Published: December 5, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Photos Courtesy Gerald W. Bell
PORTLAND, MAINE – On November 19, Gerald Bell sold the contents of the Colcord family home in Searsport, Maine. On their wedding night in 1881, Captain Lincoln Colcord and his new wife, Jane, departed on a two-year voyage that would take them around the world. The family accumulated a collection of Chinese and Japanese decorative arts and American furniture. Their son, Lincoln, born aboard ship, would become a prolific author and a benefactor of the Penobscot Marine Museum, in Searsport, Maine.
The top-selling items in the sale were a group of China trade and other marine paintings.
A Hong Kong harbor scene with ships, figures and port buildings was the top lot of the sale and brought $8,260, from a phone bidder. An 1854 portrait of the three-masted Searsport ship sold to a bidder in the room for $4,200. An unsigned portrait of the bark, attributed to well-known marine artist Clement Drew (1806-1889), sold to a phone bidder for $3,245.
The Colcord family was friends with the artist Waldo Peirce (1884-1970) and the sale included several of his paintings. Peirce was a successful artist in the 1930s and his work hangs in several museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Portrait Gallery.
Many of the Chinese and Japanese items collected in the mid- to late Nineteenth Century, were included in this sale. Prices were very reasonable. Two early Japanese carved bamboo brush pots with intricate deep carvings sold for $168. A 23-inch-tall hexagonal Qing dynasty temple vase with a processional banner brought $616 despite condition issues. A large pair of temple garden foo dogs, described in the catalog as “outrageous,” earned $493.
The collection included some early furniture, but condition issues held the prices down. A period Queen Anne cherry highboy with a shaped apron and slender legs, but with replaced backboards and other issues, sold for $840. A Willard’s patent banjo clock made by William Cummens of Roxbury, Mass., circa 1820, may have been a very good buy at $280.
Bell Auctioneers is a family-run business. Gerry Bell grew up in the business and bought his first antique, an old clock, from a neighbor’s garage when he was 11. He has had an antique shop, done shows and conducted his first auction in 1976. Internet bidding is not used at this time; when asked why he is not using internet bidding now, he said, “I really like having a room full of bidders, and I make it financially worthwhile for folks to attend. My buyer’s premium for absentee or phone bidders is 18 percent. I drop that to 12 percent for bidders in the room. It makes life simpler for me – I don’t have to move stuff after an auction, bills get paid the day of the auction, and I don’t have to warehouse anything. And I think it helps the dealers.”
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