Published: July 3, 2012
It was not exactly a paper moon shining down on Northeast Auctions Memorial Day weekend sale on May 26′7, but it was paper that ruled the day. The first item of interest was the highly detailed pen and ink map of the Battle of Monmouth of June 28, 1778. Bidding opened at $22,500 and it escalated immediately to end at $76,700 to a New Jersey collector.
Hand drawn and found in a shoebox, the map delineated the progress of Major General Charles Lee’s troops as they advanced against the British under General Henry Clinton, noting the positions of Lee, the Marquis de Lafayette, General “Mad Anthony” Wayne and other Revolutionary War luminaries. It also shows the court house, the Freehold Meeting House, the Great Ravine, houses, roads, woods, brooks and elevations of the New Jersey countryside.
A letter from George Washington to John Langdon, president of the New Hampshire Convention, decrying that state’s delay in ratifying the Constitution lit up seven phones and the Internet, and sold on the phone for $70,800. Washington wrote from Mount Vernon, April 2, 1788, after he retired from the army and before he assumed the presidency. Langdon, whose 1784 Georgian home is across the street from the 1814 Treadwell House in Portsmouth, home of Northeast Auctions, was a merchant, shipbuilder, Revolutionary War captain, signer of the Constitution and three-term governor of New Hampshire. The documents had descended in his family and went mostly to collectors.
Langdon was an important Revolutionary War personage whose correspondents included Benjamin Franklin, who wrote to him from Paris about the Treaty of Alliance and the Treaty of Amity negotiated with France that engaged the French as allies in the war with Britain. The letter of February 17, 1778, was Franklin’s response to Langdon’s missive on the surrender of Burgoyne, and brought $61,360 on the phone. A letter to Langdon from James Monroe as recently appointed minister to France was written June 19, 1794, hours before he sailed. In it, Monroe asks Langdon to keep him apprised of events on the home front. It went to the same phone buyer for $3,776.
John Hancock, president of the Second Continental Congress, appointed Langdon as the New Hampshire agent for the Congress in a document dated June 25, 1776. The position enabled Langdon to appoint deputies and carry out the directives of the Congress and the Marine Board in the run-up to war. Eight phones chased the document to $29,500. As he hammered it down, auctioneer Ronald Bourgeault observed that the paper “is staying in the South End.”
Thomas Jefferson’s letter of June 5, 1778, to Virginia statesman and Continental Congress delegate Richard Henry Lee on the subject of raising troops sold on the phone for $28,320. As there is no salutation other than “Dear Sir,” the letter was thought originally to have been addressed to Langdon.
A letter from George Washington to Henry Lee III, the Revolutionary War cavalry officer known as Colonel “Light Horse” Harry Lee, thanks Lee for a gift of roses and fruit trees and conveying Mrs Washington’s thanks for kindnesses extended to her by Mrs Lee in New York. Dated December 25, 1785, it realized $17,700.
Jane Stuart’s oil on canvas portrait of Washington, after the Atheneum example by Gilbert Stuart, realized $35,400. The painting was acquired by Ernest R. Breech in 1952 and it descended in his family.
Other Washington lots of interest were a wax profile of the general in a bird’s-eye maple frame that opened above the high estimate at $1,250 and ended at $3,245. A smaller French wax example depicting Washington was painted in polychrome and retained an old label and the printed inscription “America.” It realized $885.
A later paper lot was the volume Autographs and Portraits of Union Generals that was bound in red, white and blue leather. As he gaveled it to $7,670, Bourgeault pronounced it as “the most beautiful book I’ve ever handled.” The volume comprised a collection of manuscript letters by more than 60 Union generals; each document and portrait was tipped in and the title page was hand lettered and painted. It was bound by H. Zucker of Philadelphia.
“Marshlands,” Frank W. Benson’s view of birds in flight, inscribed by the artist to his nephew Edward Richardson, father of Elliot Richardson, failed to meet the reserve and passed.
A pair of Chinese Export porcelain punch bowls made for the American market and decorated with three-masted American ships on one side and the gilt initials “WP” on the other inside a shield referring to the original owner, Captain William Phillips of Warren, R.I., had been discovered filled with matchbooks. The pair sold for $11,800 to local collectors. An English pearlware bowl was painted with a view of a three-masted American ship and decorated with a Fitzhugh border, fetching $5,900.
Another lot with Rhode Island connections was a tall painted pine case clock that was engraved “Thomas Wagstaffe London” with a later engraving “Robert Hazard,” which sold to local collectors for $8,850.
