Published: May 16, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Catalog Photos Courtesy of CRN Auctions
CAMBRIDGE, MASS. – Carl Nordblom’s sales usually include a wide variety of antiques. CRN Auctions’ April 30 sale followed that pattern, with a handpicked selection of American and European furniture, American and European art, silver, Asian items, a collection of tea caddies, a collection of early English stumpwork pictures, ceramics and more. He runs a fast auction, not hesitating to pass an item if an opening bid is not forthcoming. There were about 75 bidders in the room, several phone lines were in use, internet bidding was available and there were numerous absentee bids. Few lots had reserves. Prices were strong throughout the sale and there were some bargains for patient bidders. The sale grossed about $500,000.
The first lot sold was the highest priced item in the sale, bringing $42,000 with five phone bidders competing. It was a watercolor over pencil by John Ruskin (British, 1819-1900), depicting a boldly colored landscape at Abbeville with the Church of St Wulfran in the background.
Although unsigned, it was inscribed “Abbeville / Painted by Mr. Ruskin and given by him to me. / Francesca Alexander.” Alexander was a prominent author, artist and friend of Ruskin’s. Her correspondence with Ruskin is at the Morgan Library in New York, and her other papers are in the collection of the Boston Athenaeum.
The first 65 lots were paintings, including two by Polish artist Tadeusz Makowski (1882-1932). The artist studied in Poland and Paris and many of his works are in Polish museums. Late in his career, his favorite subjects included carnivals, fairs and children, and the two paintings in this sale depicted children in carnival costumes. The larger of the two, with two children, titled by the artist on the back “La petite famille,” sold for $8,400, and the smaller painting, depicting a child and a rooster, brought $7,200. They went to different phone bidders.
A painting of an unusual subject, a relief panel of an ancient Egyptian sculpture, more than doubled its estimate, going to an internet bidder for $7,200. It had been done by Joseph Lindon Smith (American, 1863-1950) and was typical of the type of painting he was known for – antiquities, especially Egyptian tomb reliefs.
A painting by a self-taught African American woman, Helen LaFrance (b 1919), depicting a rural Sunday church picnic finished at $7,200. She is best known for her “memory” paintings. She grew up in the segregated South, and her work now hangs in several museums. A large Nineteenth Century primitive portrait of three children of the John Rabb family of Blauvelt, N.Y., realized a reasonable $2,280.
Nordblom had a collection of four Seventeenth Century stumpwork pictures in unusually fine condition. Three of the four were bought by one phone bidder at reasonable prices. A well-done, 7-by-10-inch scene of a couple in a landscape with a fountain, sheep, trees, a castle in the distance and with seed pearl enhancements reached $5,700. It was in the original frame, while a larger example, 16½ by 19 inches, depicting Adam and Eve in Seventeenth Century dress and in a later frame, earned $4,800. It used a variety of stitches and included a lion, a leopard, a rabbit, birds, insects, etc.
Results were mixed for American furniture. Nordblom said that three retail buyers competed with a dealer for a six-leg inlaid mahogany Hepplewhite card table from Newport, R.I., that was similar to one in the 1965 catalog The John Brown House, Loan Exhibition of Rhode Island Furniture. It was attributed to the shop of Thomas and Samuel Goddard and sold well over the conservative estimate, bringing $10,200 from a collector. An attractive New England Federal period painted tilt-top candlestand with original bird and floral decoration on a turned post brought a disappointing $720.
Also selling inexpensively was a Nineteenth Century cherry and tiger maple tall case clock with a painted dial signed “Wilkinson,” which went for only $510. A classical Philadelphia carved mahogany card table with an acanthus carved post and acanthus carving on the legs earned $600, well below the estimate. It was cataloged as circa 1825 and “in the manner of Anthony Quervelle.” A Salem serpentine Sheraton card table with satinwood panels and tapered, fluted legs, finished at $1,440.
