Published: December 14, 2010
The final sale of the 2010 auction season at Thomaston Place was conducted over the weekend of November 6, with strong results posted. With more than 1,200 lots offered during the course of the two-day sale, auctioneer Kaja Veilleux kept up a brisk pace, selling items that clients expressed an interest in, and briskly passing those that nobody seemed to give a hoot about.
A diverse and quality auction, virtually every category of worth was represented. Orientalia once again performed exceptionally well. Jewelry, including a selection of Renaissance pieces, sold beyond expectations, and the usual selection of nautical paintings and accessories, folk art and everything else brought solid prices.
As is always the case, a full house of buyers was on hand for the sale. Veilleux commented that telephone bidding was near a record high for the gallery, absentee bids were plentiful and Internet bidding was also on the increase.
The crowd was quick to bid and the auction got underway with an early Twentieth Century mohair teddy bear with jointed head, arms and legs. Veilleux teased the crowd with the lot as he went over some last minute details regarding the terms of sale, and he then affectionately presented the bear for bidding. Taking a $600 bid from the gallery to open the lot, the bear, estimated at $700/900, hammered down moments later for $1,495.
A few lots later, an oil on paper, laid to board, portrait of a young woman by William Matthew Prior, was offered, and sold between estimates at $3,450. A double portrait of two young girls from Brooklyn that was painted in the manner of Prior did well at $14,950.
Numerous items in the auction had been consigned from the estate of Ann Bigelow Stern, who had homes in New York and Blue Hills, Maine. After her mother’s death in 1968, Stern worked to realize her parents’ vision of converting their Katonah, N.Y., home into a public museum to complement the summer music festival they began there in 1945. Stern served at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts as president and board member for more than 20 years. Her father, Walter Tower Rosen, was a noted collector of decorative arts.
While a wide variety of merchandise with Stern collection provenance was offered, the items that attracted the most attention came from the selection of Renaissance jewelry from the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. A dozen lots made up the assortment of jewelry that ranged from a simple Seventeenth Century crucifix to an elaborate pendant depicting St George slaying the dragon.
Leading the group was the rare Renaissance period St George pendant, “worked in a high carat gold with multicolored enamel,” decorated and set with approximately 29 square-cut diamonds. Estimated at $10/20,000, the pendant opened for bidding at $6,000, with numerous hands in the air throughout the gallery. The banks of phone bidders were also active, and the lot moved quickly in $1,000 increments. A lady seated in the rear of the gallery pushed hard for the lot, hitting it at $25,000, then again at $32,000, and again at $40,000. Veilleux advanced the bid to $42,000, coming quickly from a phone bidder.
As the price for the pendant escalated, the phone bidders were weeded out one by one until just two remained, as did the bidder in the rear of the room. At $60,000 it appeared that there was just a single phone bidder against the persistent lady, who eventually underbid the lot at $85,100.
Another Renaissance-era gold and enameled pendant, known as “The Marlborough Jewel,” was decorated with a crane and flowers with diamonds and rubies inlaid and three pearls suspended from the lower section. Bidding on this lot was also brisk, opening to the floor at $5,000 and once again moving rapidly in $1,000 increments to $40,000, where the bid was executed by the lady in the rear of the gallery. A phone quickly countered at $42,000 and bidding resumed between the two until the lot hammered down to the telephone bidder at $80,500.
Yet another jeweled and enameled gold pendant was offered, this one dating from the Sixteenth Century, depicting the Virgin Mother and the Christ Child with the three kings and St Joseph. Sold at Sotheby’s in 1925, the lot was estimated at $10/15,000 and sold to a telephone bidder for $20,700. A silver gilt pendant with emeralds, diamonds, amethyst and pearls also did well, bringing $9,200, while an ornate Seventeenth Century Latin cross realized $4,887.
Orientalia was offered after the Renaissance jewelry, and it, too, commanded serious interest from those in the gallery as well as those snug in their seats at home. Things started off slowly for the category, with a pair of gilt bronze bowls selling below estimates at $1,725, followed by a elaborately carved fall-front Chinese desk with dragon decoration that also went out on the cheap at $805. Things heated up quickly, though, as an early two-part Chinese gilt bronze Buddha on a lotus-form base was offered next. Measuring 15 inches tall, the form had worn gilt and a broken object in one hand. It was estimated at $2/3,000, and Veilleux commented prior to the sale that calls had come in from around the world regarding the lot and that every available phone line had been spoken for.
