Published: September 18, 2007
Now in its 27th year conducting summer auctions on the island, Raphael Osona Auctioneer and Appraiser presented another stellar assortment of wares during the Americana, Continental, Fine Arts and Marine Auction that took place on August 4. Always filled with fresh materials from homes around the island, including a regular fare of uncataloged surprises generally consigned a day or two prior to the sale, this auction generates a lot of enthusiasm from buyers.
Osona always times this auction, the most important from his weekly summer series of sales, to run concurrent with the Nantucket Antiques Show, a benefit for the Nantucket Historical Association. With a slew of major dealers and collectors in town for the show, and with the cadre of local buyers’ eyes focused on antiques, the timing could not be better. While the dealers certainly impact the sale, a large contingent of locals make their presence known, routinely claiming an impressive amount of upper-end merchandise to furnish their Nantucket summer homes.
By sale time on Saturday morning, the crowd inside the auction hall had filled every available seat, including the antique chairs scheduled to be sold, leaving the less fortunate lined up shoulder-to-shoulder and at least three-deep across the back of the hall.
The first three lots of the auction, all maps of Nantucket, pitted dealers against the locals with the homeowners coming away victorious. The first lot was a hand colored 1787 map published by Tardieu, Paris, that sold for $464, a map of the Town of Nantucket as surveyed by W.M. Coffin Jr, in 1834 was knocked down moments later for $1,276, yet Osona had wisely saved the best example for last, a map of the island by William Mitchell, 1838. Consigned just a few days prior to the auction, word spread quickly among the trade and the locals and by sale time there was a visible level of excitement concerning the lot.
Osona asked for an opening bid of $1,000 and got it immediately from a bidder in the crowd at the rear of the hall. Bids bounced back and forth as Osona vigorously marched up and down the aisles eliciting bids from throughout the room. The auctioneer set a fast-paced and animated tone for the sale as the map climbed steadily to a selling price of $24,360.
As has been seen in years past, top of the line Nantucket baskets routinely become the top sellers at an Osona auction. This year was no exception as three stellar examples with significant local provenance were scheduled to cross the block. Listing a provenance of the early and historically important Coffin family, an unusual covered 12-inch-tall basket had been constructed so that the swing-handle extended through the domed lid, making it an integral part of the basket.
Osona described the possibly unique example as a feather gathering basket, with the auctioneer reasoning that every time the lid was lifted and a feather inserted, the top would return to the original position once the user’s hand was removed and not allow the gathered feathers to blow away in the wind. The basket was in excellent overall condition with a nice mellow color and patinated surface. Other features of the unusually constructed cover included a delicate turned mahogany wooden knob that had been woven into it and unusual drop staves that extended below the rim.
Several people in the crowd were involved in the bidding, including underbidder Miranda Holmes, the Nantucket gallery manager of Wayne Pratt Antiques, who repeatedly flashed her bid card from among the crowd gathered in the rear of the gallery. Bidding opened at $10,000 and a frantic pace was established, with the lot hammering down to a telephone bidder at $69,600.
While Holmes missed out on the covered basket, she did claim a rare open round basket with carved heart-form staves that Osona termed a “gem of a basket.” Also listing a provenance of the Coffin family, the circa 1900 basket measured 8½ inches in diameter and was just over 4 inches tall. Bidding on this lot was also brisk, with Holmes claiming it at $34,800.
A slightly wider and lower oval basket was offered next, this one also with the heart carved staves extending above the rim. As the lot was ready to cross the auction block, Osona commented that the basket was well-known to locals as it was visible in the window of a prominent home, sitting on top of a table and used as a receptacle for mail. Once again listing the Coffin family collection as provenance, the basket opened for bidding at $5,000 and was the subject of a burst of bidding, although minor damage kept the price down, with it selling reasonably to Holmes at $13,920. When questioned in regard to the baskets, Holmes commented that both had been purchased for clients.
A nice early working basket with “A. Folger” carved into the wooden bottom was one of the items that had been consigned in the days leading up to the auction. Retaining a great deep brown patina, the basket sold to a local woman for $5,800.
A selection of Impressionistic paintings of local scenes by Anne Ramsdell Congdon brought hefty prices from a variety of bidders in the crowd. “Quick Sketch from Monomoy, Nantucket,” an oil on Masonite from 1940, topped the assortment. Bidding on the lot opened at $10,000, with it hammering down moments later to a buyer in the room at $34,800.
