Published: December 10, 2019
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Eldred’s
EAST DENNIS, MASS. – Eldred’s conducted three days of sales November 21-23, selling nearly 500 lots of marine paintings and nautical antiques on November 21, followed by two days of furniture, fine art, folk art, silver, porcelain, glass, rugs and books. Of the more than 1,200 lots that ultimately crossed the block, the house sold an accumulated total of $1,294,000, though that figure was rising due to post-auction sales. Approximately 25 percent of the sale was going to phone bidders competing against online bidders, who accounted for about 40 percent of the sales. The remainder of the sale was acquired by bidders in the room or those who had left absentee bids.
“I was pleased overall, especially with the response to the furniture. We had one of our strongest furniture sales in quite some time. This was encouraging to see, given that we will be offering a major private collection of New Hampshire furniture next year,” said Josh Eldred, the firm’s president, commenting after the sale. “Overall, items that were estimated conservatively did quite well, often besting the high estimates, while things that had more aggressive estimates had a tougher time.”
Of the 470 lots in the marine sale, slightly fewer than 300 sold during the sale, achieving a sell-through rate of about 62 percent and a sale total of $667,000. Commenting after the sale, William “Bill” Bourne, Eldred’s vice president and head of Americana and maritime arts, said, “All the stuff that did really well was what I would consider A-plus pieces. There is a big jump in price between A-plus and the next level down.”
Eldred’s has a hefty bite of the scrimshaw market and this sale offered a toothsome selection of all things scrimshaw, from whales teeth and panbones to pie crimpers, ditty boxes, busks and swifts and the myriad objects – both decorative and utilitarian – that incorporated whale ivory.
One of the top selling scrimshaw lots brought $66,000 and was a tooth that had everything one would want in a tooth in that price range. It featured a carefully detailed action-packed scene covering a significant portion of the surface of the tooth with an identified ship with several whales. It helped that the tooth, which depicted the whaling barque Fawn, was accompanied by documentation about the ship and also included correspondence with Stuart M. Frank, who in 2005, called the tooth “a terrific piece of scrimshaw – 24-carat masterpiece.” Eldred’s had estimated it at $60/80,000. It sold to a private collector on the telephone.
The sale featured a tooth by Edward Burdett, whose career was described in the catalog as short but prolific. Burdett teeth are generally highly sought-after by deep pocketed collectors, with one of his teeth holding the current world record for a tooth, set at $456,000 at Eldred’s in 2017. The example offered in this sale depicted Burdett’s first ship, the William Tell, and was estimated at $200/300,000, but it failed to find a buyer.
A small group of ten whale teeth were late additions to the sale but the group was largely successful, with eight of the ten teeth finding new homes, including one that depicted an active whaling scene with provenance to the Kobacker collection. The consignor in this sale had acquired it at Eldred’s July 19, 2018 marine sale for $66,000 against an estimate of $18/25,000. In this sale, Eldred’s had estimated it at $60/80,000 and it sold for $42,000.
Several whaling journals were featured in the sale, with the top selling example being a profusely illustrated one depicting the whaling ship Rodman, with entries dating from 1827 to 1830. The journal, which had been in the Barbara Johnson Whaling Collection was given to the consignor as a gift by Barbara Johnson. The journal had been offered at Eldred’s in the July 25, 2019 marine sale with an estimate of $25/35,000 but did not sell. Eldred’s lowered the estimate to $15/20,000 for this sale and it sold to a trade buyer in the room, for $20,400.
Approximately 80 lots from a private New York collection yielded several of the top lots in a few different categories. Among these were a unicorn-form ivory and baleen-banded pie crimper that brought $36,000 and a portrait of the steam/sail yacht Sovereign by Antonio Jacobsen (1850-1921) that brought $30,000, more than three times its low estimate. A Napoleonic prisoner of war bone model of a 64-gun ship in the collection was the best-selling prisoner of war model in the sale and got bidders fired up to close at $21,600. The same interest could be seen for a miniature painting of a whaling scene that measured 2-3/8 by 3-7/8 inches that had been estimated at $500-$1,000 but which closed at $4,200 after tremendous bidding.
The private New York collection was not without disappointments, and one of the most highly anticipated lots in the sale – a painting titled “Ships and a brig of the John Gladstone & Company fleet in the Mersey” that carried a hefty estimate of $60/90,000 – did not sell during the sale, though after the sale, Eldred said there was postsale interest and he was optimistic they could sell it. He also thought that if it had featured an American ship, it might have sold more easily.
