Published: August 15, 2023
Review by Z.G. Burnett; Images Courtesy Rafael Osona Auctions
NANTUCKET, MASS. — During the first weekend of August, Rafael Osona Auctions hosted an Americana, Fine Art and Decorative Arts auction on August 5, and The Marine Sale on August 6. With more than 1,000 lots between the two auctions, the first was a showcase of known artists and makers, and the second brought fine and unique specimens from the golden age of whaling. Objects from the estate of Stephen Weinroth of Nantucket, Mass., and other goods from recently sold local estates were offered during both auctions.
Fine American art led the August 5 sale with some painters that often appear during sales with nautical themes, and each sold over their estimates. “Three Cat Boats Rounding Brant Point, Nantucket,” by Robert Stark Jr (1933-2014) was at the forefront, selling for more than $115,200 and the only six-figure result of both auctions. Featuring Stark’s signature red-sailed craft, the luminous painting was signed in the lower left hand corner and presented in a gilt, star-embellished frame.
Next was another name familiar to Osona, Ralph Eugene Cahoon Jr’s (1910-1982) “American Seaman’s Friend Society,” that achieved $79,950. Served a lavish dinner by two domesticated mermaids, the painting shows two marine officers carousing before their voyage to Hong Kong, Canton and Calcutta, departing in the Dashing Wave May 4, 1841. The scene is framed by two scrimshawed tusks and two mermaids riding hippocampi, securing the swag that gives the artwork its title.
Women artists were also represented in the top lots of the auction. “Middle Moors, Nantucket” by Anne Ramsdell Congdon (1873-1958) was signed and presented in its original foliate frame, coming in third at $55,350. More contemporary was “Still Life with Vegetables” by Janet Rickus (b 1949), which multiplied its estimate to $24,320. Rickus is a mainly self-taught still life painter who embraces the unique forms and colors of her subjects, careful to arrange them so as to appear in “conversation” with each other. This painting showed a variety of fall squashes, which can be appreciated all year round but especially so in the coming months.
Tiffany lamps were also popular with bidders, with two out of four offered reaching the upper ranks. The highest selling was a signed Tiffany Studios Nasturtium Trellis stained glass chandelier, dating from the Twentieth Century, which sold for $49,200. The octagonal shade had a diameter of 27 inches and was suspended from three sets of patinated bronze link chains. Next was a circa 1910 shade with geometric and turtleback tiles with a pierced bronze vent cap and the impression of “Tiffany Studios New York.” Meant for a table lamp, this shade’s diameter was 20¾ inches and achieved $27,060.
Almost every top lot of the August 8 auction incorporated some kind of bone, and all were made during the early to mid-Nineteenth Century. The jewel of this sale was a fine whaleman-crafted rosewood box, showing bone trim and carved ball feet, and mother-of-pearl inlay in shapes such as diamonds, teardrops, stars and pierced hearts. On its lid was a scrimshaw inlaid plaque, showing an American ship approaching a headland. The box closed at $15,990.
Three whalemen-made walking sticks followed one after the other in price, each selling for more than their estimate and consigned from the estate of Stephen Weinroth. The first, at $12,800, was simply crafted from a narwhal tusk with an antique whale ivory mushroom cap, connected by a silver band on a floriate, patinated shaft, and terminating in a steel ferrule. Second, at $11,520, was primarily whale ivory that was delicately carved with twists, cross-hatching, open-work columns and a Turk’s knot top. These sections were spaced by tortoiseshell bands showing silver diamond inlay, with an ivory and baleen ferrule. Third, at $11,520, was also made from a narwhal tusk and capped with a reeded whale ivory mushroom cap inlaid with abalone, terminating in a brass ferrule.
Other whalemen-made lots from this era were further examples of these anonymous makers’ creativity. A rare chess set featuring carved and stained whale ivory pieces was offered, complete with a whalebone and ebony board resting on carved fluke feet, was made circa 1850 and sold for $7,500. Next in price was a Nineteenth Century scrimshawed and polychromed whale tooth engraved with two boats out with harpoons at the ready on the same whale, already struck with a portrait of a gunboat on the reverse, which achieved $6,150.
The aforementioned artifacts were complemented by a whaling logbook of the barque Cora, which sailed to the Pacific out of New Bedford, Mass., on a voyage that lasted from 1841 to 1845 under Captain Archilous Baker (1816-1898). This fascinating prime document is a window into the reality of this dangerous and often brutal enterprise, listing deaths of crew members and showing many stamps indicating flukes spotted and whales hunted. The logbook closed at $7,040.
Prices quoted with buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. Rafael Osona’s Late Summer Auction will occur on August 26, with a preview August 24 and 25. For information, 508-228-3942 or www.rafaelosonaauction.com.
September 19, 2023
September 19, 2023
September 19, 2023
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