Published: September 16, 2003
– Close to 2,000 lots were offered over the course of a three-day, action-packed sale conducted by James Julia August 20-22, with strong results posted from the beginning to the end. The auction, entitled simply a “Spectacular Maine Auction,” held true to its name as more than 600 lots were offered during marathon sessions each of the days.
The annual auction, which takes place at the luxurious Samoset Resort, is always scheduled to coincide with the busy vacation and antiques season in Maine. This sale, expanded from the normal two-day event into a three-day sale due to the heavy influx of merchandise, featured a diversified selection of materials with a quality assortment of Americana, Victoriana, Continental, paintings and large collection of autographs rounding out the assortment.
Numerous collections were offered including the historical document collection of Dr and Mrs Stanwood Schmidt of Eureka, Calif., to art and bronzes from the Cliff and Mary Hillegrass estate of Lincoln, Neb. No Julia auction would be complete with a Maine collection also being featured and this sale offered the Stephen Weston collection of early Maine furniture and accessories.
The sale got off to a good start with a nice early game board in mustard and green paint selling reasonably at $402. Within a few lots materials from the Schmidt collection began crossing the block with the first lot setting the pace for the sale as a George Washington letter signed and dated 1796 shot past presale estimates selling at $28,750.
A Thomas Jefferson letter also surpassed the $12/14,000 estimates as it realized $20,700, as did a Benjamin Franklin signed manuscript document that sold for $9,200. A hand drawn pen, ink and watercolor document with the signatures of Abraham Lincoln, his vice president and cabinet surrounded by a wreath with flags and shields went out at $27,117, and a 52-page portfolio entitled “The War Between The United States and Mexico,” illustrated by George Wilkins Kendall, 1851, was hammered down at $16,100.
Autographs of Twentieth Century villains and heroes saw Hitler best Einstein at the block as prices of $2,357 and $2,175 were realized.
The top lots of the auction came early on the final day of the sale, Friday morning, with a Walt Kuhn painting of a clown selling first at $149,500 after a battle between nine telephone bidders, three of whom were active till the end. The Kuhn was thought to be a preliminary painting for a work that recently sold at Sotheby’s for record price of $1.1 million. The painting, which carried a presale estimate of $10/20,000, had an interesting history having been given by Vera Kuhn to a benefactor, who subsequently bequeathed it to the Sloan Kettering Institute. The painting eventually wound up in the Sloan Kettering thrift shop and was reportedly purchased less than two years ago for $2,500.
The top lot of the auction came moments later as a rare Alexander Roux walnut Victorian carved server with life-size dog supports was offered. The piece was elaborately carved with a deer mount above the lower shelf, a hanging grouse on the pierce carved crest, ornately carved grape and leave scrolls across the aprons and the front panel had an oak leaf and acorn pattern. The server was called a “masterpiece” by Julia’s American antiques specialist Bill Gage, who further commented that it was undoubtedly “one of Roux’s finest works.”
Other rdf_Descriptions in the sale included a selection of Americana with a nice carved eagle with banner in overall white paint with red and blue trim by John Bellamy selling at $24,150, while a horse leaping through a hoop weathervane by Jewell sold to a buyer in the front row for $17,100.
A nice sponge decorated blanket chest in ochre yellow and reddish-brown was hammered down at $9,487, a diminutive Maine fall front desk brought $3,742, a small oval-top tavern table with scrubbed top and red stained base $4,715, and an Empire chest with a fancy carved backsplash and original red satin realized $2,240.
Maine rdf_Descriptions from the Weston collection did very well with a redware stewpot by John Stafford selling at $4,600, a nice small wall cupboard brought $1,725, a Maine maple and bird’s-eye Empire chest with double-drawer boxed top and fancy scrolled backsplash over a four-drawer case bringing $4,600.
Also from the Weston collection was a nice fanback Windsor in black paint that sold for $4,600, while a low back Windsor in old green paint brought $3,450. Several pieces of Sandwich glass were also sold with a pair of clear compotes bringing $1,322, while a sapphire blue master salt went for $2,760.
One of the rdf_Descriptions from the Wednesday session that attracted the most attention was a rare half-plate tinted daguerreotype showing eight miners in a trench. The piece, believed to be a Western gold mining scene, had been picked from a Vermont home and was fresh to the market. As the lot was offered numerous bidders were represented on the telephones and several in the gallery had interest. The piece was actively bid with it selling above estimates at $12,247.
Another lot with Western interest was a late Nineteenth Century photograph depicting a scantily clad “Josephine,” an image that has been sold for years as Wyatt Erp’s wife. Julia cataloged the lot as simply a “desirable erotic photograph” and it sold far below what they have brought in the past with the now-disputed Erp association at $633.
The second day of the auction also got off to a brisk start with a mahogany one-drawer Pembroke table with shaped leaves that sold above estimates at $1,150.
The selection of artwork provided the strength with a Basil Bradley picture entitled “The Young Shepardess” selling at the low estimate of $20,758. Two Percy Sanborn ship portraits did well with a picture of the “Great Ship Republic” selling at $24,150, while the portrait of the Charlotte W. White sold to the same buyer for $23,575.
“A Study for The Clippers,” a large oil on canvas study attributed to Newell Convers Wyeth, sold to a buyer in the room after an active bout of bidding for $34,500. The unsigned study was for the mural Wyeth executed for the lobby of the First National Bank of Boston building in Boston.
An Arthur Fitzwilliam Tate oil on canvas entitled “The Last War Whoop” depicted a colorful prairie scene of a frontiersman on horseback with a revolver in his hand looking down at an Indian on the ground with his hand to his mouth. This painting, listed as no. 3457 in Conninghams’s list, is the image used by Currier for a famed lithograph. Bidding on the lot was brisk with it selling for $31,600 to a phone bidder.
A selection of Thomas Hart Benton original watercolors, inks and lithos attracted a great deal of attention with a half-portrait watercolor of a gentleman in a top hat and black coat with bow tie, signed “Benton – 24,” garnering the most interest with a host of phone bidders competing for the piece. The lot opened at $4,000 and bounced back and forth between bidders in $100 increments until the $4,500 mark when one of the bidders jumped the bid to $5,000; bidding resumed and at $5,500 it was jumped to $6,000, at $6,500 it was jumped to $7,000. This continued for a while until the piece moved past the $10,000 mark where it continued to advance to a selling price of $14,950 going to the eager phone bidder. Seven additional Benton lots were sold with a watercolor and ink of a steamboat selling at $8,337, while a pencil and watercolor of a woman seated at a bar brought $5,750.
Prices include the 15 percent buyer’s premium charged.
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