Published: August 12, 2015
Review And Onsite Photos By Andrea Valluzzo
Catalog Photos Courtesy Eldred’s
EAST DENNIS, MASS. — Summer on the Cape means beaches, ice cream and lots of sunshine and Americana as Eldred’s mounted its largest and best sale of the year. This year’s Americana, paintings and maritime art auction comprised 1,442 lots and took three days to sell, drawing good crowds each day during the July 29–31 event.
“Overall I was very pleased with the results. Our regular customers were strong participants, but we also saw a record number of new buyers, both in the room and online,” said Josh Eldred. “It is a good sign for the fall sale as we already have some wonderful consignments, including a Martha’s Vineyard estate, a collection of early banks and a fresh-to-the market oil by Montague Dawson.”
Maritime-themed items were plentiful across the block, not surprisingly given the auction’s venue, and ranged from ship portraits and yachting trophies to boat models and sextants.
Many fine nautical-themed paintings crossed the block over the three days. Attracting much attention during preview Friday morning was Gerrit Albertus Beneker’s “Blue Day, Provincetown,” that sold above estimate at $15,600. Eldred’s is well known for carrying works by Cape Cod Impressionists, and Frederick John Mulhaupt’s 1924 work, “Grey Day + Guinea Boats,” made $25,000.
Peter Murray, Centerville, Mass., has been coming to Eldred’s for many years, mainly for the art. “I like local Cape Cod art and they probably have the best offering of local art,” he said during preview.
Also in the gallery checking out the artworks Friday morning was Stephen Seymour, Harwich Port, Mass. “This is their premier auction and they will have some of the best Provincetown art,” he said. “We’ve been coming for a number of years. We collect Provincetown Impressionists, mainly 1850–1940. This is one of the best places to go.”
Even the top lot of the auction, while from an Iowa artist, had a nautical flavor. Renowned sand bottle artist Andrew Clemens, who was left deaf and mute after contracting “brain fever” at age 5, made a bottle in 1887 that performed quite well here. Inscribed Clara Schaum on the front, it featured a portrait of an American ship underneath her name and on the reverse side was an eagle and American flag. Two floor bidders chased the bottle past its $12/18,000 estimate all the way to $72,000 — a new auction record price.
“According to our research, the record was $45,000, set back in 2012 at an auction in Iowa,” said Eldred. Eldred’s sold a Clemens bottle in its spring sale that came out of a Brooklyn, N.Y., collection. At preview for that sale, a woman came in inquiring about Picasso prints. “During the course of the conversation with my sister, Sarah Taylor, she mentioned that she had a sand bottle too,” he said. “My sister pulled out the catalog said, ‘Like this one?’ to which the person said, ‘Yes! Like that!’”
The next week, Josh went to their Cape Cod home to secure the consignment. “It was a special bottle and it never left the family since the original purchase from Clemens in 1887. I had a feeling it was going to go very well, but I was pleasantly surprised when it set the record.”
Born in nearby Chatham in 1910 into a family that traced its roots to the first Dutch settlers on the Cape, Ralph Eugene Cahoon Jr is well collected in this area. His works, be they his highly sought-after paintings featuring mermaids or examples of his whimsically decorated furniture, are a staple at Eldred’s auctions. Leading a group of seven lots (five of them paintings) on offer in this sale, the folky oil on canvas “Balloon Ascent” depicts a group of well-dressed men and women gathered around as two men prepare to take off in a hot air balloon. No matter that nary a mermaid was in sight, the painting performed near its high estimate to bring $45,000. Other Cahoon works sold included “Cape Cod Railroad,” showing three men in black tuxes and top hats sitting on a bench next to a mermaid and her daughter, holding a mermaid-form doll, $32,400; “Love,” featuring a sailor pushing a mermaid in a pedal car through Nantucket’s Cobblestone Square and Fountain, $15,600.
A standout in the fine art category was a late Nineteenth Century oil painting showing fog rolling in over moonlit mountains that was cataloged as “in the manner of Alfred Bierstadt,” coming out of a Nantucket estate. Buyers must have thought it had the artist’s hand as bidding surpassed the conservative estimate of $1/1,500 and went up to $21,600. “When it came in, I felt it had a really good chance of being a Bierstadt, but it lacked a signature so I cataloged it as ‘manner of’ and let it seek its own level. The estate was obviously pleased with the result!” Eldred said.
“Tiger maple has been the king of the woods,” Eldred’s Americana department manager Bill Bourne quipped during Friday morning’s auction preview. Pointing to an American Queen Anne highboy specifically, he noted, “The grain is just gorgeous.” Buyers thought so too, driving the piece over estimate to $16,800, making it the star lot of the furniture category. The Rhode Island highboy, circa 1760, stands 75½ inches tall and has cabriole legs ending in wonderful slipper feet. A Chippendale slant top desk, in a striking tiger maple, also performed over estimate. The circa 1780 Massachusetts piece brought $3,120. Both pieces came from a consignor in Rhode Island.
Broadway star Julie Harris had a home on the Cape in West Chatham for many years, and about 150 lots from her estate were offered during the second day of the sale, which drew a good-sized audience to see the American art and furniture she collected, along with items relating to the theater. A highlight was Canadian artist Marie Cecile Bouchard’s oil on canvas depicting a winter logging scene that fetched $2,000.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.eldreds.com or 508-385-3116.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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