Published: August 2, 2016
Review by W.A. Demers; Photos Courtesy CRN Auctions
CAMBRIDGE, MASS. — On June 26, CRN conducted its Summer Mélange auction, which, appropriately, offered up two unrelated but compelling lead items.
A large Chinese carved wood panel from the Nineteenth Century depicting a mountain landscape and enhanced with hardstone inserts brought $57,600 from a floor bidder. The panel measured 40¾ by 30½ inches and weighed a hefty 55 pounds.
The first item across the block, an oil on canvas by Albert Ernest Backus (American, 1906–1990) depicting a brilliant blooming Royal Poinciana tree, fetched $43,200 from another floor bidder. Measuring 25 by 30 inches, the framed work stemmed from the consignor’s parents, who owned a Massachusetts nursing home in the 1980s. The painting was given to them by the family of a deceased resident.
“We’ve been conducting auctions since 1975,” said CRN partner and auction coordinator Karin Phillips. “In those days, and up through the 1980s, auction houses conducted specialized sales. This format is no longer feasible.”
Philips and CRN partner Carl Nordblom mourn the loss of the auction trade’s “salad days” when hundreds of people attended an auction. “The prices were good, the food was good, and there was electricity in the air. There was neither internet nor phone bidding,” said Phillips.
Changing times demand change of format. Now each CRN auction covers the gamut of origin and period, according to Phillips. The Summer Mélange sale delivered on that premise. Fine art, American furniture, decorative pieces — even a case of antique Prohibition-era Kentucky bourbon — combined to serve up tasty treasures for bidders attending the sale or participating by phone and internet.
In addition to the Backus painting, three other fine art lots were among the top performers in the sale, with Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait’s (American, 1819–1905) “Spring, First Brood, Chicks” realizing $11,400, Charles Webster Hawthorne’s (American, 1872–1930) “Portrait Of Woman” taking $10,800 and a work by Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889–1975), “Steamboat And Workers,” going out at $9,000.
Furniture highlights included an important Federal mahogany and satinwood work table attributed to Judkins and Senter, who worked in Portsmouth, N.H., from 1808 to 1826. It finished at $9,600. A Federal mahogany architect’s desk, the top adjusting to several heights and positions, attributed to Salem, Mass., cabinetmaker Thomas Needham (worked 1755–87) brought $8,400, while a Salem Chippendale mahogany secretary/bookcase was bid to $7,800. This piece had been purchased from CRN Auctions years ago, and was being offered again by the downsizing collector.
A fascinating piece of history was found in a Boston South End cellar. An unopened cardboard case of Prohibition Kentucky bourbon labeled as “Medicinal.” The box containing 24 pints had never been opened, due to the wishes of the consignor. The buyer who took the lot for $8,610 will now have to decide “open or not open.”
Additional notable items were a pair of French gilt-bronze figural candelabra at $9,600, an Indian carved Buddhist stone tower fetching $8,610 and a pair of Chippendale brass diamond and flame andirons achieving $7,800.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.crnauctions.com or 617-661-9582.
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