Published: June 5, 2001
By Laura Beach
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – May is the month that Northeast Auction hosts its annual “Home and Garden” sale. The fare is eclectic, often with a strong continental emphasis, and the audience is diverse. It was all the more so this May 18-20 when Northeast joined several highly specialized collections together to create an auction that started with Sandwich glass, ended with Georgian silver, and grossed $2.9 million.
From Ceramics to Prints
Under a tent at Treadwell House, Northeast’s Portsmouth headquarters, the auction began at noon on Friday, May 18. Featured were American historical prints from the collection of Robert Wieland, who dealt from his home in Ormond Beach, Fla.
“Bob was one of the most beloved Currier & Ives specialists. This was the residue of his inventory and personal collection. Over the years he had sold much of what he had, but his was a great name to be associated with the material,” noted auctioneer Ron Bourgeault.
Three very good winter scenes, one of Currier & Ives’ most desirable subjects, were the group’s bestsellers. All were large-folio lithographs after G.H. Durrie. “Winter In The Country. A Cold Morning” made $6,600; “The Farmer’s Home – Winter,” also after Durrie, $6,400; and “Winter Morning. Feeding The Chickens,” $5,000.
From another source, one lot containing four fire subjects after L. Maurer – “Always Ready,” “Facing The Enemy,” “Prompt to the Rescue,” and “Rushing to the Conflict” – in grain-painted frames went for $5,000. (Prices do not include buyer’s premium.)
Phillips Exeter Academy consigned its Martha F. and Franklyn Stanley Morse Collection of Early American Glass, which had been on loan to the Exeter Inn. Northeast offered overlay and other lamps from D. Quinn Mills.
“The overlay lamps did not do well,” said Bourgeault. He attributed results in part to changing fashions, recalling a time of much greater interest almost a half century ago. He also noted, “Selling them without estimate would have sparked more interest.”
Sandwich glass candlesticks and vases in a range of colors included a pair of Boston and Sandwich Glass Company tulip vases in pressed amethyst, $3,400. A Sandwich twisted loop vase in amethyst went out at $2,700. Later, an opaque, pale blue Oak Leaf and Acorn cup plate, possibly by New England Glass, 3 1/2 inches in diameter, drew a bid of $2,200. A clear blown glass bank with applied threaded and berried elements sold for its low estimate, $3,000.
In a group of 12 Sandwich lamps, the tallest was also the most expensive. The rare cut-cranberry glass banquet lamp with overlay Moorish panel, 23 inches high, was knocked down at $12,000, its high estimate. Cape Cod auctioneer Richard Bourne sold the lamp in 1989 as part of the Thuro Collection, reportedly for several thousand dollars more. A 25 1/2-inch tall Sandwich cut cobalt and white double overlay lamp brought $5,000.
Glass paperweights were among the handful of lots passed in three days of sales. Two weights that did sell were Baccarat faceted sulfide examples, showing Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and bringing only $225. In the blown-glass category, honors went to an olive-green pitcher, 5-1/2 inches tall, ex-McKearin collection, $3,900.
The top piece of Dedham pottery was not one of the more recognizable blue-and-white wares, but a baluster-form vase, 11 1/2 inches tall, in “Volcanic” glaze. Fashioned by Hugh Cornwall Robertson, it sold for $2,500, its low estimate.
Leading historical blue Staffordshire was a soup tureen from the Quadruped series with a camel cartouche, $4,250. An 18 1/2-inch platter printed with elephants, from the Zoological series, achieved $3,600. Prices for Bennington pottery topped out at $2,200, the amount paid for a “Bennington Battle” flint-enamel book flask, 11 inches tall, $2,200.
A 1754 edition of the Gentleman’s and Cabinetmaker’s Director by Thomas Chippendale was a good buy at $2,000. Percy Macquoid’s 1905 A History of English Furniture made $450, while a bid of $325 took R.T.H. Halsey’s 1899 study on Staffordshire.
Inventory of Fred Johnston
The inventory of the late Fred J. Johnston, an antiques dealer from the 1940s, was auctioned on Saturday, May 19. In the catalogue, Bourgeault included some personal recollections of the dealer, who he met at the Kent Antiques Show in the late 1960s.
“…From that time on he always made a purchase in my booth,” wrote the auctioneer. “His shop in historic Kingston, N.Y., was a treasure trove visited by curators, collectors and dealers. Fred sold to major museums and collectors, and had a close association with Henry Francis du Pont…”. Following Johnston’s death, his Federal home was turned into a museum of American furnishings and accessories.
The Johnston trove, almost 400 lots in all, was consigned by the dealer’s former business partner, Robert A. Slater of Kingston. The consignment included some of the best, and worst, fare offered this sale. Some specialists who inspected the furniture said that many pieces were restored. Slater and Bourgeault agreed that the entire consignment should be sold without estimates or reserves. “I think some things went a little lower as a result, but we had very few buy-ins,” noted the auctioneer.
Bourgeault said, “Johnston was one of the old-time dealers who wasn’t as concerned with original finish and condition. But he had some great things. He never discounted his prices, so he had inventory, some of it very good, for a long time.”
