Published: June 25, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy Marion Antique Auctions
MARION, MASS. – If you’ve never been to a Marion Antique Auctions sale, you’d probably enjoy the next one. The June 8 sale was conducted in the Marion Music Hall, a historic red stone building that was constructed around 1891. It’s directly across the street from several marinas, and the auction, conducted by Frank McNamee of the Marion Antique Shop, and Dave Glynn, Turkey Creek Auctions, Citra, Fla., is a fast-paced, well-organized sale that uses two internet platforms and accepts absentee and phone bidding. There was a good crowd almost filling the room, and familiar faces of several well-known dealers and Massachusetts auctioneers attested to the quality of the offerings and the possibility of buying for resale at good prices. The sale included a selection of Native American objects, paintings, jewelry, furniture, teddy bears, samplers, scrimshaw, Twentieth Century material, early firearms and more.
The “more” in this case included an Alexander Calder (1898-1976) sculpture, a bronze and copper work, 12Ã½ inches tall and 18 inches wide, which was the highest priced item in the sale. It was titled “Grazing Elephants” and had been given to Robert Manning when he was awarded the National Magazine Award (which he received four times) while editor of the Atlantic Monthly from 1964 to 1980. Consigned by Manning’s widow, it sold for $29,250. Calder’s bronzes have been included in several exhibitions in the last few years, including one at the Whitney Museum of Art in 2017 and another at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2016. It was not his favorite medium. He began working with bronze in 1930 but did not create many bronze sculptures.
Before the sale, Frank McNamee was asked which item had drawn the most presale interest. He immediately pointed to a limited-edition print, “Black,” by artist Lucio Fontana (Italian, 1899-1968). It was number 41 from an edition of 210 with a high estimate of $1,000 but it sold for $3,042. Some of his works are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and numerous other institutions. Some of his oils have sold well into the seven-figure range.
During the preview, it appeared that more attendees examined an unusually small green, black and yellow, grain-painted lift-top blanket chest, cataloged as Eighteenth Century. It was only 23 inches wide and had come from a Long Meadow, Mass., estate. It sold for $7,020, well over the estimate. Formal American furniture struggled to reach the conservative estimates. An Eighteenth Century Queen Anne cherry highboy with double fan carving and an old refinished surface, with some repairs, could only get to $1,404, and an Eighteenth Century five-drawer figured maple tall chest, also with an old refinished surface, went for $1,521.
Other Americana included three good samplers. Sold together, two by Phoebe Passmore, born in 1820, earned $6,728. The larger of the two had bright, blue coloring and depicted a house, a mother and child, trees with a floral border and was signed and dated 1832. Both had remained in the maker’s family until consigned to this sale. The third good sampler, was signed Rachel Boughteos and had been done in 1807. It, too, was brightly colored with a church, numerous animals, trees, flowers and more. It earned $5,382. One of the pleasant surprises of the sale was the $4,914 achieved by a 14-inch carved whalebone plaque depicting a whale with open jaws. It was signed “John L. Barker, New Bedford.” A scrimshawed whale’s tooth, about 5 inches long with an American ship flying a large American flag and an image of a globe of the world achieved $3,042. It was signed “William Lee Newport.”
Paintings did well, with an unsigned portrait of a young girl in a red dress attributed to Joseph Whiting Stock selling to a dealer in the room for $6,435. A relined portrait of the three-masted sailing ship Russell under full sail with an American flag, by William Pierce Stubbs (1842-1909) brought the same price as the Stock and a post-Civil War work by William Aiken Walker (1838-1901), “The Cabin,” depicting a rural Southern log cabin with a busy front yard, $4,212.
The Native American collection included a beaded hide bow and quiver case with two arrows and a painted bow, which brought $1,755. A colorful, circa 1920s Seminole long men’s shirt finished at $2,223, and a late Nineteenth Century beaded Apache girl’s cape with blue beads went for $2,106. A large (more than 24 inches) Apache olla basket with some defects realized $2,233.
Frank McNamee operates the Marion Antique Shop, a family business that he and his mother founded in 1974 while he was still in high school. Other family members are now involved. Dave Glynn got his start in the antiques business while still too young to drive, so he pushed his purchases in a wheelbarrow. He and McNamee have been friends since they were teenagers. A few days after the sale, McNamee commented that it was a good sale. “Nearly all of our merchandise comes from local estates, so buyers know it’s all fresh to the market. I think that’s one of the reasons so few lots were passed – only six or eight out of a total of just under 400. We were surprised at the interest in certain items, like the carved whalebone plaque and the Plains Indian beaded bow and quiver case. The few pieces of scrimshaw did well, and the Russian folio and book about an African safari did well. And, of course, the Calder bronze. The item that had the most presale interest was the Fontana print, which tripled its estimate.”
McNamee is president of Marion Historical Society and was asked about the Marion Music Hall in which the auction was conducted. He said the building was a gift to the town in the 1890s, given by Elizabeth Taber, who also founded the nearby Tabor Academy. In her mid-80s when her philanthropy began, she returned to where she was born, determined to give back to the town. He also commented that visitors to the town could see Grover Cleveland’s summer White House and also commented that Franklin Roosevelt spent time in the town.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
For additional information, www.marionantiqueauctions.com or 508-748-3606.
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