Published: June 17, 2008
Newport estates are a surefire draw for dealers and collectors looking for antiques with interesting provenance, and auctioneer Mike Corcoran of Gustave J.S. White Auction Co., is a dependable supplier of the eclectic. His May 28 sale at Newport County Auction Gallery was no exception.
A group of 17 oil paintings by Robert Swain Gifford, not seen since before his death in 1905, was offered. The pictures had only recently been removed from the trunk in which they had been moved from his New York studio to his summer home at Nonquitt, Mass. The works included only a few signed examples; most were unframed and many had condition problems. Still, interest was high on the part of dealers, restorers and academics. Many were painted in or around Nonquitt.
Gifford was born on Nonamesset in the nearby Elizabeth Islands and painted extensively along the southern coast of Massachusetts, particularly South Nonquitt, where he built a summer home in 1886. That house, which had remained in the hands of his descendants, was the source of a solid group of offerings, including a yellow silk screen that was $345.
Gifford’s view of an Orientalist doorway sold for $1,840, while a landscape with a village in the distance sold for $1,285, as did a view of a sailboat. An oil on panel, “Gathering Salt Hay,” just 6 by 9 inches, and signed R. Swain Gifford, brought $1,265.
A view of Nonquitt attracted strong phone interest and realized $575; a view of a church or mosque was $690. An oil on mahogany board view of dunes near Nonquitt was $1,035, and another view of the Nonquitt shore was $805.
Three paintings by Gifford’s sister, Frances Eliot Gifford, brought $345. A pastel still life with fruit by Massachusetts artist Herbert A. Fish realized $863.
A landscape by Providence artist George William Whitaker realized $690, as did an unsigned Nineteenth Century portrait of a child. A Continental painting of three children was $575, and an unsigned English landscape drew $518.
Two French genre scenes, one of chess players and the other of card players, by Emile Bemindt realized $690 each. As they were hammered down, Corcoran reminded some bidders who were leaving the gallery, “It’s awfully rude to leave a sale before it’s over.”
An 1877 bird’s-eye view of Fall River, Mass., sold for $920, and three Fall River Line photographs went for $86.
Furniture of interest included a Continental bombe three-drawer chest that realized $1,380 from a Maine dealer. A mahogany bedroom set comprising a chest, dresser, bed and stand sold for $1,438, and a mahogany dressing table with a mirror was $230.
An oak coffin table, which auctioneer Mike Corcoran demonstrated cheerfully, realized $1,955 from a phone bidder. A bench from the same Watch Hill, R.I., home was $345. An oak table on an octagonal base and five leaves that opened to ten feet realized $690 and a lot of eight oak chairs also drew $690. A midcentury or earlier steel and oak chair from the cellar of the same house went to the Albany trade for $575.
A pretty French fire screen and chenets from the coastal home of two retired priests who were brothers sold for $633.
There was much furniture to choose from: a fine mahogany card table sold for $1,783, and a server with rope twist legs was $518. A Sheraton desk went to the Tiverton, R.I., trade for $633, and an elaborate Baltimore desk fetched $690, while a mahogany slant front clerk’s desk was $173.
A flame mahogany chest with a marble top and glass pulls sold for $288, and a small red painted cabinet with a robin’s-egg blue interior was $633.
A two-door cabinet with glazed doors came from a Jamestown, R.I., house and sold for $460.
A cannonball bed sold for $115, and a child’s Boston rocker was $86. A carved sofa sold for $920, and a Kittinger Queen Anne-style wing chair realized $345, while a pair of 1960s wing chairs drew $403.
When a mahogany drop leaf table brought a mere $86, Corcoran waxed eloquently on one of his favorite themes †bottom feeders †which only made the audience laugh.
A lot of two similar floor lamps, one of which was Continental, possibly Venetian, and the other a more recent piece, sold for $460.
Buyers gobbled up the silver offered: a tray lot of miscellaneous sterling flatware sold for $2,415 to the same area dealer specializing in silver who paid $1,725 for a tray lot of Gorham flatware and $1,610 for a third tray lot of flatware. He took an English sterling tea set for $1,725 and a Tiffany tea set for $1,495, along with a smaller Tiffany tea set that was $575. A lot of six julep cups made $690.
Two nice George III mahogany serving trays brought $575 from a Cape Cod dealer who left the bid; a copper tray was $230, and a circular brass table drew $575.
An incomplete Spode dinner service in the red and white Camilla pattern sold for $230, and a Lenox cream and white service was $633.
A late Nineteenth Century Sublime Harmony Bells Swiss ten-tune cylinder music box by Geneva maker F. Conchon went for $2,300. A large rosewood jewelry box with two drawers below a storage compartment made $345.
A full-bodied horse weathervane had been regilded and sold for $403 to dealers from Albany, N.Y. Then a relief carving of a 128-gun English man-of-war, flying the Union Jack, sold for $1,840, and a lot of three swords was $690.
A lot of nautical instruments sold to the New Bedford Whaling Museum for $200.
Several lots of table linens realized prices ranging from $28 to $230. A tray lot of Rose Medallion demitasse was $230, and a pink Paris porcelain vase sold for $201.
One lot that comprised the peculiar combination of a coffee grinder and a leather opera hat box was an impressive $374.
A popular feature of most sales at the Newport County Auction is the “walkaround,” during which Corcoran and manager Paul J. Murphy sell off the uncataloged objects on view in the back of the capacious gallery and/or outside †depending on the quantity and the weather. The crowd follows them around. During this walk, a table lot of six baskets attracted $173 and a Gothic center table was $201. A marble cross was heavy and sold for $12. A large Vuitton trunk with a label but without the ubiquitous “LVs” went for $575. A table lot of antique wooden planes from the collection of a local cabinetmaker included a lignum vitae example and sold for $403.
A set of green steel patio furniture was one of several for sale, going for $259.
All prices quoted reflect the 15 percent buyer’s premium.
Gustave J.S. White is at 37 Bellevue Avenue, Newport. Newport County Auction Gallery is at 1676 East Main Road. For information, 401-841-5780.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm