Published: March 27, 2007
Everyone who saw it loved the A.L. Jewell copper weathervane in the form of a horse soaring through a hoop, but only one buyer could have it. At Skinner’s February 18 Americana sale, the full bodied and sheet copper vane went to a phone bidder for $160,000 after a bidding competition that opened at $24,000 before a capacity crowd and full-on phones. The weathervane came from the Georgia collection of Meryl and Jay Weiss, who had it from Ron and Penny Dionne.
The sale required three catalogs: one for the 183-lot Weiss collection, another for a Massachusetts collection of miniature portraits and the third for fine objects from other collections. Plenty of dealers were on site and they meant business.
The Weiss cover lot, a circa 1880 cast and sheet iron rooster form weathervane in warm yellow paint was attributed to Rochester Iron Works, had a remarkable textural quality and sold in the room for $36,425. A phone bidder took a nicely molded copper and zinc cow form weathervane for $25,850. That vane was thought to have been made by Cushing and White in Waltham, Mass. A molded sheet copper and cast iron standing horse weathervane also realized $25,850.
The Weiss collection was gathered over 40 years and many of the objects were meticulously documented. The consignors requested that the section of the sale devoted to their collection be filmed, as they wanted a record of the disposition of their collection. The filming, which focused only on the auctioneers, did not deter anyone from bidding, however; the collection was strong and was received warmly back into the marketplace. There is no shortage of eagerness for good Americana.
Bidding on an unsigned Edwin Plummer miniature watercolor and gouache portrait of a woman opened at $5,000 and bounced around the room. It eventually came down to a phone bidder, however, who paid a record price of $88,125 for it, beating out the prior Plummer record of $21,150 for a miniature portrait of Miss Stevens of Andover, Mass., also achieved at Skinner in June 2004. The subject was rendered beautifully in a fancy blue dress with a pink to orange sash and was inscribed on the back, “Light Pink&” as was Plummer’s custom. The half-length likeness contrasted with the blue and orange background and was set off by a column and a blue drapery. Plummer was born in 1802 in Haverhill and painted in Salem and in Maine before settling in Boston.
A carved and painted wood American eagle wall plaque from the Nineteenth Century caused all the phones to light up and sold for $88,125. Auctioneer Stephen L. Fletcher had suggested to consignor Jay Weiss that it might bring around $75,000, but it was estimated conservatively at $12/15,000. Bingo! The spread wing eagle, clutching an olive branch against American flags with gilt tassels, came from a building in Keene, N.H., that was demolished in the 1970s.
A graphically compelling painted wood game board of snakes and ladders made in the late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century sparked a competition in the saleroom, but a phone bidder prevailed ultimately at $64,625. The board, with applied breadboard ends, was painted with red and slate-blue borders and the game was in red, blue and black on a cream ground.
A rectangular painted Parcheesi game board with breadboard ends made in the early Twentieth Century that the Weisses had from Tom Dupree of Suffield, Conn., brought $7,638.
A large (41¼ by 26 inches) oil on canvas portrait of a gray-eyed boy gripping a reluctant looking ginger tabby cat and dressed in a dark green tunic with cream color trousers was thought to have been painted by New York artist Henry Walton. It was unsigned and sold for $47,000.
“Portrait of a Child with a Pet Dog” was unsigned but attributed to William Matthew Prior and sold for $29,375. The oil on canvas depicted a child in a red dress holding one shoe next to a black and white dog. A tidy “Portrait of a Young Lady” attributed to John Brewster went for $25,850.
A framed group of miniature watercolor and gouache portraits of six members of the Patten family was unsigned and brought $17,625. The back was inscribed with the identification of the subjects and the notation “Taken about 1816,” although research places it as having been made around 1812.
The watercolor, graphite and ink portrait, “Susan C. Fish 1845 14 years” was attributed to Jane A. Davis and garnered $14,100 against its estimated $2/4,000.
A serene late Nineteenth Century winter landscape “Hampden Corners, Maine, Winter Street Scene,” was accompanied by an early Twentieth Century postcard of the same view and sold for $12,925
A Nineteenth Century American School “Portrait of a Young Woman in a Patterned Striped Dress” was unsigned but had real charm. It sold on the phone for $19,975.
A Maine pictorial record of the lives of Cornelius and Rebecca Adams from the early part of the Nineteenth Century was decorated with an eagle, a banner and shield, flowers and a heart. It brought $19,975 from Sandy Doig.
