Published: September 21, 2010
When an unsigned ship’s portrait is the top lot at auction where it sells for $35,550, it is a pretty sure sign that the sale is replete with buying opportunities for everyone. Such was the case at Skinner’s August 14‱5 sale at the Marlborough gallery where good country offerings played to the gallery.
The ship’s portrait of the merchantman Rappahannock was the lot in question. The vessel, built at Bath, Maine, in 1841 by Clark and Sewall, was an experimental craft and at the time, the largest merchant ship in the world and the largest since the Roman grain carriers built in the time of Caligula. It sailed as a packet ship to Liverpool in summer, as a cotton ship from New Orleans in the winter and as a clipper between New York and San Francisco.
The picture, an oil on wood panel, was formerly a fireboard and came from a Cape Cod collection. It had been estimated at $2,5/3,500.
A folky portrait of the hermaphrodite brig Eliza Stevens by the English-born artist Charles Sidney Raleigh, who settled in New Bedford, was signed and dated 1880 and unframed, but desirable, and realized $16,590.
A sweet pastel portrait of two children, each wearing a coral bracelet, with their spaniel, circa 1840, with the boy in a blue dress and the girl in white with a handbag decorated with the image of a girl and a sheep was $16,590.
An unsigned portrait miniature watercolor on ivory of a girl in a white dress by J.B. Alexander of Charleston, S.C., went to a phone bidder for $10,073. A label identified the sitter as 5-year-old Ann L. Hershman of Camden, S.C., the date as 1840 and the artist.
A pair of portrait miniature watercolors of a man and a woman on paper by Rufus Porter, circa 1820, fetched $5,036.
Similarly, a pair of portrait miniature watercolors of Samuel S. Barker and his wife Mary Ann Barker by a member of the DaLee family was unsigned, but the sitters were identified in inscriptions on the back. Bidding opened at $1,000 and ended when a phone bidder paid $6,518 for the pair. A hollow cut and painted silhouette of a lady in a blue dress, circa 1830, was estimated at $400/$600 and realized $6,518.
All the phones were mustered for the Benjamin Champney oil on canvas, “The Conway Meadow, New Hampshire,” which doubled the high estimate when it sold to one of them for $16,590.
A Nineteenth Century oil on canvas view of a harborside distillery signed “SC” was the sale favorite for auctioneer Stephen L. Fletcher, director of the Americana department. It depicted a large complex of buildings, distilling tanks, a rail line and ships lying at anchor, presumably ready to load cargo. It sold for $14,220. The exact location of the distillery remains a puzzle, it could be Scottish or Canadian, but the canvas tighteners are American.
“Portrait of Hiram Augustus Adams,” a circa 1824 oil on wood panel work attributed to Sheldon Peck, brought $14,220. A note on the back of the panel identified the sitter, who was described in the catalog notes as the grandfather of Helen Adams Snedicon. An unsigned portrait of Sally Adams attributed to Peck that sold at Skinner in June 2008 for $11,850 bore a similar note. That sitter was described as the mother of Hiram Adams and the great-grandmother of Helen Adams Snedicon.
“Portrait of Rhoda Bennet Couch,” a circa 1830 unsigned work by Ammi Phillips, sold for $11,258. The sitter may have been Rhoda Bennett Couch of Amenia, N.Y., and Great Barrington, Mass. She is seated in a fancy painted chair and wears nicely embellished clothing.
An 1885 oil on canvas view of Schroon Lake, N.Y., by Hudson River School artist Augustus Rockwell sold on the phone for $11,258 against the estimated $600/800, while an American School portrait of an exceptionally pretty young woman by an unknown artist went to a collector for $7,703. The circa 1810 oil on canvas painting depicted a Miss David of Marshfield, Mass.
Standing 63¾ inches tall, a late Nineteenth Century carved and painted wood Indian tobacconist figure with a feathered headdress and apron, a fringed dress and cape sold for $16,590.
A 76-inch half-hull model of the ship City of New York from the late Nineteenth Century fetched $8,888.
An ornamental mantel figure carved by A. Elmer Crowell with a delineated tail tip and mounted on a burl base sold for $18,960. The bird was carved sometime before 1912, which was determined by his signature, “A.E. Crowell/Maker/Cape Cod,” that he used until that time, after which he substituted the word “manufacturer.” It went to a phone bidder.
