Published: October 3, 2006
A prime assortment of Americana was once again offered during the annual end of summer sale at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries on August 26 and 27. This auction, widely considered the most popular of the sales to take place at Thomaston throughout the course of the year, attracted a significant amount of interest not only from local Maine enthusiasts but also from around the country.
Auctioneer Kaja Veilleux commented prior to the auction that merchandise had been “accumulated for this sale for several months” and it included several small collections, numerous items from private homes, as well as items taken in during the auction house’s popular free appraisal days. With a great deal of fresh-to-the-market merchandise, the auction was brimming with quality smalls, furniture and folk art.
While the auction once again included important examples of folk art such as two John Bellamy carved and painted eagles and several outstanding pieces of New England and Southern furniture, the star of the auction came as a painting was offered.
Offered as lot 100, a slot Veilleux usually reserves for one of the top lots of the sale, was “The Awakening,” and oil on canvas by Marguerite Thompson Zorach. Termed by the auction gallery as important example of Zorach’s influential Fauvist/Symbolist period, circa 1915, the rare painting depicted a gesturing child seated in a rural landscape that was enfolded by male adult arms.
Zorach’s husband, William, would later create a linoleum cut after the image that he titled “Father and Son.” Consigned from a private collection in Yarmouth, Maine, the Zorach painting carried a presale estimate of $75/100,000, and was actively bid to $115,000.
Eagle woodcarvings by John Bellamy have appeared on the market regularly after the hefty prices established at Thomaston last year. So, it was with little surprise that two examples by the Kennebunk, Maine, carver were featured in this auction. The first of the two, a 26-inch plaque with a white-bodied eagle grasping a banner that proclaimed “Don’t Give Up The Ship,” was in untouched original surface. The rare eagle had been consigned from a Dark Harbor, Maine, cottage, where it had been for many years, and the piece retained the original price tag of $2.50 adhered to the back. A small repair was noted to the right wing tip, yet several in the gallery still aggressively pursued the lot pushing it to a final selling price of $43,125.
The second of the Bellamys to be offered was a long and narrow carved and painted wooden over-door transom eagle that measured more than 45 inches in length. Grasping a flowing red, white, and blue banner in its beak, the body of the eagle was painted white. Consigned from a private Southern collection, the eagle also listed a provenance of Howard Feldman, a founding member of the American Folk Art Society, and it had also been sold at Sotheby’s in 1998. Bidding on this lot was also brisk with it selling between estimates at $31,625.
One lot that came as a surprise to everybody in the gallery was an American coin silver oval snuffbox, circa 1720. The oval-form two-piece snuffbox featured the crests of the Gilbert family and was marked on the underside “I.S.” Estimated at $2/3 ,000, the box was subjected to a great deal of interest with it selling at $23,000.
Several pieces of Americana were offered with a framed centennial dress with a blue top with white applied stars over red and white striped the bottom selling for $2,645. A nice late Nineteenth Century pennant with five stars in the blue field over a red and white striped bottom realized $1955.
The top lot among the patriotic grouping was a large wood carving of Lady Liberty thought to have been made by an unknown ship carver. In the original painted surface, the 42-inch-high figure wore a crown and had outstretched arms holding books. Bidding on the lot was active with it selling well above estimates at $40,250.
A Nineteenth Century paint decorated leather fire bucket marked “J. Shepard, Gloucester,” had red, green and blue swags with gold leaf and scroll highlights. Minor paint loss around the base did not seem to affect the price as it still brought $4,600.
A large quantity of trade signs and weathervanes had been consigned from a private Southern collector. A couple of watchmakers trade signs were sold with a carved wooden example selling for $4,950, while an Eighteenth Century double-sided watch trade sign brought $2,875.
A rare Nineteenth Century leaping stag weathervane with zinc head and overall gilt body did well as it exceeded estimates at $28,750.
Other items of interest included an early trade sign with double-sided decoration depicting a spread wing eagle holding a shield and olive branch and marked “S. Aiken.” Somewhat weathered, the rare sign more than doubled presale estimates as it sold for $17,250.
Paintings were popular with a Western landscape with figures at a river by Joseph Henry Sharp attracting a great deal of attention as it sold for $27,950.
Nautical artwork included a watercolor by Lt William Ramage depicting the Battle of Copenhagen, fought on April 21, 1801. It was accompanied by two original documents, a citation from Sir John Jervis and a letter from Lord Horatio Nelson thanking Ramage for having depicted the battle in the painting. Termed an incredibly rare original documentation of a pivotal historic naval battle, the watercolor sold for $23,000.
Continental paintings in the auction included a gouache by Josef Israel depicting a little girl with a toy boat on the beach that sold for $17,750, while an oil on panel by Israel depicting an elderly lady inside a Dutch kitchen with her dog brought $14,950. An oil on canvas titled “Psyche with Cupid” by Parisian artist Diogene U. Maillart also realized $14,950, while a painting that had been found in a Paris warehouse, depicting a woman sewing at an outdoor café, sold for $24,150.
A watercolor titled “Mother and Daughter, Vaunavey,” by Sir William Russell also did well, bringing $17,250. Another of the Continental paintings was a period Jacobean portrait of an aristocratic young boy in a red frock with his dog at his feet. Estimated at $3,5/4,500, the lot was actively bid with it selling at $28,750.
Furniture in the sale included a nice Windsor paint decorated bench in mustard paint with a Rufus Porter-type landscape along the crest. Bidding on the lot was active with it selling at $4,630, while a set of six matching painted Windsor side chairs in brilliant mustard yellow paint and original brown pinstriping, consigned from the Doris Stauble collection, realized $5,750.
One piece of furniture in the sale that attracted an enormous amount of interest was a rare Eighteenth Century built-in “butt’ry” cupboard in wonderful old red paint. Comprised of two step back, opened top cupboards joined at 90 degrees, the rare corner cupboards had been removed from a home in Limington, Maine. Also listing a provenance of the Southern collection, this lot also handily exceeded presale estimates, selling at $27,600.
A couple of Maryland pieces of furniture found their way into the auction with an Eighteenth Century mahogany slant front desk with fitted interior attracting attention. The exaggerated quarter columns created a folky appearance and led to a strong attribution to George Woltz. The early desk sold between estimates at $5,750. A circa 1780 Chippendale for drawer chest, also attributed to Woltz, sold above estimates at $7,475.
Another Eighteenth Century slant front desk of Southern origin did well, selling above estimates at $8,050.
Several tall case clocks were among the offerings with an American Hepplewhite period mahogany example with fretwork top above a well-proportioned base mounted on splayed feet doing well. Thought to have been made by Frederick Wingate, the inlaid clock sold for $23,000.
Prices include the buyer’s premium charged. For further information contact Thomaston Place, PO Box 300, 51 Atlantic Highway, Thomaston, Maine, 04861, 207-354-8141 or www.thomastonauction.com.
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