Published: July 19, 2022
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
THOMASTON, MAINE – “You can always get another $100, but you can never get another one of these.” That was one of the comments auctioneer Kaja Veilleux made while encouraging bidders to continue bidding during his three-day sale, July 8-10. Apparently, it worked, as by the time the sale was over he had taken in more than $2 million, with more likely to come, as there was interest in lots that had not sold. It was a sale that included just about everything one could think of: the first day was devoted to Chinese objects – porcelains, bronzes, furniture, jade, etc., with a pair of Chinese Ming dynasty painted bronze figures selling for $21,000, far over the estimate. The second day included more than 500 lots of marine paintings and instruments, Old Master paintings, early American furniture, trade signs, folk art, Oriental rugs, clocks, barometers from the Neville Lewis collection, ethnographic objects and more. Producing the highest price of the day was a painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, which earned $60,000.
The third day saw the top result of all three, $90,000, for an iconic serigraph of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol. Twentieth Century folk art and accessories were also sold on that day. Along the way, there were several lots of jewelry, mourning jewelry, tea caddies, silver and still more. There were many surprises throughout the sale – most were pleasant while some were less so.
The three days were fast-paced and entertaining; even with four online bidding platforms in use, phone bids were numerous and absentee bids were executed. As in days past, nearly all items were brought to the podium by a team of runners, allowing the auctioneer to comment on items as they were being sold. The sales were live streamed with an unusual feature. The camera broadcasting the sale zeroes in on the object being sold, so that people anywhere can see what the auctioneer is commenting on. Unusual for these days, good-sized crowds were in the gallery; it was almost filled on Sunday, and those in the gallery were active buyers. More than 30 objects topped $10,000.
Five of the six highest prices achieved on day one, the focused Chinese portion of the sale, were well in excess of their estimates, reflecting the difficulty of deriving accurate estimates for better objects in this category. It’s not unique to Thomaston Place; it happens in many auction houses. At $21,000, leading the day, were two painted cast bronze standing figures dating to the late Ming period (1368-1644). According to the catalog, they depicted Daoist immortals. The taller of the two, 25 inches high, depicted Wenchang Wang, god of literature and learning, holding a hu tablet; and the other, about 2 inches shorter, was probably Dongfang Shou, the symbol of wisdom and longevity, with a peach resting in his cloth-draped hands. Two Chinese drilled blue and white yen-yen shaped vases, in spite of damage and listed repairs, sold for $9,600, well over the estimate of $800. The offerings included a number of Chinese celadon plates and bowls. A 13¾-inch yuan-style Longquan dark celadon footed porcelain bowl with a single raised dragon in the center and a scroll incised border also did well in spite of a hairline crack. It realized $7,800.
Although prices of brown furniture were soft, paintings of all eras and folk art did well. The second day saw an unsigned Old Master painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1533) and his studio sell for $60,000. “Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist” was painted on a limewood panel. It included letters of provenance from German royalty. Another Old Master painting, attributed to Cornelis de Vos (1584/5-1651) by the National Gallery, London, sold for $26,400. It was a portrait of a well-dressed young woman, Susannah Cock de Vos, later wife of the artist. Advancing about 300 years, “Men, Cats and Dogs,” a colored pencil drawing on oaktag attributed to Bill Traylor (1854-1947), sold for $13,200. Other folk art included a 32-inch copper Massasoit weathervane, probably by J. Harris of Boston. It realized $20,400 in spite of some minor condition issues.
The third day of the sale, which included the Gary Haynes collection, saw the highest price as Andy Warhol’s 1967 iconic untitled serigraph of Marilyn Monroe realized $90,000. It was one of ten serigraphs from the portfolio “Marilyn Monroe,” published in 1967 by Factory Additions, New York, this being the neon pink ground variant, pencil signed and numbered on the reverse, 17/250.
“We’re delighted to be selling the Gary Haynes collection. And this is just part 1,” said Veilleux as he began to sell those items. It was the works of Andrew Wyeth that drew Haynes to those of Wyeth and his contemporaries, and eventually to Maine where he opened a gallery in Thomaston, because, as he said, “I wanted to see the places Andrew Wyeth painted. I sought his point of view, his perspective.” He eventually put together a world-class collection of works of fine Twentieth Century drawings and paintings by artists, including the Wyeths, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer and Norman Rockwell, to name just a few. That collection also offered several photographs by Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002), including iconic portraits of Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway and others.
Haynes was well-known in Maine and internationally for the quality of his collections. There were about 60 of his items. Bringing the top price was a charcoal-on-paper, portrait of “Sir William Headworth Williamson, 10th Baronet,” a 1924 charcoal on paper by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). It was signed and dated and finished at $72,000. A short video on Facebook allowed viewers to examine the portrait up close. A graphite study of a reclining nude by Sargent reached $19,200. There were six works by Andrew or Jamie Wyeth, and bidders were most drawn to Andrew Wyeth’s “Portrait of Bishop John B. Coburn,” a gouache drybrush on paper, which sold for $24,000. “Chicken Basket,” a 1980 limited edition aquatint etching by Jamie Wyeth, earned $660. It was a great way to get started with Wyeth family works. From the same collection, Norman Rockwell’s oil on canvas bust portrait of a young woman in a red shirt earned $24,000. Also from the Haynes collection were 13 photographs by Yousuf Karsh, famed portrait photographer. Many of these portraits have been reproduced for decades. In May 1941, he took the iconic war-time photograph of Winston Churchill, and a late 1940s silver gelatin print of that photograph earned $7,200. A later, but larger, example earned $10,800. His 1977 large silver gelatin photograph of Ernest Hemingway sold for $4,500. Additional material from this collection will be included in the next Thomaston Place sale [August 26-28].
A few days after the sale, Veilleux said, “It was a good sale. We had a lot of very good material, and we organized the sale accordingly. That worked. On Sunday, which is always a good day for us, the gallery was full. That day we sold the Haynes collection of Twentieth Century fine art and photographs, along with Twentieth Century folk art and other Twentieth Century material. That’s what folks wanted. Putting most of the Chinese material into a single day made it convenient for the buyers and collectors who were interested in that. Brown furniture was soft, but the Eldred Wheeler Twentieth Century reproductions were bringing more than the Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century originals. We had bidders from all over. The Lucas Cranach painting sold on the phone to a European buyer, and the Tiffany shade also went to a phone bidder. Bidders know that we guarantee our descriptions, so they’re comfortable bidding on things they haven’t actually handled.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, www.thomastonauction.com or 800-924-1032.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm