Published: September 9, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
THOMASTON, MAINE – Kaja Veilleux celebrates the conclusion of a three-day auction by getting in his car and going out to find more treasures to sell in future sales. Antiques and The Arts Weekly caught up with him in between road trips as he was headed into one of Thomaston Place Auction Galleries’ weekly free appraisal days, which has proven to be a fruitful resource for finding those treasures that just might, one day, headline an upcoming sale.
“It was an amazing sale. We had a monstrous crowd. We let people back in the saleroom for our July sales but not many showed up. For this sale, it was packed. We had tremendous participation in the room, on the phones and online. It was like the old days.”
Veilleux was, of course, talking about Part Two of the firm’s summer “Splendor” sale, which took place August 27-29 and followed Part One (July 9-11). Nearly 1,450 lots marched across the block, a quantity in line with the firm’s three-day sales. While a sell-through rate was not disclosed, the sale totaled about $3 million, a figure that would likely be exceeded after press time by post-auction transactions of items that did not sell from the podium. The firm registered 600 bidders for the sale, of which 184 had never bid with Thomaston Place before. Buyers hailed from the United States as well as 15 different countries.
“We had the best collection of Nineteenth Century paintings I think anyone has had in a long time, and we had more than 500 people who previewed the sale in person,” Veilleux said when asked how various categories performed. “I was a little disappointed that the Nineteenth Century market was not as strong as it might have been, but the market is fickle.” He was very happy to see strong interest in nearly a dozen American, English and European clocks but noted that the Old Master painting category was softer than he’s previously seen.
Veilleux’s disappointment did not extend to most of the sale’s top sellers, many of which were Nineteenth Century pictures that soared beyond their estimates.
Leading the pack was Ivan Aivazovsky’s (Russian, 1817-1900) “After the Storm,” a painting Veilleux described as “just great, the quality was incredible,” which inspired considerable international interest and competition from two phone bidders. One of them took it to $169,650. It came to Thomaston Place from a Florida estate and epitomized, Veilleux said, the quality of Aivazovsky’s work in the luminescence of the water. He also said that it was the mate to one in an institution, which likely helped garner interest.
Sailing into second place, pricewise, was James Edward Buttersworth’s “The First Race of 1851,” which depicted the yacht America turning at the Judges Bridge and crossing Queen’s Yacht. Veilleux said the painting had “all the bells and whistles you’d want in a Buttersworth,” so he was not terribly surprised that it brought $117,000, from a phone bidder.
Arguably one of the biggest surprises in the sale came with the interest and result of a Chinese peachbloom glazed porcelain beehive water pot, which Veilleux said prompted more than 50 inquiries from clients worldwide. He said it had incising under the glaze and six-character marks that he thought indicated it was an imperial piece. When it crossed the block, all eight of the firm’s available phone lines were used by international competitors, as well as online bidders; in the end, an online bidder took it from a $500/700 estimate to $111,150.
“Clocks have been so soft, but we had several phone bidders as well as online interest in many of the American clocks. It was great to see serious action on them, even the unattributed ones.” A tall case clock made by Benjamin Willard that had descended in the Lower and Shurcliff families of Boston and Concord, Mass., came out of a Boston house and made $64,350, more than five times its high estimate. A shelf clock made by Newburyport, Mass., maker David Wood came from a Camden, Maine, estate and timed out at $29,250.
Thomaston Place routinely offers works by members of the Wyeth family, whose members have been Maine residents for decades. A professor in Bangor, Maine, consigned two works to the sale, both of which overshot their estimates. Veilleux described “In the Georges Islands” by Andrew Wyeth (American, 1917-2009) as “striking; the epitome of the quality of his draftsmanship;” he was not surprised it finished at $87,750. The other work from the same consignor, “Have a Coke – How are Things Goin?” or “GIs in Newfoundland” by NC Wyeth (American, 1882-1945), was done in graphite on paper and was used on several magazines, including the July 3, 1944, issue of Life magazine, the June 24, 1944, issue of Saturday Evening Post, and the back cover of National Geographic’s August 1944 issue. It sold for a thirst-quenching $49,140.
Auctioneers often have fun negotiating terms with consignors. When Veilleux spotted a metallic blue 1970 Oldsmobile 442 power-top convertible in a Falmouth, Maine, garage, he told the owners he would take their collection if the car was included. It helped seal the deal and he sold it for $52,650, above estimate.
In case you were wondering how the Appraisal Day finds fared, Veilleux was happy to give a promising report. Among the most notable was a 1968 color serigraph print of Campbell’s Chicken Soup by pop artist Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), which featured a presentation inscription by the artist. The seller brought it to Thomaston Place and asked Veilleux if he could sell it. Veilleux said the seller was hoping for $10,000 so one might imagine he is pleased with the $70,200 it fetched. A new homeowner found a Georg Jensen amber mounted sterling box in the kitchen when she moved in and brought it for appraisal. Priced at $7/10,000, it finished at $11,700. If that were not enough, the top lot in the first day of the sales – “Under the Summer Willows” by George Stengel (American, 1872-1937) brought the top price of the day, topping off at $8,775.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
Thomaston Place Auction Galleries’ Home Furnishings sale will take place September 22; the next three-day sale will be in early November.
For information, 207-354-8141 or www.thomastonauction.com.
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