Published: July 29, 2003
– In an absolutely picture perfect setting in the center of the Canterbury Shaker Village, Northeast Auctions’ Ron Bourgeault conducted a true old-fashioned New England country auction under a tent featuring a wide variety of Shaker materials over the weekend of July 11.
The sale, stacked with materials produced at the Village for both the public and the Shaker community’s own use, also incorporated a large number of rdf_Descriptions made by Shakers from throughout the Northeast, as well as related decorative arts.
“I have always loved the Village,” commented Bourgeault as he stood amidst the stately buildings and picturesque grounds, “and I absolutely loved the concept of having this auction here and helping the museum.” Many in the standing room only crowd shared Bourgeault’s sentiments as it allowed them to wander freely through the numerous buildings that make up the community and explore the wonderful historic grounds.
The sale featured the Shaker collection of William Zanetis of Chicago, much of which had come from the former collection of Lewis Noble Williams, along with other notable collections and consignments.
The auction, consisting of close to 350 lots and grossing $350,000, saw active bidding on the Shaker lots, although the general merchandise sold toward the end seemed soft. “The Shaker brought exactly what it should have,” commented Bourgeault after the auction. “If there is a box that they want, there are ten people that will pay the earth for it, the remainder of it brings what it should bring.” The collections had several rdf_Descriptions that people wanted dearly; however, they apparently failed to make that final step towards becoming “must have” rdf_Descriptions and brought appropriate prices.
The weekend began with a preview under the large tents on Friday afternoon and then progressed with numerous special activities at Canterbury Shaker Village including a symposium complete with lectures, previews of the new exhibitions and an open house in the Dwelling House, followed up by a Shaker-inspired dinner under the tent served by Village’s Creamery Restaurant.
Adding to the flavor of the sale was the noticeable absence of telephones being used in the bidding process, although Bourgeault did allow absentee bids to be executed.
The day got off to a fun-filled beginning with nearly 20 donated rdf_Descriptions being sold to benefit Canterbury Shaker Village, which included rdf_Descriptions such as Red Sox tickets, Shaker-inspired art, getaways, and a dinner for four with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns that Bourgeault himself bought for $450.
With the fundraising out of the way, the sale got off to a brisk start with lot one, a graduated stack of eight Shaker circular lidded boxes, five of which were in paint ranging from red and blue to mustard and green. Bidding on the lot opened at $300 and it was soon being hammered down at $2,185. A Shaker oval pantry box with five-finger construction in the original ivory paint did well at $4,150, followed by a large fingered oval box in brick red paint at $3,450. Late in the auction, a Shaker four-fingered “spit box” in original chrome yellow paint, five inches in diameter, brought $6,210.
Other smalls offered early on in the sale included a nest of three Union Porcelain oval serving dishes with a “Shakers, Mount Lebanon” inscription in each that brought $4,485, a wooden scoop in chrome yellow paint from either Enfield of Canterbury was bid to $1,150 and a small spool painted in red realized $1,042.
The first of the furniture offerings was a tiger-maple slat back side chair with tilters that brought $4,140, a Mount Lebanon revolving chair seemed a good buy at 3,680, and a small Harvard candlestand was hammered down at $1,380. The top lot of the furniture came as a Mount Lebanon tall chest with drawer configuration of eight-over-four in ochre paint sold at the high estimate of $13,800.
One of the rdf_Descriptions that attracted the most attention in the auction was a diminutive Shaker sewing cabinet in old red with two vertical stacks of 12 drawers. The piece had come from the collection of Cora Ginsburg, whose collection will be sold by Northeast Auction on August 3 in Manchester, and according to Bourgeault had been used in her sewing room. Bidding on the lot opened at $1,000 and it was soon being hammered down at $5,750. A large six-drawer tall chest from the Alfred community with a reddish stain did well bringing $8,625, while the anticipated top lot of the auction, a Canterbury sewing desk in chrome yellow and dark red paint, failed to meet reserves at $22,000.
Other furniture lots included two rare Mount Lebanon settees with curved armrests and mushroom caps that sold for $6,350, and $8,337, respectively. A nice Enfield elder’s rocker in tiger maple with mushroom capped arms also did well at $3,565. Also sold was a set of eight Watervliet slat back side chairs, some of which were in a chrome yellow paint, that brought $12,650.
One recurring humorous theme that Bourgeault worked throughout the sale was the elaborate photography in the catalog. While catalogs rarely warrant a mention, kudos to Carl Crossman and Ellen McDermott for their excellently choreographed photographs (all taken while Ron was in England), especially the dancing cobblers shoe lasts that mimicked the previous lot, a hand colored litho depicting the Shakers in dance. While Bourgeault laughingly balked at the elaborate and the time-staking photograph for a $300 lot, the litho “Shakers, Their Mode of Worship” by Kellogg brought $1,495, the genius behind the photography in the catalog makes it a memorable keeper.
Bourgeault commented after the auction that he hopes the auction will become an annual affair. Prices include the 15 percent buyers premium.
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