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Gamage Kicks Off Maine's Auction Week

Mark Sisco | August 19th, 2013


Andrew Wyeth’s sketch of his home on Benner Island, Maine, served as a preliminary study for his tempera painting Otherworld. The sketch, photo, and handwritten note together brought $14,375.


This little piggin went to market and brought home lots of bacon. This piggin form with the upright “lollipop” extended stave is rare, but the well-worn original blue-green paint and matching lid were enough to convince bidders that it was worth more than triple the estimate to sell for $2530.


This 19th-century standing rooster weathervane has a red comb, yellow beak and claws, and lots of the other original paint remaining, along with a few rough repairs. It stands on a ceramic globe with a directional and sold just over the low end of the $4000/6000 estimate for $4312.50.


Set of six step-down Windsor chairs, in natural finish and with turned bamboo legs, $1610.

Bruce Gamage, Jr. Antiques, Rockland, Maine

“Welcome to Auction Week in Maine,” Bruce Gamage announced at the start of his August 19 sale in Rockland, Maine. “If you can’t get to any action this week, you should stop collecting antiques!” he suggested. For the past quarter century or so, Gamage’s Monday sales have opened a week of nonstop antiques auctions with four or five other venues offering their end-of-summer events.

Just about anything with the Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) name attached to it is a potential gold mine, and Gamage frequently features items from the Wyeth family in his best sales. Offered here was a simple sketch of a bird’s-eye view of Benner Island, Maine, on a ragged piece of note paper, and a note from the artist that read, “Benner Island/ From the Air/ Bill -/ This is the view I want you to take/ Andy.” It was accompanied by a photograph of the same scene from the air, and it served as an initial study for one of Wyeth’s last egg tempera paintings, Otherworld, which showed the scene viewed from the interior of well-appointed jet luxury cabin.

Benner Island is the site of Wyeth’s Maine home. “Andy Wyeth never disclosed anything he was doing about a major piece of artwork. This is a drawing he did for his caretaker,” Gamage confirmed. “The photo was taken by Bill [the property caretaker]…It’s in the Wyeth raisonné…It’s important because it’s part of one of Andy’s last major tempera paintings.” The sketch and photo were estimated at $6000/8000 but easily passed that mark, finishing at $14,375 (includes buyer’s premium). 

Three pencil sketches by Andrew Wyeth done in a Strathmore watercolor sketchbook were unsigned but are solidly attributed to Wyeth and are included in his catalogue raisonné. The sketches were of a small schooner, a seabird, and a dwelling on Allen Island. They passed the $4000/6000 estimate and closed at $7475.

Charles Manley Tyler (1925-2003) doesn’t appear to be recognized outside of the horse racing world. The Maine artist is not listed on most art reference Web sites even though his works have been on display in the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs, New York. Gamage, who has sold several of his horse paintings recently, suggested that perhaps most of his paintings are still held privately by the wealthy clients that he painted for. A 24" x 32" portrait of Amerigo, ­reasonably estimated at $400/600, brought $258.75. I located several racehorses named Amerigo or Amerigo Vespucci, and this is probably the one that died in 1955.

Another lot with an interesting Maine connection consisted of two half-plate daguerreotypes, one showing the sidewheeler Forest City of Portland, the other possibly showing Captain John Brown Coyle (1841-1898). Coyle, his father, and his son (all three were named John Brown Coyle) were the successive heads of the Portland Steam Packet Company, which eventually became the Eastern Steamship Line. The Forest City, built in 1854, participated in the capture of the Confederate sailors who commandeered the Union revenue cutter Caleb Cushing in Portland harbor in 1863. It wasn’t clear if one of the gentleman in the picture actually was Coyle, but the pair sold for $1150, held in check by the uncertainty of the identity of the men, and also by the fact that the photograph of the boat was actually a picture of a painting of the ship, possibly by James Bard, and not the ship itself. 

For more information, go to (www.gamageantiques.com) or call (207) 594-4963.

Belgian artist Edward Antoon Portielje (1861-1949) was raised in a family of artists. His father and brother also specialized in genre paintings. Portielje created numerous scenes of women happily reading by the light of a window. This oil on panel more than doubled the $1000/1500 estimate to sell for $3450.

This silver teapot was made by mid-18th-century London silversmith Ebenezer Coker and has an applied wooden handle and mushroom cap finial. It sold for $1265. “The rarest thing is to find it with the underplate,” Gamage confirmed. Gamage photo.

Three pencil sketches by Andrew Wyeth were unsigned but are solidly connected to Wyeth and included in his catalogue raisonné. Together they made $7475.

This Maine one-drawer blanket chest with wooden knobs on a tall cutout bootjack base with yellow and ocher grain painting sold near the top of the $800/1200 estimate for $1150. It appeared to be all original right down to the cotter pin hinges.

A rare set of 12 Dresden portrait plates, each hand painted and with its subject and artist identified. This one was identified as Countess Spencer, painted by Reynolds. Two others were the Duchess of Devonshire and the Duchess of Orleans. A few had minor chips, but the entire set more than doubled the $2000/3000 estimate. There was a phone battle around $3000, and at least five phones were hanging in as it passed $5000. It finally ended at $7475.

This untouched and undamaged China trade ship portrait in its original hand-carved frame sold near the top estimate for $4600.


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

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