auction block.
Auctioneer Robert Eldred termed one of the lots, “One of the finest Ralph Cahoon paintings that Eldred’s has had the pleasure to sell.” The work, titled “New Bedford,” depicted a busy wharf scene with large clipper ships in port. With a horse-drawn coach in the foreground with mermaid passengers and another mermaid painting her name on the rear of a nearby rowboat, the painting was lively, colorful and full of activity. The large oil on Masonite was estimated at $70/90,000 and was bid to $159,000.
Two large Cahoon oils on Masonite depicting sailors in hot air balloons and dories setting out nets and capturing mermaids were expected to be the top lots. Bidding was brisk on the lots; however, they failed to muster the activity seen for the “New Bedford” scene. The first to be offered depicted three balloons with two dories and a haul of five mermaids. The lot, estimated at $70/90,000, was bid to $80,500, while the second of the paintings featured four hot air balloons and two dories with seven sailors pulling in their catch of six mermaids. Also estimated at $70/90,000, this painting realized $69,000.
A Cahoon titled “Sailor’s Inn” depicted the building on fire with firemen in ornately decorated uniforms rescuing a host of mermaids. A couple mermaids appeared in the windows awaiting rescue while eight other firemen prepared to fight the fire. A delightful Cahoon, the painting, estimated at $40/50,000, sold for $41,400.
A nice pair of smaller Cahoons did well, with the first depicting a sailor saying good-bye to his sorrowful mermaid at the front door of their home with flowers blooming in the background, titled “The Sailor’s Adieu.” The mate, “The Sailor’s Return,” depicted a gleeful mermaid greeting her gift-bearing sailor at their front door during a snowstorm. The pair, estimated at $30/40,000 were the subject of active bidding, selling at $74,750.
Other paintings in the sale included a selection of Charles Cahoon oils that brought good prices with “Fishing Shacks” leading the group at $14,400. Also sold was a scene titled “Gay Head, Martha’s Vineyard” that brought $12,000.
The marine painting in the auction to attract the most attention was a large painting by living artist William Robert Davis. Done in a Luminist style, the scene depicted a Nineteenth Century view of masted schooners under sail in Boston Harbor. Bidding on the lot came from several in the gallery with it selling for $63,250.
Two Frank Weston Benson pieces of original art were offered and they attracted their fair share of interest. A black and white wash on paper depicting a black duck standing among the reeds did well selling at $21,850 while a watercolor of a shovler drake flying overhead against a clouded sky brought $27,600.
A small dark and serene scene titled “Clouds over California” by Albert Bierstadt listed a provenance of Adelson Galleries and a private Massachusetts collection. The somber scene did well as it easily surpassed estimates, hammering down at $33,350.
A classic Eric Sloane painting of a farmhouse with snow laden fields in the foreground and a mountainous landscape in the background was titled “New Hampshire Dawn.” The painting attracted the attention of collectors with it selling above estimates at $20,700.
Two William Aiken Walker scenes were offered, both depicting wash day at the cabin and both carrying presale estimates of $20/25,000. The paintings sold at $21,850, and $20,700.
A painting by the popular Russian American artist David Burliuk attracted attention. The large 24-by-30-inch oil on canvas titled “Gloucester, Massachusetts” listed a provenance of Boyer Gallery and a private Connecticut collection. The piece was also cataloged as having been exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1939. Estimated at $20/30,000, the Burliuk sold at $23,000.
The surprise of the paintings came late in the auction as a Millard Owen Sheets watercolor on paper was offered. Titled “Rooftop Romance,” the piece depicted a nocturnal city scene with cats frolicking on the rooftops. Provenance listed the watercolor as having been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago’s 17th International Exhibit of Watercolors in 1938, as well as the Dalzell Hatfield galleries in Los Angeles. Estimated at $1/2,000, bids on the lot came fast and furious as it crossed the block with it finally selling for $25,300.
A good selection of silver was offered with a rare Jacob Hurd silver teapot leading the selection. In an apple-form body with foliate engraving around the rim and a graceful swan-neck spout, the teapot was stamped with the rectangular Hurd mark. The teapot had belonged to Colonel Joseph Gerrish of Essex County and had been handed down from sister to sister through seven generations. A small bidding war erupted as the teapot was offered, with it selling for $41,000.
A silver cann by John Coburn also received a good deal of attention. The graceful bulbous-shaped cann measured 5 inches tall and was inscribed “Anne Agusta Gray’s.” Marked with a straight line “J Coburn” stamp, the rare cann sold for $9,000.
A good selection of furniture was featured with the top lot coming as a Queen Anne slant front desk on frame on bandy feet sold for $13,200. A cherry Queen Anne lowboy also did well, bringing $8,625; a cherry Chippendale slant front desk on frame with cabriole legs ending in ball and claw feet went out at $4800, and a George III Chippendale game table brought $4,500.
A Hepplewhite sideboard in mahogany with bellflower inlay sold for $6,900, while a pair of George III Chippendale side chairs with shaped and carved crest rails hammered down at $4,025.
A Federal tall case clock in mahogany by Elnathan Taber that had descended in the family of John Quincy Adams was subjected to serious bidding, with it selling well above estimates at $48,875.
Numerous decoys and bird carvings were offered early in the auction with a group of Joseph Lincoln carvings attracting attention. Two self bailing white wing scoter decoys in original paint sold for $8,050 and $4,887. A selection of miniatures by Lincoln brought strong prices with a miniature hooded merganser topping the group at $8,625. Other Lincoln miniatures included a white wing scoter selling at $5,462, a miniature ruddy duck in winter plumage, $4,887, and a miniature goldeneye drake brought $3450.
Other bird carvings included a three-quarter-size wood duck drake by Arnold Melby, South Yarmouth, Mass., that sold well above estimates at $3450, while a miniature carved herring gull by Elmer Crowell went out at $1,955.
A group of Chinese Export included a large Fitzhugh porcelain fish platter in blue and white that sold for $3,220, a Rose Medallion garden seat brought $2,300, and a large pair of Chinese Export famille rose porcelain vases realized $3,450.
Prices include the buyer’s premium charged. For further information contact Eldred’s, 508-385-3116 or www.eldreds.com.