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Antiques Seekers Flock to CRN's Gallery for May Sale

David Hewett | May 19th, 2013

This ornately carved Chinese hardwood center table stood in the front gallery throughout three days of inspection, and most passed it by on their way to look at the other offerings. The right people, however, looked at it. When it came up for bid on Sunday afternoon, the 33½" high x 55" long table with marble insert flew right up to $29,250 (est. $8000/15,000). The 20½" high bronze and champlevé urn did not fare quite as well; it brought $263.25.

This 21" x 30" oil painting of the clipper ship E. Sherman by German artist Heinrich Andreas Sophus Petersen (1834-1916) sold within the gallery for $8775.

This 17" x 21½" (sight) wooley is unusual because it’s a portrait of the American ship U.S.S. Constitution at sea, and the frame has a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, label. The majority of the sewn or embroidered pictures of ships, called woolies or wooleys, are British. This one sold to a phone bidder for $2808, after a Boston collector and a Massachusetts dealer ran it up to their limits.

“The best English cellaret I’ve ever sold,” said Carl Nordblom when he offered this 22½" high x 28" wide wine chest, circa 1810, to the assorted crowd. A phone bidder evidently agreed and paid $8775 for it.

Japanese lobster is a bit more expensive than the Maine product. This articulated ivory copy is 13½" long and came with a signed bamboo box. How expensive? Try $9945.

No, it’s not part of a weathervane, but rather a roof ornament in the form of a pigeon standing on an orb on a plinth. The whole thing is 32" high, and an older woman, who appeared to be a local, stayed on it until it was hers for $3510.

This painted metal weathervane in the form of an open roadster with jaunty driver was full-bodied but under 2" thick. Yes, it had lost its windshield, headlight, and rear bumper, but its charisma, pizzazz, and spirit made up for the losses. The phone bidder wouldn’t quit and took it for $7020.

Tiger maple graining doesn’t get much more vivid than in this drop-leaf table. The top is 11½" x 44", the leaves are 15½" deep, and it brought $4680.

The story is that the shell- and lichen-encrusted earthenware Roman amphora was recovered from a shipwreck by an Italian family and came to this country some 65 years ago. According to a member of the consignor’s family, a university professor had said it dated to 2000-3000 B.C. It did better than the CRN staff guessed. They gave it an $800/1200 estimate, but it went to an Internet bidder at $7605.

CRN Auctions, Cambridge, Massachusetts

It takes guts to schedule your auction on the very day that the last shows at Brimfield are being held. Auctioneer Carl Nordblom ignored that fact and filled his Cambridge, Massachusetts, gallery with a neat mix of American and European furniture, paintings, and accessories on Sunday, May 19.

How successful was the sale? Every seat was filled; there were ten to 12 phones in play at times; and the auctioneer’s absentee bids book held some strong bids. Nordblom got above-estimate prices in most every category offered, and some of those prices were multiples of the estimates.

Nordblom charged through the lots in his usual brook-no-nonsense manner. If no opening bid was forthcoming, he barked at the runner, “Pass it! Throw it away!” and went on to the next lot.

He was slowed somewhat during the first 70 lots of art that opened the 11 a.m. session and drew bids from the Internet, the phones, and people in the gallery. Once that group was finished, he stayed pretty steadily in the 85 to 90 lots-per-hour zone.

Nordblom and auction coordinator Karin Phillips run a tightly focused operation. Runners know where all the items are in the small gallery, even if they do sometimes have to use a long pole to reach over furniture and indicate which painting on which wall is being offered, but it all flows nicely. CRN’s estimates are surprisingly dead-on, more so than one would have guessed when a broad mix of material is up for bid.

The lead art lot was Leisure Moments, a 31" x 43½" oil on canvas by David Adolf Constant Artz (Dutch, 1837-1890), one of a group of eight paintings from the Auburn, Maine, estate of Barbara Ferguson Beegel, M.D., who died last September at the age of 89, after a stroke. She had been a family doctor since 1949 and was a long-term physician advocate for low-income children with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Age did not slow her down; she went dog-sledding in Alaska at age 87. A phone bidder claimed Leisure Moments for $11,700 (including buyer’s premium).

