Published: August 17, 2012
When longtime and eminent Boston art dealer Alfred J. Walker decided to downsize just one of his several homes, plenty of people showed up for the July 28 onsite sale at his South Dartmouth home. They came to acquire something special from “Seathrift,” the 1860 Greek Revival-Italianate home Walker has owned for more than 20 years. Marion Antique Auctions’ Frank McNamee and David Glynn put together a flawless sale beneath a tent amid Walker’s classical gardens fronting on Padanaram Harbor.
The house and barn provided an eclectic selection of paintings, furniture and other decorations that had great appeal, driving most lots well past their conservative estimates. The exquisite, prize-winning classical gardens Walker created over the years were studded with delectable garden ornaments that were also highly desired. Much of the material across the block had some local connection, chosen carefully by a collector and dealer with exceptional taste.
Built by whaling Captain Benjamin M. Wing, the house and property remained in the Wing family until 1965. Since Walker took possession, he has reclaimed some of the property’s original 50 acres on Padanaram Harbor and laid out gardens so compelling they are included in the Smithsonian Archives of American Gardens and have been the highlight of any number of garden tours.
R. Swain Gifford’s “Over the Summer Sea,” his oil on panel view of nearby South Nonquitt, sold for $23,500 to an area collector. The painting was one of three by the artist exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and had been on view in February 1882 at the St Botolph Club in Boston. Gifford was a local artist, born on Nonamesset Island, who studied and worked also in New York.
A 14-inch Harry Bertoia Sonambient sculpture attracted the most presale interest. Set on a fiberglass stand and accompanied by a Bertoia book, the work realized $18,975 from a Rhode Island dealer.
Another local scene was the oil on Masonite “View of the West Branch of the Westport River” by Boston artist Helen Coolidge Adams Isaacs. This brought $11,213 from an Internet buyer. Isaacs also summered nearby in South Dartmouth. “Sawmill with Storm Approaching,” the oil on canvas by New Bedford artist William Allen Wall, may have been an image of Russell’s Mills in South Dartmouth. It sold for $5,865.
An 1893 oil on canvas still life with fruit and a silver bowl by Providence artist Edward Chalmers Leavitt made $5,175.
From 1988, an oil on canvas view of Boston Harbor signed and dated by Cape Cod artist Joseph McGurl was $4,888, while McGurl’s oil on board study of Seathrift gardens set in a handcarved gilt frame brought $1,840.
“Mid Ocean,” an oil on canvas by Rockport artist Stanley Wingate Woodward, realized $4,485. A label on the back indicated that the painting sold originally August 1, 1924, at A.H. Davenport, the Boston furniture maker.
An oil on canvas view of a boy chasing a piglet by Clement Nye Swift of Acushnet, Mass., charmed its way to $1,093. Auctioneer Frank McNamee recalled that he had sold the picture to Walker about 15 years ago. An oil on canvas portrait of Forbes Robertson by Emil Fuchs retained a Brooklyn Art Museum label and sold for $2,300.
Signed indistinctly, a Seventeenth or Eighteenth Century oil on canvas portrait of a Madonna with Child and surrounded by angels sold online for $2,760. It was identified only as a South American piece.
An oil on board still life with fish, oyster, seaweed and lobster by Joseph Frank Currier, the Boston artist who painted for many years in Germany, fetched $6,325 from an absentee bidder. The painting was signed “Currier Munchen.”
New Bedford artist Arthur Moniz’s framed watercolor of a robin nesting in a tree brought $1,150. The artist’s work was the subject of a 1993 solo exhibit at Alfred J. Walker Fine Art.
An 1866 engraving by James Smillie after Albert Bierstadt’s “The Rocky Mountains” depicting an Indian encampment on a lake went out at $5,750.
Measuring 67 inches, a pair of early Nineteenth Century classical English pier mirrors carved with dolphins and twisted rope turned columns, with deal wood secondary, sold for $13,800. It is headed to a Charleston, S.C., museum. The pair had come from the Ashley Hall plantation in Charlestown. The plantation house was burned by its owner in 1865 to keep the enemy from taking possession of it. Walker acquired the mirrors years ago from a Charleston dealer.
An American classical pier table from about 1830 with a mirrored back and a marble top sold for $3,105, while a Nineteenth Century Egyptian Revival pier table with mahogany veneer with a mirrored back, metal animal feet and a black marble top sold online for $2,185.