A Windsor fanback side chair made in the late Eighteenth Century in Rhode Island or eastern Connecticut retained the original Spanish brown paint and sold for $7,638.
A diminutive Philadelphia Chippendale mahogany tilt top tea table with a dominant birdcage support and cabriole legs on pad feet on tiny platforms sold for $43,475. The catalog indicated that the table had descended in the family of Mrs. William Longstreth Dodge of Philadelphia.
A Massachusetts Queen Anne mahogany upholstered easy chair from between 1750 and 1760 sold on the phone for $32,900. Although the chair bore the curious inscription “N Bowen,” a Marblehead, Mass., maker, it was determined to have no link to Bowen. A Federal mahogany worktable by Boston maker Thomas Seymour had ovolo corners and rounded edges, cockbeading and tapering reeded legs. It brought $23,500.
A mid Eighteenth Century Queen Anne maple slant lid desk made in Framingham, Mass., had been sold by Roland Hammond at one time. It brought strong interest and sold for $22,325.
A slender Federal one-drawer stand made in Maine in about 1810 was painted yellow with simulated black stringing and realized $15,275. According to the catalog notes, a similar example is in the collection of the Brick House Museum in Kennebunk, Maine.
A Baltimore album quilt that was signed and dated “Sarah Shafer, Baltimore, 1850,” commemorated a number of that city’s institutions such as the monument to George Washington, the volunteer fire companies, Mexican American war heroes and a civic building. Bidding opened and ended on the phone at $31,725.
A circa 1830 watercolor “Portrait of a Woman Seated in a Landscape” attributed to Jacob Maentel showed a woman in a Windsor chair holding a book and brought $16,450 from a phone bidder.
The colorful Twentieth Century “Second Avenue Barbershop” by Professor Arthur Cirino showing a female pedestrian and a black cat in the doorway went for $11,750 to David Wheatcroft. He also took a Rhode Island pair of unsigned watercolor and ink memorial pictures for $12,925. In one, a mournful-looking gentleman leans on a monument to the lamented wife and children of Edward Hancox. Company principal Stephen Fletcher pointed out that the woman in the other image leans over the same monument but with a considerably less doleful countenance.
The intriguing oil on canvas “Women in Art Class” by Frank Hector Tompkins was signed “F.H. Tompkins 96” and went for $6,463 to a pleased buyer in the room. The painting depicted women artists and a seated female model, with a blackish cat looking on, and the subject is thought to be an art class at the Ladies Unity Club in Boston. Auctioneer Fletcher recalled having sold it at Skinner for $225, 25 years ago when, as he put it, “Stevie had a pony tail.”
A carved and painted wood and zinc soldier whirligig made in New England in the first half of the Nineteenth Century was acquired at Sotheby’s sale of the Stewart Gregory collection in 1979. It sold to a collector in the room for $29,375. The same collector paid $7,050 for a watercolor portrait of a woman and two children from about 1830. The unsigned picture is attributed to the same artist who painted the portrait of Emma Clark, now in the collection of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum at Colonial Williamsburg.
A lot of people in the gallery agreed with Fletcher when he said of a painted and gilded wood chandelier, “I’ve never seen anything like that!” The late Eighteenth Century piece was double-tiered and carved with acorns and bead and bud motifs. It came from a meeting house on the Hudson River, although from a distance it resembled a work of bottle corks. It brought a reasonable $17,625 from an area designer buying for a client’s house.
A circa 1820 pair of Boston painted leather fire buckets inscribed “Always Ready” and “Chester Adams” brought $28,200 from a phone bidder. They sold too early in the sale to be of any use at about 9 pm as miniatures were being sold, the fire alarm went off and the Boston Fire Department arrived. A 58¾-inch pair of brass and wood parade fire torches were engraved, “Engine Company 17 of Roxbury, [Mass.] Presented by L. Button V.C. Waterford, N.Y. Jan.y 1845,” and sold for $4,406.
The star of the second section of the sale was one of three known American crooked back chairs, a carved and painted maple and cane example from about 1715 to 1725 that was simply a gem. Bidding opened at $30,000 and ended when the chair sold for $110,500 to a phone bidder. Thought to have been made in Boston, the chair is distinguished by its flowing spooned back and stylish carving. In profile, the seat seems to have dropped from the air to balance delicately on the carved and turned legs. The chair was originally thought to have been made by John Gaines II of Ipswich, but a number of experts were convinced of a Boston origin. It bore the mark of a Boston caner. It came from a collector who had it for many years.
