Published: June 23, 2020
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy of Eldred’s
EAST DENNIS, MASS. –Eldred’s may be synonymous with marine art, but the firm is no one-trick pony, and the top lot on the second day of its spring sale, June 12, was a very grounded bronze sculpture by Henry Spencer Moore (English, 1898-1986). Titled “Divided Head” and from the estate of a Rhode Island gentleman, it brought $137,500, on a $50/100,000 estimate. Standing 13¾ inches high, the sculpture’s total height, including marble base, was 20¾ inches. The sculpture was won by a private collector.
Overall, the sale totaled $945,000 with a 75 percent sell-through rate, according to the firm’s president Josh Eldred. “Bidding was spirited on sought-after items with multiple bidders. Since there was no live audience, about 80 percent of the bidding was online through Eldreds.com and Invaluable. The remaining bids were from the absentee and phone bids,” he said. “We had appointment-only preview, so that we could limit the amount of customers in the gallery at one time. Deliveries were also ‘curbside’ under the tent.”
The first day’s action was focused on decoys, firearms and maritime items, with the second day on Nineteenth Century paintings and period furniture. With 360 registered bidders in the sale vying absentee, by phone and online, there were many other interesting results in the two-day sale, beginning with the first session on June 11, in which ships portraits led the regatta of lots across the block. Top lot of the day was a painting by Roy Cross (English, b 1924) a pictorial description of “Constitution Captures Java, 1812,” an oil on canvas with frame, 37 by 59 inches. It sold for $40,625.
“Old Ironsides,” as the USS Constitution was nicknamed, was sailing in the Atlantic just off the coast of Brazil shortly after Christmas of 1812. Its new captain, William Bainbridge, altered course to investigate the sudden appearance of sails sighted on the horizon. The ship proved to be HMS Java, a frigate similar to Guerriere, which the Constitution had defeated earlier in the conflict. The defeat of Java, the second frigate lost to Constitution in six months, motivated a change in the tactics of the Royal Navy. No longer would their frigates be allowed to engage American frigates like Constitution alone.
Favorite ships portraitist Antonio Nicolo Gasparo Jacobsen (1850-1921) was represented in the sale by “The American clipper ship Dreadnought under full sail,” which traversed to $10,625. Signed and dated lower left “Antonio Jacobsen 1916” and with a robust exhibition history, the oil on board measured 15½ by 23½ inches.
The Dreadnought was built by Currier & Townsend of Newburyport, Mass., in 1853. Commanded by Samuel Samuels for ten years, she was master for David Ogden’s Red Cross packet service between New York and Liverpool, establishing an outstanding record for speed and reliability. Dreadnought made many record runs and holds the record of 9 days, 21 hours from Sandy Hook to Queenstown. In her later years, she engaged in trade from New York to San Francisco to the Far East and back to New York. She was lost in 1869 in a storm off Terra del Fuego, and her crew was rescued by a Norwegian vessel.
Fetching the same amount was another Jacobsen portrait, this one of the steamship City of Rome, an oil on canvas measuring 22 by 36 inches. The City of Rome was built in 1881 by the Barrow Ship Building Company for the Inman Line, and shortly thereafter acquired by the Anchor Line. She was built to be the fastest liner in the North Atlantic and was also considered one of the most beautiful of the time.
Also among the day’s top ten lots was a painting by William Gay Yorke (1817-1892) and Joseph DeSilva (1816-circa 1875) depicting the Black Star Line’s packet ship Resolute off Point Lynas, 1866, which went out at $6,250.
This example is one of the only known works bearing DeSilva’s signature. According to catalog notes, art historian Sam Davidson believes DeSilva was both a marine artist and an agent for Liverpool painters, such as Yorke and McFarlane as his trade label has been found on works by both of those artists. This painting depicts the Resolute at the end of her career as a packet, painted with faux gun ports and with the identifying Black Star Line symbol emblazoned on her fore lower topsail.
“Most of the top ships paintings went to private collectors,” said Eldred. “The better paintings were some of the first we offered from the Kelton collection, which will be the base of our major August maritime auction.”
Additional highlights on the auction’s first day included an original four-panel “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schulz (1922-2000) featuring Linus, Snoopy and Lucy, which was bid to $21,250; a painting by Robert Kennedy Abbett (1926-2015), “November Grouse,” oil on Masonite, 20 by 30 inches making $10,625; and a George Washington autograph matted with a steel engraving of America’s first president that sold for $9,375.
Led by the Moore sculpture, day two’s top highlights were mostly dominated by fine art, with the exception of a Queen Anne bonnet-top highboy in black walnut that took $18,750. It featured a broken arch pediment with three urn and spiral-twist finials on plinths, the upper case with three varied side-by-side drawers, the central with fan carving, over four graduated full-width drawers. The lower case had a full-width drawer over three side-by-side drawers, the central with repetitive fan carving.
A Continental painting in the manner of Adam Willaerts depicted a busy Dutch shore scene. The 15¼-by-31¾-inch oil on panel brought $33,750.
The Rhode Island estate – a longtime Eldred’s client and an astute collector – contributed Alexandre Yevgenievich Yakovlev’s (Russian, 1887-1938) portrait, “Camden, 1925,” a charcoal, pastel and pencil on paper, 26 by 19 inches, which rose to $32,500. Between 1924 and 1925, Yakovlev took part in an African expedition sponsored by Andre Citroen, referred to as the “Black Cruise.” His depictions of the people, the landscape and the culture were a big success, and as a result Yakovlev was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government in 1926. His “Portrait of a young Bando woman,” charcoal, pastel and pencil on Arches paper, 25½ by 19 inches, was also offered in the sale and was bid to $16,250.
Fetching $26,250 was an oil on canvas landscape by Massachusetts artist Lemuel D. Eldred (1848-1921), “Sunset in the Mountains,” 16 by 26 inches.
Contemporary California artist Margaret Keane (b 1927) was represented with “Big Eyes on the beach,” circa 1960, the 13¾-by-10-inch oil on Masonite depicting a young girl with Keane’s trademark big eyes. Keane mainly paints women, children or animals in oil or mixed media and her work has achieved commercial success with many other artists adopting the “big eyes” trope. This portrait reached $10,000.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For additional information, www.eldreds.com or 508-385-3116.
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