Sotheby's Americana Week Auctions New York
Jan 14-24, 2022
Published: November 20, 2018
Photos and Review by Rick Russack
THOMASTON, MAINE – More than 2,000 lots were offered at the Thomaston Place fall auction weekend, November 8-11, far more than we can mention in this space. Topping the sale was an Andrew Wyeth watercolor, which brought more than $120,000. Numerous items brought strong five-figure prices, including several other paintings, a Philadelphia Chippendale chest of drawers, an Eighteenth Century sampler, a Kashmir sapphire ring, a tobacconist figure and vintage automobiles. Each day of the sale concentrated on particular material. Internet bidding was available on three platforms, several phone lines were in use, and there were numerous absentee bids. The sale was streamed live.
Paintings did well, with the signed 1946 watercolor by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), “Spruce Timber,” bringing $122,750, the star of the sale. It depicted two men cutting wood with a bucksaw at the water’s edge. According to Angela Waldron of the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine, “‘Spruce Timber’ was painted by Wyeth at Broad Cove Farm in Cushing, Maine. His friend Forrest Wall (to the right) is one of the men depicted cutting trees used to build the Wyeth’s home in Cushing.” It was exhibited at the Farnsworth in 2015. It was an active weekend in New England for the Wyeths as additional material from the family was also offered by Grogan & Co in Boston.
In addition to the Wyeth watercolor, a number of other paintings brought five-figure prices. For example, a pastoral scene with two cows and children by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) sold for $29,250, and “Somes Sound,” an oil on canvas by Thomas Doughty (1793-1856), brought $14,625. It depicted a small mountain harbor with sailboats and figures of a man and woman in the foreground. The location is on Mount Desert Island in Maine. “Jeune Fille au Chapeau Bleu,” a portrait by Marie Laurencin (1883-1956) reached $15,210, well over the estimate. The artist had her first solo show in 1907 and became a member of both the circle of Pablo Picasso and the Cubists associated with the Section d’Or.
Probably the largest surprise among the paintings was a work by Waldo Peirce (1884-1970). It showed the artist and Ernest Hemingway hunting birds outside the Ponce de Leon hotel in Florida, circa 1928. Estimated at $1,500, it attained $29,250. It was one of nine works in the sale by the artist.
The first day of the sale was devoted to more than 500 lots of pre-Columbian, Native American and artifacts of other cultures. The day got off to a good start, with a Nineteenth Century Tlingit cephalomorphic ancestral mask of polychromed spruce with an applied fur moustache and inlaid abalone shell. It sold for $9,360. There were a number of artifacts from the Taino culture that was widespread in the Caribbean when Columbus arrived. Leading the category was a heavily carved Duho ritual chair, used by elites during certain ceremonies, which sold for $17,550. Another Taino piece, cataloged as “a unique lignum vitae cohoba serving vessel, depicting human to crocodile transformation. Cohoba was the hallucinogen used by the Taino to reach a transcendental state. No other artifact like this is known from the Taino ceremonial repertoire.” It sold for $5,558. From the same culture, a large ceremonial figural bowl, perhaps referring to Atabey, the goddess of fertility, earned $4,680. A Mayan pottery figure of a Mayan lord, circa 550-950 CE, 9¾ inches tall, reached $4,388.
Thomaston Place sales often include a good selection of estate jewelry, and this sale had hundreds of pieces of “seasonal sparkle,” as they were called in the catalog. An exceptional platinum ring with a 2.80-carat Kashmir royal blue natural sapphire set with diamonds topped the selection, bringing $33,930. A handmade 14K yellow gold link bracelet with ten diamond cluster links sold for $3,217. The husbands of women wearing jewelry of this quality probably needed a safe way to transport their top hats. To meet this need, the auction included a rare Louis Vuitton leather covered top hat trunk. It had the original interior fittings and sold for $2,925.
The sale offered a rare mid-Nineteenth Century carved Turk tobacconist figure. It was about 66 inches tall and was believed to have originated in the Salem, Mass., area. It was sold earlier in the year by the Copake Auction Gallery for $10,620, and it was available at the Philadelphia Antiques Show. Thomaston cataloged it as a “figure of a standing Turkish boy holding a bunch of tobacco leaves, dressed in traditional Ottoman costume with turban and slippers, retaining the original gilding.” Its estimate was $20/25,000. It was passed at the sale but sold a few days later for $16,000.
There were some unusual marine items. A pair of mounted pan bones from a large whale, with mandibles intact, sold to an internet buyer for $2,808. Each was more than 64 inches tall. A large whale rib, 66 inches long, brought $1,053. Both items had been brought back by a Maine whaler in the Nineteenth Century. A scrimshawed whale tooth, with an engraved portrait of the ship Abigail of New Bedford under full sail with color on the American flag and initialed E.H.N., reached $3,217. From a New Bedford whaling family came two lots of important whaling photographs. One album, with 25 photos depicting the rendering of a whale, sold for $3,276. The photos were taken on the bark California in 1903 and each photo was captioned, describing exactly what was taking place.
Another lot, with three albums from the same family, depicted New Bedford whale ships and scenes relating to the whaling industry. Each album contained about 50 captioned photos and the lot sold for $4,972. An exceptional pair of rope beckets, with knot-work handles, carved Turk heads and original blue-green paint, fetched $4,680. Numerous ship paintings were offered, including “The American Clipper Ship Centennial passing the South Stack lighthouse on her way to Liverpool,” an oil on canvas signed by British artist William Howard Yorke (1847-1921) and dated 1877, which sold for $6,435.
Antiques auctions do not often include vintage automobiles, but Thomaston Place sales sometimes do. There were about half a dozen in this sale, with a 1990 Lotus Turbo Esprit SE bringing $17,550. The car had less than 60,000 original miles, a removable hard-top, a full leather interior and a five-speed manual transmission. This particular model is considered to be uncommon, as only about 1,600 were produced.
A 1986 Jaguar XJ6 with 63,000 miles and all service records, brought $6,143. A 1967 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, showing 16,000 miles on the odometer, may have been passed but it is not forgotten. Kaja Veillieux said that he may keep the car and have it restored. “So next year you may see me driving a Rolls.” Some would say that would be appropriate.
A few days after the sale, Veillieux said, “This was our last sale of the year, and it was one of the biggest ones we’ve done recently. We had more than 2,000 items, and probably 99 percent of the stuff came from private owners. The majority of the things go to retail buyers. We sell very little dealer merchandise so buyers know they’re looking at fresh merchandise. The Wyeth painting was a good one and it will be staying in Maine. I thought we did really well with the Philadelphia four-drawer chest, which brought twice what we thought it would. My wife and I are going to take a little time off and then it’s time to get to work on the spring sale.”
For additional information, www.thomastonauction.com or 207-354-8141.
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