Historic Rhode Island paper went mostly to one bidder, who paid $826 for a group of 15 early photographs of buildings in Providence by Nineteenth Century photographer Francis Hacker. A photograph by Gorham & Co., of the Second Detachment of the First Regiment R.I. Detached Militia departing from the mid-Nineteenth Century railroad station was $354.
Historic paper from all around included some highly interesting examples that piqued the interest of the very knowledgeable. The New American Atlas, published by John Reid of New York in 1796, was a case in point. Estimated at $500/800, it realized $7,788. A journal kept aboard the brig Charming Polly by Job Jones, the chief mate, was begun January 12, 1767 and went for $6,844.
A 1787 proclamation for a general fast issued by John Sullivan, who was president of the State of New Hampshire, was engraved and printed by John Melcher of Portsmouth. It realized $1,416.
Of a group of early bookplates, a Chippendale armorial example engraved by Paul Revere for David Greene of Boston realized $1,888, and another Revere Chippendale example made for Gardiner Chandler of Boston, cousin to David Greene, sold online for $1,180.
Day one of the auction comprised the varied collections of the late Salem, Mass., jeweler Carl Van Dell, who operated the business begun by his father in the 1930s. The lead item from the approximately 450-lot Van Dell collection was the late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century gouache on paper of a detailed, panoramic view of Genoa Harbor. The choice lot sold for $6,608. A pair of gouache on paper views of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, one by day and the other at night, brought $3,186. Three ships are visible in the Bay of Naples, two with English ensigns and one with an American flag.
A Nineteenth Century 20½-inch Chinese Export bowl was a gem and brought $30,680. It was decorated with panels of figures engaged in ceremonial activities amid birds, butterflies and foliage, with gold characters and highlights, all on a carved and pierced hardwood stand. Four Chinese porcelain plaques mounted in a hardwood panel, each in a different shape and each decorated with a different painted view, brought $3,304. A carved figure of a meditating Buddha was carved and painted with gilded highlights and brought $6,136.
Two 31-inch-tall Twentieth Century Chinese cloisonné figures of foo dogs, a female embracing a pup and the male with his paw resting on a ball, realized $9,440.
The star of a group of clocks was a French engraved gilt-brass repeating carriage clock in a Gorge case that proved to be an auspicious lot 1 when it sold for $28,320, ten times the high estimate. The clock had an exceptionally large case. Another gem from Van Dell’s collection was a 21¼-inch Grand Tour carved rouge and mottled green marble and slate basin on a pedestal that went for $12,980.
Two Louis XVI carved and parcel-gilt armchairs from the Van Dell collection went for $6,490.
A Marblehead Pottery vase by Arthur Irwin Hennessey and Sarah Tutt with a decoration of fruited trees retained the original Marblehead Pottery paper label added after 1915. It realized $9,145.
Deaccessioned by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) to benefit the collections fund, the fairly dark and grimy Nineteenth Century Dutch School painting “The Spinner” was valued by several bidders, who left the $300/500 estimate in the dust as they drove it to $40,120. Also from the MFA was a pair of George III-style console tables with D-shaped tops painted with classical figures amid floral decoration that sold for $8,260.
Scent bottles and vinaigrettes kicked off the second day of the auction. They were interesting to look at, and gratified bidders thought so, too, as they snapped them up. The highlight was the Cartier Art Deco enamel and gold vinaigrette, circa 1925, set with diamonds that elicited bids from five phones and one person in the gallery. It sold to one of the phone bidders for $12,390. An early Nineteenth Century Swiss gold vinaigrette, set with pearls and with an enameled decoration of a hind in a landscape in a bed of blue flowers, was made by Moulinié, Bautte & Cie, of Geneva, and realized $9,735. A French champlevé enamel and gold rectangular snuff box by Gabriel-Raoul Morel decorated with vines with berries and flowers realized $5,192.
The most desirable of the silver to cross the block was a set of 12 silver service plates by Taunton, Mass., maker Reed & Barton that sold on the phone for $10,030. Two were coded for 1931 and eight for 1932. A close second was an Eighteenth Century Queen Anne armorial tankard, circa 1713‱714, by London smith Humphrey Payne that sold for $7,080.
Bidders were willing to pursue several small porcelain lots to well above estimates. A Spode dinner service in the Tradewinds pattern realized $2,596 against the estimated $400/600. A single green Fitzhugh soup plate was $708 against the estimated $200/400.
A Twentieth Century carved and gilded eagle plaque with a red, white and blue streamer reading “E Pluribus Unum” was made by Willard Shepard of Wallingford, Conn., and sold for $8,850.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For more information, www.northeastauctions.com or 603-433-8400.
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