Published: September 9, 2003
– Strategically poised just before the big antiques week in New Hampshire, Jim Cyr held a folky auction that featured the property of one collector, Jean Curtin. Curtin had been collecting folk art, toys, paintings and other Americana for more than 50 years when she decided to sell her collection at Cyr’s. The auction hall was packed with customers, many retail collectors and a great many dealers, no doubt looking for “merch” to take to the plethora of shows coming up.
Curtin liked her folk art direct, and simple, and of good quality. There were many fine and unique pieces at this auction. Early in the sale came a fantastic pair of watercolor portraits, probably from the early part of the Nineteenth Century, of a man and his wife holding their child. With an oral history that pointed to a Virginia history, the pair of paintings opened at $5,000, and sold to a phone bidder for $24,725. Another group of paintings, a very folky early Nineteenth Century grouping of eight oval watercolor portraits of the Lewis Family, brought $5,175 from the phone.
There were some very good buys at this sale. A Nineteenth Century wool on burlap hooked rug, with a recumbent deer, sold to Hudson, N.Y., antiques dealer Ken Polinski of Kendon Antiques for $402. Polinski also went home with the unusual large size, full-bodied tin plate spaniel pull toy, 14 inches tall, which sold for $1,840, as well as the full-bodied tin plate parrot push toy, with mechanical wings, measuring seven inches high, which brought $920. A very folky and appealing Nineteenth Century hooked rug of a cat family brought $460, and a Nineteenth Century hooked rug of a lion brought $690.
A very early needlework sampler and family record, “Wrought by Lucy Hildreth Bath-September 4 AD 1810,” with a house and a young girl sold for $3,967. Curtin apparently was fond of simple, appealing watercolors of young girls with toys or dolls. One of these Nineteenth Century paintings, a watercolor of a girl in a blue dress holding a ball, and measuring six by five inches, brought $3,162.
Antiques dealer Shirley Chambers, who shares a shop in the summer months with Pat Stauble in Wiscasset, Maine, went home with the simple watercolor portrait of a girl with a flower basket. It was a charming painting with a young girl in a black dress and pantaloons, with a coral necklace, which brought $1,150. Another of these distinctive watercolor Nineteenth Century portraits was a painting with a girl with long hair and blue dress, holding her doll. It sold for $1,667.
Furniture offered at the auction included a fine Eighteenth Century barrel back pine corner cupboard with butterfly shelves, measuring 481/2 by 14 by 85 inches. It opened for bidding at $1,000, and sold for a very fair $2,012. A simple cherry graduated four-drawer Chippendale chest with fluted quarter columns and ogee bracket base brought just $1,092. Another good value for the furniture dealers and collectors was the graduated four-drawer Queen Anne chest in birch with cabriole legs and 21/2-inch overhang, which sold for $1,322. A Queen Anne highboy, with walnut and maple, with shell carving sold for $4,600.
Midway through the sale a Nineteenth Century pair of portraits, on ivory, of a gentleman and a lady was offered. They went off the block for $4,485. Another pair of portraits, this one attributed to American folk artist James Samford Ellsworth, measuring 5 by 31/4 inches each, sold for $2,300.
Late in the sale, a pair of watercolors on paper, a Nineteenth Century depiction of a gentleman and a lady, in oval mats, brought a very strong $5,750; a watercolor on paper of a lady in a red dress, in an oval mat, brought $7,762, and a watercolor paper portrait of a gentleman in a paint decorated chair, attributed to J. Evans, brought $4,312.
There was much to recommend this sale, with plenty of fresh, real folk material, collected by the discerning Jean Curtin. The dealers and collectors were out in full force, and the prices were solid for the folk paintings. The furniture at the auction seemed a little soft, and a good value.
All prices cited include the buyer’s premium.
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