Published: September 28, 2021
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy Tremont Auctions
SUDBURY, MASS. – On September 19, Brett Downer and team at Tremont Auctions offered a selection of silver dating from the Eighteenth Century to the mid-Twentieth Century, jewelry, weathervanes, American and European paintings, ceramics from Chinese export and Iznik to pieces designed by Roy Lichtenstein, glass, firearms, furniture from the Eighteenth Century to Arts and Crafts to midcentury, signed presidential documents, first edition books and more. “More” in this case, included a large collection of music boxes, all of which were in fine condition, mechanically and cosmetically. Most of the items came from local estates, and in some cases, owners were unaware of the potential interest some of their items might have. For example, the leaping stag weathervane, which brought $5,712, was found in a downstairs bathroom in a large home.
Bidding was available live (although the crowd was small), on the internet, several phone lines were in use and absentee bids were executed. It was a fast-paced sale, with 125 lots sold in the first hour and averaging more than 100 lots an hour throughout the day.
This auction provided a good snapshot of the changing reality of the auction business. It was a “live” sale but there were fewer than a dozen bidders in the room. But at the start, more than 1,200 potential bidders were watching on LiveAuctioneers and a couple of hundred more on Invaluable. (Those numbers remained steady throughout the day.) Catalog entries described what was being offered, and numerous photographs informed buyers of what they were looking at. Prior to the sale, we were told that more than 7,000 photographs had been taken. Condition statements varied from brief to thorough, depending on the lot. Prices achieved were good, satisfying consignors and buyers. But all auctioneers comment on the increased work necessary to deal effectively in this environment of much more business being done online. Staff is needed to photograph and describe accurately, deal with questions from interested internet buyers and then deal with postsale storage and collecting payments. Savvy auctioneers have added staff.
This sale included a collection of 22 music boxes that had been assembled over a period of several years. All were in working condition. Most cases were fine, with only minimal condition issues, such as missing a piece of veneer. An inlaid walnut floor model Nicole Freres “Flutina” with an eight-tune cylinder, on blackened cabriole legs, brought $2,856, the same price as a Ducommun Girod walnut and brass inlaid six-tune music box. This one had a particularly nice inlaid top. Another floor model, a “Longue Marche,” dating to 1881, with four interchangeable cylinders, each playing five tunes, brought less, finishing at $2,380. It stood on cabriole legs and the case was inlaid with burl walnut. Prices for others ranged from about $325 to $1,650.
More than 125 lots of silver started the day with an ornate five-piece Gorham sterling table service bringing $5,355. Each of the five pieces had a hand hammered finish and the set weighed more than 137 troy ounces. Also popular was a Wood & Hughes Victorian coin silver five-piece tea set, weighing 111 troy ounces. Each piece was decorated with large relief medallion heads and beaded borders. This set realized $3,808. A lot by Boston silversmith Alfred G. Welles, circa 1800-10, included 23 coin silver coffin-end spoons. The lot weighed 28 troy ounces and sold for $476. Makers of other pieces in the sale included English silversmith John Figg, Arthur J. Stone, Unger Brothers, Dominick and Haff and many others.
Interspersed with the silver was a selection of jewelry. Buyers were most enthusiastic about a colorful, eye-catching 18K gold, diamond and ruby brooch in the form of a strawberry, with approximately 106 full cut small round diamonds in foliage above 35 oval rubies. It earned $7,140. Several pieces sold in the $2,000 to $4,000 range, including a marked pair of Tiffany & Co. 18K gold ear clips with alternating full cut diamonds and rubies, which brought $3,332. Not far behind was an antique seed pearl demi-parure set, including a pin with a ball drop and a pair of matching gold earrings. In the original fitted Tiffany & Co. case, the set earned $3,094. There were two 18K gold necklaces with gold horse’s heads. One, by Harriet Glen, was set with cabochon sapphire eyes and realized $2,142, and the other, with 21 diamonds surrounding the head and mane, also realized $2,142.
The top lot of the day was an oil on board winter scene by German artist Heinrich Burkel (1802-1869), which sold for $8,440. He was best known for his winter landscapes, and this one was titled in German on the reverse, “View of Rattenberg.” It included figures, buildings and a horse and oxen-drawn log sled. A still life of peppers by American photo surrealist John Wilde (1919-2006) earned $7,140. His works are in the collections of the Smithsonian and several other museums. There were other popular paintings in the sale. A large marine scene by Frederick Judd Waugh (1861-1940) titled “Slumbering Sea,” which depicted breaking waves and a rocky shoreline, sold for $6,545.
Furniture offered covered a wide range of dates and styles. It was a circa 1970 midcentury patinated bronze coffee table with glass top, attributed to Diego Giacometti and Christopher Chodoff, that brought the highest price, $5,950. At the other extreme, period-wise, was a circa 1730 Queen Anne painted and stenciled side chair, with a shaped back splat and rush seat, which sold for $2,261. Coming down in the middle of this time range was a Nineteenth Century 20-drawer apothecary chest in old red, which also sold for $2,261. A small Federal period mahogany and inlaid sideboard, just 48 inches wide, made in New York circa 1800, on square tapered legs with a shaped top reached $1,785.
In this varied sale, a heavily illustrated four-volume, leather-bound set of Don Quixote de la Mancha published in 1780, earned $6,545. (The book was originally published 1612). There were some Russian travel posters. One, circa 1930, for “Odessa” an Intourist Russian promotion poster showing the Ukrainian city with an industrial port scene, sold for $2,618. Bringing the same price was “By Air to USSR,” done by Konstantin Bor Ramensky (1900-1942) in 1934. Ceramics included a Seventeenth Century 10-inch Turkish Iznik plate, which earned $2,856, and a later one, a Nineteenth Century example from Kutahya, Syria, which brought $1,130. The numerous examples of Chinese export porcelain included some unusual designs. An Eighteenth Century export plate with some minor rim chips and a colorful mythological scene depicting Cybele accompanied by three of “The Four Seasons” sold for $2,618. A 1955 Boston Red Sox team-signed baseball, including Ted Williams, sold under estimate for $179, and another, a 1945 ball with 20 signatures, brought the same price.
A few days after the sale, Brett Downer said he was pleased. “Things went pretty much as we expected they would. We had a lot of retail interest in the jewelry, so that was good, and those prices were strong. The European paintings did well, and most of the music boxes went above estimates. Only about 35 lots or so were passed, so I’d have to say it was a good day.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, www.tremontauctions.com or 617-795-1678.
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