Ship Departing Coastline, an oil painting, was attributed to Mary Blood Mellen (1819-1886), a student of Fitz Henry Lane. The painting depicts a ship flying the American flag and the owner’s blue pennant. In the background the shoreline has a church, homes, and a lighthouse. In a wonderful old carved frame, it measured 20½" x 27¼" and sold in one left bid for $60,000, an auction record for Mellen.
Midway through the sale this ornate Nantucket sewing box with inlaid ivory, pearl, and wood decorations was offered. The box was decorated with stars, hearts, and diamonds. The lid was decorated with an ivory plaque with the name “T Nickerson.” There was a “T. Nickerson” on board the Nantucket whaleship Essex in the mid-1800’s. The interior is fitted with five ivory spindles, four of which have ivory spools allowing thread to pass through pierced holes to the exterior of the box. The interior holds 40 pieces of baleen strips, probably for garment making. The box measured 9½" x 6" x 5½" and was once in the collection of J. Welles Henderson. The sewing box sold quickly for $30,000; in 2008 it sold for $18,720 at Northeast Auctions, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
This late 19th- or early 20th-century carved and painted wooden plaque, 40" x 62", with an eagle, federal shield, and banner for the U.S.S. Constellation, sold for $18,000. Northeast Auctions sold the same plaque in August 1998 for $17,825 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Boston Harbor Auctions, Boston, Massachusetts
Photos courtesy Boston Harbor Auctions
Boston Harbor Auctions, an offshoot of Lannan Ship Model Gallery in Boston, held a marine auction on April 13 at its High Street gallery in Boston. This sale featured deaccessions from the Herreshoff Marine Museum, items from the J. Pierpont Morgan family, and items from marine artists Melbourne Brindle and William H. Bishop. One of the top lots of the auction featured a ship’s portrait of the merchantman Rappahannock by William Gay Yorke, an unsigned portrait of William Drummond, captain of the ship, and a 19th-century ship’s registration document.
Charlie Burden, one of the founders of the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, Maine, happened to be flipping through Maine Antique Digest and saw the advertisement for the sale featuring the Rappahannock. “The portrait of William Drummond was important because he was the captain, and he was a partner in the shipbuilding business in Bath. They built clipper ships in Maine in the 1850’s. At the time of the launch, it was the largest merchant ship afloat in the world. It carried cotton from New Orleans to France,” said Burden.
“These things meant a lot to us,” he continued, “and I called some people to see if we could get some help buying them.” One donor was Linda Bean of the L.L. Bean family, who donated almost half of the money needed. More funds came from a Freeport foundation and a member of the Sewall family.
The Rappahannock lot attracted lots of interest with bidders on the phones, Internet, and in the room, but the Maine Maritime Museum won the lot for $27,800 (includes buyer’s premium).
An elaborate inlaid Nantucket sailor’s sewing box with five ivory spindles inside was inlaid with hearts, stars, and diamonds. The lid had an ivory plaque with the name “T. Nickerson.” Notes from the catalog indicate that there was a “T. Nickerson” on board the Nantucket whaler Essex. The front of the inlaid box had holes to allow for thread to pass through. The little Nantucket box, ex-J. Welles Henderson, sold for $30,000. On August 16, 2008, the box sold at Northeast Auctions in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to dealer Richard Lammerle for $18,720.
Another item from the Henderson collection was a medal of Oliver Hazard Perry that had been presented by the government of Pennsylvania. The medal was framed and visible on both sides. The medal was 2¼" diameter and the frame was 8¾" x 8¾". It opened with an Internet bid of $2200 and sold quickly to an Internet bidder for $2898.
The top lot of this auction was the oil painting Ship Departing Coastline, attributed to the artist Mary Blood Mellen (1819-1886), who was a student of Fitz Henry Lane. The painting, which was in an elaborate carved frame and measured 20½" x 27¼", depicted a ship that was flying the American flag and the owner’s pennant, and had a church, houses, and a lighthouse in the background. It sold in one left bid for $60,000.
The small auction hall was full of buyers who were competing with the numerous Internet and phone bidders. Larry Lannan provided a free lunch of lobster rolls and wine to the crowd of yachting enthusiasts. Lannan seems to have captured the interest of the marine and nautical crowd, and they were buying. At a few points during the sale, there were so many Internet bids that the auction virtually came to a halt while waiting.
For more information, call Boston Harbor Auctions at (617) 451-2650 or check the Web site (www.bostonharborauctions.com).
This set of four steam gauges had been mounted to a carved backboard from the yacht Fanita, circa 1889. The silver dials are signed “American Steam Gauge Co. Boston.” The 1" thick mahogany backboard retains much of its gold-leaf decoration. The Fanita was 80' long and 11' in breadth and was owned by John Simpson, who lived on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The Fanita was docked in Lake George, and according to the catalog, it was the most palatial yacht on the lake. The gauges sold for $10,800. The gauges were estimated at $18,000/20,000 at Skinner on December 1, 2012, but failed to sell.
This monumental (6' high) lighthouse beacon was housed in a painted bronze frame with a polished vented copper top. The wooden base measured 73" tall x 30" in diameter; dimensions for the beacon were 44" tall x 30" diameter. This lighthouse beacon had an estimate of $25,000/35,000 but sold in one left bid for $13,200.
There was plenty of bidding action for this historic lot featuring the merchantman Rappahannock, built at Bath, Maine, and launched in 1841. William Gay Yorke painted the oil on canvas, which is signed on the lower right “William York, LPool, April 1859.” The lot included an unsigned portrait of William Drummond, captain of the ship, and a 19th-century ship’s registration document. Together they sold for $27,800 to the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath.
Originally published in the July 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest