Published: September 18, 2018
Review And Onsite Photos By Rick Russack
PLAINFIELD, N.H. – There were more than 300 people in the gallery for William “Bill” Smith’s 51st Labor Day sale on September 3. Cars overflowed the parking lot, utilizing the shoulders of the state highway. License plates indicated that there were bidders there from Pennsylvania, Texas and Michigan, as well as New York and the New England states. The sale included a variety of good American furniture, high-quality jewelry that brought strong prices, a collection of White Mountain paintings, Asian material, Oriental rugs, Japanese prints and far more. Smith and Ken Labnon, his fellow auctioneer, organized the material so that no one got bored. Two or three lots of jewelry might be followed by two or three paintings, followed by a few lots of furniture, etc. Smith’s sales draw many retail buyers and he takes the time to briefly comment on items of interest, and each piece of furniture is brought to the stage, and all sides of the piece are displayed-top, bottom, back and drawers, if appropriate. Multiple phone lines were in use and absentee bids are accepted. Internet bidding is not available, and Smith commented, “That’s probably why this room is so full.” This was Smith’s second million-dollar sale this year, finishing at $1,082,150.
The top price realized was $23,000 and was achieved by two lots. One was an unusual Eighteenth Century Pennsylvania Queen Anne carved walnut secretary on tall trifid feet. It had raised panel doors, reeded styles and a good prospect door. Bidding was active, with those in the room dropping out early, leaving two phone bidders to compete for it until it sold for $23,000. The second top lot of the day was simply cataloged as a “collection of five Nineteenth Century Japanese woodblock prints, including Hiroshige, all framed.” It was estimated to sell for $1,500, but a phone bidder took it to the $23,000 final price.
Also selling well was a birch Chippendale sugar chest on an unusual carved bracket base. It may have been of Southern origin and was cataloged as walnut, but the buyer, who paid $9,430 for it, said it was birch. Others thought it may have been apple. This, and the secretary mentioned above, along with many more items in the sale, came from the Fenn/Raley family of Harrisville, N.H. The consignor had inherited much of the material from an earlier generation, who had collected in the 1940s-50s, and also added to the collection over the years. It is expected that there will be additional material from this collection in one of Smith’s fall sales.
Other furniture from the same collection also did well, and one of the surprises of the day was a walnut Federal period cellarette with a pull-out work surface and drawer. Smith dated it to about 1800-10 and it sold for $20,700, well over the estimate. There were two tall case clocks from the same family; both did nicely. A Federal period example, about 1812, by Frederick Wingate, Augusta, Maine, with a fretwork bonnet top, and a moon phase dial, went for $12,075.
According to John Delaney’s website, Wingate’s clocks almost always used contrasting woods in the door and base panels, had turned waist and hood columns, and had colorfully painted dials. This clock had all those characteristics. The determined buyer was in the room and never lowered his bidder card. The other Federal period tall case clock from the family, in a heavily inlaid case with conch shell and eagle, may have been made in the Baltimore area. It was more than 8 feet tall and sold for $7,820. It was examined by several dealers who were present for the sale and opinions differed as to where the clock was made. It was bought by a dealer on the phone with his client.
A ship portrait of the “SY Winchester, P.W. Rouss, Owner,” signed Antonio Jacobsen and dated 1908, had an interesting backstory, according to marine arts specialist Justin Cobb of Captain’s Quarters Antiques in Amherst, Mass. Cobb said that the painting is not listed in the Jacobsen checklist – only sketches are included. Cobb said that would indicate that the whereabouts of the painting were not known when Harold Sniffen compiled the checklist in 1984, and that it may never have been in the market before. Cobb also said the yacht Winchester had an interesting history. It was built at the Bath Iron Works in 1916, and was commandeered for naval service during World War I. It was later owned by both Vincent Astor and Cornelius Vanderbilt III, who died on the yacht in 1942. The painting sold for $4,888.
In general, paintings did well. The first one Smith sold was a large oil on canvas, “Breaking Waves” by Frederick Judd Waugh (1861-1940). Waugh is best known for his seascapes and this one sold for $8,510. Topping the category was “Calling in the Cows” signed G. Innes (1825-1894) and dated 1887. It brought $14,950.
Bringing the highest price of the consignment was “Mt Washington From The Glen Road,” Jackson, N.H., by Frank Shapleigh (1842-1906), which sold for $9,200. From 1877 to 1893, Shapleigh was the artist-in-residence at the Crawford House, one of the “Grand Hotels of the White Mountains” in nearby Crawford Notch. Cannell apparently liked works by Benjamin Champney (1817-1907), whose studio was in North Conway. Champney is considered by many to be the founder of the White Mountain School of painters, and his works were often published as lithographs for those who could not afford the paintings. Champney’s “View of Mt Kearsarge from Intervale” sold for $4,600, and a White Mountain landscape sold for $3,220.
For those interested, an educational website about White Mountain art, overseen by New Hampshire scholars John J. Henderson and Roger E. Belson, is at www.whitemountainart.com. Smith’s gallery is in northern New Hampshire and his sales often include paintings of the White Mountains by artists known for their work in that region. This sale included paintings from the John Cannell estate. Cannell, who died earlier this year, lived in North Conway, N.H., and owned the Intervale Motel, Intervale, N.H.
A few days after the sale, Bill Smith said that he was quite pleased with the sale. “We had a good crowd. Furniture and jewelry did well and there were surprises both ways. The Japanese prints and the cellarette did better than we thought, but the Hadley chest went for less than others that have sold in the last month or two. I think the market is improving and I think one of the reasons that we’ve been doing well is that our buyer’s premium is lower than other auction houses. Buyers, especially retail buyers, know that. Plus there is no sales tax here. I also had a guy at this sale tell me that he appreciated the fact that we don’t post prices realized online. The guy buys some of the better jewelry and appreciates the privacy. This was our second million-dollar sale of the year; that’s a good feeling.”
All prices include the buyer’s premiums as quoted by the auction house. For more information, www.wsmithauction.com or 603-675-2549.
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