Review by Z.G. Burnett, Photos Courtesy of New England Auctions, Fred Giampietro
BRANFORD, CONN. — Fred Giampietro’s New England Auctions conducted the Americana Collection of Jeannine Dobbs & The Estate of Jonathan Rickard on April 20, featuring 445 lots of American folk art, furniture, quilts, decoys, ceramics and more, as well as a small selection of contemporary automobiles. Dobbs (1935-2020) was a lifelong educator and antiques collector, and Rickard (1942-2022) was a noted mochaware collector and scholar. Each of the top lots either exceeded or more than doubled their estimates, and the auction totaled $620,078.
Portraits from known artists and schools were the most successful Americana category in the sale overall. A pair of portraits by Ralph Curtis (1808-1885), also known as the Long Neck Artist, was the highest earning Americana lot at $20,000. Curtis was born, lived and worked in New York state until relocating to Michigan in the 1840s. Both portraits were painted in oil on two joined panels circa 1830; the boards of the man’s portrait showed slight separation. Following this in price was a profile portrait of a young woman by Ruth Henshaw Bascom (1772-1848), also dated circa 1830, that was in excellent condition and bid to $13,750. Bascom began her artistic practice with pastel portraits of friends and family, often giving them as gifts but sometimes receiving payment, and is believed to have made about 1,400 portraits. This portrait is one of around 200 known to exist. Next was a Prior Hamblin school portrait of a girl wearing a yellow dress in excellent condition, painted in oil on canvas circa 1840 and probably with its original frame, that achieved $10,000.
Furniture and decorative art lots showed exponential results in comparison with their estimates and three of these lots reached $7,500, including the top furniture lot. This was a small New England corner cupboard with early brown exterior and interior salmon paint and constructed from square nails. From the Nineteenth Century, the seemingly simple cabinet showed beaded molding on the edges. Next in the catalog was an early pair of women’s shoes with flame-stitch embroidered flowers. Dated circa 1800, the shoes had minor imperfections and were in excellent condition for their age. Following this in price for $6,875 was a signal cannon for Brown and Co, New Haven, Conn., from the late Nineteenth Century, that also barely looked its age.
Bidders favored containers in this auction. A pair of two Nineteenth Century New England pantry boxes, an apple green-painted coffee box with stenciled letters and a taupe oatmeal box with hand-painted letters, achieved $6,144. Following this in price was a yellow-painted Shaker box from the Nineteenth Century from the Northeast in very good original condition that sold for $5,500. Matching this in color was a Nineteenth Century swing handle basket from New England in fantastic original condition at $5,632.
The top two lots from the Rickard estate were exquisite examples of their medium. First was a North Devon earthenware pitcher showing a sgraffito mariner’s compass, flowers and vines, as well as a harvest-themed inscription on the rear surface. The pitcher was dated 1830 in this rondel, and it also sold for $5,500. Second was an English mochaware mug dated to 1800 with a side crack and light base chips that nonetheless achieved $4,750. Before joining the Rickard estate, the mug belonged to the William Lewan Collection and is illustrated in Rickard’s Mocha and Related Dipped Wares, 1770-1939 (2006).
Gameboards and toys were also popular. One Nineteenth Century two-sided gameboard from New England, vibrantly decorated with original paint and minor wear, was bid to $5,376, and another colorful circa 1900 Parcheesi gameboard in original condition went for $4,750. Next a carved and painted Nineteenth Century “Noah’s Ark” set also achieved that price; described as in “fine original” condition, only one hinge from the opening top had been moved and each pair of animals was intact.
In addition to the slippers, the sale included a small assortment of textile arts that also reached $4,750. One of these was a group lot containing 27 pieces of Nineteenth Century velvet fruit in a range of sizes, all of which only showed minor imperfections. Another was a small needlework sampler signed Mary Parker, circa 1825, that showed three houses against a moon and sun-lit sky.
Contemporary cars were an unusual addition to a folk art sale, but three of these were prominent sales in the upper lots. A 2003 Lexus GX470 led the category with $26,250 ($15/25,000), followed by a 2005 Mazda Miata MX5 at $12,500 ($4/6,000). Both of these had low mileage. The third car in the top lots was a 2010 BMW X3 with high mileage and described as in running condition, this sold for $7,040 ($3/5,000).
Prices quoted with buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. The Americana Collection of Janice and Bernard Phaneuf will be conducted by New England Auctions on June 21. For more information, www.neauction.com or 475-234-5120.