Published: June 30, 2020
LISBON FALLS, MAINE – A portrait attributed to American folk artist William Matthew Prior (1806-1873) handily outperformed expectations when it brought $101,750 at Daniel Buck Auctions, Inc’s June 27 sale. The estimate on the work was $3/5,000.
The oil on canvas measures 27 by 22 inches sight and appeared to be in its original frame, according to auctioneer Daniel Buck.
He said, “It was completely untouched, never restored – 100 percent original. No inpainting, cleaning, no nothing. It was estate-fresh from a consignor in Rhode Island. It had all the best bells and whistles on an American portrait: the whip, basket of berries, birds and flowers. Everything you could think of, this painting had it.”
A child, likely a boy, stands in as a subject holding a whip and a basket of berries. A river flows in the background with a swimming swan and a house on the other side. This indicated to Buck that it may have been a posthumous portrait.
On the whip are written the initials C.F.C., and the consignors said that the work was known in the family to have passed down from George Harlow Martin (b 1859), to Royland Carter Martin (b 1886), to her mother Elsie Martin (b 1923) to the present family member. Through genealogical research, the family was able to determine a line with the initial C for a surname, but was unable to find anything that matched the full initials.
Buck said he had much interest in it, about 30 bidders between the phones and the internet. He said some of the largest collectors and dealers in the country were on it, though in the end it came down to a battle between a private collector and dealer Scott Fraser of Rockport, Maine. Fraser came away with it.
Watch for a full sale review in a future issue.
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