Published: March 5, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack
PETERBOROUGH, N.H. – Charlie Cobb said that he was unsure just how early an Italo-Byzantine crucifixion scene really was, so he cataloged it with a conservative estimate. It was a well-done oil and gilt painting on a hardwood panel that showed pit saw marks on the back. It could have been from the Eighteenth Century, or it could have been a lot earlier. The scene depicted Christ on the cross with Mary and two angels. Above Christ’s head was a wooden panel with lettering in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The panel was housed in a Nineteenth Century architectural frame, with old labels on the reverse. It sold in The Cobbs’ February 23 sale for $108,000, with two phone bidders battling it out. Cobb later said that it had come out of garage of a local home. Interestingly, the high bidder did not personally examine the piece; he or she relied on extensive conversations with Nick Prior, Cobb’s associate, and the numerous photos he supplied. There were more than 100 bidders in the salesroom, and phone lines and internet bidding were active.
Bringing five-figure prices were Native American and tribal objects, a Louis Vuitton trunk and American furniture. There were high points and low points with the furniture. More than tripling its estimate, finishing at $16,800, was a fully upholstered, mahogany, Eighteenth Century Rhode Island slipper chair with cabriole legs in the front and block and turned H stretchers. The chair retained remnants of the original upholstery under the modern fabric, and it had an old finish. It also had an old screw repair to a rear leg. A Riley Whiting painted tall case clock with wooden works was the first lot of the day, and it brought $390, less than expected. Seemingly under the market was an Eighteenth Century walnut tall chest from Pennsylvania. It had inlaid lines on each lipped drawer, replaced but old brass and it sold for $600. A heavily carved Seventeenth Century German two-part cupboard went out for $420.
Topping the tribal material was an important Nineteenth Century Marquesas Islands U’u war club, more than 42 inches long. It was well-carved of a Polynesian hardwood with an arched top and hooded eyes over a face mask. These clubs were a mark of status, carried by the warrior class, both in battle and in daily lives. They were most often carved by specialist woodworkers, using tools made of shark’s teeth. This one sold for $34,800. Also doing well was a Northwest Coast carved and painted Kwakiutl shaman’s staff. Bringing $25,200, its top section included a spread-winged raven standing on the nose of a whale. Dated to the late Nineteenth Century, it retained its original paint and was more than 76 inches tall. There were several other tribal pieces, including a Hawaiian 10-inch calabash carved from kou wood, which sold for $540.
Not surprisingly, The Cobbs sales often include paintings by New Hampshire artists or paintings of New Hampshire scenes. An impressionistic view of an autumn hillside, done by New Hampshire artist Lilla Cabot Perry (1848-1933) sold for $3,900. Cobb thought it may have been a scene of Crotched Mountain. There were two paintings by Albert Duvall Quigly (1881-1961), who lived in Nelson, N.H. One was a scene showing red mill buildings and a river in nearby Harrisville. N.H., perhaps where he worked. It also earned $3,900. Another by the artist, a Mount Monadnock scene in winter, finished at $3,000. Although Quigly’s work was well-thought-of by his neighbors, for about 25 years, he had to work in a textile mill in Harrisville to support his family. “Mount Chocura,” probably from Rocky Gorge, done by William Boardman (1815-1895), realized $2,880 A colorful pastoral scene in Jackson, N.H., with stacks of hay, horses, a farmhouse and trees in their autumn colors, was attributed to John Howard Martin (1853-1919) and ended up selling for just $420.
There were a number of pieces of furniture and accessories in old paint. A particularly nice schoolmaster’s desk in old red and yellow brought $780, and a light blue baker’s box on arched legs sold for $1,020. The catalog description identified it as northern New Jersey, based on the unusual cutout arched base. Cobb later said that he lived in that region for several years and knew just what the piece was when he saw it. Both of these pieces earned well over their estimates. Painted firkins were sold in stacks of three or four. Four brightly colored ones, including one with bittersweet color, reached $420. An oval, red, three-fingered Shaker box, 6 inches long, finished at $1,560. Stoneware jugs were sold in lots of three or four, generally earning about $300 per lot. Also sold in lots were several watercolor portraits and silhouettes. Prices most often averaged $100 each – it would have been a good day to buy. Popular with bidders was a primitive watercolor of a woman holding a flower, which realized $3,360, well over the estimate.
The sale included about a dozen exceptionally well-done decorative carvings of birds by the husband and wife team of Robert and Virginia Warfield of Jaffrey, N.H. The couple began working in 1965, and they worked together until Robert’s death in 1990, with Robert doing the carving and Virginia doing the painting. The couple won numerous awards, and their birds are in several museum collections, including the Denver Art Museum and the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History. Prices realized in this sale reflected the ongoing interest in the couple’s work. An 11-inch carving of a hawk perched on a wooden stump brought $600, a pileated woodpecker feeding two of its young realized $540 and a screech owl on a stump was bid to $510.
A few days after that sale, Cobb commented that top-of-the-market material in all categories was strong. “It shows that when we do our jobs correctly, getting the stuff in front of the right buyers – we’re going to do well. The Rhode Island chair was a great piece, and the right people saw it. The same thing was true of the tribal stuff. Nick [Prior] knows that material well. The tribal objects that we had included some very good pieces, and they did very well.” Cobb added, “That was also true of the Asian things,” referring to a Fan Zeng watercolor that brought $11,000. “The one watercolor by Fan Zeng was a quality piece, and the buyers knew it.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium, as stated by the auction house.
For information, 603-924-6361 or www.thecobbs.com.
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