Published: September 4, 2018
Review and Photos By Rick Russack
EAST DENNIS, MASS. – Americana was the centerpiece of Eldred’s sale, August 1-3. Actually, an assemblage of collections, the sale included the Carl and Sonia Schmitt collection of folk art, along with collections of fire memorabilia, Nantucket baskets, American paintings, Chinese export porcelain, American furniture, a group of paintings by Ralph Cahoon and his wife, and a selection of John F. Kennedy material, including items Kennedy used in the White House and handwritten letters. The sale grossed more than $1.8 million.
The strong interest in works by Ralph Cahoon (1910-1982) resulted in some of the highest prices of the three-day sale. The top lot of the sale, at $156,000, was Cahoon’s busy waterfront scene, which Eldred called “On The Shore For Repairs.” The scene included a sailboat boat on shore being repaired by mermaids, several more sailboats at sea and an American flag blowing in the breeze. The painting had never been available on the open market, having been purchased by the consignor’s parents in 1970. The final price was nearly four times the pre-sale estimate.
Also selling well over its estimate was Cahoon’s “The Lobster Pound,” a busy scene with mermaids and sailors having a clambake, while a yellow Labrador retriever helps himself to some lobsters. It brought $90,000. Josh Eldred later said “The Cahoon market seems to be back in a big way. It’s been quite awhile since one topped the $100,000 mark.” Works by Cahoon’s wife, Martha, (1905-1999) were also sought-after.
Other paintings did well. An oil on canvas by Charles Caryl Coleman (1840-1928) depicting a woman gathering red flowers along the coast, finished at $45,000. It was signed and dated “Capri, 1891.” Coleman served in the Union army during the Civil War, had a studio in New York City and spent much of his later life on Capri. There were five paintings by Charles Henry Gifford (1839-1904). A tranquil marine scene of sailboats at sunset sold for $14,400, and a marine scene of a lobsterman hauling in traps on a choppy sea brought $13,200. “The Mill Pond Milton, MA” by John Joseph Enneking (1841-1916) depicting the Baker Chocolate mills in Milton, went out for $18,750.
The Schmitt collection provided several of the sale’s highlights. The Schmitt’s had assembled their collection in the 1990s and early 2000s, primarily from major dealers and auction houses. While some of the items did not meet reserves, some weathervanes and carvings did well. The collection included five carved wooden figures, the most sought-after, bringing $18,000, was a carved and painted band organ figure, almost 38 inches tall. It had been made in France, circa 1900, by the Ludovic Gavioli Company and had been made for the band organ used at the Hippodrome Carousel in Revere Beach, Mass., which operated from 1903 to 1973. It was a full figure of a standing woman dressed in a parade uniform.
A cigar store Indian princess, which had once been in the Bill Holland collection, sold for $16,800 to David Schorsch, who had been bidding on the phone. He said, “I was the underbidder when it was sold in the Holland collection. It’s an exceptional carving, whoever made it, and I was glad to have the opportunity to buy it.” The figure was carved with a feathered headdress and was holding a bundle of cigars in an outstretched hand. It had an unusual wrought iron bracket on the base that may have been used to secure it in place. A winged mermaid, perhaps a figurehead, cataloged as “school of William Rush,” realized $13,200.
Eldred also had good weathervanes and other wood carvings, including a carousel lion, made by D.C. Muller & Bro. of Philadelphia, well carved, in the “strolling” position, with one raised paw. Rusty Donohue, a prominent collector and dealer from Oxford, Md., who specializes in carousel art, paid $20,400, well over the $4,000 estimate. Prior to the sale, Donahue explained that the four feet had been replaced and that the restoration of the paint had probably been done about 20 years ago. Donahue’s website has a substantial amount of information about carousel art and lists numerous pieces currently for sale, with prices.
Topping the selection of weathervanes, finishing at $21,600, was a rare copper and zinc horse, sleigh and driver example, attributed to J.W. Fiske and Company. It was 43 inches long and had a nicely weathered surface. A painted sheet iron looped serpent weathervane with green and yellow stripes, which had been in the John Gordon collection ended up at $8,400. A gilded copper quill weathervane, about 36 inches long, also sold to David Schorsch, for $4,200. A 25-inch Bellamy eagle with a banner that read “Don’t Give Up The Ship,” reached $10,800.
There were mixed results in the offerings of American furniture, particularly in mid-market material. A circa 1760 cherry Queen Anne highboy, attributed to Aaron Chapin, Hartford, Conn., sold over its estimate, finishing at $9,375. A small married maple chest-on-chest, late Eighteenth Century went for $1,200, a maple Queen Anne highboy brought $2,280 and a Federal oval-top candlestand, inlaid with a Federal eagle and stars, over five stars, went for $1,500. Eldred said that the five stars indicated that the piece was made after 1812, when Louisiana, the 18th state, was admitted to the Union. As at other recent sales, quality reproduction furniture is popular with folks furnishing homes. An Eldred Wheeler tiger maple copy of a Dunlap highboy, with Chippendale-style brasses, earned $5,100, against an estimate of $3,000.
The sale included more than 20 separately cataloged lots with provenance to John F. Kennedy, including items that Kennedy had used in the White House, and letters he had written. Many of the lots had been included in the 1998 Guernsey’s sale of JFK items. The choice of Eldred’s to offer the material was appropriate as the Kennedy family compound, known as the Summer White House, was in nearby Hyannis, Mass. Topping the selection was a framed collection of 15 fountain pens that Kennedy used in signing some major pieces of legislation of his administration, including creation of the Peace Corps, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, The Racial Discrimination of 1962, and others. The collection, which sold for $72,000, may have gone to the Kennedy Library. Two of Kennedy’s iconic rocking chairs were included in the sale. One did not meet its reserve, while the other, which had been upholstered by Larry Arata, earned $60,000. A lot with 96 pieces of ephemera relating to Kennedy sold for $18,000 to John Reznikoff of University Archives.
The lot included letters written by Kennedy early in his career, one of which (to be discussed in a future issue) provides insight to aspects of Kennedy’s thinking. Reznikoff said the selling price of the material may have been held back because of the difficulty of reading Kennedy’s handwriting.
After the sale, Josh Eldred said “we’re very pleased with the results. We had a good crowd on each of the three days and we saw a lot of new bidders. I wouldn’t be surprised if the gross figure we’re using actually increases. There’s been strong postsale interest in several lots. Mid-market furniture did surprisingly well, with much going to retail buyers furnishing homes on the Cape. Well-made reproduction furniture by makers like Eldred Wheeler did well, sometimes bringing higher prices than period pieces.” Bill Bourne, the company’s head of the Americana department noted that the Wheeler “Dunlap”-style tiger maple highboy sold for $5,100, while a 1760 Connecticut example in cherry, brought only $3,500.”
Prices include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, 508-385-3116 or www.eldreds.com.
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