Published: March 16, 2004
Large auction, large crowds and large prices. All contributed to another large grossing sale at Northeast Auctions over the weekend of March 6, as Ron Bourgeault posted an impressive $3.4 million sales total for the 1,100 lots offered.
The long list of lots included an impressive roll call of consignors with more than 350 lots deaccessioned from Colonial Williamsburg, 100-plus lots from the American and English ceramics collection of Don and Pam Levine and the tall-case clock collection of George Demitroff.
The auction included another 60-plus cataloged rdf_Descriptions from a private collection, however, Bourgeault received an unpleasant surprise during the final hours of preview when an injunction was filed that disallowed the sale of cataloged lots 248 through 309. Signs were posted throughout the auction hall on Saturday morning that read “As the result of a certain legal proceeding commenced two days ago, lots 248-309 as listed in the catalog are not being offered for sale at this time.” The situation left many dismayed, especially those that had traveled to the sale for those particular rdf_Descriptions.
Bourgeault reasoned that those rdf_Descriptions will more than likely be re-offered this summer. Some of the lots to be withdrawn included a pair of New York Hepplewhite shield back armchairs, a Duncan Phyfe attributed Sheraton sofa and a Newburyport Chippendale wall clock by David Wood. Most notable, however, was a strong assortment of China trade paintings and a large selection assortment of Chinese export porcelains – many of which were decorated with American eagles.
A rare flint enameled chamber stick caught the eye of collectors. “We have seen virtually all of the major collections and have never seen more than two examples of a flint enameled chamber stick,” commented Bennington collector and dealer Charles Adams in regard to the rarity of the piece. The lot opened at the high estimate of $900 with Adams and several others getting in on the quick paced action with it eventually selling to the buyer in the middle of the room for $3,105.
The top lot of the Bennington came as an extremely rare light green flint enameled Swiss Lady change cover sold at $8,050. This was the only known example in green according to those “in the know” at the auction. Other top lots included a pair of flint enamel poodles at $4,600, a lion on base facing left $5,750 and a lion sans base brought $4,600.
The top lot of the auction came a short while later as a painting by Eastman Johnson was offered. The oil on board, entitled “Embers,” measuring 165/8 by 141/2 inches, was signed and dated by Johnson in 1869. From a series of paintings executed in Nantucket that documented the decline of the Island’s golden age of whaling, which, according to the catalog, allowed Johnson “to capture a part of the nation’s life rapidly fading from the American scene.” One of Johnson’s favorite subjects was aging sea Captain Charles Myrick, the subject of “Embers,” a repeated painting by the artist.
“This version of ‘Embers,’ largely unknown to the Amer-ican art world, is an important rediscovery in Eastman Johnson’s body of work,” states Bourgeault in the auction catalog. “It is a larger, more complex rendering of the painting known as ‘Embers,’ last exhibited at the 1972 Whitney Museum of American Art’s retrospective ‘Eastman Johnson.'”
Estimated at $80/120,000 the desirable picture opened for bidding at $75,000 with three phone bidders jumping in on the action right from the start. Two of the phones battled back and forth in $5,000 increments to $95,000, where the third phone jumped into the action. At $110,000 a bidder in the room became active, but at $130,000 it was back to all telephone action. Bourgeault stuck with the attractive $5,000 increments all the way to $205,000, where it looked as if the lot would be hammered down. After a long hesitation, a bid of $210,000 came which was immediately countered at $215,000, resulting in a selling price of $239,000, inclusive of the staggered 15/10 percent buyer’s premium.
Other lots that did well included a New Hampshire Chippendale carved and painted slant front desk signed by its maker, Samuel Dunlap. The rare desk, with faux painted inlay and realistic grained paint, featured an unusual step back interior with five shell carved upper drawers. Along with Dunlap’s signature, several other chalk inscriptions were discovered on an interior drawer with the inscription “Peter Fifield, Andover N.H.” discernable along with a partial date of “182-.”
