Published: October 2, 2007
Now in the 20th year of conducting celebrated summer auctions at the legendary Samoset Resort, James D. Julia once again hosted a “Spectacular Maine Auction” from Tuesday, August 28, through Thursday, August 30. Each day of the auction lived up to the sale’s title, with the first day featuring more than 750 lots of paintings, the second day comprised of just under 800 lots of Americana, and an additional 450-plus lots of primarily Victorian items crossing the block on the final day of the auction.
This three-day event was the highest grossing Samoset auction to date, bringing in what auctioneer Jim Julia termed as a “spectacular” $4.5 million, far exceeding the presale estimate of $3.2 million.
Day one saw lively bidding from an enthusiastic crowd in the auction hall and also a host of telephone and absentee bidders. Topping the list was a semiabstract work by Philip Evergood titled “Flowers by the Lake” that listed a provenance of the ex-collection of Robert Lang. Depicting a blue-eyed bikini-clad woman clutching a mammoth vase of entwined poppies against a harbor scene with freight ships and terminal buildings in the background, the painting was estimated at $100/150,000. Bidding on the lot was active, with it selling at $201,250.
Because of the success Julia’s had earlier this year with works by turn-of-the-century Russian artist Ivan Fedorovich Choultse, a private California collector consigned a forest scene depicting a beech tree fronting a vibrant wooded backdrop. The Choultse scene caught the eye of numerous bidders with a hammer price of $41,400 realized.
Two unframed gouache studies by Russian artist Peter Petrovich Konchalovsky depicted seminude female models. The first sold within expectations of $10/15,000 at $13,800, while the more revealing example topped estimates at $20,125.
A large cache of American paintings from the Rankin estate, a prominent estate from the eastern shore of Maryland, elicited strong bids from collectors and dealers alike. Collected over three decades, the assortment included an outstanding array of marine paintings by some of the most recognized names in the genre. Luminaries from the Cape Ann School such as Anthony Thieme, Gruppe, Morrell and others also were the subject of active bidding.
An oil on canvas harbor dock scene titled “Wet Day” by Anthony Thieme portrayed a number of fishermen unloading a boat in pea soup fog. It sold above estimates at $33,925. From another collection, Thieme’s “Back Beach, Rockport, MA.,” a scene depicting a dirt road winding along Rockport Harbor with two central figures, was a termed a “good buy” by the auction house as it realized $54,625.
The ever-popular Emile Gruppe has long been a staple in Julia’s auctions and this sale featured 14 works by the artist. Better known for his depictions of seaside and harbor scenes, the auction featured a large oil on canvas of a nude woman draped with a sheer cloth, standing at the edge of a woodland pool. Selling at several times its estimate, the unusual painting was bid to $32,200.
Gruppe’s “Gloucester Harbor in Evening Light,” depicting the quintessential New England waterfront scene with numerous fishing and sailing boats at port, changed hands at $20,987, while a Rockport Harbor scene with two men standing on a dock as a lobsterman moors his boat brought $18,400. Another highlight from the selection was a winter scene with morning sunlight brightening a snowy forest floor that sold at $25,300.
Another winter scene, this one by Hobart Nichols and titled “January Thaw,” depicted a train passing a farm at the base of a range of mountains. In soft lines and colors, it sold within estimate for $24,150. A splendid mountain scene by Carl Lawless showing an isolated farm with imposing snow-covered mountains in the distance sold well above expectations, bringing $17,825.
Abbott Fuller Graves’ “Kennebunkport Cottage,” a depiction of a Maine home among summertime trees and blossoms on a rocky hillside, proved popular, with it selling at $45,425, while a still life by the artist of zinnias, lupine and wildflowers, fresh to the marketplace, went out at $31,625.
A watercolor fishing scene by Ogden Pleissner from the Rankin estate depicting a lone fisherman assisted by his guide, working a salmon in from the cascading river before them, reeled in a very strong $82,250 over modest expectations of $40/60,000. Aiden Lassell Ripley’s autumn landscape scene with two grouse hunters also did well, bringing $24,725.
Harrison Cady’s “In Old Ipswich, 1937” depicted a quaint autumnal tree-lined village road at the transition from horses to automobiles that hit $21,275 against a $20/30,000 estimate. The king of quaint and small town Americana, Norman Rockwell was represented by a watercolor and oil of a Spanish type dancer looking back over her shoulder at a uniformed man behind her, staring intently. Seemingly an atypical subject matter for Rockwell in a nonconforming style, it was hammered down at $18,400.
European artists likewise made a strong showing with a marvelous selection of works. French artist Emile Friant’s oil on wood panel scene of an elderly man entering a cabinetmaker’s shop went out at $23,000. Several sleepers awakened bidders during the session, with an inner city harbor scene by Raoul Dufy depicting several sailboats selling at $29,900, well above its $4/6,000 estimate, while an abstract tabletop still life by Spanish artist Benjamin Palencia sold for $12,650 against expectations of $5/7,000.
The second session of the auction featured an array of folk art, nautical pieces and early American furniture. An important pair of Baltimore Federal inlaid and carved mahogany side chairs, sans upholstery but maintaining a wonderful old finish, sold for $20,700. A Regency triple pedestal mahogany dining table that measured 105 inches brought $9,200. A selection of four New England highboys included a coastal Connecticut example in cherrywood resting on Queen Ann legs that sold for $17,250. A Connecticut River Valley Chippendale cherry reverse serpentine chest of drawers went out at $14,950, while a Connecticut Valley Chippendale cherry and birch slant lid secretary with scrolled cornice and bonnet top brought $8,625.
An oil on board portrait from the Rankin estate of the American coastal schooner Kentucky by Antonio Jacobsen sailed to $26,450, and, from the same collection, Jacobsen’s large portrait of the paddle steamer Larchmont realized $22,425.
Other artwork included a number of portraits, including a likeness of George Washington from 1793 by John Trumbull that sold for what seemed to be a reasonable price of $23,000. Following that lot were two signed military documents by America’s father that exceeded expectations, bringing $6,800 and $6,325.
The wide variety of folk art in the sale spanned from functional to decorative. Embracing both ends was a full-bodied copper flying horse weathervane in old paint that sold at $17,250. A Howard full-bodied rooster weathervane was fresh to the marketplace, having been in the same family since 1922. It sold for $14,375.
Other functional folk art included a unique heavily carved, highly detailed presentation walking stick featuring a crouching eagle forming the handle with various animals and military figures spanning the entire length. Bidding on the lot was active, with it selling above estimates at $16,100.
A large and impressive carved and painted American eagle with flag and banner reading “E. Pluribus Unum” soared past its $1,5/2,500 estimate to land at $12,362. Folk carvings also included a select grouping of decoys, with a carved and painted Canada goose decoy by L.T. Ward flying past its $1/2,000 estimate to sell for $12,075. A greater snow goose by Ward surpassed the same estimate, selling for $8,912.
Other folk art included fraktur from the Shumaker family, with an intricately decorated example with hearts, flowers, birds and verses selling for $21,850.
The third session of the auction was highlighted by some rather elaborate Victorian furniture by makers such as Alexander Roux. The piece attracting the most attention was a labeled marble top Roux sideboard. “Labeled Roux pieces almost never come to market, and this one was a beauty,” commented Julia. Deeply carved and highly ornate, it was a symphony of cherubs, wild game, grapes, leaves and vines, and scrollwork.
Bids opened in the room at $20,000, with several phone bidders ready for action. The piece quickly surpassed the $40/60,000 estimates with three or four of the phones pushing the price to $90,000. A new phone bidder jumped in at $95,000 and the quick pace continued with the lot bouncing back and forth between two phone bidders all the way to a selling price of $172,500.
Porcelains included a large quantity of Oriental wares ranging from blue and white Canton to Rose Medallion to famille rose. Highlighting the grouping was a pair of Mandarin decorated covered urns with enameled floral and butterfly motifs and royal court scenes. Made for the domestic Chinese market, bidding on the lot was brisk, with it selling at $7,475, despite restoration.
Other examples included an unusual large polychrome bottle vase in canary yellow with allover decoration that sold for $10,925, a Chinese Export porcelain blue garden barrel with flowers and vines at $6,325, and a pair of bronze sculptures depicting imposing Chinese foo dogs that realized $14,375.
A coin silver covered tureen by New York maker William L. Adams was decorated with acanthus leaves around the exterior and topped with a heart-shaped handle formed of similar leaves. It sold for $9,775. A rare pair of Tiffany sterling three-branch candelabras decorated with repousse flowers did well at $17,250.
A number of early photographs included an Edward Curtis platinum print titled “Three Chiefs Piegan” that more than doubled estimates, selling at $18,400. A rare early albumen print of the Nevada Falls in Yosemite by Carleton Watkins likewise saw heavy action, selling for $7,187 against a $3/5,000 estimate. A reverse on glass photo from 1872 showed a fireman’s muster parading down the main street of Middletown, Conn., with the Middletown Mansfield baseball team in full uniform posing for the camera as well. The only known photograph of Connecticut’s first professional baseball team, it was termed a good trade at $6,612.
Jewelry brought substantial prices, with a colossal 4.3-carat solitaire diamond gentleman’s ring, consigned from a local home, selling at $28,750. A platinum lady’s ring with octagonal-cut stones (1.26 carats of diamonds and a massive 6.03-carat natural sapphire) was hammered down at $15,525, while a diamond and platinum lady’s ring centered with a 4.05-carat alexandrite found a buyer at $14,950.
Julia’s upcoming auctions include its fabulous firearms and military memorabilia auction, which will take place October 8‱0 and offer approximately $12 million in rare antique firearms, including the renowned Ben Michel Confederate arms collection. A toy and doll auction as well as a rare lamp and glass auction will follow in November, and Julia’s next antiques and fine art auction is scheduled for January. Julia’s is currently accepting consignments for these and other upcoming auctions.
For information, 207-453-7125, or www.juliaauctions.com .
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