Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack
ROCKLAND, MASS. – On December 2, Willis Henry’s sale offered everything from Rodin bronzes to Fritz Vogt drawings. He included a selection of painted woodenware that brought strong prices, a collection of skaters’ lanterns that surprised everyone and a collection of Bohemian souvenir glass that also raised eyebrows. Significant local history items sold to collectors in the neighborhood, and there were numerous paintings, Chinese export porcelains, silver, early furniture and more. There were bargains to be had, and some items went to determined buyers who kept their hands up until other bidders surrendered. Although internet bidding was available on two platforms, there were more than 100 buyers in the room. Very few items were passed. The sale grossed just under $200,000.
There were three drawings by Fritz Vogt (1842-1900) of New York state homes that were part of a consignment of New York material that had been collected by a veterinarian from upstate New York. He was present at the sale to see how his things did, and said he’s been collecting since his early teens.
“One day I had $6 and I bought an old violin for $5. It just sort of kept going from there,” he recalled. “Nearly everything came from country auctions in the area that I live in, and I liked things that related to New York state.” One of the Vogt pencil and crayon drawings, “Residence of Mr John Brookman, Brookman’s Corner, N.Y., Oct. 5, 1895,” turned out to be the highest priced time in the sale, selling for $25,200, well over the estimate. Vogt was an itinerant artist, traveling by foot in the area around Albany in the 1890s. He made his living trading his detailed art work to affluent property owners, but much of what he earned he spent on alcohol and he died in the Montgomery County Almshouse at the age of 58.
Other interesting, specialized collections came from the same consignor. There’s a strong market for railroad collectibles, so it was not a huge surprise when a pair of lanterns with red globes, one marked “N.R.R.” and the other marked “B.L. & N.R.R,” sold for more than twice the estimate, finishing at $1,920. Another, for the Portsmouth Great Falls & Conway Railroad, with a clear globe and history of ownership, sold for the same price. But many were surprised when a collection of skaters’ lamps with colorful glass globes exceeded estimates. Selling to a phone bidder for $1,104 was a 7-inch example with an amber/yellow globe, and two others, with blue and amethyst globes, sold for $720. Other colors also did well.
From the same collector came a group of etched and cut Bohemian glass souvenir glass. Tripling the high estimate, finishing at $1,920, was tankard with a pewter lid and an etched and cut scene of Niagara Falls, labeled “Der Niagara Falls.” Only one other example is known, and that is in the National Museum of Canada. Two footed goblets, under 6 inches tall, both with scenes of “Trenton Falls, New York,” earned $2,280, nearly four times the estimate. The collection had been assembled by a woman in Amsterdam, N.Y., whose husband had forbidden her to buy antiques. She did anyway, and when the husband died, she sold many of her collections. The consignor purchased the collection in the 1990s from the picker to whom the woman had sold it.
When on a house call, Will Henry knows it pays to look in closets. “I was looking under a pile of clothes in a closet and I saw a Rodin bronze. I knew it as soon as I saw it,” said the auctioneer. The bronze, a 30-inch casting of “Le Penseur (The Thinker)” by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was signed “A. Rodin” and “Barbedienne. Found” and sold to a phone bidder for $19,200. It was cataloged as “after the death of Rodin,” but the underbidder in the room said that he thought it was probably done during Rodin’s lifetime. While most of the artwork in the sale was American, the top-priced oil painting of the day, “Going to Market,” was a circa 1870 work by an Italian artist, signed “L. Bechi” (1830-1919), which sold for $16,800.
Painted woodenware did well, with buyers in the room outbidding phone and internet on some pieces. An exceptional lapped Eighteenth Century bucket, in dry old red paint and with three interwoven laps and a finely carved swing handle, 7 inches tall, sold in the room for $6,120. A small pantry box with original red paint and rosehead nails was signed on the bottom “1770,” “PB.” It was accompanied by a 1928 note, “Polly Bliss, her Ginger Box.” It brought $2,640. Turned wooden chopping bowls in old paint were popular, with a 20-inch green one selling for $600 and a 24-inch blue one bringing $390.
At Henry’s April sale, he had a very unusual family record, actually in the form of a tree, that documented seven generations of a Hingham family. A dealer paid $4,560 for it. At the time, Henry said that it was one of about three examples that he knew of. Another family record, with details of five generations of the James Whitton family, was included in this sale. A brightly colored ink and watercolor, in addition to the tree, it depicted other trees and the Atlantic Ocean in the background. A tag on back read “to George Melcher and Elizabeth Melcher Anderson,” and this was consigned by the Melcher family. Perhaps one of the better buys of the day, it sold for only $360, well below the estimate.
Another sampler from the Melcher collection, which had been exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, sold for $2,400. It depicted the Garden of Eden with a serpent in the apple tree and a variety of other animals enclosed within a floral border. A pair of decorated fire buckets, dated 1811, that had belonged to George Melcher sold for $1,680. Included was a cotton canvas bag for carrying the buckets, which was initialed “G.M.” From the same family came a China Trade ship’s log dated 1815-19. It was headed “Sailing toward the Pacific Ocean, Ship Avon.” Also from the Avon was a stick barometer, made in London, which ended up at $600.
The sale included redware and stoneware, with a 2-gallon J&P Norton, Bennington, Vt., example with a large blue bird (turkey?) on a branch bringing $660 and a “Penn Yan” ovoid jug with an unusual blue butterfly realizing $330. A lot of three New England redware jugs, with varying glazes and all in good condition, sold for $480.
After the sale, Henry commented, “We had a good sale and I enjoyed selling with a good-sized crowd in the room. Auctions are fun, and we hope that people have a good time while they’re buying nice things. Our consignors were satisfied with results and we explain beforehand that some things just aren’t going to bring what they once did. They understand that, and they see that some of their things bring much more than they might have expected. In the end, everyone is satisfied.” Henry was asked about his summer Shaker auction, which has traditionally been conducted at the Hancock Shaker Village. He skipped last year but said there will be a sale at Hancock this June.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
For additional information, www.willishenryauctions.com or 781-834-7774.