European furniture is almost always included in Nordblom’s sales and it generally does well. An Irish Chippendale carved mahogany console table with a carved skirt and knees brought $6,000, and an Irish George II mahogany games table with carved knees and ball and claw feet achieved $2,280. A Georgian satinwood demilune console table with swag and medallion inlay reached $2,700. There were two Chinese export leather-covered camphor wood chests, each about 36 inches long, each with original painting. Each fetched $420.
Nordblom later said that he thought prices were soft for the Italian and Venetian pieces. A three-drawer Eighteenth Century painted Venetian commode with bird and floral decoration ended up at $2,880, and a three-drawer northern Italian Neoclassical inlaid walnut commode in the manner of Giovanni Maglioni finished at $2,040.
The sale included a single-owner collection of about 30 tea caddies: tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl, wood, silver and several Chinese export examples. They had been purchased over several years at the LAPADA Antiques Fair in London. All were in fine condition and several sold well over the estimates. The two most sought-after examples were circa 1850 Chinese export examples with chinoiserie decoration.
A rectangular bombe-form caddy with overall gilt figural decoration, paktong compartments and gilt dragon feet ended up at $4,500, and a second similar example but with a concave front and also with overall gilt decoration sold for $3,600. An unusual example, completely covered with sections of antler horn, earned $1,560.
The selection of silver included a 35-year collection from the attic of a home in Newtown, Conn., and another group that had descended through the Burrill/Metcalf family of Providence, R.I. As with the furniture, English and Irish silver performed well. An Irish Georgian silver-gilt flatware service for 24, with 233 pieces in the Fiddle, Thread and Shell pattern, marked “Dublin and Law,” fetched $11,400. William Law was active 1819-26. The set weighed about 400 ounces. A tall pair of Georgian silver candlesticks made by Walter Tweeding, London, circa 1781, realized $4,800.
Eighteenth Century American silver included a porringer by Ezekiel Burr, Providence, R.I., that finished at $3,300 and a silver cann by Joseph and Nathaniel Richardson, Philadelphia, circa 1785, that brought the same price. An unmarked silver cann, engraved “The West Church,” reached $2,400. The Old West Congregational Church in Boston was established in 1737 and the building today is a Methodist church. An early Tiffany five-piece tea set marked “Tiffany & Co. G&W English Sterling” finished at $3,300. According to the catalog, the Grosjean & Woodward mark dates the set to 1854-55.
There were some bargains to be had among the ceramics offerings. Two large Liverpool jugs with George Washington transfers were good buys. One was 10 ½ inches tall with Washington’s tombstone, an eagle and more. It went for $780. The other, slightly taller, depicting Washington elevated to divine status ascending to heaven, with a ship on the reverse, earned just $660. Both were in fine condition, with only minor wear and discoloration.
Although an early strap-handled Chinese export porcelain covered cider jug was passed, most of the Chinese export wares did well. A pair of Nineteenth Century Rose Mandarin covered bough pots realized $5,700, while a pair of famille rose garden barrels, each decorated with a pair of birds under a tree, made $4,800. A circa 1800 pair of export plates, decorated with the Rockefeller pattern, sold well over the estimate, finishing at $3,000. Two unusual French plates decorated with scenes from the Madeline book series finished at $600. They were decorated and signed by Ludwig Bemelmans, author and illustrator of the books, and were dated circa 1950.
Discussing the results a few days after the sale, Nordblom said, “I believe we did well, given the state of the market today. We grossed about $500,000 and some things did well, and some, like the tall case clock, were off. The Newport card table went to a local collector who really wanted it. I’m fortunate to have a good retail following from collectors in Boston, Cambridge and Providence, and three came to check out this table. I was pleasantly surprised with the tea caddy collection, and so was the consignor. The two chinoiserie ones did nicely. So, all in all, it was a good sale and now it’s time to get to work on our summer sale, which will have some good American furniture.”
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.crnauctions.com or 617-661-9582.
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