Published: November 26, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy of Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
THOMASTON, MAINE – There’s usually something for everyone at a Thomaston Place auction. Kaja Veilleux’s most recent three-day sale, November 8-10, was no different. It offered more than 1,500 lots that ranged from early baseball cards, good American furniture, campaign furniture, numerous American and European paintings, Native American objects, decoys, folk art, miniatures, Asian material, jewelry, Twentieth Century design, Oriental rugs and more. Each day of the sale included certain categories, and attendance in the salesroom was strong. Most items are sold without reserves, meaning that often good buys are to be had. Several phone lines were in use, multiple internet platforms were active and there were numerous absentee bids. Food was on the house throughout. Including postsale transactions, the three-day sale grossed more than $1,400,000.
Sharing honors for the highest price realized of the sale and leading the selections on the second day was a larger-than-life ship’s figurehead of Benjamin Franklin, for which a phone bidder, competing against other phone bidders and the internet, paid $29,250. It had minor condition issues, which were fully noted in the catalog. It was a full body standing figure of Franklin, carved and painted oak, and had been salvaged from the wreck of the Great Lakes steamship Benjamin Franklin, which had run aground on a shoal in Lake Superior about 5 am on October 9, 1850. All passengers and crew members escaped serious injury. The figure was 82 inches tall by 36 inches wide. The catalog noted that “steamships of this era were the first to display full length figureheads, a development made possible by the change to a more vertical stem on steam driven hulls.”
Sharing the honors for top priced item of the sale was a European painting. Selling on the third day for $29,250 was an untitled geometric abstract painting by Chris Hendrick Beekman (1887-1964), a Dutch painter, signed and dated 1916. His works are in several museums, and three works of his were included in “Contrasts of Form: Geometric Abstract Art 1910-1980” at the Museum of Modern Art in 1985-86. Another abstract, this one by Russian artist Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1961), 90 of whose works are in the Museum Wiesbaden, realized $14,040. Also sold on the third day, at prices far in excess of estimates, were three paintings by Maltese artist Frank Portelli (1923-2004). Selling for $19,890, signed and dated 1957, was “Resurrezione.” By the same artist, “Malta… Cradle of War and Peace,” an acrylic on canvas with collage, signed and dated 1967, sold for $18,720. Interestingly, and demonstrating the increasing importance of the internet, a few days after the sale, Veilleux said that all the bidders for these paintings were from the island of Malta.
Topping the American painting selection was an oil by John George Brown (1831-1913), “A Stitch in Time,” signed and dated 1883. It featured a smiling boy seated in a country chair, pulling a thread through his trousers, with his arm raised. Brown was vice president of the National Academy of Design from 1899-1904. He is best-known for his genre paintings, and this one reached $23,400. A portrait of a woman with parrot attributed to the itinerant deaf artist John Brewster Jr (1766-1854) earned $11,700. Also doing unexpectedly well, selling for $9,945, was a small ballpoint ink sketch of a cow and farmhouse at Port Clyde, Maine, by Andrew Wyeth. The catalog noted: “In 1970, Mark Daggett, aged 11 or 12, son of Wesley Daggett, a contractor working on Andrew Wyeth’s workshop in Port Clyde, Maine, asked Andrew if he would do a sketch for him. Andrew produced this image, signed it, and gave it to Mark. It has been in his possession ever since.”
The sale included some good “brown” furniture, and it did well. There were also some good buys in the category. A tall Eighteenth Century sack back Windsor chair, bent oak with ash spindles, remnants of the original black surface and a well-shaped seat, brought $2,340. Another early Windsor, this one a continuous-arm chair, again with remnants of the original black paint, seven spindles and well-turned end posts and legs went for $1,638. Two tiger maple slant front desks were sold; one on a bracket base with a good interior brought $3,217, and the other fetched $2,808. A Boston Sheraton card table attributed to John and Thomas Seymour with inlaid panels finished at $8,190. An Eighteenth Century Chippendale mirror with an eagle crest and additional carving, 54 inches tall, went out for $4,388. The crowd may have liked Windsor chairs, but they didn’t care much about Hitchcock chairs. A set of eight in good condition, including two armchairs with strong paint, brought only $878, and a set of four country Hitchcocks went for $351.
One the other hand, quality reproduction furniture, for the most part, did well. A set of eight modern Chippendale chairs with shell-carved crests and pierced back splats, made by the Karges Furniture Company, sold for $7,020, well above estimate. An Eldred Wheeler tiger maple chest-on-chest earned $4,680. A set of ten bow back Windsors by the D.R. Dimes Company finished at $3,803, and a set of eight bird-cage Windsors by the same company finished at $3,218.
The first day of the sale included stamps, books and ephemera, along with a collection of baseball cards. A group of ten encapsulated 1909-11 cards from the T206 set of 524 cards, all but one advertising Sweet Corporal cigarettes, sold for $4,563. Players included the ever-popular Ty Cobb. Another group of six, also from the T206 set, sold for $3,861. There were also some cards with SGC grading that sold individually. A Sweet Caporal, T206 Ty Cobb, red background, SGC graded 1.5 FR sold for $1,521, and a Hassan Cigarettes T205 card with Ty Cobb and a gold border, SGC graded 2.5 GD+ went out for $1,638. There were several other baseball cards sold.
A few days after the sale, Veilleux said, “I’m glad to see the American furniture market has some life again. We had some good pieces, and buyers responded. The same thing was true with some of the paintings – buyers find their way to what they want. The Maltese paintings are a perfect example. The little Wyeth ballpoint sketch was a surprise. That’s the fun of this business. And we had some new buyers who were furnishing homes in the area they had recently bought. Each spent a bundle and got some very nice things – they knew what they wanted. The free appraisal days continue to bring in good stuff. That’s worth the time and effort that goes into it. Our upcoming winter sale will be a barn-burner. We have some really great stuff for that one, including a large Wyeth painting and tons more.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium, as stated by the auction house. For information, www.thomastonauction.com or 207-354-8141.
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