The silk needlework and watercolor picture of “The Washington Family” was well documented as having been wrought by Sophia Pond of Keene, N.H., in 1816 after the painting by Edward Savage. It sold for $88,125 to nine-year-old Brandon Keno, who alternated raising his paddle with flipping a tennis ball. Young Keno, who was accompanied by his father, Leigh, who observed the proceedings quietly, was particularly focused bidding on several lots, raising his paddle until bidding reached his predetermined limit when he lowered it.
A number of bidders chased a circa 1815 American School watercolor “Portrait of a Woman Seated in a Windsor Chair” from the Weiss collection, but they were all outmaneuvered by young Keno, who took it for $16,450. He also got a Federal painted dressing table from Maine with a D-shaped box on ball feet that descended in the McCulloch family for $3,525.
Some father-son negotiation went on over the space requirements of the sparkly Mason and Company rotating wheel game of chance that measured 93 by 57 inches and which Brandon eyed. The parental vote was “your room.” Everyone liked it, but space was a problem. Estimated at $3/5,000 it sold for a relatively reasonable $2,468, but to someone else.
The phones came alive for the unsigned “Portrait of a Young Boy with a Whip and a Pull toy” that opened at $14,000 and drew $58,750 from one of them. The circa 1840 oil on canvas depicts a boy in a taupe dress standing on a patterned floor. A woman who bought a house in Somerville, Mass., found it in the attic of the house many years ago and found it beneath a map of Syria to which it had been affixed and vestiges of which it retained. She brought it to a Skinner lobby day.
Another phone bidder paid $54,050 for a Benjamin Willard Queen Anne birch tall clock in red paint. The clock dated from about 1766‱771 and was one of the few examples that Willard made during his tenure in Lexington, Mass. A circa 1800 mahogany cased “coffin” wall clock attributed to Simon Willard of Roxbury had descended in the Dudley family of Roxbury. It sold for $16,450.
The object that garnered the most interest in the sale was a circa 1815 classical mahogany tall clock by John Nicholl of Belvidere, N.J., that was carved beautifully with rosettes, acanthus leaves and a fan; it sold for $35,250.
A Rhode Island Chippendale mahogany and mahogany veneer dressing table from 1765 to 1785 had a carved convex shell, a pretty scrolled skirt and ball and claw feet and sold for $47,000.
A circa 1830 Shaker cherry stand that was possibly from the community at Mount Lebanon with a strong birdcage support garnered no interest when it was offered at $10,000. When it was opened at $4,000 it shot away to $22,325. The stand had seen service as a tea table in a Boxford, Mass., house.
A late Nineteenth Century gilt copper weathervane of a setter that was attributed to J.W. Fiske or E.G. Washburne had significant documentation, great form and color, and despite a slightly hangdog appearance, blew past the estimated $3/5,000 to $44,064. A consignor brought it to a Skinner lobby to see if it was worth anything.
The Nineteenth Century American School half-length oil on panel “Portrait of Miss Smith of Poughkeepsie, New York” pictured the sitter in a pink dress and a coral bead necklace. It sold for $21,150 against the estimated $3/5,000.
The highlight of the miniature portrait collection late in the sale †just before it ended at around 9:30 pm †was a watercolor on ivory image of Eliza Carolina Rice Blake and a young child that was attributed to Moses B. Russell, which sold for $14,100. Speaking after the sale, Fletcher said the crowd was smaller than the capacity crowds earlier in the day, but the people who mattered were there. The Boston Fire Department was also present, but the selling went on. A circa 1844 miniature watercolor on ivory portrait of a child in a white dress wearing a coral bead necklace attributed to Clarissa Peters, wife of Moses B. Russell, brought $11,750. A circa 1845 pair of portrait miniatures of Oliver S. and Martha Nasm Sanford also drew $11,750.
A silver tongue depressor by Paul Revere Jr, with a coffin-shaped handle with a pierced blade was stamped “Revere” and brought $14,100. Six small silver spoons also by Revere, with swag form shell designs on the back of the elongated bowls, elicited $15,275.
All prices quoted reflect the buyer’s premium of 17½ percent of the first $80,000 and ten percent thereafter. For information, 978-779-6241 or www.skinnerinc.com .
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