Early New England furniture is clearly enjoying a revival. A year ago, Northeast auctioned a Pilgrim Century great chair for $140,000. It had been on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In the Johnston session, two early chairs and blanket box lead. A Massachusetts great chair with a slatted back, rather than a spindled back like the MFA chair, advanced to $26,000 in heated competition between two bidders.
Identified as a Boston work, a Pilgrim Century blanket chest with molded top and stiles, paneled front and one drawer, fetched $20,000. “Its color has been enhanced but it’s structurally pure,” said the delighted buyer.
“It had wonderful shape and some restoration. Its feet were pieced,” Bourgeault said of a Piscatagua River, N.H., crown armchair with a carved crest and block-and-ring turnings. Sold for $19,000, the chair is associated with local gentry, Sir William and Lady Pepperell.
Given the Hudson River Valley setting of his business, Johnston’s taste naturally ran to New York furniture and the kind of brass, delft, and sophisticated portraiture that one associates with the manor houses of the area’s wealthy Anglo-Dutch ruling class.
An avid bidder for this and other material was New York dealer Jonathan Trace, whose many purchases included a delft posset pot for $5,750; a New York mahogany chest of drawers with molded top and ball-and-claw feet, $7,250; a New York Chippendale mahogany card table, $6,000; and a 14-inch Hudson River Valley Queen Anne yoke-back armchair, $8,000. Also added to Trace’s account was a veneered walnut Massachusetts lowboy, $15,000; and a New London County chest-on-chest, $20,000.
Maine dealer Don Heller took three New York chairs with pierced Gothic backs for $5,500; a Massachusetts mahogany chest of drawers, $17,000; and a Massachusetts walnut inlaid flattop highboy, $9,000.
“Southern furniture is very saleable,” the auctioneer observed of a Baltimore Hepplewhite side chair with fan, urn and bellflower inlays. It sold to a bidder in the room for $21,000.
A New England Queen Anne cherry bonnet-top highboy also garnered $21,000. Five Rhode Island Chippendale mahogany chairs with Greene family provenance crossed the block at $22,000. Some experts who looked at a walnut chest-on-chest thought it was a married piece. Commensurate with that assessment, the casepiece brought $19,000.
Of the many mirrors in the Johnston session, a mahogany and giltwood looking glass with Portsmouth, N.H. provenance fetched $12,000. The highest bid for a flagpole eagle, of which there were several, was $2,200.
English Taste and a Midwest Museum
On May 20, Northeast featured property from two well-known antiques firms plus material deaccessioned by the Minneapolis Museum of Art.
First up were household furnishings from Joseph M. and A. Carol Williams, North Shore dealers who did business under the name English Manor Antiques. In 1960, Joe Williams purchased the contents of Mint House, an antiques shop in Pevensey, Sussex, and had the contents shipped to his home in Prides Crossing, Mass. He operated English Manor Antiques, which exhibited at the Winter Antiques Show in New York and the Ellis Memorial Antiques Show in Boston, out of the third floor of his home. Williams died in 1978; his wife died last year.
Competition was fierce when a rosewood cabinet bookcase with a marble top and ormolu mounts in the form of a lion’s head, ribbed ovals, and caryatids with Egyptian busts sold for $29,000 against an estimate of $6/9,000 to an anonymous bidder in the room.
An oak gate-leg table from the group fetched $4,750; an assembled set of yew wood Windsor armchairs, $6,500; a Queen Anne walnut veneered high chest on stand, $3,500; and a William and Mary marquetry cabinet, $3,500. As it had the day before, miniature furniture exerted its charm when two tiny Windsors sold to an absentee bidder for $5,250.
The best selling lot of the day came from The Virginians. Dealers Walter Angel and Bill Dennis began their partnership in St Louis but later moved to Fredericksberg, Va. When they retired, they sold their beautiful, historic home to John and Barbara Suval. Walter has since passed on, but Bill is living in Fort Lauderdale. Several years ago, Northeast auctioned The Virginians’ inventory. This was their personal collection.
“This was The Virginians’ pride and joy,” said the auctioneer, presenting an Irish George II mahogany console table with white marble top, shell and Greek key carving, and paw feet. Five phone bidders battled it out before the table sold for $28,000 (est $9/15,000).
An open armchair with rich carvings on its arms and knees and “all the bells and whistles,” sold for $11,000 to Clinton Howell, a prominent English furniture specialist with showrooms in Manhattan and Bedford, N.Y. Apparently, Northeast had miscatalogued the piece, which was described as “Georgian-style” and not illustrated in the catalogue.
Bourgeault’s first auction was in 1977, when he liquidated the contents of a barn given to the Boston-based Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. Since then, he has handled many other museum deaccessions, usually at zero commission.
The Minneapolis Museum of Art consigned 50 lots, the most expensive of which was a pair of English Hepplewhite mahogany demilune card tables. Extensively inlaid with fans, swags and bellflowers, they sold to an absentee bidder for $25,000. One of the prettiest pieces was a baroque walnut sofa covered with antique tapestry in soft greens and blues. At $11,500, it was a good buy for Boston dealer Stephen Score.
The May sale also included property from the estate of J. Watson Webb, Jr., son of Electra Havemeyer Webb, and from the estate of Margaret Wilkins, mother of Massachusetts dealer Robert Wilkins. The latter was sold in her memory to benefit a favorite charity, the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in her hometown of Newburyport.
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