Date: Fri 11-Sep-1998
Northeast Auction's August Sale In Manchester
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- After "How's the condition?" and "What do you think it
will go for?," the third question most commonly asked Ron Bourgeault must be,
"How do you do it?" With 24 highboys and 20 tall case clocks in the latest
line-up, quantity and quality seem to be the answers.
Northeast Auction's August 1-2 sale in Manchester, the kick-off to Antiques
Week in New Hampshire, generated $4.6 million, a record for the firm for a
single sale. Northeast's marine arts sale on August 15-16 added another $2.7
million, for a combined $7.3 million and a record August total.
Consignors included the Art Institute of Chicago and the Philadelphia Museum
of Art; the estates of Russell Carrell, Edgar Bingham, Jr., Sanka Grossman,
and Henry Everton Hosley, to name a few; a member of the Cadwalader family;
and, dealers told us repeatedly but we were unable to confirm, property of a
well-known dealer who is divorcing.
With The Joneses
The sale's stunning highlight, of course, were seven framed watercolor
portraits of the Jones family of Farmington, N.H., attributed to Joseph H.
(Left Hand) Davis, a folk artist whose substantial legacy dates to a few years
between 1833 and 1837. Six children, framed individually, are shown in
profile, each standing on a flamboyant strip of carpet and dressed in his
Sunday best. The double portrait of Mr and Mrs Jones shows husband and wife
seated across the table from each other, the trappings of their prosperous
middle-class life around them. Each portrait is inscribed with the sitter's
name and dates.
"I got a set picture of them. So did a couple of competitors. I worked fast,"
said Bourgeault, explaining how he landed the lot. Though the auctioneer is
mum, the group is rumored to have been discovered in Florida by two dealers
anxious to preserve their anonymity.
The group sold to Stonington, Conn., dealer Marguerite Riordan for $200,000,
plus premium. The price is a record for a group of Davises; in fact, this is
the largest group known to have been sold. Sotheby's still holds the record
price for a Davis. In 1994, "A Double Portrait of Thomas Thompson and Betsey
Thompson," a 9‹ by 14 inch double portrait from the Little collection, brought
$90,500 with premium.
The Davis family has since gone to a good home in the New York area. In a
subsequent phone conversation, Riordan noted that, while the group's rarity
was unsurpassed, she generally prefers to see Davis watercolors in better
condition. These had stains and foxing, but, in their favor, no restoration.
"They are in their original frames and don't require treatment," she said.
Riordan is known for handling the occasional, brilliant Davis. "Portrait of
Jonathan and Mary Dockum," a watercolor on paper of April 30, 1837, appeared
in her Winter Antiques Show booth last January. Interestingly, another member
of that family, "Charles H. Dockum, Aged 23," dated March 10, 1837, was also
consigned to Northeast's sale, where it sold for $8,250.
Bert and Gail Savage organized the first exhibition of Davis watercolors, at
the Art Institute of Chicago in 1974, and wrote the extensive catalog entry
for Northeast's lot. "I live in the town, Strafford, where in 1836 Davis did
his most famous work. I now suspect after seeing this group that there were
many groups, but they were dispersed to family members over the years.
Families kept the watercolors because their inscriptions gave them meaning to
descendants." Savage said Davis watercolors are often in mediocre condition.
"Maybe they were left out or tucked in a book, rather than framed right away,"
Riordan was also the buyer of a pair of signed portraits by New York State
artist Susan C. Waters (1823-1900), bid to $17,000 on behalf of the New York
State Historical Association in Cooperstown, N.Y. From the estate of Russell
Carrell, the two oil on canvas paintings depict Lyman Kingman and Helen M.
Kingman, who was 15 years old in 1845. Measuring 32 by 27 inches and 20 by 25
inches, the first painting is inscribed on the stretcher; the second, of
Helen, on reverse.
"We have had a pair of Waters portraits but they were unsigned," said NYSHA's
curator, Paul D'Ambrosio. "We bought these because they have been the basis of
a lot of attributions. They are much better documented, and make much more of
a contribution to our collection."
He continued, "We co-sponsor the Cooperstown graduate program. It was
Cooperstown graduate Colleen Heslip who did the original Waters research and
produced a catalogue in 1979. The Kingman portraits were key to her, so we
have a sense of buying back a piece of our own history, as well."
In 1999, its centennial year, the New York State Historical Association is
mounting an exhibition of New York State folk art, of which the portraits will
be part. The centennial will also be celebrated at the 1999 Winter Antiques
Show, where NYSHA's collections will be the basis of the loan show.
A second museum acquisition at Northeast was a pair of Ammi Phillips portraits
of Melissa and Ira Williams. The Sharon, Conn., couple sold to the Sharon
Historical Society for $14,000. The canvases were consigned by descendants,
who attended the sale.
Northeast's August sale is a social occasion, a chance for old friends to
catch up and do business. Single-owner collections and estates offered in
August often have special resonance for the trade. This round, it was Russell
Carrell's collection that conjured both bids and memories.
Two hundred sixty lots from the estate of the late dealer and show manager
were sold Saturday night for about $350,000. The collection reflected
Carrell's flair for decorating, his sense of humor, and his love of robust
color and form.
