Published: June 18, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos By Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy of Thomaston Place Auction Gallery
THOMASTON, MAINE – A three-day spring auction at Kaja Veilleux’s Thomaston Place Auction Gallery offered a wide variety of merchandise. The entire first day comprised jewelry and watches – more than 450 lots. The second and third days offered more than 1,000 lots of fine art, antiques and Twentieth Century decorative items. There were ship models; Civil War material; folk art; a wide assortment of American furniture; tribal artifacts; marine items, including scrimshawed whale’s teeth; Twentieth Century furniture and decorative objects; and numerous interesting items. Plus, a piano.
The piano, a 7-foot Steinway Studio Grade B, was the highest priced item in the sale, bringing $28,080, well above the estimate. Made in 1991, it was housed in a walnut Hepplewhite case and included the matching bench. In the same “family” as the piano and based on a 1584 prototype, a kit-built harpsichord was a good buy at $2,457. It was a fully assembled and painted Frank Hubbard kit, Flemish single manual harpsichord, based on one built in 1584 in Antwerp by Hans Moermans. The case was fully painted in the style of the Sixteenth Century, with faux aging and wear. The Hubbard Company website discusses this instrument in detail and indicates that the price on an assembled kit is $11,500, plus finishing and several optional items, which might increase the price further. Hubbard, who died in 1976, started producing kits in the 1960s and had written at least two books on the harpsichord before his death. It’s estimated that Hubbard, who also taught at Boston University and Harvard, produced about 1,000 kits by the time of his death.
Also selling well above its estimate was a large copper three-masted ship weathervane. It was more than 7 feet long and more than 6 feet tall, with a strong Maine provenance. It had been mounted on a roof at Clipperways, an 8,000-square-foot home built at Prouts Neck in southern Maine in 1898 by James Shaw that was demolished in 2011. The house was known as the “Jewel of Prouts Neck” and was a vacation destination for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was on Winslow Homer Road, not far from the late artist’s studio, which is now owned by the Portland Museum of Art. The weathervane, almost certainly custom made, realized $10,530.
Some fine art performed well. A portfolio of six pencil-signed lithographs by Rockwell Kent, some limited editions, earned $3,217, more than triple the estimate. A watercolor by Edward Borein (1872-1945) of a mounted cowboy, titled “Cowboy Riding,” finished at $7,605. An unsigned portrait of a Nantucket lighthouse keeper, accompanied by a note identifying it as “Portrait of Captain Samuel Bunker, my great grandfather of Nantucket, Mass. Captain of Nantucket Shoals Lightship until it broke loose in a blizzard and drifted to the shore of Long Island. First Keeper of Sankaty Light on Nantucket Island.” It was cataloged as possibly by William Swain (1803-1847) and sold for $3,744.
Prices for Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century American furniture were soft, but prices and demand for Eldred Wheeler and Thomas Moser reproductions remains solid. Auctioneers often comment that prices achieved for these reproductions sometimes just about match or exceed prices achieved for original Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century pieces. Such was the case at this sale. For example, an original Nineteenth Century tiger maple four-drawer chest on a molded bracket base brought $1,117. A similar Wheeler tiger maple four-drawer chest on a molded bracket base with ogee bracket feet brought just a little less at $1,053, a $64 difference. A Chippendale-style tiger maple secretary by Eldred Wheeler brought $4,095. An Eldred Wheeler tiger maple desk on frame went for $2,457, two Moser wing chairs and a footstool, made in 2004 in Auburn, Maine, sold for $4,388. Another example of the interest in quality reproductions was a Harry Smith custom-made miniature chinoiserie Queen Anne chest on frame, probably made in the 1980s. It had a black-lacquered maple case with raised gesso decoration covered in 24K gold leaf, built to a scale of 1 inch:1 foot. Miniatures made by Smith, who lives in Camden, Maine, have been the subject of several exhibitions, and his work is in several museums. It was only 18 inches tall, in an acrylic case, and earned $2,691.
Some painted pieces did well, as a four-drawer chest in robin’s egg blue over red, probably made in Maine, sold above the estimate, finishing at $1,287. A circa 1820-40 Maine country chest with a cherry case and tiger maple veneer earned $1,638.
A group of firearms and Civil War material was of interest to bidders. An engraved presentation sword given to Captain Charles Strickland by troops he commanded in company K of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, dated 1862, brought $8,775. The website has the whole story – Strickland fought in several major battles, was severely wounded, discharged and re-enlisted, only to resign his commission in 1863. The sword was made by James W. Fitch of New York. Its etched blade reads “Down with Traitors.” A blue wool Civil War Union-issue “great coat” with its original buttons also drew strong interest. With indications of field use, it realized $3,510. A group of 59 letters home from Maine Civil War soldiers, many from Uranus Stacy of Saco, discussed camp life, troop movements and life in the South. The lot earned $4095.
The sale included about half a dozen model ships built from kits by makers such as Marten, Howes & Baylis. The model of the British customs cruiser Vigilant, 1/24th scale, brought $1,521. The boat was used by the British government to control sea traffic bound for London. The original boat was 100 feet long, powered by a single boiler, and was built in 1902, at which time it cost 5,390 pounds, less than six times what this 35-inch model sold for.
After the sale, Veilleux said that any sale that grosses more than $1 million is a good one. “Although we had some soft areas, we were really pleased with the results of the Asian stuff, and one of the Russian icons had a lot of action and did better than we thought. Same for the Rockwell Kent portfolio. It was really a mixed sale. Our next sale will be our annual summer sale at the end of August. We have very good Americana and other stuff lined up for that one.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium, as stated by the auction house.
For information, 207-354-8141 or www.thomastonauction.com.
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