Published: October 11, 2022
Review by Rick Russack, Photos Courtesy Tremont Auctions
SUDBURY, MASS. – If presale estimates are a guide, the October 2 sale at Tremont Auctions was a success story. The pieces that brought the three top prices of the sale had a combined high estimate of $12,500. The total selling price, with buyer’s premium, for the three lots was $57,120. It was a strong sale, with a varied selection of American and European paintings, woodblock prints, jewelry, silver, maps, watches, furniture, KPM portrait plaques and more.
The top selling item was a Sixteenth Century landscape by an unknown artist that depicted numerous figures enjoying sporting pastimes in an Elizabethan courtyard, set in a larger landscape with mountains, a river and a walled city or castle. Some of the figures appeared to be fencing, some playing a tennis-like game, some were practicing archery, and there were others. It was an oil on oak panel and sold for $29,750. This painting, and others in the sale, had been withdrawn from Tremont’s April sale because of the concerns of an estate attorney; ultimately, those concerns were satisfied.
Another painting brought the second highest price of the sale, $14,280. The two could not have been more different. It was painted by Ernest Leonard Blumenschein (American, 1874-1960), a founder of the Taos Society of Artists and depicted a winter scene of a canyon in New Mexico. The consignor had asked the artist’s wife for additional information and a letter attached to the rear of the painting stated that it was done in 1946, as a study for a large painting at the time in a private collection. Blumenschein’s works are in several museums in the Southwest. Another Western painting that did well was “Mantle of Sunshine” by Hanson Puthuff (American, 1875-1972). He is best known for Western landscapes, like this one, and won several awards in the early Twentieth Century. It earned $11,305.
While there were numerous paintings in the sale, there was one that you couldn’t help but notice. It was a scene in the Scottish Highlands depicting a herd of Highland cattle grazing, with a large one directly staring at the viewer. It brought $7,320 and had been painted about 1900 by Louis B. Hurt (British, 1856-1929). Hurt and his wife raised Highland cattle and he often painted his own herd.
It was a good day for other fine art, especially for a group of eight woodblock prints by Elizabeth Keith (Scottish, 1887-1956). All came from the Scotchford-Wheeler home, the oldest house in nearby Concord, Mass. The house has been in the same family for more than 300 years but was recently put up for sale. One of Keith’s woodblocks, “Flower Street, Hong Kong” sold for $5,712, while the lowest price for any in the group was $1,159. All were estimated far lower. Keith’s works depict Asian life and culture, inspired by a trip to Japan when she was in her 20s and from time she spent in Asia later. Although not stated on the prints, according to the Internet, edition sizes ranged between 30 and 50 copies of each. These had never been framed.
There were also a group of similar woodblock prints by Lilian Miller (American, 1895-1943). Miller was born in Tokyo and spent time in Korea, so she was illustrating scenes she knew well. She and Keith were good friends at one point in their lives. All of these woodblock prints were found in a portfolio in the home, but the family did not think they warranted sale at auction. Tremont owner Brett Downer thought differently and said, “I thought they were good. I haven’t seen very many over the years and I wasn’t sure about edition sizes, so we estimated on the conservative side. They were all in a portfolio meaning the colors were really bright and the contents of that portfolio wound up selling for more than $36,000. We’ll have more Asian stuff from the family in our next sale.” Keith’s works are in several museum collections, including the British Museum.
Tremont’s sales always include a sizeable selection of silver and this sale had more than 60 lots, both American and continental. Among the more unusual, but certainly not the highest priced, was a group of Judaica silver. One piece was described as an early Russian silver Israeli charity box. It was engraved with floral designs and a Judaic inscription. These were most often used in synagogues as receptacles for donations, while some were used in homes. The tradition of charity boxes dates back to very early days. This one, 5½ inches tall, sold for $446. Another Judaica piece was described as an “antique silver Judaica spice tower with open filigree decoration on cup feet and banner flags on turrets.” It was 9½ inches tall and it earned what seemed a reasonable price, selling for $149. A large Gorham sterling silver centerpiece bowl with a gilt body was the leader of the silver category, earning $4,284. An S. Kirk & Son sterling teapot with a pierced platform base, a figural stag finial, floral garland repousse decoration and an armorial crest on the cover brought $3,094.
European decorative arts also did well. A circa 1900 Louis XV-style ormolu mounted commode with heavy ormolu mounts, in the manner of Stockel and Benneman, earned $11,900. It had a shaped marble top over three drawers, with a large center lion mask above cabinet doors; behind the doors were six more drawers. Stockel and Benneman, were Eighteenth Century Parisian designers who worked for Marie Antoinette and others. A Louis XV-style gilt-bronze, mahogany and fruit wood vitrine, attributed to François Linke, Paris circa 1900 earned $8,330. Linke (1855-1946) was a leading Parisian cabinetmaker of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. A large, heavy Louis XV-style gilt-bronze French Rococo shelf clock, dating to the mid-Nineteenth Century, earned $2,618. The movement had been made by Victor Dewint, Paris.
In addition to several lots of Dedham pottery there was also an unmarked Joseph A. Driscoll Paul Revere Pottery duck-form flower frog in yellow and aqua glazes. It brought $153. Brother Thomas studio pottery may have slipped under the radar. A deep crimson apple form vase with a raised spout sold for $427 and a small sugar and creamer sold for $122, below its estimate.
Four early maps included two Seventeenth Century examples by Jodocus Hondius (1563-1612). One, with hand-colored borders, decorations of sea monsters and ships, showing India, Thailand, Borneo, China and surrounding regions, sold for $1,098. The other, with hand-colored borders and decorations of mermaids, Indigenous peoples and ships depicted Thailand, China, Borneo, Malaysia, Sumatra, the Philippines and surrounding regions. It sold for $793.
Of most interest to collectors of American maps was The Provinces of New York, and New Jersey; with part of Pensilvania [sic], and the Province of Quebec. Drawn by Major Holland, Surveyor General of the Northern District of America. Corrected and Improved from the Original Materials by Governor Pownall, Member of Parliament. It had been published by Harry Lodowick Broenner in 1777 but originally had been published in 1768 and later revised. It details settlements along the banks of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers. The “Unexplored Adirondack Country” is left entirely blank, with a lengthy notation that identified it as, “the Beaver Hunting Country of the Confederated Indians.” It had three additional inset maps and realized $1,904.
A few days after the sale, Brett Downer said he thought the sale did well. “I’m not sure if there are recession jitters out there but I thought some of the items, mostly paintings, that were passed should have sold. Not many lots were passed and there were some surprisingly strong results for several items. The first one that would come to mind would be the articulated horse artist’s model. Bidders obviously thought differently about that than I did. The woodblock prints did well, and that consignor is very happy, not expecting anything close to what they sold for. We have more things coming from that home. Some of the jewelry did well and the French furniture and bronzes also did well. We grossed well over $550,000 so we’re all pleased.”
Tremont Auctions’ next sale is scheduled for November 13.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For additional information, www.tremontauctions.com or 617-795-1678.
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