Published: October 19, 2015
Review and Onsite Photos By Rick Russack, Catalog Photos Courtesy The Cobbs
PETERBOROUGH, N.H. — The Cobbs auction gallery is in a restored mill building at Noone Falls, which can trace its heritage back to 1759, and is complete with a rushing river, a waterfall and at this time of year, colorful fall foliage. Inside, the salesroom was packed with a capacity crowd of more than 100 bidders, who came to take home a variety of paintings, scrimshaw, rugs, jewelry, toys and furniture, October 3.
The top selling lot of the day was a large painting of Mount Washington by one of the masters of White Mountains landscape painting, Benjamin Champney. Numerous toy and doll lots included the largest Victorian cube puzzle ever, dollhouses, dolls and a 27-piece lot of Schoenhut circus figures. American furniture included a small Shaker schoolroom desk, probably from Enfield, and there were several pieces of Nineteenth Century Chinese furniture. Phone and Internet activity was strong, and was handled smoothly.
Champney’s painting, cataloged as “Mount Washington from Wildcat Mountain” was 47½ by 29½ inches, signed and dated 1875. Cobb first sold the painting in 2004 for $37,000. The buyer was a woman, who asked not to be identified, but said she has one other Champney painting.
When asked if she planned on buying anything else at the sale, she said, “No way. That money was supposed to be my new car money, so I’m leaving this place now.” After the sale, Charlie Cobb said that his consignor was pleased and had realized that the painting would not bring a 2004 price. Back when this painting was done, Champney was living in North Conway, N.H., just a few miles from Wildcat Mountain, a popular ski area today in Pinkham Notch.
Champney’s first trip to the White Mountains was in 1838 and many consider him to be the founder of the White Mountains school of art. In 1850 he returned to the White Mountains with his friend and fellow artist, John Frederick Kensett. Their enthusiasm for the scenery drew many artists from New York and Boston and generated numerous fine landscapes, showing America what the region looked like. In 1853, Champney married and bought a home near North Conway.
The sale also included an unsigned White Mountains painting that was cataloged as “school of Benjamin Champney and John Frederick Kensett.” It was a scene of Moat Mountain, in Conway, from the Intervale, with White Horse Ledge in the middle distance. Artists today still paint from the Intervale. The 22-by-30-inch painting in its original frame went for $9,600, slightly over its estimate. It was the second highest price of the sale, which also included other works by New Hampshire artists.
A painting of Mount Monadnock as viewed from the Troy Road/East Hill Farm brought $2,880 from a bidder in the room. It was done by Sid Wallis (American, b 1930). An oil on canvas by Dublin, N.H., artist Alexander James (1890–1946), also finished at $2,880. A watercolor by Frank Shapleigh (1842–1906), another popular White Mountains artist, took $450. It was a South Shore scene, not the sought-after New Hampshire scenes the artist is known for. For a number of years, Shapleigh was the resident artist at the Crawford House, one of the grand hotels in the White Mountains. His studio still stands today.
A Shaker child’s desk in old blue paint, from the Enfield, N.H., community, was hotly contested by a dealer in the room and a phone bidder. The phone bidder, a Midwestern collector, was successful, paying $1,680. The dealer who had been outbid said that he had really hoped to get it, but had to let it go. Some of the other American furniture did better than it has at some recent sales and some prices were weak. In old red, a New Hampshire server with three drawers over two paneled doors, fetched $960, and an Eighteenth Century tavern table with a medial stretcher base exceeded estimate, earning $720. A maple Pennsylvania tall case clock with an arched bonnet top, inlaid corners, a painted iron dial and chain-driven brass works, was probably a bargain, selling for only $210.
Cobb also had some Nineteenth Century Chinese furniture. One piece that might look good with New England country furniture was a Chinese country server in old red paint. The ends of the top were curved upwards, and there were three drawers over a two-door cupboard. It finished up at $960. Another server, with one wide drawer flanked by two side drawers, on tall molded edge legs, sold over its estimate, $600.
