Published: September 18, 2007
Northeast Auctions’ August 18‱9 sale was a cool, breezy affair, with gusts of wind lifting tent flaps and prices at Treadwell House in historic Portsmouth. Minus the collection of John S. du Mont, sold on Sunday for $1.58 million, the various-owners auction grossed $4.65 million on assorted marine paintings and prints, figureheads, and Chinese paintings, furniture and porcelain made for the West.
This year, a luminous view of the Newburyport, Mass., vessel Joshua Bates drew attention. Depicting the ship off Whampoa anchorage, the signed, mid-Nineteenth Century oil on canvas is one of a handful of similar works by Sunqua. It sold mid-estimate, for $226,000. Northeast sold Sunqua’s portrait of the ship Samuel Russell , also off Whampoa, for $222,500 in 2003.
Northeast Auctions consultant Carl Crossman was pleased to offer a complete set of 12 reverse allegorical paintings on glass of the seasons. The only other known set of 12, in a larger format, is at Winterthur. A partial set of nine is at Peabody Essex Museum. Northeast got $84,100 for the group, framed under repainted mats.
Dating to circa 1820, a companion pair of oil on canvas paintings depicting the manufacture of silk and the cultivation of tea brought $51,040 and $46,400. Both are attributed to the Cantonese painter Fatqua.
China Trade painting is not limited to conventional Western formats. Fans are highly collectible, as a 10½-inch-long example illustrated with a view of Hong Kong and still in its original lacquer case demonstrated when it made $29,000. The view is what counts. Canton and Macao views are most desirable.
Chinese furniture for the Western market is hard to find, but Northeast had two pieces of special interest. Inlaid with ebony and ivory, a carved hardwood games table illustrated in Crossman’s reference, The Decorative Arts of The China Trade, left the room at $46,400. An imposing slant front desk with a heavily carved base and later brasses netted $32,480.
A strap-handled Chinese porcelain covered soup tureen from the maritime service of Commodore Stephen Decatur fetched $24,360, and a 15-inch hunt bowl brought $18,560. Another punch bowl, 20½ inches in diameter and decorated with alternating rows of green and gold bellflowers, garnered $22,040. It was one of 60 lots consigned by the Art Institute of Chicago.
“My feeling is that it was made for something like the 1876 Centennial or the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893,” Crossman said of a meticulously rendered Japanese carved and incised ivory eagle, $369,000, with a 42-inch wingspan.
Collectors regard Northeast as a source for eagle plaques by John Haley Bellamy. This year’s offering included one painted and gilded example, 26 inches long, bearing the banner “Faith, Hope and Charity.” It made $60,900. Later, property from the collection of Glenn S. Foster produced a gilded Bellamy eagle, 24½ inches long, atop two crossed and draped American flags. It sold for $101,500.
Consigned by the New Bedford Whaling Museum, seven carved and painted figures spurred investigation. Leading the group was a 73-inch-tall figure of a golden-haired woman, $98,600. A second three-quarter length figurehead of a woman brought $29,000; a half-length carved figurehead of Admiral Collingwood, a hero of the Battle of Trafalgar, $20,880; and a bust-length figurehead of a woman, not repainted, $20,880.
Scrimshaw was scarce in this sale, though a pair of whale’s teeth engraved with patriotic motifs and inscriptions coaxed a bid of $49,300.
Northeast’s ability to sell outside its reputation was demonstrated by “Logs,” a watercolor on paper by Andrew Wyeth. From a New England estate, it surpassed estimate, making $104,400.
More predictable was ” The Volunteer and The Thistle Returning from Sandy Hook, America’s Cup Race, 1887,” an 8-by-12-inch oil on board by James Edward Buttersworth, $63,800; “Our Little Angel” by Cape Cod artist Ralph Cahoon, an 11-by-14- inch oil on board, $40,600; “Winter, Gloucester Harbor” by Frederick J. Mulhaupt, $31,320; and “Gloucester Harbor at Sunset” by Emile Gruppe, a 20-by-24-inch oil on canvas, $26,000.
Well stocked with prints, the auction produced Audubons and Currier & Ives along with rare impressions of historical interest. Of note was a pair of large-folio lithographs depicting the USS Columbus and Vincennes in Jeddo Bay, Japan, in 1846. From sketches by John Eastley, the uncolored works, illustrating the first American attempt to establish contact with Japan, went to an absentee buyer for $23,200.
Several dozen lots came from India House, a New York club founded in 1914 for foreign trade merchants. Leading the assortment was Samuel Walters oil on canvas painting “The American Ship Champlain ,” $60,900, and James Guy Evans’ “Arrival of Genl. Z. Taylor & Staff at Balize on The U.S. Steam Ship Monmouth , B.T. Willse Commander, November 30th, 1847.” The latter met estimate, selling for $40,600.
Prices include buyer’s premium. For information, 603-433-8400 or www.northeastauctions.com .
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