Published: September 23, 2015
Review And OnSite Photos by Rick Russack,
Catalog Photos courtesy CRN Auctions, Inc
CAMBRIDGE, MASS. — CRN’s September 13 auction filled the salesroom and drew numerous phone and Internet bidders. Carl Nordblom put together a varied collection of material, and the sale grossed more than $600,000. He had contemporary art, European and American paintings, Chinese Export ceramics and other China Trade material, good American clocks and furniture, good European furniture, an early globe, a sailor’s valentine, several Battersea enamel boxes and a pietra dura plaque that surprised everyone.
Worthy of special mention was an early football helmet that has been described as “the holy grail” for collectors of football equipment. It was a fast-paced auction, even with Internet participation, and very few lots were passed.
The day started off with about 70 paintings. Nordblom deliberately began the sale with best of the lot, a pair of mixed media works on newsprint by Paul Thek (American, 1933–1988). Thek had framed the works when he participated in a 1980 Biennale group show in Venice, Italy, which was titled “Where Are We Going? Art of The 70s,” and the newspaper that he used was a September 1975 edition of the International Herald Tribune. Illustrated in Harald Falckenberg and Peter Weibel’s Paul Thek, Artist’s Artist, the pair of paintings was said to be Thek’s version of Caspar David Friedrich’s 1818 painting “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog.” That painting now hangs in the Kunsthalle Museum in Hamburg, Germany.
Thek’s work hangs in several other museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, which mounted a retrospective exhibition of his work in 2010. His final years were spent in New York, unappreciated, where he washed floors and bagged groceries to support himself. Bidding was spirited for the pair, with competition between multiple phone bidders and the Internet. A phone bidder prevailed, paying $49,200. Several other paintings did well. A Nineteenth Century unsigned, British school, portrait of a race horse and a King Charles Spaniel went out for $8,400, and a large 62-by-76-inch painting of the southern coast of France by Joseph Garibaldi (French, 1863–1941) brought $12,000 from an online bidder.
American paintings did well, led by an Abbott Handerson Thayer oil on canvas, “Peonies,” which brought $19,200. A view of the “Inner Harbor, Rockport,” by noted Rockport, Mass., artist Anthony Cirino, an oil on Masonite, went out at $2,700. Two paintings by American women artists were included and brought respectable prices. A Cape Cod landscape in pastel by Laura Coombs Hill, “Gold Against Gold,” earned $5,400, and a gouache by Jane Peterson of “The Book Market, Rive Gauche, Paris” fetched $4,800.
A bronze sculpture of a mountain lion stretching by Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington made $3,900. When asked for his reaction to painting prices, Michael Grogan of Grogan & Company, who was attending the auction, told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that it appeared that the audience liked contemporary art, as evidenced by the Paul Thek pair. “The paintings did well. Several brought more than I thought they would.”
There were two good tall case clocks crossing the block. The first to sell was an Aaron Willard Jr clock that Nordblom said he had been after for 22 years. When he first saw it, the family did not want to part with it, but he kept in touch with them and when they were finally willing to part with it, he wasted no time getting to the house, lest they have a change of heart.
The clock had the old finish, and was all original with three brass finials, brass-capped columns, flared feet and a pierced fret. It also had a good Willard label and Willard’s name was on the painted dial. Several phone lines competed against the room, and a phone bidder won it at $25,200.
The other tall case clock had been made by Ebenezer Sargent of Newbury, Mass. It had a brass dial with an applied engraved tablet bearing the maker’s name and town, two turned finials, a brass chapter ring and brass spandrels. Although it had some condition problems, it made $8,400.
Some nice American furniture, once again, seemed like it was underpriced. An Eighteenth Century Connecticut Queen Anne cherry secretary on frame certainly seemed quite the good buy at $2,400, well below estimate. It had a broken-arch bonnet top, flat panel doors, fluted pilasters, slant lid and a stepped, shell carved interior. It also had a very unusual construction detail. The case had been shaped to conform to a room with paneled wainscoting.
An Eighteenth Century serpentine French Provincial fruitwood commode brought $3,900. With original hardware, paneled doors and paneled sides, it was one of several pieces of European furniture well received by the crowd. A Portuguese Bilbao mirror, circa 1800, had an elaborately carved crest with an urn, a bird and grapes, along with marble turned and blocked columns. It fetched $4,800. Finishing at the same prince was interesting French gueridon, a small round table with inset porcelain plaques.
During the preview, Carl Nordblom was asked his favorite piece in the sale. He did not hesitate, immediately pointing out an odd leather football helmet. Known to those interested in football equipment as an “executioner” style; it gets its name from the strap leather face guard, designed to protect a lineman’s face and nose, and is reminiscent of the hood worn by medieval executioners popularized in cinema. Helmets of this style were made only briefly in the 1920s, as they were not very comfortable and only about a dozen are known to exist.
Bob Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, collects football helmets and Nordblom had emailed him to let him know about this one. It sold online, so it is possible he was the buyer but we do not know. This example was in very good condition, with minor signs of use and it had the number 39 stenciled in white on the back of the helmet. One sold in 2007 for $6,462; this one brought $3,900. Nordblom, knowing he had a real rarity, had estimated it $3/5,000.
American samplers from the Eighteenth Century are not common. When they appear, if in good condition, they generate a lot of interest. Nordblom had a Massachusetts sampler, dated 1785, and it was in good condition. It had three alphabets, a floral vine, a basket of flowers, sheep, birds, a dog, a deer and trees. Signed by Elizabeth Carlton / Aged 12 July 14, 1785, it brought $7,800 on the phones. Based on the stitching, it was attributed to the Sarah Stivous school in Salem, Mass.
One of several Asian arts items was a porcelain covered brush box with an underglaze blue Longqing mark within a double rectangle. This brush box was decorated with dragons, while the sides were decorated with a wave design. It finished at $6,600, well over its $1,200 high estimate. Several lots of choice Rose Medallion included a strap handle soup tureen with a gilt monogram, circa 1840, earning $720. A pair of 19-inch Rose Medallion garden barrels, 19 inches tall, achieved $6,600, while an outstanding framed pair of Chinese porcelain plaques, with three-dimensional figures in a garden, 12 by 17 inches, fetched $7,800.
It was a varied sale and there were a number of other interesting items. A Cary’s terrestrial 9-inch table globe, dated 1828, included Captain Cook’s discoveries. It went out at $2,700. A woven Apache basket having a 14½-inch diameter, with a central star, brought $780. A Northeast Woodlands handled burl bowl from the Daphne Farago collection sold for $7,200. A Nineteenth Century pawn shop trade sign, with three suspended balls, earned $780, and a Tiffany cloisonné and doré bronze clock set, with a pair of covered urns, made $2,400. A very unusual architectural watch hutch, circa 1815, with satinwood inlay and reverse painted glass curtains ended up at $780. A Georg Jensen flatware service with 105 pieces in the Cactus pattern sold for $4,200, and a well-marked Gorham Martele sterling silver Fern dish, with chased Poppy decoration, brought $3,300.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.crnauctions.com or 617-661-9582.
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