Published: March 2, 2016
Review by Rick Russack,
Catalog Photos Courtesy Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
THOMASTON, MAINE — Kaja Veilleux of Thomaston Place Auction Gallery put together an eclectic group of merchandise for his February 13–14 sale. Although it was a snowy morning the first day of the sale, the salesroom was almost full, several phone lines were active and Internet bidding was available on three platforms. The two-day sale grossed $1,164,794.
Leading the weekend was “Undine Rising From The Waters,” a marble sculpture, circa 1880–82, by Chauncey Bradley Ives, (American, 1810–1894), which finished at $105,300, well above its high estimate of $75,000. Ives made other versions of this piece in different sizes; this one was 50¾ inches tall; a larger one is in the Yale University Art Gallery. According to medieval lore, undines were Mediterranean sea spirits who lived as soulless mortals. In the Nineteenth Century, this story gained prominence through Undine, a popular novel, in which a water spirit gains a human form and soul by marrying the mortal knight she loves. When her husband proves unfaithful, the laws of the water spirits force her to kill him. Ives depicts the moment when the mournful Undine, cloaked in a white veil, rises like a fountain to claim her husband’s life. The work is considered a masterful example of illusionistic carving. Ives based at least two other sculptures on the Undine myth.
Veilleux told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that he discovered the marble during a local house call. It was outdoors in a garden, and seeing it from a distance, he thought it was worth taking a closer look. It had been painted and had been outdoors for several years, the base was obscured and the piece was in need of cleaning.
Veilleux did enough cleaning at the site to know what it was, told the woman that it had substantial value and that he should take it, along with other items the family wanted to consign. If they did not want to consign it, he told her, they should at least clean it and bring it indoors. The woman said she had to discuss it with her husband and the next day she called, saying that they would sell the piece. It was bought by two women from New York, mother and daughter, who wished to remain anonymous but told Antiques and The Arts Weekly they had made the trip specifically to buy the Ives sculpture. They collect marble and other sculptures and were quite interested in the story of how the piece had made its way to the auction block. “We love the stories that go with our things.”
The last few sales at Thomaston Place have included outstanding cased ship models and artworks formerly in the collection of credit card issuer MBNA, whose founder Charles Cawley was a dedicated collector of marine arts, classic cars and contemporary Maine art and furnished his Maine home, offices and call centers with his collections. The company was sold to Bank of America in 2006 for $35 billion and Cawley died last year. Much of the collection was consigned here and will be featured in upcoming sales.
This sale had about 20 detailed ship models and dioramas, most in custom glass cases and often seemed to sell for less than the cost of making the cases. A standout was a large office display model of the British steamship, St Elwyn, was a state-of-the art freighter when it was built in 1938, and was sunk when torpedoed by a German submarine, November 28, 1940. The 68-inch model sold for $8,775.
Several of the scrimshawed whale’s teeth on offer had Civil War themes. A 5½-inch tooth had a portrait of General Grant on one side and a scene from the battle of Vicksburg on the other. It finished at $702, while another 5½-inch tooth depicting the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack fetched $877. A pair of well-made whalebone ship pulleys, circa 1880, realized $1,638.
Portraits of ships included an oil on canvas by Antonio Jacobsen, showing the Horatio Hall, a steamship flying an American flag. Signed and dated 1898, it realized $5,850. An interesting historical oil on canvas by John Erik Christian Peterson went for $2,632. Signed and dated 1868, the scene portrayed an American ship sailing to the rescue of the dismasted British ship, Royal Albert, foundering in rough seas.
A small collection of Liverpool jugs and other ceramics made for the American market sold early on. A large Liverpool pitcher, 8 inches tall, with a transfer scene of a War of 1812 battle depicting the Wasp and Reindeer, brought $2,223, and a medium-size Liverpool pitcher, also with a War of 1812 transfer, went for $2,574.
Several lots of Chinese export porcelain and Blue Willow pattern Canton crossed the block. Some lots were large, allowing dealers to secure fresh merchandise. A lot of 15 serving pieces: teapots, sauceboats, bowls and creamers, brought only $321, while 17 Canton bowls, mostly 8½ to 9 inches, took $526.
The sale included several other items that drew competitive bidding. One lot in particular, a pair of tall Eighteenth Century flint glass candlesticks with spiral latticino stems surprised even Veilleux. Estimated at $1,200, the sticks reached $8,775, causing the auctioneer to say, “That’s what I love about this business — you just never know what will happen.”
Other highlights included a hand colored aquatint elephant folio Audubon, “The Fish Hawk, Male, Falco Hallaetus,” from the 1830 Havell first edition, $35,100, and a Nantucket basket pocketbook with a swing handle and decorated with a pair of bone sea gulls, made and signed by Jose Formoso Reyes, 1949, that sold online for $3,510.
Native American items included a Nineteenth Century Woodlands presentation tomahawk pipe with engraved trade silver fittings, which earned $4,387 and a Crow painted parfleche bag that achieved $1,521. It was made of buffalo hide and decorated with classic Crow polychrome painting.
An ancient Khmer stone sculpture tripled its estimate and the fact that the head had been reattached did not seem to hamper it. It was cataloged as Cambodian, Twelfth or Thirteenth Century, representing a Khmer divine queen, probably the Hindu goddess Shailaputri. It was more than 32 inches tall and sold for $12,870.
A framed piece of Massachusetts colonial currency, engraved by Paul Revere in 1778 made $760. Veilleux mentioned that it had been brought in on a free appraisal day which he conducts every Tuesday. He identified several items in the sale that came in this same way.
Later, but doing well, were 11 albumen Mathew Brady photographs taken on the Gettysburg battle fields. Each was 6¼ by 9 inches, on larger mounts. The group achieved $8,775. Some showed Brady in his straw hat, and each had handwritten captions. Brady and photographers employed by him, took thousands of photographs documenting the war, including views taken at Antietam before the dead were removed from the battlefield. It was the first time that the general public had seen the true horror of the war.
Also bringing back memories were five 1960s protest posters, featuring Huey Newton and the Black Panthers. The top lot of the grouping, $5,850, went to a poster for a “Free Huey” rally on February 17, 1968, at the Oakland Auditorium. It pictured Newton and Stokely Carmichael, who was holding a rifle over his head. Other speakers at the rally were listed as including Bobby Seale, Sister Betty Shabazz, widow of Brother Malcolm (X). The posters were consigned by Lisa Lyons, a graphic designer for the Black Panthers, and together brought $13,279.
American furniture brought mixed results. Most successful was a circa 1765–80 Boston mahogany chest with original one-board top, $11,115. A William and Mary chest of drawers, in old red, with two drawers over four and a single board top, realized $1,117, while a William and Mary period highboy, with a molded top section with five drawers, original brass, on turned trumpet form legs went within estimates, at $1,638.
The snow stopped midafternoon and most of the crowd stayed and continued to bid. All prices include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.thomastonauction.com or 207-354-8141.
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