Published: November 15, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy William Smith Auctions
PLAINFIELD, N.H. – Estimated just $200/400, a colorful wood carving street scene of Key West, Fla., sold for $56,250 at William Smith’s live auction on November 2. Signed and titled lower right “Colorful Gopherville, Mario Sanchez,” the 32½-by-15-inch carving presented in a simple wooden frame was created by Mario Sanchez (1908-2005), known as the most important Cuban-American folk artist of the Twentieth Century. A resident of the Key West cigar-making neighborhood known as “Gato’s Village,” Sanchez was self-taught, specializing in bas relief wood carvings depicting scenes of everyday Key West life that he would then illustrate with highly detailed paint work in vibrant colors. Like this work, some of his carvings have been valued at more than $50,000 and the successful bidder for this piece mused out loud that she had perhaps underpaid for it. At any rate, it is going back to a “warm climate.”
Smith’s sale presented life-long collections and family heirlooms from a number of families, including the Contoocook, N.H., estate of Donald and Phyllis Randall and the Ashford, Conn., estate of Susan MacKay. The sale totaled $848,310 with only six of the approximately 540 lots going unsold. A total of 950 successful buyers competed on two online platforms (218), Smith’s own platform (400) with 72 phone or left bids and about 50 patrons in the gallery.
An important primitive oil on canvas portrait of the Corey family of West Boscawen, N.H., portrayed Ephraim Corey, his wife Mary Ann Austin Corey and their baby boy Wheelock Corey, parents flanking the centered fair-haired son in a blue dress (an early Nineteenth Century folk art convention) and holding a whip. Estimated $5/10,000, the circa 1844-45 painting did much better, finishing at $42,000. On the back of the canvas was the stamp of Hollis & Wheeler of Boston, a firm that was active from 1843 to 1849, aligning with the year this portrait was painted. This 30-by-40-inch portrait, presented in a period lemon-gold frame, 37 by 45 inches, is illustrated in Jennifer Yunginger’s book Is She or Isn’t He: Identifying Gender in Folk Portraits of Children. It had provenance to the Donald and Phyllis Randall estate.
Gender is easier to identify in a Nineteenth Century Prior/Hamblin School oil on canvas portrait of a young boy, which brought seven times more than its high estimate at $21,600. Circa 1830s and also from the Randall estate, the portrait depicts a formally dressed young boy in waistcoat with tie, hat and walking stick, standing alongside a draped window. It measured 27 by 22 inches and was unframed.
Henry VIII, King of England from 1509 until his death in 1547 and best known for his six marriages, was the subject of an oil on board portrait that commanded $21,250. The unidentified artist painted the half portrait of the king wearing an ermine-lined coat, plumed hat and jeweled collar. Unframed and measuring 32½ by 26½ inches, it had provenance to the Gage family, Hengrave Hall, and a 1983 Sotheby’s sale. It came from the estate collection of Susan MacKay.
Fetching $9,600 was another Prior School portrait, this one an oil on board of a sea captain holding his spyglass. It bettered its low estimate by more than tenfold and bore an exhibition label on the back from the St Louis Art Museum’s “By Heart and Hand: American Folk Art from the Missouri Collections,” February 23-May 28, 1984.
Decorative arts and furniture lots also brought notable results. An antique Oriental room-size Bakshaish rug from the Nineteenth Century with an open field design on camel ground, 7 feet 3 inches by 8 feet 7 inches, flew out of the gallery for $31,500. For the outdoors, the sale offered a pair of Poultney, Vt., Foundry cast iron Labrador dog sculptures, which found favor at $10,200. Both depicted in walking stride, they were mounted on steel bases and were overall 29½ by 48 by 16 inches at the base.
An exceptional Eighteenth Century tiger maple chest on chest brought $19,200. Catalog notes described the circa 1780 Rhode Island two-part chest as having “bold grain…upper case with an arrangement of nine drawers with bold cornice molding, above a lower section with three full-length drawers on a bracket base in a mellow amber patina.” The expertly carved case featured canted and fluted recessed columns with lambs tongue details, the drawers set with period brass. Measuring 76½ inches high with upper case 37½ inches, the piece had provenance of ex Israel Sack collection/Northeast Auctions, August 2006.
A surprise from the MacKay estate that would have paired nicely with the Henry VIII portrait was an early English needlework valuables chest. The Eighteenth Century double-hinged lift top chest featured two doors that open to a multi-drawer interior. On carved ball feet, its exterior was profusely covered in scenic crewel work. Bidder interest brought it from a $200/400 estimate to a final price of $9,600.
Going back to the Seventeenth Century, a wall shelf and writing box were bid to $7,800. They were also from the MacKay collection and comprised a carved oak slant-top writing box with two interior drawers, dated on top 1672, initialed “AL” among extensively carved pin-wheel and fan carvings, and a carved oak wall shelf initialed “AW 1619.”
In the end, one bidder drove away with a 1972 Mercedes 350SL roadster with 77,000 miles. Running, road worthy, New Hampshire state inspected and with extensive maintenance/service records, it drove away for $8,400. The convertible had a 4.5L V8 engine and an automatic transmission, with original removeable hard top and new soft top, a brown exterior and walnut brown leather interior and an extra set of wheels with original color-matched hub caps.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. The firm’s next sale, a timed toy and jewelry auction, is set for December 7, with the next big cataloged sale following in early 2023.
For information, 603-675-2549 or www.wsmithauction.com.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm