Published: October 9, 2015
PITTSFIELD, MASS. — On Monday, October 12, beginning at noon, Willis Henry Auction will conduct its 35th Shaker auction on the grounds of Hancock Shaker Village. The firm holds the record for obtaining the highest price for Shaker furniture at auction — a Shaker desk made by Orren Haskins, previously owned by the late Ed Clerk, for the amount of $491,400. This year will include an array of Shaker furniture from various consignors, including Ed Clerk’s estate. One interesting showpiece is a blue double cupboard over drawers, which was a built-in from a community building.
Clerk’s estate also has several other varieties of antique cupboards, such as a rare stepback cupboard, a tall double door top and bottom cupboard, a cupboard over drawers with provenance and apron on the bottom.
Another estate from a well-known Philadelphia art curator, founder of the Fabric Workshop and Museum and supporter of the arts, who also ran “Kamp Kippy” in Maine for up-and-coming artists, as well as famous contemporary artists, is represented in this auction. Charles Sheeler was a friend of the family, and influenced Marion “Kippy” Bolton Stroud with his paintings showing the architectural graphic lines of Shaker furniture.
A few of Stroud’s pieces include a 9-foot-long trestle table in cherry and figured maple from one of the earlier communities (possibly Hancock), a rare Enfield, N.H., meeting house bench and another longer bench. Along with several other lots, Willis Henry Auctions is offering a rare pair of Shaker beds with iron fitted “boots’ holding rotating wheels, which ensured easy floor cleaning.
Joanne Wombalt and her late husband Jonathan Wadleigh discovered Shaker around 1983. They had many adventures in their search in New England and as far south as New Jersey. Jonathan wanted one of everything. Joanne liked form and unique things about Shaker, such as drawers on different sides. Joanne explained that she and her husband were very impressed with the Shaker craftsmanship. As they advanced their collection, they leaned toward picking woods they loved, with matched drawers and panels.
Some pieces being offered include a Sister’s sewing desk in butternut with original porcelain knobs and a tiger maple Sister’s sewing stand with a pair of flanking underhung dovetailed drawers with yellow/red wash. There are many tables in the sale that display some wonderful woods.
An interesting use of wood is displayed in a tailoring counter with doors and drawers using light and dark woods to offset each other. This piece is from Groveland, N.Y., and is from a long-time collector. Shakers were also masters of finishing wood with beautiful colors of paint and also used stains of color to transcend the wood into an entirely different look. Usually this was done on plainer woods, such as pine. A good example is a three-drawer blanket chest with a simple curved arched base in red stain on pine. Another unusual piece from Sabbathday Lake, Maine, is a pine Sister’s sewing stand with an unusual reddish orange finish, circa 1830.
This auction features some oval boxes and an unusual amount of rare Shaker carriers. Also offered will be a rare round red box that belonged to the late Don Emerich, who was head of the NY State Transportation Commission in his career, an avid fan and scholar of Shaker and also helped Faith Andrews with her Smithsonian exhibit. Almost all of these boxes and carriers have painted finishes in the Shaker color palette and come from several different collections.
An interesting part of the auction is a collection of Shaker spiritual writings that are being offered. One is in the form of a leaf done by Polly Ann Reed to Eliza Sharp on June 12, 1844. Another is a card of love from blessed Mother Ann to Eliza Sharp, January, 25, 1843, done by Sarah Bates. A small and delicate spiritual booklet was given to Eliza Sharp on January 7, 1842, from the words of Father James, Mother Ann, Father William, Elder Sister Olive and Mother Lucy, presented to “Eliza Mother’s dutiful child” with love and blessings, says Father Joseph. Other spiritual writings and ephemera round out the collection offered in individual lots.
Previews are Saturday and Sunday, October 10–11, from 10 am to 5 pm, and Monday from 10 to 11:30 am.
Hancock Shaker Village is at 1843 West Housatonic Street. For information, www.willishenryauctions.com or 781-834-7774.
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