Published: May 9, 2023
Review & Onsite Photos By Rick Russack, Catalog Photos Courtesy Tremont Auctions
SUDBURY, MASS. — The April 30 sale at Tremont Auctions had a broad range of paintings and a good selection of Americana from a New Hampshire estate, as well as silver, photographica and Oriental carpets. Three paintings were among the four highest earning lots.
Leading the sale, and selling at $133,350, way over the estimate, was a 1983 abstract oil and mineral pigment painting on canvas by Korean/Japanese artist Ufan Lee (b 1936), who is also known as Lee Ufan. His works have been shown in several museums in Europe, Japan and in the United States, including the Guggenheim and the Hirshhorn. There’s a Lee Ufan Museum in Naoshima, Japan.
One of the other paintings finishing in the four top lots of the sale was a Dale Nichols (American, 1904-1995) circa 1950-60 winter farmyard scene which sold for $49,980. A colorful scene, and typical of the artist’s work, it portrayed farm buildings, with two figures dragging a Christmas tree and another figure and dog coming to greet them. Three of his paintings are in the collection of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum. The third painting that did well was perhaps 150 years older than the other two. It was an American school folk art portrait of a young girl in a green dress, wearing a red coral necklace and holding a basket of flowers. Although it had some condition issues, the painting earned a surprising $30,940, well above the lot’s $3,000 high estimate.
Rounding out the top four lots, and selling for $11,900, was a ceramic portrait pitcher designed by Pablo Picasso and made at the Madoura pottery in Vallauris, France. Picasso designed more than 600 different pieces for Madoura, most of which were produced in small editions; this pitcher was numbered 4/100. It had two small chips at the base, thought to have been from when it was made.
Fine art is a hallmark of Tremont’s sales. A wide representation of styles and dates were available, from Old Master to contemporary. For example, a 1972 signed and dated Robert Natkin (American, 1930-2010) Abstract Expressionist painting earned $4,522. There were three oil on canvas autumn scenes by Dale Bessire (American, 1892-1974), who is known for his Indiana landscapes. “Autumn Sunlight,” a landscape with a country road through a forest sold for $1,547. The other two — similar autumn landscapes probably painted at the same time — brought about the same price. Bessire was an orchardist and known in his Indiana neighborhood as the “artist farmer.” There were two Nineteenth Century Italian school gouache paintings that depicted Naples’ harbor with buildings. One had a busy street scene with numerous people and several ships in the background. The busier scene sold for $1,547. Both were in original reverse glass painted frames, and the second, with flaking to the reverse painting, sold for a little less, $1,309. A painting by Benjamin Champney (American, 1817-1907) of a wooded grove with cows at a stream, dated 1881, realized $4,046. There were three Surrealist watercolors by Laxman Pai (1926-2021).
Pai was born and did much of his work in India. His painting of a woman brushing her hair reached $893.
Early American furniture and early glass came from an estate in New Hampshire. A Queen Anne maple chest on frame, probably made in New Hampshire, circa 1780, realized $3,808. It had a scalloped apron similar to those on pieces made by the Dunlap family, short cabriole legs, pad feet and brass that seemed to be original. Earning $1,785 was a Federal mahogany and inlaid secretary desk, circa 1820. Bringing $179 and probably a good buy was a simple, unadorned, Sheraton mahogany games table, circa 1810.
A small Chippendale mahogany four-drawer bowfront chest, attributed to Luther Metcalf, Medway, Mass., circa 1790, sold for $2,618. A similar chest is in the collection of Historic New England and was attributed to Metcalf by Brock Jobe in his book, co-authored by Myrna Kaye’s, New England Furniture: The Colonial Era, Selections from the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (1984).
A collection of Nineteenth Century glass oil lamps was sold in several small lots. A pair of New England Glass Company canary yellow oil lamps brought $774, while bidding on a lot of four clear flint glass whale oil lamps, including a pair of Sandwich lamps, topped off at $179. There were several other lots of clear lamps that sold inexpensively. Selling for the higher price of $417 was a clambroth whale oil lamp with a brass font.
Photographica included numerous daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes, which were divided into lots. They came from two separate collections that had been brought into the gallery when the owners inquired as to whether they had value. Most popular with bidders was a tinted sixth-plate daguerreotype of a child and shepherd-type dog, which realized $1,428. Also popular, for $1,071, was a half-plate ambrotype of an exterior view with a horse and sulky, a rider and buildings in a gutta percha case. A sixth-plate ambrotype of a black lab dog, portrayed comfortably seated on the floor next to several pieces of furniture sold for $536. An unusual lot of about 600 tintypes mounted in four albums featured 25 full-plate images and included outdoor scenes, including carriages and buildings, men’s fashion, women’s fashion and hairstyles, children, babies, images of people in different occupations and pets to name a few; the lot achieved $2,142.
Tremont’s sales usually offer a selection of fine jewelry and the selection in this sale was led by a Tiffany & Co platinum ring with a 2.01-carat diamond solitaire, which was accompanied by a GIA certificate and earned $9,520. Two other pieces each brought $7,735: one was an 18K gold and diamond necklace with approximately 113 round cut diamonds with a total weight of 6 carats. The other was an 18K gold diamond ring with three round cut diamonds. There were numerous other gold rings, brooches, necklaces and bracelets, along with colored stones and other diamond pieces. A 14K gold necklace mounted with six American gold coins of varying dates and denominations earned $5,950.
After the sale, Tremont’s owner Brett Downer said, “It was unusual sale in that one bidder accounted for about a third of the sale’s total, which was $833,000. She was a local woman who said she had always wanted to open an antique shop in this area, and she wanted an assortment of items for her planned shop — rugs, jewelry, paintings and more. We had a good crowd in the room and internet participation was strong. The Ufan Lee bidder was on the internet, and several other things went to buyers beyond this country.”
Auction specialist Matt Buckley added, “We had about 40-45 bidders in the house when the sale started. I thought it was nice to see the Clifford Warren Ashley painting of the ship at sea bathed in rays of sunlight go to a grandchild of the painter. It brought $8,330, which was quite a bit more than we expected. And the sales’ gross which Brett mentioned was about 27 percent above the high estimate. That’s a good feeling.”
Tremont Auctions’ next sale will take place June 11.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For more information, 617-795-1678 or www.tremontauctions.com.
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