Published: November 30, 2010
No one did not admire the Pennsylvania black walnut corner cabinet that was the hot lot at Skinner’s November 7 Americana sale, where it sold for $259,000. No matter what one’s area of interest, it demanded attention. The Lancaster County piece made around 1790 was untouched, its original surface ablaze with sulphur inlay and inlaid pewter stars, two arched and glazed doors above two drawers and two lower doors with similar inlay and stars. It had descended in a colonial Philadelphia family that eventually came to Massachusetts.
Speaking after the sale, auctioneer Stephen L. Fletcher said he had first seen the piece more than two decades ago, described himself as spellbound, and said the cabinet is on his list of all-time favorite objects he has sold. He said the piece may be the finest example of its form.
Coincidentally, a Lancaster County walnut dower chest also with sulphur and maple inlay came from another collection in upstate New York and was also offered. It was made in 1781 for Magdalena Fischborn and inscribed with her name and the date. Selling for $7,703, it was far simpler than the corner cupboard, but also striking.
An American ship’s figurehead said to represent naval hero Commodore Matthew C. Perry was painted and carved with scrolls and acanthus leaves †and untouched. It sold on the phone for $100,725 to dealer David Wheatcroft, who was buying for a client. The figure was acquired in the early decades of the Twentieth Century by southeastern Massachusetts collector Arthur E. Beane, who acquired it from a fisherman who said it had washed ashore on Monomoy Island off Cape Cod. It passed to Beane’s son, Arthur E. Beane Jr, whose collection made for some of the most interesting lots of the sale.
Beane began attending auctions with his father as a very young man in the 1930s and the early exposure paid off. He developed a remarkable sensibility that has stood him in good stead. Fletcher describes him as “a real connoisseur,” who is enormously respected and liked by all who know him. Fletcher recalls visiting “Beanie” at his retirement community and being invited by his host to “cut a duck with me tonight.” Dinner required a jacket and tie, which the very tall and elegant Beanie provided his guest, who felt like a youngster masquerading in his father’s clothes.
Beane and his father were both careful collectors who appreciated the “as-found” quality of the objects they gathered, which as Fletcher notes, was most unusual in an era of refinishing.
Four Dutch delft blue and white tobacco jars brought $5,036. One set of two depicted a Native American selling barrels of tobacco alongside a harbor; the other set was decorated with similar images. Catalog notes indicate that the four jars were sold at a Boston auction in 1934; two to Beane’s father and the other two to another bidder. When Beane Jr courted his future wife, Mary Elizabeth Clarke, he learned that the other two had sold to her father.
A maple and pine tavern table with a single drawer retained an old red paint over an earlier gray paint and sold on the phone for $17,775. The table, probably a southeastern Massachusetts piece, came from Beane’s William Sever house in Kingston, Mass., where it was used on the front porch for many years †but only in good weather, said auctioneer Fletcher. A Queen Anne maple tray top tavern table, also from the Beane collection, had coltish splay legs and a canted skirt and retained old red paint. Thought to have been made in Massachusetts, it fetched $21,330.
A bow back Windsor armchair, circa 1790, in old green paint over earlier red fetched $9,480.
A Massachusetts Queen Anne tiger maple high chest, circa 1730‱750, with a drawer inscribed “Anne Hayward,” brought $10,369. It was untouched and beautiful, and Hayward is an old South Shore Massachusetts name.
Bringing $21,330 was a pair of neoclassical Bilbao mirrors in gilt gesso with pink marble, circa 1805‱810, made in northwestern Spain and retaining the label of importer Bernard Cermenati of Newburyport, Mass. A group of 13 late Eighteenth Century northern European carved gesso mirrors that the Beanes had collected mostly around southeastern Massachusetts brought a total of $11,437.
A hammered silver punchbowl, a Twentieth Century reproduction of the 1768 Paul Revere Liberty bowl, made by the Richard Dimes Co., of Boston, sold for $2,252 against its estimated $400/600. The provenance of the bowl may have helped: Beane had found it in the home of the late Marshfield, Mass., dealer Torrey Little †filled with pennies.
Two blue pattern glass vases from Beane, one with a blown molded heart design and the other with a twisted loop pattern, by Boston & Sandwich Glass Company, circa 1840‱860, sold for $5,925.
A signed wash and ink drawing on paper by William Bradford, the lively and detailed 1856 scene “The New York Yacht Club Regatta off New Bedford,” sold for $71,100 against the estimated $10/15,000. The image, which depicted racing vessels and the substantial spectator fleet, had come from the George H. Taber Lodge of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons A.F. & A.M in Fairhaven, Mass., and had been exhibited in New Bedford.
