Published: July 25, 2023
Review By Rick Russack; Catalog Photos Courtesy Devin Moisan Auctioneers
EPPING, N.H. — Those sleepers and surprises resulted in a sale that generated nearly $1 million with strength across the board for Devin Moisan Auctioneers’ July 15-16 sale. It was topped by a 1974 inside-painted Chinese snuff bottle of clear amethyst glass by Wang-Hsi (Xisan) which finished at $19,375, more than 20 times the estimate. The runner-up, at $16,250, was a pair of Prairie-school windows designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the circa 1909 Steffens house in Chicago. The house was demolished in 1963; the windows are now mounted in a custom-made oak frame. In addition, there were marine paintings, redware, American Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century furniture, a collection of gold coins, early glass and ceramics, muskets and swords, silver, decoys, early lighting, midcentury American and Italian pottery, American art pottery and more. Perhaps the most nostalgic item in the sale was the sign that hung in front of Russell Carell’s Connecticut antique shop, which sadly sold for just $156. At one time, Carell managed 28 antiques shows including the Winter Antiques Show (now The Winter Show) in New York City.
Moisan has become well-known for selling midcentury studio pottery made by Edwin and Mary Scheier and this sale included some pieces with unique provenance, having come directly from the home the Scheiers lived in until 1968. Beginning in 1940, the couple lived in Durham, N.H., where Ed taught pottery classes at the University of New Hampshire until retiring. Mary was an artist-in-residence and frequently assisted him. When they left New Hampshire and sold their home, which was bought by colleagues of theirs at the university, several items, including pottery, weavings, wood carvings and paintings they had made stayed in the house and have not been offered for sale until now. It was a unique chance for collectors to acquire items with impeccable provenance and they took advantage of the opportunity. One of the sale’s highest prices — $9,375 — was achieved by a signed stoneware chalice-form vase, nearly 19 inches tall, glazed in robin’s egg blue, with sgraffito and applied decoration and rows of overlapped figures, interspersed with African-style shields.
Unique and of particular interest, and perhaps a very good buy, was a late Nineteenth Century Southern walnut cupboard, with added carved panels. The panels were carved by Ed, circa 1937, while the couple lived in Virginia; one shows Mary throwing a vase on her wheel, the other shows Ed sculpting a figure at his bench. It came from their Durham home and realized $2,625. This piece also had never been offered for sale. This cabinet is discussed in Michael Komanecky’s catalog of a 1993 Scheier exhibit at the Currier Gallery of Art in Manchester, N.H.
More than 70 pieces of Twentieth Century pottery made by Italian potters Guido Gambone (1909-1969) and his son Bruno (1936-2021) were offered. It all came from a Gloucester, Mass., collection. The elder Gambone had his first exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 1950, with subsequent ones after that. Bruno often combined bright colors with imaginative, abstract animals, and the works of father and son are sought-after by both American and European collectors. The Gloucester family that had assembled the collection had traveled overseas, where some of the pieces were bought. Most popular with bidders was a very colorful seated lion made by Bruno, more than 14 inches tall. The catalog dated it as from the 1970s to 1990s; it realized $5,312. It, along with much of the collection, exceeded estimates. Figures of horses and steer were also popular, with a 17½-inch blue horse, made by Guido that dated to the 1950s or 1960s. It earned $2,250, while a stoneware bull brought $1,725.
The same couple from Gloucester also collected Italian glass. Fulvio Bianconi’s signed black guinea fowl, with colored comb, eyes and beak, circa 1953, realized $1,500. A pair of hens by the same artist flew to $1,188. A 1998 erotic satyr wine glass by Lucio Bubacco topped off at $938. A vase in the shape of a tall, slender upright fish with applied eyes, cased in striped purple glass with patches of blue over white glass, acid etched “Barovier & Toso Murano,” was sold for $375. There were several more pieces in the collection, which made for a colorful display.
American furniture did better than it has in some other sales recently. There were examples covering more than a 250-year time span. A circa 1760-80 Chippendale lowboy, probably from Salem, Mass., earned $8,750. Of mahogany, it had shell carving and ball and claw feet. Selling for $3,500 was a nice Sheraton mahogany and flame birch folding-top card table, circa 1805-20. It once belonged to ship captain Otis Fall, of Portsmouth, N.H., and bore his brand. Brock Jobe, in Portsmouth Furniture: Masterworks from the New Hampshire Seacoast (1993) discusses other pieces with that brand. A Pennsylvania Federal period walnut tall case clock made by Benjamin Whitman in Reading, Penn., about 1810-25 brought $3,125.
Bracketing the 250-year time span was a circa 1940 club chair made by Thomas Molesworth, Shoshone or Wyoming Furniture Company, Cody, Wyo. It was constructed of heavy stained burlwood and fir with brass fittings and upholstered in burgundy leather with mechanically carved panels of bighorn elk. This chair traded hands at $10,938.
As mentioned previously, there was strength across several categories. Fine art included “Moonlight,” a romantic landscape by American artist Ralph Albert Blakelock (1847-1919). It had been bought from Robert Vose, Boston, in 1926 and reached $12,188. The solitude of moonlight was reflected in many of his paintings and his work today is in several major museum collections. Not far behind, bringing $11,875, was “Snowy Walk” a rural scene by John Fabian Carlson (1875-1947). There were other paintings that also did well.
In addition to the snuff bottle mentioned at the beginning of this review, several other Chinese items drew competitive bidding, including export porcelain. A set of three circa 1820 famille rose soup plates, finely painted with a Mandarin scene in the center and butterflies on the rim, went out at $7,500, far above the estimate. A mid-Nineteenth Century 13-inch celadon charger with a group of court figures in a pavilion, surrounded by a wide border of dragons and foo lions, made $7,188, also exceeding expectations. There were more than two dozen other snuff bottles: a mottled green jade example sold for $5,938; an overlay pink glass one finished at $3,625; a carved quartz specimen sold for $2,625 and a carved aquamarine beryl snuff bottle sold for $2,375.
Other surprises were seen in the many one-of-a kind things that took advantage of the breadth of the market and the reach of the internet. A late Nineteenth Century mahogany and gilt-metal Christmas tree stand with a disc music box in its base sold for $7,188. It was made by Leopold Mitsching, Elberfeld, Germany; as the music played the Christmas tree would revolve. A very early jointed and well-loved Steiff cat brought $532.
One of the biggest surprises of the day, selling for $12,500 and almost 10 times its high estimate was an 1845 manuscript patent agreement between Elias Howe Jr and George Fisher concerning Howe’s recent invention of a sewing machine. A French shagreen and silver-mounted cased set of drawing equipment, made by Canivet a La Sphere of Paris, circa 1830, realized $4,063.
After the sale, a pleased Devin Moisan said, “Aside from the total, $968,000, what I liked best about the sale was the way the market reacted to some of the collections. The large collections of Italian glass and pottery, and the art pottery, represented years of one couple’s dedication to their collections. It’s nice to know that their collections will be appreciated by a new generation. We reached international buyers; some of the Chinese things went to Taiwan and some went to buyers in this country. Same with the Italian pottery — some went to European buyers and some to American buyers. And the American furniture did well, given the reality of today’s market.”
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For additional information, www.moisanauctions.com or 603-953-0022.
September 19, 2023
September 19, 2023
September 19, 2023
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