Published: September 5, 2023
Review by Z.G. Burnett; Images Courtesy of Kaminski Auctions
BEVERLY, MASS. & PALM BEACH, FLA. — The two-day August Estates Auction hosted by Kaminski on August 19 and 20 featured more than 800 lots from extensive, focused private collections. The first day’s sale brought the art collection of William Frew, a US Air Force pilot and later Trans World Airways pilot with a 30-year career. This included a collection of Japanese prints from his great-uncle, Bernard Frew, who was secretary for General MacArthur during World War II. Another 30-year collection of Chelsea Clock Company clocks and barometers from John McCarthy was consigned; McCarthy was the company’s foreman while he was collecting. Also included were lots from an extensive Southern Connecticut collection of European furniture. About half the lots offered in the second day’s auction were brought from a downsizing Palm Beach, Fla., estate that had been decorated by interior design royalty such as Bunny Williams and John Rosselli. This session of the auction was conducted virtually, and won lots expected to be shipped to their new homes from Palm Beach.
“There were many categories in the sale, which works for us,” said Frank Kaminski. “Customers are getting good value for their purchases; I still say you can furnish a home for under $5,000.”
Fine art was at the forefront of the first day’s results, especially signed oil on canvas still lifes by Robert Douglas Hunter (American, 1928-2014) from a Plymouth, Mass., collection. Hunter was born and worked in New England throughout his life, earning numerous awards and a citation from the governor of Massachusetts for his accomplishments in painting and teaching. In his paintings, Hunter often used vessels of different sizes, materials and shapes, with emphasis on how light would affect their various surfaces. The highest selling of the day was “Mrs Little Kettle,” showing a predominantly white palette accented with flora and fruit, at $4,500. Next in price was Hunter’s “Still Life with Brass Vessel” at $3,750, followed by “Still Life with Vessels” for $2,750. The first of these were sold to an in-house buyer, and the others were sold online.
Earlier American artists were also represented in Day 1’s upper lots. Second overall in that auction was “Still Life with Strawberries” by Mary Jane Peale (American, 1827-1902) at $3,900, also from a Plymouth, Mass., collection. Peale was the only daughter of seven children produced by Rubens and Eliza Burd Patterson Peale, and was also the granddaughter of Charles Willson Peale. Despite being sometimes referred to as “the forgotten Peale,” her work exists in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Pennsylvania Museum of Art and other prominent institutions.
Another notable lot was “Portrait of Young French Lady with Roses” that went to an online bidder for $2,750. The canvas was painted with the name “Samantha Edwards” in the upper right corner and signed “J.H. Scully” in pencil. There are two possible candidates for this artist; an Irish painter (circa 1860-1935) and a Bridgeport, Conn., gallerist that was active circa 1870. An albumen silver print stereograph of the latter exists in the Getty Museum collection, presumably showing Scully outside his gallery next to a sheet music shop in Bridgeport. The “Young French Lady” came from a Fairfield, Conn., estate.
Two Chinese vessels did well on Day 1. First was a bulbous Jun ware bowl supported by three ruyi feet with evenly spaced “drum-nail” bosses decorating the sides for $2,750. The exterior surface showed a mottled blue and red glaze with olive-brown on the base, and the interior showed a light teal, almost celadon glaze. Second was a rare Qing dynasty porcelain bowl with mythical sea creatures and dragons painted in blue against an iron-red and white field of waves. The interior base showed a red and blue medallion with a winged serpent against the white porcelain, and the bowl was bid to $2,520.
The upper lots of the second day’s sale were primarily consigned from the aforementioned Palm Beach estate, and these were auctioned remotely from the Florida mansion. Previews were conducted by appointment only. “Our goal was to sell everything in the place, and then offer a delivery service,” commented Kaminski. “And that’s worked out well!” Many of these “wonderful decorative furnishings” did not go too far, with bidders logging in and purchasing from Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina.
The top two lots were exceptional in that they were both oil on canvas scenes that did not originate from the Palm Beach estate. Subject-wise, their landscapes could not have been more dissimilar. First was “First Snow” by Ivan Augustovich Veltz (Russian, 1866-1926), from a Rye, N.H., collection that sold for $21,600. The verso showed a Bonhams auction tag and the subject’s location identified only as “Dowager’s Palace.” Veltz is known for his realist landscapes of the Russian, Ukrainian and eastern European countryside, and his work was regularly exhibited at the Moscow Society of Art Lovers and the St Petersburg Society of Artists.
Next was a different kind of landscape of a Floridian “River Scene” from Highwayman artist and mentor Albert Ernest Backus (American, 1906-1990) that achieved $20,000. Backus was from Fort Pierce, Fla., and largely self-taught after a summer of attending classes at what would become New York City’s Parsons School for Design in 1924. He opened a commercial art center in his home state, and successively earned commissions and patronage from wealthy supporters, fought in the US Navy during World War II, endured the death of his beloved wife and founded studios throughout Florida. The A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery can be visited in Fort Pierce’s historic downtown.
The following top lots were all large-scale examples of furnishings from the Palm Beach estate. Third in that day’s auction was a 10-foot-tall four-poster canopy bed for $5,313, followed in price by a pair of wood shelves decorated with trompe l’oeil-painted columns and other architectural details at $4,688. Other heavy hitters included an Italian marble inlaid table with an iron base for $4,375, a French painted buffet that sold to an in-house bidder for $4,080 and a Nineteenth Century French console table with a marble top and painted laurel leaf swags that was bid to $3,625.
Prices quoted with buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. Kaminski’s September Estates Auction will be on September 16 and 17. For information, 948-927-2223 or www.kaminskiauctions.com.
October 3, 2023
October 3, 2023
October 3, 2023
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