Published: January 8, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack
WILLISTON, VT. – Sometimes the auctioneer and a prospective buyer agree on what will be the highest priced group of things in the sale. Ethan Merrill and Joe Martin, a dealer from Lyndonville, in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, both said that some of the jewelry in Merrill’s December 28-29 sale would be the top-selling items in the auction. Merrill said that the jewelry had been found in a small wooden box on a house call, and Martin said that he planned to buy much of it. He did, including the highest priced lot in the sale, a diamond set in a marked 14K yellow gold bracelet. It was a varied sale, including American furniture, numerous paintings, silver, midcentury furniture and accessories, hooked and Oriental rugs, European and Asian ceramics and more. It was the sort of auction where both buyers and sellers went home happy.
The desirable jewelry came from a local estate. The gold bracelet, which Martin bought, had a 3-carat brilliant round-cut solitaire diamond, VS1 color G-H, and the large stone was surrounded on each side by five smaller diamonds. At $17,250, it was the highest priced item off the block this auction. From the same home, and bought by the same buyer, was a 14K white gold ring set with three modern round cut diamonds, each about 1 carat, which sold for $5,750, and a 14K yellow gold ring set with a 2.2-carat round cut diamond, surrounded by 14 one-point diamonds, which sold for $4,600. Martin also bought other pieces from the same lot and later said that he was pleased with his purchases. “I think they were good buys – I didn’t expect to be able to buy as much as I did.”
It would have been a good day to buy furniture, both American and European. One of the nicer pieces was a cherry Hepplewhite, block inlaid, six-leg dropleaf dining table that sold for $173. A circa 1810 Sheraton mahogany reeded-leg lift top card table brought $230, while a cherry and maple Hepplewhite spider leg candlestand went for a little over $100. Reflecting today’s reality, each was conservatively estimated. Canadian painted furniture did a little better, with a dry sink in original green paint selling over the estimate at $546. Certainly not American, but still a very interesting table, and certainly a bargain, was a large Eighteenth Century pietra dura white marble table, almost 80 by 40 inches, with a scagliola panel top in a colorful floral and vine pattern on black and white ground, which went for $1,610. Merrill’s catalog logically informed buyers that their table was available for “local pickup only.”
Fans of midcentury design had the opportunity to take home an exceptional accent piece, which perhaps could be restored to working condition. It was a Philco Predicta Danish modern swivel television set. It had been designed by Severin L. Jonassen, Richard J. Whipple and Catherine Speyer Winkler and was introduced to the public on the 1958 broadcast of the Miss America pageant. The sets were produced for only two years. Its legs are attached to the side of the tall mahogany cabinet and the screen pivots. This example was in very fine condition, having come from the office of the owner of the Philco showroom in Burlington, Vt. It was described as having a humming sound and flashes of light, but it had not been professionally tested. It sold for $1,092, and Ethan Merrill later said that it might never even have been turned on. The sale also included other midcentury items. A set of six birch and steel labeled bar stools designed by BÃ¶rge Lindau for Blå Station, sold for $230. A teak side table by Westnofa Norway went out for $92. Arts and Crafts period silver included a five-piece sterling tea set by early Twentieth Century designer Arthur Stone. The hand-hammered Colonial Revival style set went for $1,495.
Duane Merrill likes works by Vermont painters and craftsmen. He knows the material well, and often with Twentieth Century works, he has known the artists. This sale included a number of paintings by Vermont artists. The top price for works by Vermont artists, finishing at $13,800, was a view of St Albans and St Albans Bay with note on the reverse “View from St Albans VT sketched from nature C L Heyde.” At $3,162 was a watercolor by Walton Blodgett (1908-1963) of the Stowe Community Church. A pencil sketch by the same artist, “The House Painters,” sold for $259. A colorful three-panel woodblock triptych by Sabra Field (b 1935), editioned one of 75, “The Valleys are Covered in Corn,” earned $1,840, while a lithograph by the same artist of Lake Champlain at sunset earned $518. Other paintings included a seashore scene by Antonio Jacobsen (1850-1921) that was unusual in that it did not depict a ship. It sold for $1,323. There were three paintings by Carroll N. Jones Jr (1917-2009), a 32-by-56-inch oil titled “In The Studio,” earned $3,450. An oil painting by Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880), “Indian Summer – White Mountains,” was one the higher priced items in the sale, finishing at $14,950.
Merrill’s is a father-and-son business. Duane started the company in 1967, and son Ethan joined him in 2000, after four years as a pitcher in the Red Sox farm system. Ethan is married and has three children. “I grew up in the family business, doing antique shows and helping with the auctions. It wasn’t a hard decision to get into the business full time. I like the fact that we deal with so much Vermont stuff: furniture, folk art, paintings, books, military things. It’s our history, and we’ve developed a good following for that -people and institutions who care about our history and want to preserve it. As for this sale, it came off about the way we expected that it would. Some things, like the early tapestry, brought less than we hoped for, but it had been exposed to sunlight for too long and would have needed expensive restoration. I also thought that the large Eighteenth Century carved wooden Buddha figure would do better than it did. It looked good to us; maybe it didn’t get seen by the right people. All in all, it was a good sale, and our next one, at the end of January, will be our annual military and historical sale. Always a favorite.” Prices given include the buyer’s premium, as stated by the auction house.
For more information, visit their website, www.merrillsauction.com, or call 802-878-2625.
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