Bidding on the lot opened well above estimate at $6,500, and it took off from there, pursued by several in the gallery and a host of phone bidders. A gentleman seated in the rear of the gallery kept the telephones at bay, claiming the lot at $50,600.
A pair of early Chinese gilt bronze deities, estimated at $800․1,200, also attracted a great deal of attention, selling to a phone bidder for $13,800.
A large collection of jades from the Anne Bigelow Stern collection was offered next, and these lots were also heavily competed for. The majority of the lots posted an impressive provenance of having been purchased in the late 1970s and the 1980s from Manhattan’s Chait Galleries. The first of the lots to take off was a Han dynasty gray-brown jade badge of rank that easily surpassed the $3/4,000 estimate. Six phone bidders were lined up for action as the lot was offered, opening at $1,700. Moving rapidly in $500 increments, at $4,500 one phone bidder jumped the bid to $5,000; he continued to jump the bid several times along the way, finally claiming the lot at $16,675.
An unusual carving from a single piece of jade depicting a gray phoenix against two white bamboo shoots also attracted quite a bit of attention, easily surpassing the $2/3,000 estimate as it sold for $26,450 to a telephone bidder. A Ming dynasty jade white and russet-red colored pi did well, going to the same buyer at $20,700. A carved figural jade in the form of the Ho-Ho boys was another lot to do well, realizing $19,550.
Also from the Stern collection was a group of bronze and champleve enameled items that elicited strong bidding from the crowd. Several bidders in the audience pushed the lots to premium prices, with one buyer in the rear of the gallery taking the lion’s share home with him. The group started with a Gothic-style pricket candlestick that sold well above estimates at $3,105, a Gothic-style double inkstand brought $4,025, and a Gothic-style letter box made $3,450.
Nautical materials always fetch premium prices at Thomaston Place, and this sale was no exception. Leading the way was a portrait of the barque Hiram Emery by William Pierce Stubbs. Built in Kennebunk, Maine, and with a home port of Boston, the mid-Nineteenth Century ship depicted in the painting captured a great deal of interest from the crowd, showing the ship under sail and passing a light. The painting hammered down after an active bout of bidding at $21,850.
A portrait of the two-masted schooner Water Lily by Elisha Taylor Baker also did well, selling at $16,100, and a Percy Sanborn portrait of the brig Stephen Bishop realized $9,200.
A scrimshaw whalebone walking stick “came walking in on a free appraisal day” that Thomaston Place hosts. It had been discovered in the eaves of a local attic during some renovation work and it pleased the consignor on three occasions: once when found, then again when told it was of value, and finally when he heard it sold for $5,175. An unusual line-throwing mounted cannon-form gun in bronze was another quirky lot to attract attention from the crowd. Estimated at $3/4,000, active bidding pushed the price to $6,900.
Furniture continued to sell reasonably, with two attractive highboys bringing only $4,600 and $2,300 each. A nice marquetry inlaid Dutch Queen Anne games table sold well above estimates at $6,900.
Other items of interest included an Eighteenth Century silver Indian peace medal that went out above estimates at $2,300, a letter dated 1802 and signed by Thomas Jefferson brought $4,887, an autograph album that included Beatles’ signatures did well at $5,175, and a Tiffany leaded glass shade with turtleback tiles sold for $15,525.
The selection of Twentieth Century jewelry proved popular, with an emerald-cut diamond ring exceeding 5 carats selling at $28,750, a lady’s Patek Philippe watch fetching $13,800, and a solitaire lady’s diamond ring, 1.93 carats, bringing $8,337.
A nice surprise came at the tail end of the auction when a large assortment of gold coins was offered. The first of the lots to take off was a $2.50 Pan Am coin dated 1915 that shot past the $1,2/1,500 estimates on its way to a selling price of $5,060. A $20 gold Satin-Gaudens from 1910 sold at $2,185. The surprise of the group came as a 1907 Saint-Gaudens Standing Liberty gold $20 coin crossed the block at $32,200.
Prices include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.thomastonauction.com or 207-354-8141.
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