Published: July 17, 2018
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack
WILLISTON, VT. – Duane Merrill and Company Auctioneers & Appraisers’ June 30 and July 1 sale had a good assortment of material from regional estates. There were numerous paintings, early furniture, good jewelry, weathervanes, some Asian items that produced a few surprises and a restored 1931 Dodge Brothers three-quarter-ton panel truck that turned out to be the highest-priced item in the sale. The fact that internet bidding was available did not significantly reduce the in-house crowd the way it has for some other auctioneers.
Estimating prices for Asian material can be tricky for many auctioneers. Such was the case for a cast bronze statue of Buddha. It was cataloged as “an early Nineteenth Century cast bronze seated Buddha, 9½ inches tall.” Estimated at $4/800, an internet bidder opened it at $4,500 but other internet bidders quickly drove the price to $8,610. As Ethan Merrill, the firm’s proprietor, was selling this item, he commented, “someone knows something about this piece that we do not.” The next item, cataloged as “an early Nineteenth Century Japanese cast bronze Buddha, 9½ inches tall” had the same estimate $4/800 and went to the internet for $2,091. Also doing well was an unusually shaped 24-inch pair of Nineteenth Century rose medallion vases that went out for $2,185.
The paintings were led by an oval oil painting by Charles Louis Heyde (1822-1892) depicting Red Rock Point on the shores of nearby Lake Champlain. Heyde painted many Vermont scenes, and there was an exhibition of his work in 2001 at the University of Vermont’s Robert Hull Fleming Museum. The museum published a 100-page catalog of Heyde’s works to accompany the exhibition, and this painting is illustrated, in color, in the catalog. It was bought by a bidder in the room for $9,200, well over the estimate. Perhaps the same bidder paid $1,035 for another painting by the same artist of a scene that may have been Saxtons River, Vt. It, too, was pictured in the catalog of Hyde’s work.
An attractive painting of a mother and child by Mary Curtis Richardson (American 1848-1931) titled “Yellow and White” on an old hand-written label on the back of the painting sold for $3,738. Working in the Impressionist style, Richardson painted landscapes, but she is probably best-known for her portrait paintings with a mother and child theme. A watercolor and gouache by Howard Chandler Christy (1872-1952) sold for $2,875. It was a large work depicting a well-dressed young man posed formally next to a red chair and signed and dated 1901.
Ethan Merrill, discussing some of the items prior to the sale, pointed to a large Hudson River scene that had come from “a very fine Victorian home in Burlington. Unfortunately, some of the items had been stored, unprotected, in a barn for more than 60 years. When I first saw that painting, a mouse was running along the frame. There’s a mouse hole in the canvas that it used to get around. Too bad – it’s really a nice painting. We got some very nice items from that house.” Whatever the reason, the 40-by-61-inch Hudson River landscape sold below its estimate, finishing at $2,185.
The 1931 Dodge three-quarter-ton panel truck was well-known to Merrill. He sold it about ten years ago to the consignor, unrestored. He commented that the restoration had cost about $15,000, and the consignor was present in the sales room. He joked that it could be bought back for less than the cost of the restoration, and he was right: it sold to an internet bidder for $12,460.
Bullet holes in a copper full-bodied rooster weathervane held the price to $1,725, but a 28-inch leaping stag weathervane with a cast bronze head and large zinc antlers did better, going to a bidder in the room for $4,025. Merrill thought it had been made by Westervelt or Fiske. A 34-inch full-bodied running horse weathervane, with some original gilding, went to a bidder in the room for $2,185, and a Charles Looff carousel horse, a middle row jumper, fully restored but with an “antiqued” painted finish, reached $3,738.
Furniture offerings included both country and formal. A very nice stretcher-base country dining table, 63 inches long, with turned legs and three drawers, in an old red wash, brought $2,645. The removable scrubbed top was pine, and the table had probably originated in Pennsylvania. Two Eighteenth Century Connecticut case pieces each sold for $3,738. The first was a cherry serpentine four drawer chest on a bracket base; the second was a cherry bonnet-top chest-on-chest with a broken arch pediment, flame turned finial, carved fans and brasses that may have been original. Selling on a single bid for $3,450 was a circa 1905 Waltham tall case clock in a carved mahogany case. The dial showed the phases of the moon, and it had a nine-tube set of chimes.
The sale included some nice jewelry, and other items produced several pleasant surprises. The strongest price for the jewelry selection was earned by a 3.6-carat Burmese ruby and diamond ring, set in platinum. It finished at $6,325. Also doing well were circa 1910 sapphire pieces. A 14K white gold diamond and sapphire brooch with a round European-cut center diamond surrounded by 36 round cut diamonds, also set with an emerald-cut natural sapphire, finished at $2,300. Selling for $2,070 was a companion piece: a diamond, sapphire, yellow and white gold chain bracelet. It had a round cut natural sapphire and graduated round cut natural sapphires separated by 18 round cut diamonds.
One of the pleasant surprises was a Civil War-era photo album with 18 CDVs of soldiers and numerous others. Several of the soldiers were identified as having been members of the 33rd Massachusetts regiment. The album had been estimated at $500, but it brought $3,162. A sixth-plate occupational daguerreotype of a dentist with some of his instruments achieved $1,840 against an estimate of $300. Also bringing more than expected was an Eighteenth Century silver porringer made in London. The hallmarks were difficult to decipher, but apparently at least two bidders did. Estimated at $200, it realized $1,610.
After the sale, Ethan Merrill commented, “The sale went pretty much as we had expected, but you never know what may happen when the temperature hits 98 degrees. The group of weathervanes all came from a good Shelburne Point home, and I was glad to see that they did well. The unexpected number of the day was the $8,000-plus price for one of the Asian bronzes. I took another look at that after the sale, and I think the price was the result of enthusiastic bidders competing. That’s what auctions are about. I’m pretty sure that we described it properly. All in all, we were pleased with the results.”
Duane Merrill and Company Auctioneers & Appraisers is at 137 James Brown Drive. For information, 802-878-2625 or www.merrillsauction.com.
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