The evening began with four Sheraton fancy chairs selling to Carrell protegee
Marguerite Riordan for $4,000. The chairs were Carrell's signature shade of
yellow; like Carrell, aggressive, optimistic, unapologetic. To Greg Kramer
went the manager's New England dressing table, also yellow, for $10,500. In
the general sale, the Robesonia, Penn., dealer was an avid buyer of painted
furniture, claiming a yellow corner cupboard decorated with red spindles for
$36,000 and a miniature paint decorated slant-lid desk for $9,250.
"The corner cupboard was the best piece of paint that we bought, and it was
made right here in Berks County," Kramer said later. "The miniature desk is an
extremely rare form to have such interesting paint. The construction is
ultimate and it is totally untouched. As for the dressing table, we don't tend
to deal in New England furniture, but this has exceptional form and wonderful
paint. We had the yellow dressing table from the cover of Fales book at the
Philadelphia show two or three years ago. The form of this one is even
Dozens of lots -- including Carrell's straw market hat, $450; his Louis
Vuitton briefcase, $1,100; and his favorite captain's chair, $500 -- all
apparatus from his famous field shows -- sold to Malcolm Magruder. "Russell
was controversial and provocative, but he was a gentleman," said the Virginia
dealer, recalling the promoter's generosity to dealers and contributions to
Easily the most striking piece of furniture offered was a Connecticut cherry
bonnet-top Chippendale secretary bookcase in its old, russet surface intact.
The delicate looking casepiece stood only 88 inches tall. In addition to a
fitted interior with scalloped valances, it boasted an upper case fancifully
ornamented with pierced fretwork, rosette carvings, and applied moldings.
Quarter columns and a gadrooned base enhanced the lower case.
The secretary desk sold to Harold Cole of Woodbury, Conn., for high estimate,
$90,000. There was pre-sale talk that it might go for $150,000. Cole has since
resold the piece that descended in the Aaron Hall family of Wallingford, Conn.
Experts are debating whether or not the cabinet was made by Eliphalet Chapin
of East Windsor, Conn.
Some of the top furniture lots went to Wayne Pratt. The dealer with shops in
Woodbury, Conn., and Nantucket, Mass., claimed a Massachusetts Chippendale
mahogany blockfront bonnet-top linen press, $75,000; a pair of shapely Boston
Chippendale mahogany side chairs, $47,500; a Hebron, Conn., flattop Queen Anne
maple highboy, $36,000; and a Massachusetts bonnet-top highboy, $20,000.
Sparking bids all over the room, a pretty tiger-maple six-drawer Portsmouth
chest with Levi Chandler's signature scrawled on it in chalk went to Arthur
Liverant for $29,000. The Colchester, Conn., dealer also got a Norwich, Conn.,
tall case clock by Thomas Harland, for $26,000.
G.W. Samaha bid a pair of Portsmouth Queen Anne walnut side chairs to $35,000.
Appropriately, an 1826 map of the Western Reserve also went to the Milan, Ohio
dealer, for $21,000.
An exquisitely proportioned New Hampshire candlestand in old finish had
Marguerite Riordan's name all over it. The Stonington, Conn., dealer said the
$24,000 stand will almost certainly be in her Winter Antiques Show booth if
she doesn't sell it first.
John Delaney said he had never seen a Simon Willard wall clock like the one he
got for $60,000. "It may well be one of a kind," said the Townsend, Mass.,
clock dealer, who acquired half a dozen timepieces at Northeast.
An assortment of Windsor seating furniture came from a Midwestern collection,
Bourgeault said. Heading the selection was a Philadelphia lowback armchair
illustrated in Santore, $27,000; a funky multiple-arm writing chair, $26,000;
a Pennsylvania comeback Windsor armchair in black paint, $12,000; and a set of
six Massachusetts white-painted bamboo turned side chairs, $10,500.
For folk art aficionados, there was enough to warrant attending the sale.
Among lots not pictured on these pages, an 1805 silk needlework memorial by
Mary Chapin Warren, together with Polly Chapin's 1792 silk needlework
depicting a cornucopia, fetched $26,000; a 48-inch J.W. Fiske horse
weathervane went to $20,000; a Charles Looff standing horse carousel figure in
old paint brought $14,000; a painted zinc hunting dog, 50 inches long,
achieved $17,000; and a watercolor of two children in a landscape attributed
to John Ritto Penniman crossed the block at $22,000.
Coming In November
With the ink barely dry on its August ledger, Northeast Auction was at work
photographing lots for its November 7-8 sale at the Center of New Hampshire
Holiday Inn in Manchester.
Featured will be four Gaines Portsmouth chairs from the Brewster family, on
loan to the Warner House for half a century. The auctioneer puts their value
at roughly $250,000. Also to be sold is property from the Betsy and Eddie
Vantine collection of American Queen Anne and Chippendale furniture; the Frank
MacGregor Smith collection of American country furniture and accessories;
selections from the estate of E. Hyde Cox of Manchester-by-the Sea; a
Connecticut tall clock by Thomas Harland of Norwich, from an American
collector; and selections from the early American collection of Esther and
The sale of the controversial, 1800-piece collection of parian deaccessioned
by the Bennington Museum has yet to be scheduled. "We just got the room to
unpack it," said Bourgeault. "But it will be sold over a period of a year."
Prices do not include Northeast's buyers' premium of 15 percent on the first
$50,000 and 10 percent on the remaining balance.