Published: August 24, 2016
WILLISTON, VT. — Duane Merrill & Company Auctioneers & Appraisers is hosting a two-day public auction of antiques and fine arts on September 3 and 4.
Of note in this sale is a rare Seventeenth Century English silver mounted lignum vitae wassail bowl engraved “P T to Robert Clayton 1676.” Sir Robert Clayton (1629-1707), a successful London merchant banker and scrivener, was appointed assistant treasurer of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1676 and in 1678 became its treasurer. He was appointed lord mayor of London in 1679. During his career, Sir Robert was deeply rooted in the development of English deposit banking.
The wassail bowl descends directly from the family of John Jacob Astor IV. His great-grandfather, John Jacob Astor, amassed a fortune in the fur trade in North America. The significant fact that the wassail bowl had belonged to one of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s treasurers would have had great appeal to Astor as a collector.
The tradition of wassailing has deep pagan holiday roots, as well as strong Christian associations, including Christmas, Shrove Tuesday and Twelfth Night. Wassail is a spiced ale, containing ale, sugar, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. The wassail is carried door to door accompanied by singing, and drinks are offered from the communal wassail bowl in exchange for gifts.
The wassail bowl is 10 inches high and 9½ inches in diameter. The silver mounts are hallmarked T L (struck in 1668-9). The interior of the bowl bears the Latin motto “Deo Cari Nihilo Carent” (Those Near to God Want Nothing). A related example resides in the collection of the Birmingham Museum. As of press time, the identity of P T invites further research, according to the auction house.
Other outstanding items in the sale descending in the Astor family include an 18-inch Zia Pueblo bird olla signed Vicentita S Pino, other South Western pottery and a second phase Navajo chief’s blanket.
The firm has also been commissioned to sell pieces from the collection of Dr Herbert A Durfee Jr and his wife Elizabeth. Durfee was former chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Vermont Medical Center as well as former president of the medical staff. It was through his relationship with his wife Elizabeth that the two created an appreciation for the arts. Elizabeth Durfee was a member of the National Society of Colonial Dames and former regent of Gunston Hall Plantation in Mason Neck, Va.
Under “The Centennial Inventory of American Paintings” started by the National Museum of American Art (the Smithsonian), the National Society of Colonial Dames offered to assist in the search for paintings done before 1914 by itinerant limners or trained painters. In 1976, Elizabeth became responsible for this project in Vermont. She cataloged some 400 paintings throughout the state. Each painting required photographs in black and white as well as color, a description, dimensions and genealogical and historical information. All the information was sent to the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., the Belknap Library of the Henry du Pont Winterthur Museum in Delaware and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center in New York. Many of the paintings were unsigned. Elizabeth, through research and a special talent, often was able to identify the artist of many of the paintings. She frequently was invited to present her illustrated programs “Itinerant Painters Before 1914” and “Symbolism in Early Paintings.”
The Durfees’ collection is a diverse representation of paintings, bronzes, silver, ceramics and furniture. Some highlights are an oil on canvas titled “Indian Encampment” by Ralph Albert Blakelock (American, 1847-1919) depicting five tepees in a woodland landscape. An oil on board self portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1731-1792) is alos on offer.
The overall sale will offer more than 80 lots of rare early American glass formerly in the collection of Dr Oliver Eastman of Burlington, Vt., including colored Sandwich tableware, blown three mold cobalt blue salts, rare mocha miniatures and fancy Victorian colored glass.
Preview is Friday, September 2, from 1-5 pm, Saturday from 8-9:30 am, Sunday from 8:30-10 am, or by prior appointment. Duane Merrill & Co’s gallery is at 137 James Brown Drive. For information, 802-878-2625 or www.merrillsauction.com.
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