Published: August 18, 2020
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Cordier Auctions
HARRISBURG, PENN. – It’s the auctioneer’s lot in life. Someone decides to downsize and sell their home – along with a lifetime collection that was housed inside it. Such was the case with Harvey Roberts. Originally from Pennsylvania, he worked for the Pennsylvania Game Commission from 1948 until 1986. He was among the first of the agency biologists trained in the then new science of wildlife management. He graduated from the University of Alaska with a bachelor’s in education and biological science in 1948. He then returned to Alaska to earn a master’s. All the while, he was collecting Alaskan ethnographic artifacts, sporting gear and fine art that clicked with his sensibilities.
“Mr Roberts is still very much with us,” Melanie Hartman, Cordier Auctions director of catalog and specialty auctions, told Antiques and The Arts Weekly following the August 8 auction. “We also sold his home, the land part of the original Beaufort Farms. The land was granted to Harvey and his wife Ginny from his parents in 1956 – they were married in 1950. Beaufort Farms was just west of Harrisburg, adjacent to an area now known as Wildwood Lake Park, a wonderful oasis in the midst of an industrial district. Industrial creep commenced in the 1950s, and residential development began in the early 1980s. The home is now in the middle of a development called Deer Path Woods. Ginny Roberts passed away in January at the age of 99. She was in assisted living when she passed, and Harvey wisely moved out of their marital home and into a more practical abode.”
The top lots among the Roberts material in the sale were an Antonio Nicolo Gasparo Jacobsen (American-Danish, 1850-1921) oil on academy board portrait of the ship Aimee, signed and dated 1916 lower right and measuring (sight) 17½ by 28 inches, sailing off at $960, and, at $540, a Carleton Wiggins (1848-1932) oil on canvas titled verso “Borders of the Forest of Fontainbleau.”
“We were very excited to find the Jacobsen and the Wiggins, but were less excited to see their condition,” said Hartman. “The Jacobsen had been rather brutally ‘cleaned,’ and the Wiggins had much in-painting and restoration. Still lovely pieces, I hope the new owners do some thoughtful restoration.”
Fetching a combined $660 were two ethnographic tools – a compound cutting tool 10 inches long and a scraper found in New Guinea, circa 1943, 7-7/8 inches long. “I assume that Harvey collected the Alaskan compound tool as well as the miniature boat when he was at U of A,” said Hartman. “The other tool from New Guinea may have been collected while he was in the US Navy in the early 1940s.”
There were, of course, sporting accoutrements that accrue to a game and wildlife specialist, including five fishing reels – a Penn420SS, Penn 722Z, CV 6000 Captiva, Penn 6500SS and Avid AC250 – all with their original boxes and estimated at just $40-$60. They snagged a buyer at $480.
A Stickley chest of drawers, 36½ by 21 by 32=½ inches, hit $480.
More fine art highlights included a run of several Ned Smith (American, 1919-1985) charcoals, the top one a charcoal on paper with gouache highlights depicting a male and female partridge. Signed lower right, (sight 13 by 8 inches wide), it was bid to $450. Smith was a Pennsylvania artist born in Millersburg, just north of Harrisburg. He was a self-taught artist and naturalist, and was the staff illustrator for the Pennsylvania Game Commission from 1940 until 1953. He continued to contribute to their publications through the 1970s, creating more than 120 cover paintings for Pennsylvania Game News. Hartman said Smith is very actively collected locally. “We primarily see acrylics and oils – and many, many prints – the charcoals are somewhat unusual. I suspect that they are early.”
The vintage Alaskan miniature skin boat with figure mentioned previously realized $180. Further highlights from Roberts’ collection included a green Wishart Pine Tree medical bottle, $210; three fishing rods, $168; and an antique tackle box with lures, $168.
“This auction was online only,” said Hartman. “We moved to that model in May in response to COVID-19, and plan on using it for the foreseeable future. About 50 percent of our bidders remain local, doing curbside pick-up.
“Approximately 60 percent of the lots were from the Roberts estate. We do have a handful of lots that we are holding for future auctions. There are some Native American artifacts that I am doing further research on.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, www.cordierauction.com or 717-731-8662.
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