Published: June 17, 2011
Shaker material drew collectors and dealers to the Willis Henry Shaker auction on May 29 where the highlight was a cherry dining table in the original finish. The table was made for the space in the dining hall next to the dumbwaiter of a brick dwelling house in Hancock, N.H., and it brought $44,460 from a phone bidder. The table had been sold directly by Shaker Sister Mary Dahm to pioneer collectors Charles and Helen Upton, much of whose collection was donated to the Shaker Museum and Library in Old Chatham, N.Y.
Shaker auctions are a little different from many other kinds of sales. Shaker collectors and dealers are a close community, and there is much catching up going on before and during the sale †on the objects for sale and on what is happening with people in general. The objects for sale are often well-known as well; bidders pursue them as if they are old friends available for a turn in one collection or another. Because there is so little of it, dealers and collectors are usually very familiar with the goods up for auction.
New collectors have appeared lately, however, some of them longtime antiques collectors branching out, perhaps. Prices were solid enough, although like most sales today, “They ain’t what they used to be.”
An audience favorite was the birch rocking chair with the original red painted finish, elongated candle flame finials, four graduated slats and bold rockers that sold to South Salem, N.Y., dealer John Keith Russell for $43,875. The chair had come from the collection of Walter S. Bucklin, who is believed to have purchased it directly from the Enfield community in the 1930s.
From the same Enfield retiring room, a pair of birch side chairs, each numbered “9” in a light red-brown stained varnish finish, each with three beveled and graduated slats, sold for $6,435 to an active phone buyer. The same buyer paid $4,446 for a cherry blanket chest with secondary poplar, a single breadboard lift lid and the original iron hinges that may have come from the Hancock Shaker community, possibly the Deming family.
An Enfield birch side chair was accompanied by a 1997 letter from Ann Andrews Kane, daughter of Faith and Edward Deming Andrews with a history of the chair. The lot realized $3,803. A birch and tiger birch side chair with the original brown walnut varnish, tall flame finials and three slightly beveled slats, also from Enfield, circa 1830, went for $3,627.
A sister’s sewing desk from Enfield that was made in birch and pine with the original walnut pulls and a hidden sliding breadboarded sewing board that retained evidence of sewing bird clamps sold for $32,175, again, to Russell.
A pine chest with four graduated drawers and an under drawer on a molded bracket base and in the original dark ochre stain came from the Harvard community and sold on the phone for $30,420. The same buyer paid $4,095 for a cherry and maple (tiger and bird’s-eye) hanging cupboard with secondary poplar that had been part of the Ribic collection.
Another example of coveted case furniture was the pine cupboard over drawers with chrome yellow finish and seven yellow drawers beneath a cupboard that was made at Mount Lebanon, N.Y., and sold on the phone for $28,910. It came from the collection of Stefan Brecht, prolific collector and son of playwright Bertolt Brecht.
Retaining the original varnish finish, a case of drawers in butternut and pine with two drawers flanking two drawers sold for $18,135. The case, which measured 23½ by 55 by 18 inches, came from the collection of Nancy and Jim Stranahan, longtime collectors who lived in Mercer, Penn., and were dependably present at Shaker sales. Family members were present for the sale and were observed bidding on some family pieces, one of which was a maple and pine oval box with an attached pincushion and four fingers that was $1,287.
Original blue finish on a double case of three graduated and dovetailed pine drawers, circa 1840‵0, that came from the Brecht collection stimulated bidding: The lot sold on the phone for $13,455.
One case of eight add-on butternut drawers with secondary pine and retaining the original red stain in an asymmetrical conformation came from the Stranahan collection and sold for $3,510.
A pine double shelf with a bittersweet stained exterior and a yellow stained interior, both of which were original, with six cubbies came from the Canterbury community, circa 1840, and fetched $4,095.
Bringing $10,530 was a pine tall chest with the original red paint finish with six lipped, molded and dovetailed drawers with the original pewter turned pulls. The third drawer was dated “June 19” and bore a series of initials in chalk; the chest came from the Stranahan collection. A pine work table with turned swelled legs with a scribe line from the Alfred, Maine, community went to a left bid for $4,095. A Harvard community pine blanket chest, circa 1820″0, in the original red paint with an overhanging single board top, single board sides and two interior cleats to retard warp, with a single dovetailed drawer sold for $4,095.
Four framed acrylic on board paintings, “The Four Seasons,” opened at $100 and raced in staccato increments to $6,318. The paintings depicted scenes around the Canterbury community in the various seasons, three of which were signed and inscribed by Shaker Sister C. Helena Sarle. The lot also included a mother-of-pearl button painted with an image of sunset; an accompanying note indicated that the images are inscribed with the information that they were painted by Sister Sarle when she was 87.
A pine-lidded pail in the original mustard yellow paint from Canterbury, circa 1840, was pinpricked “Infirmary, North Family.” From the Stranahan collection, it realized $5,850.
A tiny dome top sewing box, circa 1900, that was made of pale blue-green paper covered pressboard and had a fitted and hinged lid, an applied heart on the front and a hand painted wallpaper bottom was filled with silk fabric scraps and a red stripe tape. The subject of a video on the Willis Henry Auctions site, the piece fetched $1,463.
Oval boxes held their own. One example in maple and pine in original olive green paint with three fingers and the signature of Isadora Turner sold to an absentee bidder for $4,388. The box had been in the Andrews collection and came most recently from the Stranahan collection. Two New Lebanon examples, the larger (2¼ by 57/8 inches) with two fingers, the smaller (17/8 by 5¼ inches) with two, both in maple with burl wood lids and the original varnish sold on the phone for $4,914.
A pine carrier in the original varnish with double lids each finely breadboarded on the ends was labeled, “Bought from Sister Rosetta Stevens, Mt Lebanon, North Family, 1929,” and bore the sticker label, “Shaker Box #15, Lunch Box.” It came from the Stranahan collection and sold on the phone.
Wrought by a child who was a member of the Enfield Children’s Order, a sampler in blue and black yarn on woven cotton with the message, “Lorinda Hodley, aged 11 years 1844, come to live with believers, Oct 22, 1838,” was rare and sold for $3,510.
All price reported include the 17 percent buyer’s premium. For information, 781-834-7774 or www.willishenry.com .
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