Fine clocks from the estate of collectors John Arthur Leland and Roma Woodmansee Leland of Washington Court House, Ohio, included such gems as a Federal mahogany shelf clock by Stephen Taber of New Bedford. The circa 1805 timepiece had jazzy contrasting stringing with a center urn; it sold to a collector on the phone for $65,175. A 94-inch Simon Willard mahogany tall case clock, circa 1790, inlaid with quarter fans and patera, also from the Leland collections, sold for $56,288. The clock was inscribed “Warranted for Mr Moses White / Simon Willard,” and was accompanied by a deed for White’s land in Rutland, Mass. It went to another collector on the phone.
Other material from the Leland collections sold at previous Skinner sales of rugs and carpets, English and Continental objects and the August Americana sale, but Fletcher held the clocks for the most recent sale.
A Federal mahogany tall case clock by John Bailey of Hanover, Mass., which was illustrated in Harbor and Home: Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts, sold for $20,145. The clock came from the Beane collection.
A Federal mahogany patent timepiece by Simon Willard & Son, circa 1823‱828, brought $7,110.
Exhibiting a wavy birch veneer and a marble top, a Federal mahogany mixing table, circa 1800, had a strong attribution to John and Thomas Seymour of Boston and went to the telephone buyer of the Taber shelf clock for $20,145. The construction of the table was closely akin to that of other Seymour pieces. It came from a Maryland consignor.
Dressing tables were offered in quantity, and bidders were receptive. A mahogany and maple dressing table, circa 1760‱780, with a large fan carving on the center drawer and the original brasses was thought to be a North Shore piece. It realized $27,255. A carved mahogany example, made possibly by Benjamin Frothingham of Charlestown, was carved on the center drawer with acanthus leaves on a shell. It realized $26,070 from a phone bidder, who also paid $21,330 for a carved mahogany dressing table, made around 1760‱780, possibly in Boston. Its center drawer was carved with acanthus leaves and scrolling on a stippled arched panel.
In an interesting change of pace, a Philadelphia Chippendale walnut dressing table, circa 1760‱770, with a single long drawer above three smaller ones and with fan carved knees and trifid feet sold for $20,145. A New Hampshire tiger maple dressing table from the last half of the Eighteenth Century with a carved fan and cabriole legs on pad feet on platforms realized $4,740.
A Massachusetts Queen Anne mahogany easy chair, circa 1740‱760, was described as having some bumps from a vacuum cleaner. Estimated at $6/8,000, the chair brought $21,330. A Massachusetts Queen Anne mahogany and maple easy chair went to the same buyer for $9,480.
A mid-Eighteenth Century Philadelphia Queen Anne walnut side chair attributed to William Savery was $10,073, and a near pair of Massachusetts Queen Anne walnut side chairs, circa 1740‱760, with upholstered trapezoidal seats, brought $7,110.
Fetching $23,700 on the phone, a North Shore Massachusetts mahogany oxbow slant lid desk with shell carving, circa 1770‱775, was in “as found” condition. Fletcher said he was disappointed that it was missing its interior when he first saw it. Happily, the interior was stored in the drawers and when it was reassembled, it revealed a mirrored prospect door.
A Queen Anne maple slant lid desk that was thought to be a Connecticut piece held a surprise for the ill-intentioned. A clockwork device behind the prospect door activated a serpent with a sharply pointed tongue to deter access. It sold in the gallery for $9,480. A number of viewers pricked their fingers testing the device. When the piece arrived at Skinner, staff found a nail at the end of the tongue and several can attest to its sharpness. While the nail was removed for the preview, the snake retained its sting.
A Chinese Export porcelain bowl decorated with the Order of Cincinnati sold for $22,515. The bowl was part of the circa 1790 service of Samuel Shaw of Massachusetts, Boston merchant and a founding member of the Society of Cincinnati. A helmet-form creamer from the same service elicited $20,145.
A scrapbook created by one or more members of the family of US Army Surgeon Lyman Foote, whose military career took him to numerous forts in the western settlements in Michigan, Wisconsin and other locations, inspired a bidding competition that ended when the item sold for $47,400. The book included exquisite watercolors and sketches of mid-Nineteenth Century life on the frontier. It came from a Massachusetts collection and sold to another collector.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.skinnerinc.com or 508-970-3000.
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