A large grouping of toys and dolls included an exceptionally large Victorian cube puzzle. It had 54 six-sided cubes, was 20 by 15 inches, and in its original box. It made $210. A Nineteenth Century German papier mache jack-o-lantern, 9½ inches tall, brought $660, and an early Continental cage doll, 20 inches tall under a glass dome, earned $600. Cobb had 27 Schoenhut circus pieces and sold them in one lot. The lot included clowns, a ringmaster, a horse, a giraffe, ladders and barrels. Two Internet bidders competed with a bidder in the room. It sold in the room, well over estimate, at $1,080. A group of six roly-polys, including a 12-inch example and a 10-inch one, reached $330. Two Lenci-type dolls in rough condition went on a single bid to the Internet for $480.
Early in the sale, several lots of estate jewelry were offered, and most exceeded estimates. Drawing the most competitive bidding was a diamond solitaire pendant with a stone weighing about 2.15 carats, set in 18K yellow gold, with a yellow gold diamond-cut rope chain. A phone bidder held on, competing with two Internet bidders and two in the room, and won it for $7,800, one of the higher prices of the day. A pair of diamond stud earrings, set in 18K yellow gold, brought $4,500. Each diamond weighed approximately 1 carat. A diamond engagement ring with a 2-carat brilliant-cut center stone flanked by 14 graduated baguette-cut diamonds in an 18K yellow gold setting went out for $4,800.
The sale got off to a good start with five silver lots. A “Carrs” sterling silver service for 12, approximately 137 ounces, in unused condition, led the category, finishing at $2,760. Three pieces of Georg Jensen silver, each marked sterling, included a salad fork, a spoon and a cake server, sold for $900 and a monogrammed service for 12, made by Dominick/Haff for Cartier, weighing about 137 ounces, went out for $2,760.
A very happy bidder took home a lithograph by Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1906). Signed in pencil and titled “Two Figures,” it had a label indicating that it came from the Nelson Rockefeller collection. It sold for $1,320 to a woman in the room. “I didn’t take art history courses for nothing. This is really good,” she said. We hope the lady is right.
The sale included several Oriental rugs. After the sale, Cobb said, “Rug dealers aren’t buying unless a rug is really exceptional so it’s a very good time for retail buyers to get good rugs.” A room-size Sarouk with an overall floral pattern, with only minor wear, went for just $360. A Persian prayer rug, embroidered with metallic threads, 44 by 58 inches, depicting a vase of flowers with vines and leaves, on a brown felt ground, may have been the buy of the day. It was cataloged as Seventeenth or Eighteenth Century and had been estimated at $15/25,000. Cobb allowed it to open very low, and it sold for $3,600 to a phone bidder.
An antique Persian metallic thread textile with four interconnected medallions on a geometric field, with raised floral and animal designs, brought a single bid of $1,800. A modern silk and wool Tabriz hanging pictorial rug, depicting a man and woman playing music, also fetched $1,800 on a single bid. A room-size Chinese-made rug in the French style, with a central ivory medallion, illustrated Cobb’s comment about this being a good time for retail buyers. The rug sold for only $236, well below the estimate.
The sale included a number of other interesting items, some of which were bargains. An unbound but complete set of the ten maps from the atlas accompanying Marshall’s 1807 Life of Washington fetched only $360. A bound set on the Internet is listed for more than $2,800. A Tlingit whale bone weapon, decorated with a raven, fish, frog and owl, 25½ inches long, went for $1,320.
A good scrimshaw whale’s tooth, 6½ inches long with a sailing ship on one side and a harbor with sailing ships on the other side, achieved $2,280, and a Spencer carbine, marked “Spencer Repeating Rifle Co. Boston” finished at $1,320. One item that had been expected to do well, a Bellamy eagle with a “Don’t Give Up The Ship” banner was passed, but will be available for sale on Cobbs’ website.
After the sale, Cobb said that he was satisfied with the sale. “Jewelry did well, the Shaker desk did well, the rugs sold, which doesn’t always happen, and we had an unexpectedly large crowd. We’re looking forward to a very strong tribal arts sale in November.”
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.thecobbs.com or 603-924-6361.
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