An impressive selection of early American furniture, accentuated by a smattering of quality Twentieth Century decorative accessories, made for interesting fare at Nadeau’s Auction Gallery on October 30. Nadeau’s annual Fall Antiques and Fine Art Auction, scheduled to coincide with the annual Autumn Hartford Antiques Show, was well attended with a full house of bidders in attendance. Phone and absentee bidding was also active, resulting in strong prices posted for the 450-plus lots offered.
The auction was filled with prime examples of Seventeenth and Eighteenth furniture, ranging from mushroom arm great chairs and gate leg tables to highboys and Windsor chairs. And while much of that material did well, the stars of the show came from the selection of paintings and Twentieth Century accessories.
Auctioneer Ed Nadeau commented that he was pleased with the results of the auction and that Internet bidding, phone bidding and absentee bids were all strong. There was also an active crowd on hand that filled all of the available seats in the gallery, as well as some of the seating in the rear of the hall that had been consigned for the next auction.
The auction was filled with surprises, some disappointments and, according to Nadeau, “some very good bargains.”
A signed Tracy Windsor bowback was the first lot to be offered, and it was bid to $373 by a buyer in the rear of the gallery. The same buyer was successful on the next two lots as well; a Queen Anne side chair that sold very reasonably at $143 and a mahogany candlestand with a provenance of Jerome Blum selling at $575.
The top lot of the auction came as a Joseph B. Smith ship portrait was offered. The painting had been consigned from a Wethersfield home where it had been little more than decorative wall covering in a TV room. Nadeau commented that the elderly consignor had been a client for quite a while, dispersing collections of silver, bronzes and other smalls. Due to a relocation, the client decided that the painting would not fit into a downsized residence and ultimately consigned several paintings to the auction.
Titled “Two Masted Schooner Off Of Governor’s Island, New York,” the painting, although in need of a cleaning, was in wonderful condition. Depicted under full sail with an American flag flying from the rear and burgee bearing the ship’s name, Calvin S. Edwards, two other masted sailing ships and Governor’s Island were depicted in the background.
Nadeau had estimated the lot at $15/25,000 after researching the artist, although by sale time it was clear to him that the estimates would fall by the wayside. Several in the gallery expressed strong interest, and every phone line that Nadeau could muster was in use. Bidding on the lot opened at $5,000 and within a few moments it soared past the estimates. At $30,000, competition had narrowed to three telephone bidders, and they steadily pushed the price upward until the lot hammered at $60,375, selling to the trade.
Another of the top lots had also come directly from a local home. “It literally walked in the front door,” said Nadeau of a rare Tiffany turtleback tile triple inkwell. It had been discovered among items in an attic that had been left in the home when it was sold in the 1950s. “I’ve never seen one,” stated the auctioneer as he admiringly gazed at the rare inkwell. Although somewhat stiff now, the inkwell was mounted on a bronze base that rotated freely at one point in time.
Condition on the inkwell was exceptional with only a metal ink insert missing. An inspection revealed no chips, cracks or bruises to the colored glass tiles. Nadeau commented that substantial interest had been received and that a full gallery of phone bidders were registered. Bidding on the lot opened at the low estimate of $15,000 and it took off with quick-paced advances from the telephones. Moving in $1,000 increments, the lot bounced back and forth with three lines active right until the end. A final bid of $34,500 was paid by the trade.
A George William Sotter oil on canvas, “Winter Moonlight, Pittsburgh,” and also inscribed on the stretcher “Winter Saw Mill Run, South Hill,” was another lot to attract attention. The 21-by-25-inch oil was attractive and in good condition. Estimated at $40/60,000, the painting went out at the low estimate, bringing $46,000.
Other art included a William Crothers Fitler oil, “Low Tide on River’s Edge,” that more than doubled the high presale estimate, bringing $8,625, and a Charles Harold Davis oil titled “Connecticut Haystacks” went out at $4,312.
Early American furniture fared well throughout the sale, although there were a few bargains along the way as well. The top furniture lot came as a rare William and Mary gate leg table in pleasing old red paint was offered. In wonderful condition, the table appeared to retain its original height and finish, and the oval leaves added to the appearance of the 4-foot-long example. Provenance on the table listed the estate of Mrs Henry Clark.
Bidding on the rare table opened quickly when Nadeau asked for $5,000 and there was a flurry of hands in the crowd. Bids bounced back and forth around the room to the $17,500 mark where a phone bidder hit the lot. A second phone bidder hit the lot at $20,000, yet another phone bidder countered at $22,500, and another at $25,000. Just as it appeared the action was over, a bidder in the room hit the lot and claimed it at $31,625.
Vermont dealer Norman Gronning was active throughout the day and one of his purchases came as a rare Seventeenth Century ladder back great chair was offered. A wonderful Connecticut River Valley example, the chair was in oak and maple with sausage and ring turnings on the stiles. One of three great chairs also listing Clark collection provenance, the chair opened for bidding at $2,500 and was chased by several in the gallery, with it hammering down at $14,375.
A second Seventeenth Century ladder back great chair with sausage turnings and large mushroom caps also attracted a lot of attention, although it was ended out at almost a foot above the feet. Repairs kept the price in check for the majestic chair, with it selling at $6,325. The third example was also an attractive example, although missing one front stretcher and another was broken off but accompanied the lot. This chair opened for bidding at $2,000 and was hammered down moments later at $4,312.
A six board blanket chest with scratch-carved pinwheel decoration on the front, the initials A.H. and the date 1690 was thought to be an early Connecticut example. Unpainted, the chest retained a nice old patina and sold at $4,312. A Pilgrim period candlestand with an oval top, turned shaft and cross-base was another of the Clark lots to do well, with it selling at $2,875.
Some of the early furniture in the auction sold at “less than Ethan Allen blowout” prices, according to Nadeau. Shocked at the $4,600 realized for a period Queen Anne highboy with fan-carved center drawer and attractive cabriole legs that had little more wrong with it than an old refinish and replaced brasses, Nadeau remarked that it was a “bargain price for a nice clean highboy.”
Another Queen Anne highboy, listing provenance from the estate of Mary Walton, also sold on the cheap, with it bringing $3,162. A cherry Chippendale tall chest on a bracket base also sold well below the estimate at $1,495.
A nice carved wooden pilot house eagle with a wing span of 55 inches attracted attention, hammering down at $5,462.
A Queen Anne pipe box was another treasure to surface at the auction, recently discovered in a shoreline Connecticut estate. The rare red painted box with a lower drawer was missing a small section of the scalloped edge, yet several bidders in the crowd pursued the lot with it selling at $3,450.
A couple of surprises toward the end of the auction put a smile on Ed Nadeau’s face. A cast iron fireback molded with “Bates The Famous Horseman,” Clark provenance, shot past the $1/2,000 estimate, as it realized $7,187.
And, just a handful of lots before the close of the auction, a pair of Continental silver figural cup holders with tilting cups soared past the $400/600 estimates to bring $3,105.
Prices include the buyer’s premium. The next auction at Nadeau’s will be the annual New Year’s Day auction that features more than 700 lots. For information, 203-246-2444 or www.nadeausauction.com .