Most of the other paintings from the Beegel collection sold for under $4000. A J.W. Casilear (1811-1893) landscape with an old Sotheby’s label on the reverse brought $3217.50, and two landscapes by Thomas Griffin (1858-1918) brought $2223 and $2574.

Art from other consignors brought varied prices. An oil on canvas by Heinrich Andreas Sophus Peterson (German, 1834-1916) of the clipper ship E. Sherman, which had descended through the family of its captain, John C. Blanchard, sold for $8775 to a Massachusetts dealer in maritime objects. A 5¼" x 21" watercolor coastal landscape by A.T. Bricher (1837-1908) brought $5850; a 4" x 5¼" oil on board Western landscape by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) sold for $4387.50; and a 10" x 16" oil on canvas by F.H. Shapleigh (1842-1906) of a barn and mountains as seen from Jackson, New Hampshire, sold for $6435.

Three lithographs from the 1850’s did quite well. One, a full-color depiction of the 112 flags flown from the masts of ships owned by Boston merchants, as published by Kramer & Co. in 1855, went to an Internet bidder for $1989. The other lithographs were large-folio colored views of events from Perry’s expedition to Japan in 1853-55. One, The Landing of Commodore Perry…at Simoda, Japan, June 18, 1854 by E. Brown Jr. and Sarony & Co., 26" x 37", went at $4387.50 to a phone bidder. The other, Passing the Rubicon…Japan, July 11, 1853 by the same firms, 25" x 35", went at $3510 to dealer Bill Samaha, who underbid the first.

There were some pretty good Chinese porcelains in the sale. A 23" high pair of Chinese Rose Mandarin vases in hexagonal form led the porcelain parade at $10,530, and an unusual and attractive vertically ribbed Rose Medallion umbrella stand, 23½" high, went to Samaha at $1404.

The American furniture entries did quite well, showing more strength than they have for the last three to four years. Even so, some examples will take years to reach the prices they achieved during the superheated years.

A great illustration of that fact happened when Nordblom offered a Federal Massachusetts lolling chair in mahogany. “I’ll tell you something about this chair after it sells,” he told the room. It was a decent enough example of circa 1790, with rounded crest and molded and shaped arms, and it sold for $5557.50. After he sold it, Nordblom said, “We sold that chair for fifteen thousand dollars some five, six years ago.”

CRN shouldn’t be ashamed of the prices it got for most of the furniture. A North Shore Massachusetts or Portsmouth, New Hampshire, mahogany and satinwood bowfront chest brought $10,530—not bad for a piece with a $6000/8000 estimate. A Salem, Massachusetts, mahogany secretary/bookcase with the same estimate brought the same price, and a boldly striped tiger maple drop-leaf dining table went over its $2000/3000 estimate to bring $4680.

All the weathervanes went over their estimates. A folky metal roadster, perhaps 1920’s or early ’30’s, looking for all the world as if it had survived a pretty bad smash-up—it was missing a windshield, one headlight, and a rear bumper—brought $7020; a full-bodied codfish, ex-Bill Putnam (a 1970’s-era antiques dealer from Plymouth, New Hampshire), sold for $8190; and a Harris & Co. Black Hawk running horse brought $4095.

CRN Auctions really shines when it has decorative stuff to sell. Nordblom gave a 20½" high French ceramic vase in an Egyptian motif, signed and dated “L. Bouvier, 1872,” a $3000/5000 estimate, and it brought $14,040.

“I hope there are at least two people here who know something about Nazareth tapestries,” Carl Nordblom said when he offered 55/1, an 86½" x 65" woven textile centered with abstract black “brush strokes” on an orange ground, created by the German/French painter Hans Hartung (1904-1989). The weaving studio in Nazareth, Israel, had opened in 1964 and was closed by the Six-Day War in 1967. CRN gave the weaving a $5000/7000 estimate, and it sold for $5265 to someone who had left a bid with the auctioneer.

A very nice English Regency-era carved mahogany cellaret, attributed to the London firm of Gillows and described by Nordblom as “The best English cellaret I’ve ever sold,” ended up going to a phone bidder at $8775.

If you listen closely to Nordblom, you can learn a lot. After he hammered down an English four-panel painted leather screen for $2223, he noted in an aside, “That’s what’s selling. Good decorative stuff still brings good prices!” And does it ever!

For more information, contact CRN Auctions at (617) 661-9582; Web site (

Originally published in the August 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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