Published: December 14, 2021
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy White’s Auctions
MIDDLEBORO, MASS. – The tag line on the website of White’s Auctions is “As Simple as Black and White.” Kathy Black and husband John White run the company. You know you’re at their gallery when you see one black vehicle and one white vehicle parked in front of the building. Nearly everything they sell comes from local homes and is fresh to the marketplace, but don’t construe that as meaning the assortment of the offerings is limited. The region they draw from is an upscale area south of Boston and a listing of the types of things in this sale conveys that: coins, jewelry, paintings, art glass, Oriental rugs, folk art, silver, furniture, Civil War material, a large doll collection, trade signs, books, toys, musical instruments, photographica, ethnographic items, baseball cards, and there was still more.
The sale totaled $247,000 with bidding available on three internet platforms, as well as phone and absentee bidding. There were about 50 bidders in the audience and they were active, especially on the several lots of coins and silver. White’s does not grade coins, most of which were sold in sizable lots. Descriptions are thorough and condition statements, other than for coins, are included in the catalog.
One of the rarities in the sale – and probably a good buy for the successful internet bidder who paid $4,148 – was a limited-edition portfolio of ten dye-transfer photographs by Harold Edgerton (1903-1990). This set, in fine condition, was #44 of an edition of 150. Edgerton was a pioneer in the development of using short duration electronic flash in photographing fast-moving objects and events, often happening so quickly that the human eye could not see what was transpiring. He used the technique to capture images of balloons at different stages of bursting, a bullet during its impact with an apple, the wings of a hummingbird in flight and one of his most iconic images – that of a drop of milk splashing. He also helped develop side-scan radar, working with Jacques Cousteau to locate numerous shipwrecks, and his equipment was used in the search for the Loch Ness monster. The awards he received for his work are too numerous to list, he was a professor at MIT, where a laboratory is named in his honor. His photographs are in the Museum of Modern Art and other institutions.
An interesting group of items came from the estate of William Conroy, who died recently in his mid-80s and had lived in Morocco for several years, collecting numerous artifacts and paintings of that region. He was especially interested in the firearms and other weapons of North Africa. Kathy Black said that when she went to the home to view the material the family wanted to sell, she was impressed both by the quantity of material and its scope, as well as the way it was organized and displayed in the home. White’s catalog descriptions were precise, and, not surprisingly, much of the collection went to internet bidders with estimates often surpassed.
A late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century dagger in a scabbard inlaid with coral and turquoise beads sold for $1,830. An example of the detailed catalog descriptions can be seen with this dagger. According to the catalog, it was an “early Ottoman Turkish or Greek Trapezund. With its curved double-edged blade and gilded Islamic calligraphy on both sides, it was the type of dagger typically attributed to the Trapezund Island of Greece.” An early mideastern flintlock blunderbuss with mother of pearl inlay along the handle and barrel, some outlined in brass, sold for $885. A Persian inlaid flintlock musket, more than 5 feet long, dated 1804 and heavily inlaid with bone on the full length of the barrel and butt, with a very detailed geometric design and with brass bands, sold for $854. There were many more weapons from this part of the world.
Other military items, especially American, did well. An example would be the Eighteenth Century black felt tricorn hat with gold trim that sold for $3,904. They were known as “cocked” hats in those days and worn by civilians of all income levels, as well as the military. The collection included numerous other examples of military headgear, which apparently, was a favorite of the collector. A lot of three British spiked military helmets in fine condition, with original brass insignia and chin straps, earned $1,647, and a lot with two World War I French artillery officer’s kepi hats brought $305. A World War 1 imperial Prussian spike helmet reached $427. American Civil War headgear and other items were also included. Three kepis from the Civil War or Indian wars, each with condition issues, earned $610. A Civil War leather cartridge box with a leather strap realized $610, and a lot of three Civil War “bull’s-eye” canteens earned $671. Two ambrotypes of an unidentified Civil War general surprised all by tying for the second highest price of the sale, $7,320. One was a full-length half plate portrait and the other a quarter plate of the same general and his wife. Presumably, the bidders knew who the general was.
Paintings often account for some of the highest prices at sales, but rarely do we see three of the four top priced items being paintings by Indian artists. Leading the day, finishing at $9,760, was a large charcoal of a male nude figure by Jehangir Shabalala (1922-2011). He studied at art colleges in India, London and Paris. He had more than 30 solo exhibitions and at least two films have been made of his life and work. A watercolor by another Indian artist brought $7,320. It was an abstract with three colorful horses by Maqbool Fida Husain (1913-2011). Popularly known as M.F. Husain, he was one of India’s most well-known artists and went on to become the highest paid painter in India. A movie is now being made of his life. There were numerous other works by Indian artists.
Interesting art glass was included in the sale, with a Daum Nancy pate-de-verre figure of a rhinoceros, more than 7 inches long, which earned $641. Another unusual Daum piece, an 8¾-inch-tall pate-de-verre green vase with molded grapes and grape vines realized $488. A Lalique teal green perfume bottle with four molded faces brought $366. There was also a circa 1900 piece of Thomas Webb cameo glass, a small deep blue vase with a butterfly and a floral design. It went out for $232, probably a good buy. A signed Tiffany bronze and Favrile glass trumpet vase earned $824.
After the sale, John White commented, “Kathy and I were pleased with the sale. We did almost a quarter of a million dollars. The internet was strong, and the local guys were here for the coins and the silver. We had more than 80 consignors for the sale, and I thought it was a good assortment of material with some unusual stuff like the Islamic items. We’re going to relax a little bit and then get ready for our next sale, which will be in April.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For more information, www.whitesauction.com, 508-947-9281 or 508-269-9275.
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