Other Congdon paintings included a nice scene titled “View of Island Service Wharf,” sold at $26,680, an oil titled “Commercial Wharf” brought $22,040, and a view of “North Pasture” sold for $19,720.
Two paintings by Nantucket artist Frank Swift Chase were consigned just as preview for the auction began. “The Rainbow Fleet,” a colorful 8-by-10-inch oil on artist’s board, sold at $13,920, while a street scene titled “Fair and Martin’s Lane” sold at $10,440.
Other paintings in the auction included a large oil on canvas by Frank Shapleigh titled “Watching Sailboats” that depicted people on a beach gazing seaward. The 17-by-30-inch painting opened for bidding at $15,000 and was hammered down to a buyer in the room at $29,000.
A scene by James Walter Folger depicting a local Nantucket windmill, titled “Old Mill,” circa 1888, attracted a great deal of attention with it selling at $22,040. A Henry Stephens Eddy oil titled “Upper Main Street, Nantucket, sold at $12,760, a small oval Ralph Cahoon scene depicting fishermen netting mermaids brought $18,560, and a William Weisman luminous scene titled “Pioneers at Sunset” fetched $16,240.
The top lot of the furniture came as a surprise to many. The classical carved mahogany game table with dolphin supports and carved dolphin legs on casters was a sleeper in the lineup, going all but unnoticed by many that previewed the auction, spotted only by a couple of astute bidders. In a dark, worn and dirty finish with traces of the original gilt decoration and a figured mahogany top with clipped corners, the game table was visually appealing. As the lot prepared to cross the block, five phone bidders prepared for action and the chase was on, with it selling for $18,560.
A nice Queen Anne highboy sold at $8,120, a pair of Rhode Island Queen Anne chairs made $6,220, a New England serpentine front Chippendale four-drawer chest realized $11,600, and an English cupboard brought $5,800.
Two early wing chairs proved to be popular items for auctiongoers. Osona unseated the occupants who had been viewing the sale from their comfy confines to sell the lots, but they were quickly returned to their spot and the new owners were gracious enough to allow the persons originally seated there to retain possession until the end of the auction. The first of the chairs sold at $6,380, and the second brought $6,960.
A rare American Federal carved mantel attracted attention from numerous people, including Stuart Feld of Hirschl & Adler Galleries, who had sold the piece for $80,000 to a client while exhibiting at The Winter Antiques Show in 1980. After examining and measuring the mantel, it was discovered that it was shorter in its current state than it had been when Feld sold it, probably cut down to fit a fireplace. The carved pictorial central panel depicted a scene of the Battle of Lake Erie and a banner that read, “We have met the enemy †and they are ours.” The lot opened at $10,000 with two bidders seated on the center aisle, directly across from each other, competing with each other to a selling price of $58,000.
A large Serapi carpet, 11 by 18 feet, with brilliant colors, was bid by several telephone bidders, although a local homeowner seated in the front of the gallery stepped in and claimed the lot at $60,320.
Marine items also fared well, with a well executed hinged double-sided sailor’s valentine going out at $18,560, while a ship’s figurehead fragment in the form of a woman’s bust with laurels in her hair brought $10,440.
Scrimshawed items included a rare Nineteenth Century carved ivory jagging wheel with the handle carved in the form of a delicate hand. Another of the lots to have been consigned in the days leading up to the auction, the lot was the subject of fierce bidding with it selling at $22,040. Two other carved jagging wheels with intricate carved features brought $9,280 and $8,120.
A walking stick surprised many in the crowd. Inlaid with ivory, ebony, abalone and fruitwood, the rare piece, circa 1860, sold for $20,880.
Other lots of interest included a San Francisco brass binnacle compass that hammered down at $10,040; a Tiffany Studios patinated bronze floor lamp with a leaded acorn shade, $20,880; a weathered full-figure ship’s figurehead of a woman, $23,200; and an ornately carved tiller measuring 10 feet long with a dog’s head carved on the end and vine decoration extending down the sides, thought to have been of Irish origin, that also realized $23,200.
Prices include the 16 percent buyer’s premium charged. For information, contact Raphael Osona at 508-228-3942 or view www.nantucketauctions.com .
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