Published: June 11, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy of CRN Auctions
CAMBRIDGE, MASS. – Carl Nordblom and Karin Philips had about 50 people in the salesroom as CRN’s 350-lot sale got underway on June 2. The sales are roughly organized by type of material, so the first 70 lots were primarily fine art, and some of the day’s highest prices were among those lots. These were followed by several lots of American and European furniture, Chinese export porcelains, tea caddies, historical documents, midcentury objects, tribal and ethnographic material and more. Internet bidding was available on two platforms, and several phone lines were in use throughout the sale. There were numerous absentee bids.
The first lot got the day off to a good start – a self-portrait drypoint etching by Rembrandt, with his wife, Saskia, signed and dated 1636. It was consigned by the daughter of the owner of the Mirski Gallery on Newbury Street, Boston. It was a well-known gallery in the late Twentieth Century, known for showing high-quality avante garde examples of the Boston Expressionism school. The catalog did not claim that the etching had been published during Rembrandt’s lifetime, nor did it say that it wasn’t. The conservative $3/5,000 estimate indicated that it was not being sold as “lifetime.” It sold for $16,800 to a phone bidder, underbid by a gentleman in the room, who left shortly after it was sold. He was asked about the etching and said, “I collect Rembrandt prints and I would guess that this one was published 50 to 75 years posthumously. However, it was a very good print, in good condition, properly framed and well taken care of. If I had thought it had been done during Rembrandt’s lifetime, I’d have been willing to spend a lot more money on it.” Accurate and conservative cataloging for CRN sales is done by Philips, a longtime partner in the company.
The highest price of the day, $30,000, was obtained by a painting done by Alfred Thompson Bricher (1837-1908). It was a scene of choppy seas along a rocky coastline between Thatcher Island and Twin Lights, Gloucester, Mass., with sailboats in the distance. A schooner at full sail, flying an American flag, painted by Antonio Jacobsen (1850-1921) surpassed its estimate, finishing at $19,200. There were two Nineteenth Century paintings of dogs. They did not bring a lot of money, but they seemed to be good examples of the genre and works that a dog lover would enjoy owning.
One was by William Malbone, showing an alert dog “listening for his master.” An internet bidder bought it for $600. The other demonstrated an obscure facet of life among the British aristocracy. It was titled “Wasp, Child and Billy, Bull Dogs” attributed to Henry Bernard Chalon, an English artist who lived 1770-1849. The catalog stated that Chalon was appointed “animal painter to the Duchess of York in 1795, as well as the Prince Regent.” His works are in the collection of the National Gallery of Art and the Tate. “Spring Awakening,” a circa 1925 signed Art Deco figure of a partially clad woman of carved bone, draped with a cold-painted bronze robe decorated with stars, by Johann Ferdinand Priess (1882-1943) surprised Nordblom, selling for only $13,200.
One might have to wonder if Boston’s antipathy to things New York – especially sports teams – carries over into art. Two attractive, impressionistic paintings of the Brooklyn Bridge by well-known painters sold below estimates. One, by Stokely Webster (1912-2001), signed and dated 1963 and illustrated in the book on the artist, sold for $1,800. It may have been a good buy. His works hang in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gracie Mansion (the official residence of New York’s mayor), the Smithsonian, the White House and several other institutions. A second similar scene, showing the bridge from the Brooklyn end facing Manhattan, was dated 1929, with an indistinct signature, and brought just $720.
Shortly after the paintings were sold, American furniture was offered, and several pieces exceeded estimates. Leading the selection was a shell-carved, seven-drawer Rhode Island tiger maple tall chest that Nordblom said he really liked. He assured the audience that “on a scale of one to ten, the tiger maple in this piece is a 13, and whatever you pay for it, you’ll make money.” The sales pitch seemed to have worked, as it sold over estimate, finishing at $10,800. An Eighteenth Century mahogany Newport porringer top tea table, also sold over its estimate, reaching $7,200. A pair of Santo Domingo mahogany, pierced splat back Chippendale side chairs from Maryland or Delaware, with shell-carved seat rail and shell carving on the crest, realized $7,800. Not doing as well as expected was a Massachusetts North Shore Sheraton inlaid mahogany and satinwood card table that brought $960, well below its estimate.
CRN’s sales include midcentury furniture and accessories. A cherry occasional table by George Nakashima with a matching pair of cherry captain’s chairs, although sold separately, brought a total of $4,320. The pieces were not signed but had been consigned by the original purchaser. Correspondence with David Long at the Nakashima Foundation for Peace, New Hope, Penn., stated, “The two armchairs and round table look right for early [late 1940s, early 1950s] Nakashima. We can provide a disclaimer letter signed by Mira Nakashima that states that the items look consistent with George Nakashima’s production at that time.”
Slightly earlier was a 10-inch bronze head of a woman, cataloged as “after” Gaston Lachaise (1882-1935) and clearly signed “Lachaise…Roman Bronze Works.” It sold for $4,800, well over the estimate. The artist was a prominent early Twentieth Century sculptor, best known for his works depicting women, many of which are said to be based on his wife. His works are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rockefeller Center and about two dozen other museums. Before the sale, Nordblom commented that “it may have been cast during the artist’s lifetime, but we’re not sure, so we described it as ‘after.’ Let the buyers decide.” An early piece of Dedham pottery, an 8½-inch flambe vase initialed by Hugh Robinson, the company’s founder, realized $2,280.
Pieces from large collections of blue and white Canton and Rose Medallion porcelains were sold both individually and in lots. An exceptionally large circa 1830 Canton foot bath, more than 25 inches across and more than 8 inches deep, on a carved teak base, brought the highest price of the collections, $2,760. Finishing just a little behind the foot bath, at $2,400, was a large pair of Canton candlesticks, 11 inches tall. A lot of six pieces Canton tableware – hot water plates, shrimp plates, etc brought just $300, and an internet bidder bought a group of nine Canton pitchers of various sizes for $360.
A few days after the sale, Nordblom said he was satisfied. “We had about 350 lots and grossed half a million dollars. Can’t complain about that. The European furniture, which we usually do well with, was soft this time, but the Jacobsen ship painting was a pleasant surprise, and the articulated horse, which was my favorite thing in the sale, went for $8,400 [well over the estimate]. I’d never seen one before. All in all, a good sale.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
For information, 617-661-9582 or www.crnauctions.com.
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