Also from the Nineteenth Century, a Southwestern devotional cupboard incorporating a tabernacle with a Mexican tin plaque painted with an image of the crucifixion, along with a retablo of a saint, sold for $7,188. A Nineteenth Century Southwestern retablo of Our Lady of Mount Carmel realized $1,725.
An Eighteenth Century Italian walnut server with carved molding brought $3,565 online, while a late Eighteenth Century Italian commode went for $2,300. A Nineteenth Century Italian walnut cabinet carved with full-bodied mermaids and dolphin feet had a single door with shell carving. It realized $1,955. Bidders liked a Nineteenth Century walnut library table with two drawers that was described as possibly Italian and fetched $2,415.
Retaining its painted decoration, a Mexican carved wood Cristo on a wood cross finished at $1,610; a Nineteenth Century Italian pair of carved wood angels that stood 27 inches tall sold online for $3,450.
Possibly from New York, a handsome set of eight tiger maple pillow back dining chairs with carved splats, rush seats and saber feet dated from about 1840. They sold for $4,945.
Buyers ate up the garden ornaments. A 41-inch late Nineteenth Century Italian marble of an angel was signed “B” on a 37-inch pedestal within a Nineteenth Century cast iron surround. It sold for $7,188. The piece had been placed in a Nonquitt garden by classical landscape architect Fletcher Steele.
A pair of classical marble figures of women, each on a marble pedestal, one of which was damaged, went for $7,015. Fetching $6,440 was a pair of 5-foot marble benches with rams head bases, while a granite bench by contemporary sculptor Ron Rudnicki of East Freetown, Mass., brought $1,725.
Realizing $3,335 was a Nineteenth Century tin fountain in the form of a boy and a fish with a large copper pan, and a large (5 feet tall) cast iron fountain that may have been made by J.W. Fiske, with full-bodied frogs and a swan base, had some restoration but was snapped up at $3,105. A Nineteenth Century marble fountain in the form of a boy with a crab brought $1,610 despite damage to one finger and the crab. A Twentieth Century pair of cast cement Chinese figures estimated at $200/300 drew $1,150.
An Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century carved stone figure of a man that had been part of a building was thought to be an English piece and fetched $3,795, and a sandstone cornice piece in the form of a classical head sold for $3,450. Standing 74 inches high, a pair of five-piece cement obelisks realized $2,875.
Signed “Hiller, Providence, R.I.,” a large Nineteenth Century rustic-style cast iron urn brought $2,990. It was supported by a granite base carved “Seathrift” that was not included in the lot.
Nineteenth Century Florentine carved, polychromed and gilded wood angels, each in the pair measuring 28 inches and supporting a candle, fetched $4,600.
Also from the Nineteenth Century, a lot comprising three French terracotta putti, one hauling a fish, another with a dove and the third with bread, all on marble bases, brought $1,840, while a stick barometer of the same period by the New Bedford bookseller and maker of nautical instruments William C. Taber sold onsite for $1,898.
Missing its glass, a Nineteenth Century pair of carved wood Gothic-style windows still tripled its estimate at $1,840.
Neptune and Venus were depicted in a 1922 pair of bronze bookends by Russian American artist Gleb W. Derujinsky, stamped R.B.W. (Roman Bronze Works). Mounted on marble bases, they fetched $3,335 from and Internet bidder.
A phone bidder hung on for a Nineteenth Century English gallery magnifying glass with a wood handle and brass fittings that went for $1,495, while a Nineteenth Century Continental pair of gilt-bronze sconces went online for $2,300.
Among a collection of books for sale, one lot of 27 leather-bound books by Robert Louis Stevenson, published by Charles Scribner & Son in 1897, sold for $2,990. Another lot of four books comprising a two-volume octavo set of North American Indians by George Catlin with 270 colored plates and a pull-out map, and a cloth bound edition of Culture of the Ancient Pueblos of the Upper Gila River Region, New Mexico and Arizona by Walker Hough published in 1914 and a clothbound Preliminary Report on a Visit to Navajo National Monument Arizona by Jesse Walter Tewkes and published by the Government Printing Office in 1911 was $1,150.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.marionantiqueauctions.com or 508-748-3606.
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