An early Twentieth Century Noah’s ark with 41 carved and painted animal figures sold in the room for $11,258. The ark had been found in Newtown, Conn.
A late Nineteenth Century painted, gilded and carved wood American eagle plaque with the eagle carrying a banner inscribed “Niagara Excels” fetched $5,629.
A Nineteenth Century molded copper weathervane in the form of a flattened full-body ram was made in Waltham, Mass., with a detailed curly coat and retaining the original horns. It was the highlight of a group of weathervanes when it brought $15,405 from a phone bidder.
A late Nineteenth Century copper and cast zinc horse and jockey weathervane with weathered gilt on the horse and weathered red and green paint on the jockey sold for $10,665, as did a late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century molded gilt copper codfish weathervane with corrugated sheet copper fins.
A 31-inch late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century molded sheet copper architectural figure of a spread-wing eagle went for $8,295.
A handsome Pennsylvania tiger maple spice chest from New London Township in Chester County with a carved tombstone panel door opening to seven drawers sold for $23,700. Skinner’s Fletcher said the 19-inch chest, which sold above estimate, “went the way I thought it would.”
A group of Shaker objects, most identified only as “New England,” was offered. A pine, cherry and butternut kitchen table in swelled legs and with a single generous drawer, described as “possibly New Lebanon,” went to a left bid for $20,145. A cherry and pine trestle table in red paint, circa 1830, had a “probably Harvard, Mass.,” attribution and sold on the phone for $8,295. It had an old surface and some alterations. A mid-Nineteenth Century pine, cherry and birch sewing desk sold online for $3,555.
An Eighteenth Century southern New Hampshire Queen Anne maple high chest of drawers that Fletcher said was “certainly Dunlap” opened at $4,000 and sold in the room for $15,405. A Queen Anne cherry dressing table that might have been made in southeastern Massachusetts between 1740 and 1760 sold for $7,110.
A Massachusetts or New Hampshire Federal carved mahogany two-tier dressing table with wavy birch inlay and a single drawer in the upper tier brought $9,480 despite old refinish, some imperfections and an estimate of $1/1,500.
A diminutive painted and glazed corner cupboard that may have been a Mahantongo Valley piece came from the estate of J.A. Peter Strassburger of Normandy Farms in Bluebell, Penn. It fetched $6,518 on the phone. Is the slant lid desk market strengthening? Maybe. A Chippendale cherry slant lid example from the last half of the Eighteenth Century may have been a Pennsylvania piece. It was painted blue with a canary yellow interior and sold for $5,333.
A late Seventeenth Century Bermuda cedar six-board chest with English feet sold for $4,444. Chris Barber of the Americana department at Skinner discussed the chest during a gallery walk. He noted that it was made in the Spanish or Moorish tradition, visible especially in the dovetailing, which was cut with a jig. Individual cabinetmakers had their own jigs, which enabled them to create distinctive and recognizable designs.
A pieced and appliquéd Baltimore album quilt was signed and dated in the center block, “By Miss Mary Ann Grooms/Democracy is my Motto/Baltimore/1847.” It sold in the gallery for $15,405.
A cloth doll, circa 1860, by Rhode Island maker Izannah Walker, with an oil painted head with brown eyes, brown hair with a center path, a pink mouth and cheek color, wearing a green wool dress and white cotton undergarments brought $10,073. In a gallery talk, Americana specialist LaGina Austin said that Walker had been making dolls early in her life (she was born in 1817) but only received patents in 1873.
Once again, all the telephones came alive for a large stoneware crock decorated in cobalt with a stag leaping over a split rail fence, which was made by Haxstun, Ottman and Co., of Fort Edward, N.Y. It realized $14,220 from a consistent bidder. A stoneware cooler by William H. Farrar was inscribed “Robt. Benson 1855/Geddes/Onondaga co., N.Y.” and went for $4,740.
A 94-inch Aaron Willard mahogany tall case clock, circa 1790, with an eight-day time and strike movement and retaining the label engraved by Paul Revere, sold for $13,035. An 83¼-inch New England Federal cherry tall case clock, circa 1800, was carved and inlaid and had an eight-day weight-powered movement. It realized $5,925, while a similar 90½-inch example was $4,740.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.skinnerinc.com or 508-970-3000.
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