Published: January 22, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack
MIDDLEBORO, MASS. – A week or so before White’s January 13 auction, the National Football League decided that the divisional playoff game between the Patriots and the Los Angeles Chargers would be conducted on the same day at nearby Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Worse yet, White’s starts its sales at 1 pm, and the playoff game was scheduled for 1:05 pm. That’s not a happy coincidence for an auctioneer, but John White immediately announced on the firm’s website that there would be a large-screen television set up for live viewing of the game – and free pizza and cold drinks for all. He then hoped for the best. As it turned out, both events were winners. The auction hall was full, prices were as expected, and the Patriots won their game.
While previous sales have included five- and six-figure selling prices, there were no such expectations in this one. There were, however, numerous interesting items, and response from buyers in the room was strong, with active internet and phone bidders.
Kathryn Black, John White’s wife and business partner, enjoys researching the items in their sales, and her catalog descriptions are thorough and informative. A collection of World War II military items drew numerous bids, as did selections of jewelry, artwork, bronzes, lithographs, furniture and more. Unusual items included a human skull, a folk art portrait of a pickerel that had been important to someone, a pair of exceptional painted tintype portraits, an Art Deco mirrored console and more. White runs a fast-paced auction, and, when he can, is willing to start items well below the published minimum prices – which means buyers in the room can often get good buys.
Between the internet and buyers in the room, there were 37 bidders for the most expensive item in the sale, a 14K yellow gold necklace with a diamond of approximately 1.5 carats. It sold for $6,960. There were several other pieces of gold jewelry. A 14K yellow gold and diamond man’s bracelet with 16 alternating tank and square links earned $1,110, and a sapphire, diamond and seed pearl bracelet brought $1,050.
A selection of prints exceeded estimates. “I Got A Gal on Sourwood Mountain,” from a 1938 edition of 250 lithographs, pencil-signed by Thomas Hart Benton, (1889-1975), reached $3,360 against a high estimate of $2,000.
Have you ever wondered about sales of oysters in the mid-Nineteenth century? Apparently, it was a thriving business. A hand colored, detailed advertising lithograph, “Alexander Frazer Oyster Dealer At The Foot Of Broome Street, New York City,” depicted 13 competing oyster dealers next to one another in nearby buildings. It was a busy street scene; in addition to the 13 dealers named, there were also several horse-drawn wagons in the street. The 1890 issue of the Trow City Directory of New York lists dozens of active oyster dealers, so it was obviously a thriving business. The advertising litho sold well over estimate, finishing at $1,170. The sale also included a framed 1973 poster advertising a “Swell Dance Concert” by the Grateful Dead at the Nassau Coliseum, which seemed reasonable, selling below estimate for $240. The poster had been designed by David Byrd, well-known at the time for his concert posters. Wolfgang’s, a dealer specializing in posters, lists this poster at more than $800.
Folk art offerings were limited but included a well-done watercolor of an unusual subject – a pickerel -but it was an exceptionally large one. It must have been important to the fisherman who caught it, as the painting was noted as having been painted from life by S.T. Tisdale for John Sampson, Esq, and included the facts that fish was 2 feet long, weighed 5 pounds, 6 ounces and had been take from Flax Pond (perhaps on nearby Cape Cod) on December 23, 1841. Bearing the signatures of several witnesses to the catch, the painting sold for $930.
A late Twentieth Century turned figural tulipwood bowl by Philip Moulthrop sold on a single bid for $1,800. Philip Moulthrop is the son of Ed Moulthrop, considered by many to be the father of contemporary wood turning. His works are in several museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Renwick and others.
The sale included two watercolors by Brazilian artist Djanira da Motta e Silva (1914-1979). The brightly colored paintings, reflecting her Brazilian heritage, each sold for $1,620. A Nineteenth Century oil painting of a three-masted schooner flying an American flag reached $1,500.
While there was not a lot of early furniture in the sale, one piece, if accurately cataloged, was a good buy. According to the listing, it was an Eighteenth Century William and Mary oak spice cabinet with a raised panel door and six interior drawers. It sold for $780, a bargain if the description was accurate. A large French or Italian mahogany sideboard, late Nineteenth Century, with superb carving, sold on a single bid for $1,200. It was just under 10 feet tall and more than 6 feet wide, with a large, carved central panel that depicted mounted, battling knights, and other panels carved with urns, dolphins, a woman’s head, vines, fruit and much more.
The collection of World War II military items included American, Japanese and German items. There were several helmets, fighting knives and swords. An Airborne paratrooper helmet brought $570, a Marine combat helmet with camouflage covering sold for the same price, and a comparable German Luftwaffe camouflage helmet fetched $750. Bringing the highest rice of the weapons was a German officer’s dress dagger, inscribed with the name of the officer, which realized $1,740. The collection included a photo album with more than 400 identified wartime photos, including tanks, bombs, bombed out buildings, concentration camps and more. It drew 45 bids and finished at $1,980.
A few days after the sale, John White said that renting the television so folks could watch the Patriots game was a good idea. “Basically, it was a good sale, and stuff sold where it should,” he said. “Large pieces, like the carved sideboard, I thought were low, but things like the diamond necklace and the World War II photo album were pleasant surprises. Many of our dealer customers today are selling through the group shops, and they just don’t have room for the large pieces. Things like coins and silver are steady – no surprises there. All in all, both Kathryn and I were pleased with the results.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium, as stated by the auction house.
For additional information, www.whitesauctions.com or 508-947-9281.
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