Published: July 3, 2023
Review By Madelia Hickman Ring; Photos Courtesy New England Auctions
BRANFORD, CONN. — Fred Giampietro and New England Auctions kicked off two days of auctions June 21-22 with the 392-lot sale of the Americana Collection of Janice and Bernard Phaneuf, which was nearly 99 percent sold by lot; the following day, more than 96 percent of the 477 lots of Americana and decorative arts from Estates and Collections Including the Estate of Toni Noble found new homes. By the end of the two-day event, the house achieved a total of $1,612,800.
“We beat our high estimate and I feel really good about the sale. It feels like there’s a bit of unevenness in the market — most of our lots sold to private collectors rather than the trade.”
Folk portraits were a strength of the Pfaneuf collection, comprised about one-fifth of the sale and saw some of the highest prices overall. This included the sale’s top lot, a portrait of Abigail Pitts, from Worcester, Mass., circa 1830. Painted in oil on panel measuring 35½ by 29½ inches in a wooden frame with gilt liner, the composition by an unidentified artist depicted a woman with a floral headdress, seated in a chair and holding a book. Previous owners were listed in the catalog as dealers Stephen / Douglas Antiques and Jewett-Berdan Antiques; its new owner is a private collector, who was bidding on the phone and paid $106,250 for it.
Though many folk portraits were by or attributed to known artists, a pair of portraits of siblings, also by an unknown artist, greatly exceeded expectations and brought $35,000, to a private collector from Massachusetts, bidding in the room. These too were painted in oil on panel and depicted Noah Fibich and Betsy Fibich of Marblehead, Mass. The unframed panels had provenance to Helaine Fendelman, Michael Whittemore, Fred Giampietro and Sam Forsythe.
A parade of portraits by known artists followed suit, led at $32,500 from a private collector in the south by a portrait of Alvina Smith by Zedekiah Belknap (American, 1781-1858). Acquired from Cobbs Auctions, the circa 1823 oil on wood panel painting depicted Smith wearing a brown-spotted white dress and holding a spray of flowers, her hair in the tight curls Belknap is known for featuring in his portraits.
Pairs of folk portraits of couples marched two-by-two across the block. A comparatively small pair of an unidentified man and woman attributed to William Kennedy (American, 1817-1871), in frames measuring 16½ by 12½ inches, was cataloged as in “excellent original condition” and had provenance to dealer Mary Allis and collectors Claude and Alvan Bisnoff. Estimated at $4/6,000, the pair earned $17,500, from a trade buyer.
A pair of portraits, also of a couple, with one inscribed “Valirus Kibbe 1815” (American, 1789-1866) was rendered in a muted pastel palette on paper applied to canvas and framed in period frames that were described as probably original. Provenance to Stephen / Douglas Antiques was noted, as was an origin of Tolland County, Conn. Estimated at $1,5/2,500, the pair soared to $16,250 and sold to a New York collector.
Publication history in “An Appreciation of Nineteenth Century Folk Portraits” by Dave Krashes (Antiques and Fine Arts, 2008) helped drive interest in a pair of portraits of a man and lady attributed to George Hartwell (American, 1815-1901). The oil on artist panel portraits were in gilded frames and had a previous history with Hillary Underwood and Pam Boynton. Estimated at $2/4,000, the pair finished at $15,000.
Furniture accounted for about one-third of each of the auctions but saw higher prices for works from the Pfaneuf collection. Achieving a second-highest value of $50,000 was a circa 1770 Queen Anne figured maple flat top highboy with provenance to Nathan Liverant and Son Antiques. The 72-inch-tall piece exhibited a scalloped apron and was cataloged as surviving with its original surface in “remarkable” condition. It found a new home with a trade buyer.
Painted furniture from the Pfaneuf Collection saw highlights in a red-painted open top pewter cupboard that a private collector bought for $25,000 and a dome-top box, attributed to probably Vermont, circa 1835, with provenance to Olde Hope Antiques, that met/exceeded high expectations of $8/12,000 and realized $15,000 from a private collector in Illinois.
Americana & Decorative Arts from Estates & Collections Including the Estate of Toni Noble
If folk portraits were the dominant category in the Pfaneuf sale, weathervanes assumed that mantle in the June 22 various owner’s auction, sweeping the top three results and finishing in close competition. Flying to an auction-high of $17,500 was a molded and sheet copper butterfly weathervane, fairly diminutive in size at just 13-5/8 inches high and 22¼ inches long. A private collector, underbid by another local collector bidding in the room, prevailed. Giampietro said all the weathervanes sold to private collectors.
Man’s best friend was charmingly rendered in a 19-inch-high weathervane attributed to the Waltham, Mass., firm of Cushing and White. Cataloged as in excellent condition with a verdigris surface with later weathered gold leaf, it trotted to a new home for $15,625.
Rounding out the auction’s top three results was a squirrel weathervane, molded copper with cast zinc ears, that was attributed to Washburn Mfg Co and dated to circa 1920. If the setter weathervane was slightly smaller than life size, the squirrel was oversize as it stood 22-3/8 inches tall. Charmingly rendered nibbling a nut, it achieved $15,000.
Though not a weathervane, a circa 1900 monumental, molded copper elk head had the same aesthetic and was described as for a lodge; it measured 60 inches tall. It sold within expectations, to a trade buyer, for $11,875.
Trade signs came to Giampietro from two different sellers and were another highly popular category in the auction, topping off at $12/15,000 for an American entertainment and spiritous liquors trade sign, cataloged as exceptional original condition. It bore the name and date “R. Carr, 1825” on it. The same price of $15,000 was realized for an optician’s trade sign for Belton, Texas, jeweler and optician B.R. Stocking. Cast zinc and tin-rimmed eyeglasses, suspended from the painted wood sign measuring 11¾ by 48-3/8 inches, found a new home with a private collector.
Nearly a dozen lots by contemporary carver Frank Finney opened the sale, led at $4,750 for a carved cat and mouse. Nearly 10 lots of Native American objects — jewelry, carvings, bowl, baskets and textiles — was led by two Native American hammered silver Concho belts, both probably Navajo New Mexico and both from a Massachusetts estate. Though one was shorter — 27¼ inches long compared to 42 inches in length — both finished at $12,500.
New England Auctions will conduct an Americana Discovery sale on July 22 and will sell the Lincoln and Jean Sander Americana Collection on September 14.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For more information, www.neauction.com or 475-234-5120.
September 19, 2023
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September 19, 2023
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