Another dedicated section in the sale was approximately 30 lots from the estate of the late marine antiques dealer, Justin Cobb. The section started with a dolphin-form carved wooden seam rubber illustrated in Flayderman’s Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders, Whales and Whalemen. Estimated at $500/800, it made $660. Lots from the Cobb estate sold largely at or below estimates.
With the marine sale out of the way, Eldred’s could commence with selling nearly 750 lots of silver and other decorative smalls, furniture, fine art, rugs and books and manuscripts, which it dispatched in two sessions on Friday and Saturday, November 22-23. Approximately 70 percent of the lots sold, for a session total of $627,000.
Bringing the top price of the first session was one of the more highly anticipated lots. Marsden Hartley’s “Study of Gattieres, France,” an oil on board work that a private collector bought for $14,400, against an estimate of $15/20,000. Another top work was a 1927 etching on paper by Martin Lewis (1881-1962) titled “Girls on the Beach,” which exceeded its high estimate to finish at $4,800.
When asked what lots were most surprising to him, Josh Eldred mentioned a “Togo” three-piece sectional couch in marine blue microfiber designed by Ligne Roset that tripled expectations to bring $3,120. He said it was the sort of thing he would walk past in a house 99 times out of 100 and gave credit to the consignment to Jennifer Lacker, who heads Eldred’s Mystic, Conn., office. A lounge chair and ottoman designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller made $3,240, a pair of Poltronova “She” armchairs and ottoman saw exceptional bidder interest, bringing $3,900 against a $500-$1,000 estimate.
Works from – or related to – Nantucket Island often come across the block at Eldred’s. One such notable lot was a lift top blanket chest with brown and beige swag-and-wave paint decoration that was branded “Coffin” on the backboard; it had descended through the Coffin family for four generations. It was correctly priced at $3/4,000 and sold for $4,500 to a private collector. Several Nantucket baskets, most of Twentieth Century vintage, were offered, with the highwater mark of $1,200 being paid for a late Nineteenth Century oval basket by Davis Hall.
There were some other surprises in the offerings of American furniture. A Chippendale tall chest with an estimate of $500/800 realized $1,020; a Chippendale linen press with wonderful figured tiger maple more than doubled its low estimate to sell for $4,500. A miniature paint-decorated miniature deacon’s bench cataloged as “exceptional’ brought $1,080, just ahead of its high estimate.
A group of 18 cast iron still and mechanical banks were priced to sell, and they all did, with the highest price being $660 paid for a J.&E. Stevens Co., Artillery mechanical bank estimated at $500/800.
Chinese export works included eglomise painted panels, gilt-lacquered tea caddies and famille rose and Rose Medallion porcelains. A mantel clock in a carved rosewood case inset with mother-of-pearl objects more than doubled its high estimate to finish at $2,160.
Nearly two dozen carved birds and decoys were also on offer, with a Cape Cod merganser drake decoy leading the flock and landing squarely within its estimate to sell for $1,800. It was followed quickly by a Grenfell mounted hooked mat depicting a dogsled that shot past its $1/1,500 estimate to close at $1,920. A group of three Pennsylvania fraktur estimated at $400/700 finished at $2,880. A Massachusetts 1822 needlework sampler made $330, while a sampler worked by Nancy L. Daboll of Groton, Conn., did not find a buyer at $2/3,000.
Louis Vuitton trunks and cases are perennial favorites and the sale included seven lots, six of which sold. The top lot of the group was a steamer trunk from the early 1900s that had belonged to Adele Berry Sloane (1841-1911). It made just shy of its high estimate, selling for $4,800.
Bringing the sale to a close were six lots by Ralph or Martha Cahoon. “We have seen a nice resurgence of interest in the past three to four years,” said Eldred. An idyllic country scene by Martha Cahoon featured horses and fishermen made $2,280 against an estimate of $2/3,000. A pair of wooden eggs painted by Ralph Cahoon in 1978 were consigned by a friend of the artist’s son, Franz; the catalog said that these are likely the only eggs Ralph is known to have painted. Eldred’s estimated the pair at $2,5/3,500, which was the right number and they sold for $4,500. The sale came to a close on a positive note, achieving one of the higher prices in the sale – $18,000 – for a Ralph Cahoon work depicting a woman walking a poodle next to mermaids and sailors looking at a ship and hot air balloon in the distance.
All prices quoted include buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. Eldred’s is at 1483 Route 6A. For additional information, 508-385-3116 or www.eldreds.com.
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