Published: August 22, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos by George Korn, Forager House Collection, Catalog Photos Courtesy Osona Auctions
NANTUCKET – Rafael Osona’s annual Americana, Continental, fine art and marine auction on August 5 was his 38th year on Nantucket. All seats were filled and about 50 people were standing. There were 415 lots that brought a total of $2,225,000. Osona for the first time prepared a sheet for attendees with presale estimates.
The top lot was a Nantucket scrimshawed sperm whale tooth signed “Made by Edward Burdett.” There were a number of active bidders and it knocked down at $252,000. The stage had already been set for this tooth as Eldred’s had sold a similar tooth by Burdett at its July 20 sale for a record $456,000. When this writer asked the new owner for a comment, he said, “I think it was a good value.”
There were a total of 14 scrimshawed teeth in the sale. A Susan’s tooth by Frederick Myrick was passed at $75,000, but other teeth were sold for $48,000 and $46,000 and lesser but significant amounts.
Scrimshaw was a major part of the sale. Two swifts sold for $18,000 and $11,400. Two whalebone baskets went for $18,000 and $22,800.
Thirty-seven walking sticks were on the block. Lots one and two were given entire pages with multiple photos in the catalog. The first was a painted stick with an intricate serpent. It fetched $8,400. Lot 2 was described as an “extraordinary whalebone carved whale ivory and whalebone walking stick.” It was estimated at $4/6,000 and sold for $56,400.
An Osona sale would not be complete without Nantucket baskets; there were 20 offerings. A swing handle basket with a hinged lid, attributed to Charles Ray, brought $21,600. A nest of seven by Rowland Folger was knocked down at $24,000.
A major Napoleonic prisoner-of-war three-masted ship model of the 92-gun HMS Royal George went for $50,400.
Fine art was prominently featured. Three paintings by Wendall Macy (1845-1913) were for sale. The first of two ships went for $13,200 and another with one ship brought $8,400. A third smaller oil painting of sheep went for $6,500.
Two Ralph Cahoon (1910-1982) paintings were offered. Each brought $96,000. The one featured on the cover of the auction’s catalog, “Ships and Scrimshaw,” was bought by two friends of the Cahoon Museum. This painting will join its companion already in the museum’s collection.
Frank Swift Chase (1886-1958), who inspired a generation of Nantucket painters, was represented with three works. Two were Nantucket scenes and brought $13,200 and $16,800. A third painting, not a Nantucket scene, failed to sell. Anne Ramsdell Congdon was represented with three paintings. A major Nantucket scene fetched $78,000, while two smaller works sold for $14,400 and $15,600. An Isabelle Tuttle work took $10,200, and a Walter Gilman Page work brought $3,000. A Main Street scene by Kathryn Nason went for $3,600, while a watercolor by J.B. Reid fetched $2,700.
Two Nantucket sailor whirligigs sold. One classic signed by Lincoln Ceely was a bargain at $480. Another by Chester Pease brought $880. A classic whale carving by Clark Voorhees brought $1,560.
Osona holds the record for the highest price paid for a sailor woolwork picture at $44,000. Known as woolies, they were well represented in the sale. A very fine and unusual one that had been in the same family for more than 100 years was offered. It depicted a ship dressed in flags and pennants flanked by four cameos of ships in full sail. It brought $19,200. A miniature pair of woolies brought $19,200. Other woolie offerings brought more modest prices of $4,800, $6,000 and $4,880.
An addendum to the sale was a Chinese export oil on canvas of the American ship Midnight which was included in the exhibition “From Brant Point (Nantucket) to the Boca Tigris” at the Nantucket Historical Association in 1994. It was purchased for $14,400 for the permanent collection of the association. A nice note was that Osona made this announcement and introduced James Russell who was in the audience and will assume the directorship of the group in early fall.
Osona’s advance notice of this auction stated there would be a second session that would include Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Continental and contemporary Nantucket art from a waterfront estate designed by Bunny Williams. These items ended up being offered not in a second session but scattered throughout the auction. Some of these items were not Nantucket related and had limited interest to many in the audience.
A suite of 12 watercolors depicting decorated ceramic plates in elegant silver leaf frames, however, went for $11,000. A pair of Regency marble top mahogany bowfront low bookcases brought $21,600. A pair of satinwood demilune console tables with elaborate marquetry decoration got into competitive bidding and went for $54,000.
From the same estate was an unusual round English regency rosewood and ebony extending table. When the four quarter-round inserts are used, the table extends to 92 inches in diameter. It realized $54,000.
With the average price of a house on Nantucket just shy of $4,000,000, these auction treasures should find a happy home “on-island” or elsewhere.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.rafaelosonaauction.com or 508-228-3942.
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