Published: August 31, 2004
Skinner’s August 15 auction featured Americana, from portraits of sea captains to embroideries by New England schoolgirls to country furniture with provenance to the A. Phelps’ Inn of Colebrook, Conn., owned by Captain Arah Phelps who fought in the Revolutionary War. There were 875 lots offered to a full crowd, as well as a busy phone bank and many absentee bidders.
Stephen Fletcher, American furniture and decorative arts expert for Skinner Inc, was the principal auctioneer, while auctioneer Gloria Lieberman conducted some portions of the sale. Fletcher said, “We were glad to be able to take advantage of a captive audience at the end of New Hampshire Antiques week, and also glad that people had enough energy left after the events in New Hampshire to still make our sale a success.”
The high point of the auction was a polychrome painted carved wooden Indian, a tobacconist’s figure attributed to Thomas V. Brooks (1825-1895), Chicago, circa 1880. From the bottom of the wooden plinth upon which the Indian stood, to the top of his feathered headdress, the carving measured 5 foot 8 inches. In one hand he held a bunch of cigars, and in the other he held the barrel of his rifle, the stock of which rested on the plinth as well. While some expected it could go even higher (the presale estimate was $25/30,000), the colorful carving brought a respectable $27,025, making it the top lot.
A carved wooden figure of a black man from the Nineteenth Century had articulated arms, carved and painted head and facial features, tattered woven cotton trousers, leather boots, and a supportive metal rod. At 52 inches tall and 15 inches wide, this piece of folk art grabbed bidders’ attention and it was sold at $11,750, way beyond the $6,000 high estimate.
A Nineteenth Century gilded and molded copper gamecock weathervane found plenty of bids beyond the $5,000 high estimate. Positioned as lot #1, it started the auction off with a bang at a price of $11,750.
Interesting carved and painted animals found ready buyers at the sale. Going over the high estimate of $6,000 was a carved and painted wooden penguin attributed to Charles Hart, Glouster, Mass., circa 1930. Standing at 175/8 inches high, the personable black and white painted penguin sold for $9,988. A carved and painted carnival figure of an ape from Old Orchard, Maine, late Nineteenth, early Twentieth Century, surpassed its high estimate of $5,000 with a price of $7,638.
Other furniture of note included a Queen Anne maple tall chest of six drawers on a frame of cabriole legs and pad feet circa 1750-70 brought $9,988 ($4/6,000) in spite of slight imperfections. An attractive Federal refinished cherry corner cupboard, possibly from Pennsylvania, circa 1810-15 beat its high estimate of $1,200 to reach $4,700. The phone bank was completely utilized as phone and floor bidders vied for a Federal maple easy or chamber chair that had interesting lines and probably was made in Connecticut, circa 1790. It fetched $5,875 ($1,5/2,500) and had its original under-upholstery linen and old surface. Also doing better than expected was a Federal taper leg, tiger maple drop leaf dining table from New England, circa 1800-10; it sold for $5,288 ($2,5/3,000).
A blue-painted tall chest, early Nineteenth Century with A. Phelps’ Inn provenance, had split top drawers with four below (one of which looked like two drawers), original pulls and escutcheons. It fetched $6,228 ($4/6,000). With the same provenance, the red-painted chest that followed was missing pulls but still managed to pull in $6,228 ($4/6,000). Sold earlier in the sale, a pair of mirrored tin candle sconces from the inn brought $4,113 ($800/1,200).
“We are delighted with the strong results achieved for the sale of the property from Phelps Inn, a group of furniture and objects that provided one of several focal points for the sale,” said Fletcher.
A portrait of Captain Richard C. Gibbs of Nantucket showed a somber man seated near a window with a view of the sea and a two-mast sailing vessel. It sold for $5,875 ($3/5,000). Another sea captain, this one in a top hat with a backdrop of stormy skies and a rough sea with two ships, brought $5,288 ($2,5/3,500). A charming walnut figure-eight wall clock by E. Howard and Co, Boston, circa 1870 was 34 inches high and sold for $7,638 ($7/8,000).
Textiles included a needlework sampler by “Sarah H. Dana Oxford 1823 Aged 8” that brought $7,638 ($3,5/4,500). A patriotic appliquéd cotton quilt, “C.C. Shufelt 1853” had a white muslin ground and floral decoration surrounding four groups of 13 stars, each with an eagle and an banner with “E Pluribus Unum” and either Washington on horseback or standing next to a woman’s figure of “Liberty” holding a pole. It brought $8,225 ($4/6,000).
A pair of Rockingham glazed pottery whippet figures by Edward Tunnicliff, Zanesville, Ohio, circa 1850 were 61/2 inches high and 101/2 inches long. The lot was accompanied by a photocopied newspaper article from the Sunday Times-Signal of Zanesville, Ohio dated June 26, 1949, relating how Edward Tunnicliff and his family began the pottery in 1848. Estimated at $1,5/2,500, the pair of well-modeled sleek whippets in dark brown glaze with lighter speckles reached $10,575.
The sale had good selections of stoneware, decoys, blue and white transfer ware, trade signs, weathervanes, and plenty of miscellaneous Americana. All prices cited include a 17.5 percent buyer’s premium.
Looking forward to November 7, Skinner’s major Americana sale in Boston, Steve said, “The November sale will be one of our finest offerings to date, with fine and rare examples of American furniture, folk paintings, clocks and decorative art.”
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