Published: March 16, 2016
Review And On-Site Photos by Rick Russack,
Catalog Photos Courtesy Skinner Inc
BOSTON, MASS. — Skinner’s February 27 sale had some outstanding folk art, silver, Chinese export porcelains, needlework, clocks, mocha, yachting trophies and a wide selection of American furniture. Needlework, New Hampshire furniture and folk art performed well and a ship portrait and a silver porringer by Paul Revere Jr exceeded expectations. A tiger maple tall chest was determined to have been made by a previously unrecorded Rhode Island cabinetmaker. The sale grossed over $1 million.
The circa 1788 Rhode Island tiger maple tall chest was a neat piece, even without the red-painted inscription on the chestnut backboard. The chest had six drawers, the uppermost having been made to appear that it was three small drawers. The pierced brass hardware was old, possibly original and the wood grain was striking. Skinner interpreted the 1788 inscription as reading “Gloucester December 10, 1788 Made by L(?) Smith.”
Pat Kane, the Friends of American Arts Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Yale University Art Gallery, saw the catalog description and asked Skinner for a photo of the difficult to read inscription. She read the inscription differently, believing it indicated that the chest had been made by Obadiah Smith, a cabinetmaker that she had not previously heard of. She told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that several members of the Smith family were woodworkers in the Glocester, R.I. area. Kane said that she would add Obadiah Smith to her database of Rhode Island cabinetmakers and termed this an “exciting discovery.” The chest was a good buy at $4,612.
One of the outstanding folk art pieces was a circa 1815, painted overmantel from a house in Haddam Neck, Conn. It was the cover illustration in Skinner’s catalog, and it depicted the capture of the American frigate President after a battle with the British frigate Endymion on January 15, 1815, during the War of 1812. Commodore Stephen Decatur, commanding the President, tried to break through the British blockade of New York harbor. He almost succeeded, but after a long battle in which he was severely wounded, he had nearly destroyed the Endymion. However, other British ships engaged the President and eventually forced Decatur’s surrender. The painting, the subject of much discussion during auction preview, had remained in the Haddam Neck home until 1981 when it was removed by the consignor. It brought $46,125.
Another standout in the folk painting category was a signed and dated portrait of an unidentified gentleman by Samuel Jordan, (1814–1836). Jordan is one of the true characters in the folk art world, having spent much of his life in prison. He was the subject of a well-attended gallery talk at Skinner titled “Samuel Jordan: Artist, Thief and Villain,” given by author Deborah M. Child the evening before the auction. He painted while in prison, and likely improved his skills as a counterfeiter while in jail. In 1834 he started his third prison term, escaped in 1836, reportedly went to Texas, and was never heard from again. The gentleman in the portrait wears a yellow vest and sits in front of colorful wallpaper with a landscape. It was estimated to bring $8/12,000 but finished much higher at $36,900. Other folk art performed well. A 29-inch running stag weathervane made by L.W. Cushing reached $11,685, and a prancing hackney horse weathervane finished at $4,920. A colorful Parcheesi gameboard achieved $6,765.
An elliptical mahogany Federal period chest of drawers with bird’s-eye maple veneer, attributed to Joseph Clark, a cabinetmaker from Portsmouth or Greenland, N.H., fetched $11,685, more than double its high estimate. Brock Jobe pictures a nearly identical chest in his Portsmouth furniture book. After the sale, Steve Fletcher, Skinner’s executive vice president, said, “It deserved to bring what it did. Its a beautiful piece.” Two other similar New Hampshire chests brought less; one, a bowfront with turned legs, went for $4,305 and a simpler elliptical one made $2,214. Leading the furniture category was an inlaid Federal Cumberland dining table, circa 1810–20, attributed to Thomas Seymour. On four turned and reeded pillars, it ingeniously folded up to require very little space. Estimated at a high of $6,000, it realized $35,670. An Aaron Willard tall case clock, Boston, circa 1810–15, achieved the highest price of the clock lots. It had a Roxbury-style case, open fretwork, three brass finials, and it went out for $10,455.
The sale had several interesting silver pieces. A porringer by Paul Revere Jr, circa 1770, reached $39,975. The pierced scroll handle is engraved P/DB. It may have belonged to the Pearce family of Gloucester, Mass. Several silver trophies for the yacht Sachem were included. The yacht was launched in 1886 and won several races over the next few years. The most impressive trophy was a repoussé, urn-shaped wine cooler with rose and thistle decoration on the body and a footed base with acorns and oak leaves. It was engraved “Morgan Cup/Won by Schooner Sachem August 8,1887/Presented by J. Pierpont Morgan” and it earned $14,760. The cooler was made several years earlier by Thomas Wimbush, a London silversmith working in the 1840s. A large Gorham silver plaque, circa1890, engraved with the “Record of the Sachem” listing its achievements for the previous three years, sold for $2,460. A silver-plated lighthouse shaped cocktail shaker, engraved as a trophy for a 1928 race, brought $2,829.
Selling at over five times its high estimate was a needlework memorial to Captain Daniel Badger,who died in August 1819 and his son, Charles Henry Badger, who died at the age of six, in 1806. Badger was a ship owner who contracted yellow fever after visiting one of his ships that had just returned from Africa, and died in Portsmouth, N.H., August 15, 1819. The memorial was worked by Badger’s widow, Susan, about 1821. Several figures flank an urn under a weeping willow. It realized $33,210.
An unusual needlework family record for the Harrington family, Waltham, Mass., circa 1810–15, went out at $6,150. It had been worked in the form of an apple tree, under a tassel, with names of family members worked into apples hanging from the branches. A needlework and watercolor picture of George Washington and his family, after the 1790s painting by Edward Savage, went for $7,073.
Paintings included a portrait of the bark Monrovia under full sail, by William Gay Yorke (American Canadian, 1817–1892) which finished at $36,900. Three ship portraits by Antonio Nicolo Gasparo Jacobsen (American Danish, 1850–1921) sold and one was passed. Selling at $7,995 was a painting depicting the warships Constitution and Guerriere approaching each other. Another, showing the same two ships in battle, brought $5,535 and the third, depicting Young America under a blue sky with full sails ended up at $4,305.
The sale had numerous other interesting items. A hand-colored lithograph by Fitz Henry Lane (1804–1865) of “New Bedford From the Fort near Fairhaven,” brought $2,583, while a set of six swing-arm Nantucket baskets, by A.D. Williams, 1921, finished at $14,760. A very decorative lantern from the fire pumper “Geo. W. Frantz” made $9,225. It had an eagle finial atop a ribbed dome, above a four-sided lantern with shield-shaped etched glass panels, two were blue-cut-to-clear, one was clear, etched with emblems of firefighting, and one was red-cut-to-clear showing the fire pumper from which this lantern was removed.
There were several lots of Chinese export porcelain from an old collection that had been in storage for a number of years. A punchbowl, just under 12 inches wide, decorated with a spreadwinged eagle with shield and scenes of the founding fathers at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, earned $5,228. A Fitzhugh pattern dinner plate, in yellow, circa 1820–35, realized $2,460, and a large oval platter in the same pattern, but in brown, reached $2,214.
After the sale, Fletcher said, “It was a solid sale, grossing over a million dollars. We reached that number without any six-figure prices but with several good things going for five figures.”
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, 617-350-5400 or www.skinnerinc.com.
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