The desk had been the subject of a great deal of interest with numerous dealers and collectors in the crowd ready as the lot crossed the block. Three phone bidders were poised as Bourgeault asked for a $60,000 opening bid, which was immediately received from one of the phone bidders and quickly countered by the other two. Bids came fast and furious from the phones with two hands in the air at the same time on several occasions. At $110,000, competition had narrowed to two bidders but the action never slowed till the end when the lot was hammered down at $195,000.
Another of the lots that attracted major attention from the trade was an extremely rare pair of Eighteenth Century portraits of Mary Jarvis and Captain Phinias Stone, circa 1796, attributed to an unknown Massachusetts limner. The oil on paper portraits retained the original frames and were related to three portraits offered at Sotheby’s sale of the Bertram and Nina Fletcher Little collection.
Estimated at $20/30,000, the portraits opened for bidding at $19,000 with David Wheatcroft and Rockingham, Vt., dealer Stephen Corrigan, of Stephen Douglas Antiques, going head to head. Bourgeult moved painstakingly in $1,000 increments with the two banging away to $70,000, where Corrigan claimed the lot at $79,500, including premium.
“You just don’t see Eighteenth Century portraits come onto the market,” said Corrigan of the pictures, “and these are absolutely wonderful. They are simplistically stylized, straight-forward, very naïve in fashion, there is almost a bluntness to them. It is a very interesting quality that you just don’t see in Nineteenth Century portraits.”
Corrigan also commented that he may have identified the limner, who up until now has been unknown. He stated that he has a similar piece from the same area dated 1807 that is signed Stone, which has Corrigan thinking that the artist may be a family member of the sitters. The dealer commented that the portraits were purchased for stock and they are expected to make their first appearance at The New Hampshire Dealers Show in August. Until then, they have found a home in Corrigan’s bedroom where he looks at them every morning, “I just love them,” he stated.
The New Jersey tall-case clock collection of George Demitroff was offered with most of the examples selling near the low estimates. A Philadelphia tall-case clock with step-molded bonnet-top and moon phase dial inscribed “Jos. Wills” selling at $23,000. A Simon Willard banjo clock also did well at $10,637, a fancy late Nineteenth walnut clock with Westminster chimes by Walter Durfee brought $29,900 and a Hepplewhite mahogany dwarf clock attributed to Joshua Wilder realized $37,950.
The best of the tall-case clocks attracted the least amount of attention, until preview that is. Once it appeared in the preview area the desirable tall-case was scrutinized by everyone. The Chippendale mahogany tall-case clock with inscribed brass dial by Enos Doolittle, Hartford, was illustrated in a group photo in the catalog and was offered sans reserve. A good-looking example, which appeared to retain the original finish, the clock had a scrolled pediment bonnet above an astral glazed door. The case was nicely carved on a plinth base with ogee bracket feet. Bidding on the lot was active with it selling to Pennsylvania dealer Kelly Kinzle for $46,000.
He further stated that funds generated by the sale would be used to acquire rdf_Descriptions that would “further enrich the [Colonial Williamsburg] collection with rdf_Descriptions more clearly representing the Foundation’s educational mission and goals.”
The top lot from the Williamsburg rdf_Descriptions came as a New England Chippendale serpentine front mahogany four-drawer chest was sold with it easily surpassing the $15/25,000 presale estimate bringing $97,750. A heavily carved Georgian mahogany settee with out-swept arms terminating in carved eagles heads also soared past estimates bringing $37,950, while a Chippendale rococo-style carved mahogany and satin wood dressing table sold at the high estimate of $34,500. Three pieces of Philadelphia furniture did well with a walnut Queen Anne side chair attributed to Savery hammering down at $33,350, a carved Chippendale armchair brought $24,150 and a Queen Anne walnut dish-top bird-cage candlestand realized $23,000.
A Joseph B. Smith portrait of the American clipper ship Ocean Express entering the Golden Gate, circa 1855, an oil on canvas, 32 by 44 inches, surpassed estimates bringing $63,000 and a partially colored engraved map from 1780 entitled “A Chart of the Coast of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Etc” from “The Atlantic Neptune” by JFW Des Barres, also surpassed estimates bringing $14,375.
Prices include the 15 percent buyer’s premium charged.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm