Published: May 14, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy of Bourgeault-Horan Antiquarians
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Ron Bourgeault operated Northeast Auctions as a sole proprietorship for more than 30 years. In January of this year, he decided to change the format of the company and the way it does business and now has as a partner, his long-time associate, James Horan. The company is now called Bourgeault-Horan Antiquarians and describes itself as a boutique auction house that will conduct fewer auctions than Northeast did and also sell by private treaty and consult for clients, old and new.
The new firm’s first auction was May 5 in Northeast’s longtime headquarters, the Treadwell Mansion. The building may be larger than necessary; it’s prime real estate in Portsmouth, and a nearby building recently sold for more than $4 million. When asked if the building is for sale, Bourgeault responded like a true antiques dealer – “Everything has a price.” There’s a new sign with the new name, so the name has changed, but little else has – same location, same high-quality merchandise, the regular buyers were present and pretty much the same staff. With exceptions, most are now working part-time. The new company will conduct its summer auction as Northeast did, and it’s scheduled the weekend of August 18, the same it has always been. An uncataloged sale is planned in Dover, N.H., in June.
The May 5 sale got the new enterprise off to a good start. There were fewer lots than previous Northeast sales, and it was just a one-day event. The 332 lots grossed a respectable $289,000. There were several items of Russian interest as well as several Southern items. In addition to furniture and silver, the sale included a number of samplers, good paintings and a large selection of Bennington flint-enamel wares and a collection of Flow Blue china. As it turned out, it was one of the Southern items that would be the highest priced item in the sale – a Federal period walnut cellarette on a stand, fitted for 15 bottles, which realized $26,400. From the same part of the country, a walnut corner cupboard with incised decorative lines above recessed panel doors brought $3,240. A pair of half-length portraits of a newlywed Virginia couple, Mr and Mrs John Patton, most likely painted by itinerant artist George Cooke, circa 1820s, sold for $5,760. John Patton served five terms in Congress and also served in several governmental posts in Virginia.
Other American furniture sold within estimates. During the preview, a client was looking at a Federal period New York sofa that might have been made by Duncan Phyfe. It was estimated $4/6,000 and the client asked Bourgeault if he thought that was an accurate estimate. Bourgeault answered, “In today’s market, yes, it’s a realistic number. That’s why this a great time to be buying. A few years ago, that sofa would have brought $20,000.” This time it sold for $3,840. A circa 1790-1810 New York sideboard, inlaid and constructed of figured mahogany, sold for $4,320, while a Pennsylvania walnut Chippendale lowboy with carved knees and claw and ball feet went out for $3,240.
Over the past few sales, Bourgeault has been offering some fine Russian items, and one such lot in this sale was one of the major surprises of the day. The lot included a circa 1685 engraving of Czar Peter the Great and his half-brother, Ivan V, and two large-format French books with views of Russian cities and monuments. Both books had been published early in the Nineteenth Century. The lot finished at $12,000, far over the estimate. A 9Ã¾-inch Chinese export porcelain plate, circa 1785, made for Catherine the Great, with the Arms of Russia, reached $1,800. The empress commissioned several dinner services during her long reign, but only two were Chinese export porcelain. A similar plate is illustrated in Howard’s China For The West. Another piece of Russian interest finishing over the estimate was a Nineteenth Century colorless engraved glass goblet with cover, more than 20 inches tall, commemorating Catherine the Great, which realized $3,600. Engraved on one side was a bust of Catherine, and on the other side was the Russian imperial crown.
In addition to the Russian city views mentioned above, the sale included a suite of 46 of the original 51 etchings by Louis Orr (1879-1961) of North Carolina scenes, which sold for $12,600. Orr, while working in Paris in the 1930s, was commissioned to create the etchings by Robert Lee Humber. Humber wanted to preserve scenes of historic buildings in his home state. Orr began working on the etchings in 1939 and completed them in 1952. Each was signed and numbered and were contained in two volumes. A painting in the sale was done by an artist also interested in preserving scenes of his hometown, and this one had Portsmouth interest. It was painted by Harry Merrick Sutton (1882-1963) and depicted the Cutts Mansion. The mansion still stands, although it was damaged by a storm in February of this year. Rumor has it that there are tunnels under the building that may or may not once have been used to hide a criminal. The painting earned $3,600. The sale had a number of other paintings, including a scene of two small sailboats by Aldro Thompson Hibbard (1886-1972). It was titled “Low Tide,” signed by the artist, and it sold for $7,200.
Prior to the sale, Bourgeault let it be known that a collection of Bennington pottery, with many flint-enamel pieces, would be included in the sale. There were more than 20 lots, some with multiple pieces. Bringing the highest price of the group was a 10Ã½-inch flint-enamel book flask, impressed on the spine “Bennington Companion,” which finished at $5,040. A flint-enamel Medici-style lion with the impressed 1849 mark of Lyman Fenton & Co sold for $1,800. An unusual flint-enamel chamber stick went for $360.
There were several early samplers in the sale, and although some did not sell, prices seemed reasonable. One, with the Adam and Eve design, was dated 1775 and included the Lord’s Prayer, flowering vines and birds. It brought $840. Another, with Portsmouth interest, signed and dated 1832, had been done by Susan Ann Barnes of Portsmouth. It included the alphabet and numerals above a pious verse, with birds and trees. It realized $330 and was bought by the Portsmouth Historical Society, which has more than 30 Portsmouth samplers in its collection.
Discussing the revamped format of the company, both Jim Horan and Ron Bourgeault emphasized that the “boutique” format would allow them to increase individual customer service. Horan also commented that “the market has changed and we need to change with it.” One of the hallmarks of Northeast had always been the comprehensive, slick, color catalog that was mailed to all customers. The catalog was eliminated for this sale but may be back for the August sale. The high-quality description of each lot has not changed and the printed list that was handed out included those full descriptions. Future sales may also be one day instead of two, and the two principals are optimistic about the future, not only of their endeavor but of the antiques business in general.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
For additional information, www.bourgeaulthoranauctions.com or 603-433-8400.
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