Published: January 15, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack
PLAINFIELD, N.H. – The weather gods, if such exist, were kind to Bill Smith on January 5. One would expect that precipitation in early January in northern New Hampshire would be snow, but this time it wasn’t. Smith does not utilize internet bidding, so crowd size, to some degree, is dependent on the weather. Although there were a few empty seats, it was a standing-room-only crowd and prices were strong. All lots were pictured and described on the firm’s website well in advance of the sale. Descriptions included estimated prices, dimensions and nearly all lots had this statement: “This lot is sold without reserve; bidding could begin or end at any amount.” Condition reports were provided on request. Full color brochures, picturing selected items, were mailed prior to the sale.
A varied assortment of material was offered, including Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century American furniture, toys, early glass, silver, miniatures, rugs, jewelry, folk art, stoneware, grain-painted boxes and more. There were several paintings, including two by Winston Churchill – although not the one you may be thinking of. There was a large collection of Staffordshire hens-on-nests, which included some exceptional ones, and a collection of Staffordshire Toby jugs, which also included some unusual forms.
Even with some nice furniture on offer, paintings led the day. A large White Mountains scene, showing Mount Washington from the Saco River Valley, 25 by 49 inches, by Edmund D. Lewis (1835-1910) brought $13,225, the highest price of the day. Lewis, a luminist of the Hudson River School, was a member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and his works were exhibited in the New York Atheneum and the National Academy of Design in the 1860s. Another work by a member of the Hudson River School, J. Williamson (1826-1885), also did well. It was titled “Approaching Storm,” a Hudson River Valley landscape that earned $8,338. A group of three ink wash drawings and gouaches by A.B. Frost seemed reasonable, selling to a dealer in the room for $1,093. As he was selling them, Bill Smith commented that he had sold them about 30 years ago to the consignor.
There were also a few lots of small original works by Maxfield Parish (1870-1966). A group of three watercolor, ink and graphite drawings, two of which were Christmas cards, realized $403. There were also two paintings by Winston Churchill, but they were not done by Sir Winston. This Churchill, (1871-1947) was a prominent novelist early in the Twentieth Century and a member of the nearby Cornish Art Colony. His works hang in the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College and the Saint-Gaudens Historical site in Plainfield. Prices were modest; an oil brought $460, and a watercolor realized $345.
Furniture included a group of painted pieces that had come from the oldest home in Cheshire, Conn. One piece was a two-part step back cupboard in old paint, which sold for $3,105, and another, a Nineteenth Century Federal period standing desk in a bright mustard paint on slim tapering legs that realized $920. Two pieces came from the Dick Withington home. One was a curly maple slant front desk. It was bid to $3,738. The other, a tiger maple six-drawer chest, which had been in his bedroom, reached $2,185. An Eighteenth Century maple Queen Anne New England highboy with unique carved stocking feet, similar to one in the Henry Ford Museum, brought $7,200, and a related drop leaf table reached $1,300. As a point of comparison with the rare highboy, a recently produced Eldred Wheeler Queen Anne-style highboy sold for $3,910. A Bartlett school seven-drawer tall chest with a distinctive “hawk”-form scrolled base earned $2,875. A related six-drawer chest on a bandy leg frame reached $1,265. A Hepplewhite oval tip top candlestand attributed to John Dunlap attained $1,437. The sale included some tall case clocks. A New Hampshire example by Weare, N.H., maker Moses Hazen sold under its estimate for $5,175. A Federal period New York city example by Hawxhurst and DeMilt went for $3,163. One of their clocks is in Gracie Mansion, the official home of New York City’s mayor.
One would expect a selection of folk art at a New Hampshire sale but not that the category would include some Twentieth Century examples. A full-sized repurposed Victorian bed by Vermont folk artist Stephen Huneck (1948-2010) painted a bright blue was decorated with carved wooden planes and rocket ships and sold for $633. Huneck, a one-time antiques dealer, was well-known for his carvings, many of which included dogs. His shop and studio was in St Johnsbury, Vt. His work is in the Smithsonian, the Dog Museum of America in St Louis, Mo., and the American Kennel Club. Also from the late Twentieth Century were two trompe l’oeil carved “chairs” by Cathy Callahan, a designer based in Los Angeles. Some of her work depicts Hollywood personalities and one of her chairs, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, earned $575, and another, depicting James Cagney, brought $288. A Marilyn Monroe chair Callahan made sold at a Philadelphia auction for $1,800. Among the more traditional folk art was a hooked rug with an uncommon pattern. It was done in a vertical format, 39 by 24 inches, depicting a large bird on a branch, perhaps a pigeon, surrounded by a floral vine. It achieved $805.
A few days after the sale, Smith said, “It was a long day. We sold well over 600 lots. In general, we did well and there was a good crowd. We gave out about 406 bidder numbers, and, as always, there were surprises, some more pleasant than others. I thought the Queen Anne highboy with the carved stocking feet would bring more than it did. It was a really rare form. But one of the pleasant surprises was the blue Leeds collection that was sold towards the end of the sale. We divided it into a few lots, and, together, they sold for around $5,000. Along with hens-on-nests, that showed that the market for the English ceramics is still there.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium. For additional information, 603-675-2549 or www.wsmithauction.com.
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