Published: July 7, 2020
Review by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy Daniel Buck Auctions
LISBON FALLS, MAINE – Auctioneer Daniel Buck Soules of Daniel Buck Auctions was pleased with his June 27 sale, relating to Antiques and The Arts Weekly, “It did very well overall. It was the first time we had done the sale with three different online bidding platforms and things went very smoothly – prices were what we expected.”
All but one price, it turns out, when a folk art portrait by an artist of the Prior-Hamblen School caused a stir when it sold for $101,750 on a $5,000 estimate. The oil on canvas portrait of a boy came out of an estate in Rhode Island where it had descended through a family since the Nineteenth Century.
Rockport, Maine, dealer Scott Fraser was the winning bidder.
Speaking with us after the sale, Fraser said, “It’s a masterpiece of a painting. It is remarkable how dry the paint is, no craquelure, no inpainting, no anything. It’s really an amazing survivor.”
The 27-by-22-inch work caused a flood of interest to Soules’ auction house, the auctioneer said nearly every major folk art collector and dealer was on it. He estimated he had 30 parties bidding at the starting line.
The consignor said it came to her by descent through her family from George Harlow Martin (b 1859), to Royland Carter Martin (b 1886), to her mother Elsie Martin (b 1923) to her.
The initials “C.F.C.” are painted to the boy’s whip, which he holds in his right hand. Fraser said he followed the family’s genealogy through the Carter line and was able to locate a boy by the name of Charles Franklin Carter, born 1840, which fits squarely within the period of production for the Prior-Hamblen school artists.
On the auction house’s attribution to William Matthew Prior, Fraser said he believes it may instead be by George Hartwell, a member of the Prior-Hamblen school whose niece married Hamblen’s son, James. Fraser says the attribution ultimately doesn’t affect value or the quality of the work. “They’re all in that school and related. It’s the composition – it’s so flatly done, and then you have that cranberry red basket and the cranberry red whip against that ivory gown, it really pops. To see it in person, it’s as good as it gets.”
Fraser related that he saw the work online and decided to make an appointment to view it at the gallery. He had never done business with the auctioneer before.
“So many times you see a painting online and you look at it and say ‘it can’t be, it’s too good to be true, it’ll have major issues.’ So I went down to see it with no expectations. I walked in the door and – it looked great online and you couldn’t believe it was that good – but when you went in, it really was that good. There’s not a whole lot to apologize for on it.”
Soules agreed, when he told us it was “100 percent original. No inpainting, cleaning, no nothing… It had all the best bells and whistles on an American portrait: the whip, basket of berries, birds and flowers. Everything you could think of, this painting had it.”
It would be an auction record for any work by George Hartwell, which is held by a pair of portraits that sold for $36,000 at Christie’s in 2005, according to AskArt.
Others Fraser has spoken with also believe it may be Hartwell, tipped that direction by the background with roses and flowers, and the way the right arm hangs straight down.
Soules said he believes it to be in the top two or three best portraits of the Prior-Hamblen school.
Fraser, who deals from his home in Rockport, said the work is available if anyone is interested. His phone is 207-594-1860.
Soules said the sale had about 40 consignors overall, including a few collections of specific material.
Among them was early photography that once belonged to Herbert Spinney (1862-1943), who was the lighthouse keeper at Seguin Island, Maine, from 1893 to 1906, the president of the Maine Ornithological Society and founder of the Maine Audubon Society. The top lot from that collection was $1,440 for a group of 355 magic lantern slides by Spinney and Norton & Spinney, consisting of mostly scenes of the Maine coast, species of birds, as well as Western American slides by McAllister. Spinney’s magic lantern, in original carrying box, sold for $330. A group of 24 glass plate negatives featuring Seguin Island, the Maine coast and birds brought $270.
Consignors were from throughout the United States, Soules said, including one gentleman from the Western United States who consigned a number of new old stock Levi’s denim. Soules has carved out a niche in vintage Levi’s denim, having handled a headline-generating private sale in May 2018 where he sold a pair of 1893 Levi’s denim overalls for nearly $100,000. He gets calls on the material often now, with a number of lots in the sale consigned by that Western American consignor whose family operated a clothing store in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Among them was an $8,700 result for a vintage 1940s Levi’s 506XX denim jacket. Another example, same model but in a lighter denim with two small faded spots on the left sleeve, sold for $2,520.
Another consignor out of Chicago supplied a load of African tribal carvings that he had picked up while on a trip to the continent in the 1950s. Chief among them was a wooden spirit mask, 33 inches tall, that sold for $2,160 after 36 bids. Two African carved wooden figures, both signed “Dejo Fakeye,” went on to sell for $1,080.
As much as the material was global, Soules said that buying was equally as much, no doubt aided by the online nature of the sale. He said he is shipping to Russia, Australia, Japan and all over the United States. The auctioneer said trade buying was strong, but private buyers were probably stronger as folks throughout the world are logging in to get their retail fix.
Daniel Buck Auctions recently got a collection of more than 2,000 pieces of late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century glass, which will be offered throughout a number of sales in the fall and winter.
All prices reported include buyer’s premium. For information, www.danielbuckauctions.com or 207-407-1444.
January 31, 2023
January 31, 2023
January 31, 2023
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm