Published: July 14, 2020
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy William A. Smith, Inc.
PLAINFIELD, N.H. – William “Bill” Smith had been waiting for the powers that be in New Hampshire to give the green light to conduct in-person auctions once again so he could present the estate collection of Robert “Bob” and Mary Fraser of Chester, Vt., and the Greenwich, Conn., collection of Claire Tracy and Frank Glaser. William A. Smith’s 427-lot Important Country Americana Auction on Wednesday, July 1, was nearly 100 percent sold, with just two lots passing from the podium and the sale grossing almost $300,000. Reached by after the auction, Smith was happy with the results of the sale, which was slowed a little by rainstorms throughout the day.
“It did well. Under the circumstances, we were very happy. We had about 160 chairs set up under two 40-by-80-foot tents, all socially distanced, and we did not have to turn anyone away. With rainstorms during the sale, the pounding of rain on a tent was a challenge but my staff did a great job. We couldn’t carry lots across the block like we usually do; we had to use a monitor, and we had bid takers in the crowd who could look for bids to make sure we did not miss any. We probably had phone bidders on every other lot, with two or three bidders on the better lots.”
Smith has always preferred to conduct sales old school style, without internet coverage but, in the Covid-era, has come on board and for this sale, used both a dedicated platform -SmithLive – as well as LiveAuctioneers. He acknowledged that the pandemic has made him rethink how he operates and has been surprised not only at the support he’s received from long-time clients but also the number of bidders, both those who are new to Smith and far-flung previous clients who have begun to participate in his sales again. “We’ll play it by ear,” he said, when we asked him if he would continue to conduct sales online. “There will be a place for it in some way. In the last few years, I lost a couple of collections because I was not online. It won’t be in every sale, but we will have to do it throughout the pandemic. We have to assure our consignors that we can sell their items responsibly.”
On offer was what Smith is known for: country Americana and primitive antiques in every form imaginable, from furniture and fine art to glass, metals, textiles, lanterns to rugs, lighting, toys and carvings, among others. The first section of the sale, approximately 250 lots, was the Fraser collection, while the Glasers’ collection was comprised of about the last 150 lots; property from a few various sellers filled out a small portion in the middle of the auction.
Leading the sale was a Merino ram weathervane that may have been made by Cushing, which the Frasers had found on a barn near Springfield, Vt. After considerable bidding, it sold to a Vermont dealer bidding on the phone for $42,480. “It was in untouched original condition; Bob and Mary knew not to fool with that,” Smith said.
After months of stay-at-home orders and self-quarantining, is it any wonder that landscapes in any form or medium appeal to bidders? A Nineteenth Century oil on canvas rural landscape with striking wall-paper borders saw competitive bidding and brought $6,490, the second highest price of the sale. Prevailing against competition in the room, it was also purchased by a Vermont dealer, a different one from that who bought the ram weathervane. Another landscape was a Nineteenth Century school pencil and ink drawing of a New England farm in a period walnut frame, which surprised Smith when it achieved $4,130. Both landscapes were from the Glaser collection.
Portraits were plentiful throughout the sale and two examples of women holding books – an oil on canvas work from the Glaser collection and a pastel example from the Fraser collection, brought the third and fourth highest prices, respectively. Smith thought the pastel example, which a phone bidder from the Mid-Atlantic states took for $5,605, reminded him a little bit of pastel portraits by Samuel and Ruth Shute and Ruth Henshaw Bascom. A Nineteenth Century portrait of a child holding a cat -from the Fraser collection and the second lot to cross the block – sold within estimate and achieved $826.
Buyers – whether trade or private collectors – continue to seek out painted furniture, and the sale offered several choice examples. The color of choice seemed to have been salmon, with a hanging shelf from the Glaser collection seeing “a lot of action and interest,” ultimately going out for $2,950. The same price was paid by a New Hampshire dealer for a child’s lift-top blanket chest that had occupied pride of place in Mary Fraser’s sitting room. A private collector from Massachusetts paid $2,360 for a Nineteenth Century painted blanket box lid with a landscape scene that Smith said “had a Rufus Porter look to it.”
There was much debate and discussion about whether a New Hampshire Queen Anne high chest of drawers was married or not and it sold to a private collector for $2,655. Among more informal pieces, a diminutive sawbuck table closed at $2,950 and a tavern table with overhanging top made $1,888.
Textiles was a particularly strong category, claiming three spots among the top ten prices realized. Bringing $2,950 from a second-generation private collector in Texas was a Nineteenth Century memorial watercolor on silk picture from the McLellan and Burnham families, while a schoolgirl needlework sampler, worked by Apphia Amanda Morrill in 1823, realized $2,655 from a California collector. The piece, which had been featured in a 1990 exhibition at the Hood Museum, was accompanied by museum documentation and an attribution to Canterbury, N.H. A charming group of two hooked rugs – one of several lots in the sale, from both the Fraser and Glaser collections – featured cats and was chased to $3,540 from a trade buyer.
Cats gamboled throughout the sale, appearing not only in additional lots of hooked rugs but in felt and oil paintings and a group lot of stuffed cats that achieved $2,655.
Bob Fraser’s collection of approximately 50 early glass bottles was well received, the top price of $1,888 achieved for an early bitters bottle from East Georgia, Vt.
Among unique items in the sale, noteworthy results include an early powder horn, inscribed “Wesford March 12 1765, Isaac Parker Hilmand,” with other naive drawings of animals, vines and faces that had connections to a Ticonderoga, N.Y., family. The horn received a lot of interest, including the most phone bidders of any other lot in the sale and was won by a new buyer at Smith’s, who got it for $2,242. Also, worth comment was a Nineteenth Century painted sleigh for a Burlington, Vt., grocery store used to deliver groceries that slid to a stop at $2,124.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
William A. Smith, Inc., is at 1064 Route 12A. For additional information, 603-675-2549 or www.wsmithauction.com.
October 19, 2021
October 19, 2021
October 19, 2021
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