Published: November 2, 2010
It was all about carvings at The Cobbs Auctioneers’ October 16 sale where a collection of netsuke and Alaskan carvings stored in a bank vault for 18 years came to market. The collection had been gathered by Llewellyn Thomas Evans and his wife Rachel Evans, who died nearly 20 years ago. Their collection was dispersed originally by auction at Christie’s in New York City. The Evanses lived outside Manhattan and summered in Jaffrey, N.H., where they eventually lived full time. The heirs to the estate were not aware of the stash at the area bank, which was brought to light this summer and sent to auction at The Cobbs. The carvings carried low estimates for the most part and they soared. They went mostly to dealers around the world, including Japan, who were acting for clients.
Netsuke of the day was the signed Nineteenth Century carved ivory katabori example depicting a snarling cougar that brought $37,050 from an English collector/dealer.
An ivory katabori netsuke carved in the form of a reclining man brought $14,950 on the phone.
A Nineteenth Century ivory katabori netsuke carved as a pile of seashells went on the phone for $11,150, and an example in the form of a goat and her kid was $5,750.
Realizing $11,500 was a 4-inch carved ivory katabori netsuke of a shaman and a dragon. Another example of an ape brought $5,750. A 1½-inch ivory example of a rabbit with amber eyes sold for $6,275 to the same phone buyer.
Warthogs also had their day in the sun: A 4-inch Nineteenth Century warthog tusk carved with a dragon design brought $26,450, while another warthog tusk katabori netsuke carved with two centipedes brought $21,275. A warthog tusk carved with a cicada on a leaf sold for $7,475. Five inches high, a warthog tusk netsuke carved with two crabs fetched $6,038, and a 1¾-inch ryusa netsuke of a warthog, rabbits, rats and other animals was signed and brought $4,888.
A signed carved wood katabori netsuke of two horses sold for $10,350.
Selling for $9,775 was a 3¾-inch Alaskan miniature totem pole carved with kneeling figures. A 141/8-inch Alaskan whale bone carved and inked with whaling scenes and many figures fetched $8,625 from the same bidder who paid another $8,625 for a 14-inch whale bone, also carved with whaling scenes. The same phone buyer took a 13-inch example carved with whaling scenes for $3,738.
Alaskan scrimshaw pipes commanded attention as well: An 11½-inch walrus tusk engraved on the stem with reindeer and other animals and with a parade of carved pairs of animals along the top sold on the phone for $8,625. Another example engraved with beaver, seals, whales and other animal figures with a panel of beautifully engraved landscapes sold to the same buyer for $3,738.
A whale tooth scrimshaw of the ships HMS Viper and the HMS Agincourt brought $2,645 from a buyer in the gallery.
Highly detailed, a gold figure of a condor had been modified to be worn as a pin and was marked 18K gold, but was probably pure gold (2 troy ounces.) It was thought to be Peruvian and sold for $2,415.
A two-sided bone fertility figure sold on the phone for $1,610, while a petrified wood or ivory carving of a deity was nearly ten times the low estimate when it sold for $1,295.
An 8½-inch Northwest Coast carved ivory snake in zigzag form sold to a left bid for $2,990, and a 6-inch Northwest Coast carved ivory otter drew $2,300.
As good as the Japanese carvings were, they were eclipsed by a late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century Pennsylvania child’s two-drawer dovetailed blanket chest of exceptional construction and painted tulip decoration. The front of the chest was decorated with two cartouches of tulips and other flowers; a third, nearly indistinguishable one could be seen on the top. It came from a New England collection and sold to the Pennsylvania trade for $40,250. Speaking after the sale, auctioneer Charlie Cobb said the successful bidder, an unnamed Pennsylvania dealer, had informed him that the chest is one of six known examples by a maker whom he did not identify.
Other American pieces included a New Hampshire birch and pine oxbow chest with four graduated drawers dating from about 1780 to 1800 that fetched $2,875 and a fine New England Hepplewhite mahogany sideboard that brought $2,760. A tall (90 inches) Empire walnut bookcase with glazed doors on four turned feet came from a southern New Hampshire collection. It realized $2,415.
An early Nineteenth Century New Hampshire birch tall case clock with a painted iron moon phase dial and a broken arch bonnet top was 90¼ inches tall. Thought to have been made around Rochester, N.H., it realized $2,875. A Massachusetts shelf clock by John Sawin had a broken arch scrolled top with three brass finials and a reverse painted glass face and a brass putto holding a torch applied to the front of the case. It sold for $1,725.
Fetching $2,300, a Rose Canton shelf clock with a French time and strike movement featured an external escapement that may have been assembled outside China.
Of a selection of firearms from area collections, a Frank Wesson .45 caliber sporting rifle, a fourth model with two triggers and an octagonal barrel, sold for $19,550. The upper tang had been replaced with a 33½-inch scope by Malcolm of Syracuse, N.Y. A Fox Sterlingworth 20-gauge shotgun by the Savage Arms Corporation came from a Vermont collection and sold for $3,738, and a Winchester Pre ’64 .70 caliber 257 Roberts Rifle from the same collection drew $2,415.
A New Hampshire powder horn carved with birds in a tree, a man’s face, a squirrel and an owl’s face brought $3,450. Carving around the base identified the work as that of Dr T.S. Hitchcock, an Oswego, N.Y., dentist.
The highlight of the paintings was a signed oil on canvas portrait of a girl with flowers in her hair by French artist Marie Laurencin that went for $9,795. A Nineteenth Century oil on canvas landscape of a river scene with two figures fishing from the riverbank and the partial date “&‱860,” sold for $6,900. The molded gesso frame was signed indistinctly and bore a label of “Mr Geo A. Smith, 47 Academy Street, Arlington.” The painting sold for $6,900. An unsigned view of Mount Washington Valley, N.H., by an artist of the school of John F. Kensett sold for $2,530.
A nice group of Midcentury Modern pieces were offered, and a lounge chair by Charles and Roy Eames in white fiberglass was a very good buy at $1,725. An Eero Saarinen dining table with a white marble top on a coasted white aluminum base sold for $1,610.
The 1638 etching and drypoint by Rembrandt, “The Little Jewish Bride,” was a portrait of the artist’s wife Saskia appearing as St Catherine. The print was accompanied by papers of authenticity and sold for $2,185.
A French marble and wrought iron center table with a noticeable repair to the black marble top, circa 1940, was attributed to Twentieth Century French designer Gilbert Poillerat. It sold for $6,613, an excellent value since comparable examples can be had for exponential amounts.
Three leather trunks by E. Goyard Aine of Paris that came from a Concord, Mass., collection, attracted attention. A Paris example stamped “DRF” and measuring 40 by 23½ by 27 inches brought $5,750, and a similar example marked “Monte-Carlo, Biarritz, Goyard, Paris,” was $4,600 despite some staining. The third example was a trunk bearing the label “Malles Goyard, No. 2324” that measured 21½ by 40 by 20 inches and which sold for $4,310.
An embroidered Metis Cree deerskin shirt from an area collection through the Guthman collection sold for $3,450.
A folky Nineteenth Century cane carved with figures, balloons, circus animals, Masonic and Odd Fellows’ symbols and musical instruments came from a New Hampshire collection and sold for $2,300.
All prices quoted reflect the buyer’s premium. For information, www.thecobbs.com or 603-924-6361.
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