Published: October 28, 2003
– A last-minute call from a local resident yielded two top lots at Nadeau’s on September 20. “It was a good sale. Given where the economy is today, we were pleased with results,” said Edwin Nadeau, who grossed just over $700,000 on 350 entries.
His total was bolstered by two consignments that came in 11 days before the auction. “A Windsor woman called. She said she had heard that we had an auction coming up and wanted to put some things in it,” remembered the auctioneer.
“We went out to her house and took a look,” said Nadeau, who left with a carved pine box with traces of its original brown paint and a pair of decoys. After consulting books and colleagues, Nadeau determined that the box, whose loose top had originally been secured with cotter pins, was a rare, untouched Connecticut River Valley artifact made between 1690 and 1700, somewhere between Deerfield, Mass., and Stratford, Conn. Nadeau put an estimate of $10/15,000 on the piece, but expert opinion varied widely on how much the box would actually sell for.
The decoys, a desirable pair of old squaw examples by Oscar Bibber of Harpswell, Maine, were also estimated at $10/15,000.
On Saturday, bidding on the crease-molded, chip-carved relic opened at $6,000 and rapidly escalated to $25,000, when Wadsworth Atheneum curator Trina Bowman dropped out. Competition continued to $32,200 including premium, when the piece was knocked down to Ohio dealers Sam Forsythe, bidding from the back of the room, and his partner, David Good, who remained in their stand at the Fall Hartford Antiques Show. Connecticut dealer Harold Cole was the underbidder.
Although the box had been in the house on Prospect Hill in Windsor for at least 70 years, it is not known exactly where it was made. “Most people think it’s from Windsor,” noted Nadeau, who calls a blanket chest currently on view in “The Woodworkers of Windsor,” organized by Historic Deerfield and on display at the Windsor Historical Society, its “second cousin.”
In July 1998, Ted Harmon of Decoys Unlimited, West Barnstable, Mass., auctioned a Bibber old squaw decoy from the same rig for $17,050 including premium, a record for the carver. From the collection of Dr George Starr, the bird had been pictured in Starr’s early text, Decoys of the Atlantic Flyway.
Harmon was the underbidder on the Bibber pair at Nadeau’s, losing them to the phone at $17,825. “They are pretty rare. I haven’t sold any since 1998,” Harmon told Antiques and The Arts Weekly afterwards. “The price was justified. I would have gone higher if they had been in original paint. To my eye, they had 80-year-old repaint. But they were very strong formwise.”
Nadeau’s, which prides itself on being an estate auction house, included the best objects culled from nearly 40 different sources in this most recent sale. From a house near the Connecticut shore came the most expensive lot of the day, a Massachusetts serpentine front chest on ball and claw feet. It went to an absentee bidder for $39,100.
From the estate of Charles P. Cooley, a Hartford banker, portions of whose collection was illustrated by Wallace Nutting in his Furniture Treasury, came two mirrors, $10,925 and $4,600; an assembled set of 12 George III chairs, including six antique chairs and six Twentieth Century reproductions, $20,010; and a desk and bookcase, $9,775.
Ellsworth Grant, former president of the Connecticut Historical Society, consigned a tiger maple chest-on-chest, $8,050; a Constitution mirror; some oriental rugs; and several tables and stands.
The most expensive painting was Charles Ethan Porter’s still life with pink roses in a green vase. Exhibited at the Connecticut Gallery in 1987 and published in the C.E. Porter catalogue raisonné, it fetched $20,700.
“We had a great selection of silver from several sources, most of it from a collection in New Haven,” said Nadeau, who dispensed with a six-piece sterling tea and coffee service by S. Kirk and Son of Baltimore for $8,913. Among a slew of Georg Jensen silver was a 17-inch-tall Art Deco-style sterling ewer, $10,925; a 73/4-inch compote, $6,613; and an 111/4-inch water pitcher, $5,750.
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