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Nisbet and Art Shine

Peter Smit | October 14th, 2013

This sofa table in mahogany with pine as secondary wood was made by Saint John, New Brunswick, cabinetmaker Thomas Nisbet (1777-1850).  It was the top lot in the sale and went to a telephone bidder for $18,500. Details of the sofa table include Nisbet’s typical ring turnings, ebonized trim, feather carvings, and acanthus-carved knees.

Also made by Thomas Nisbet was this games table in mahogany with pine as secondary wood. In overall excellent shape, it sold on the phone for $14,000. Detail of the card table shows typical ring turnings, feather carving, and acanthus leaves on the legs.

One of the sleepers in the sale was this wonderfully proportioned sofa in mahogany. It was attributed to the workshop of either Thomas Nisbet or Alexander Lawrence (another 19th-century New Brunswick cabinetmaker) and went for only $900.

Tim Isaac Art & Antiques Auctions, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

All prices in Canadian funds

During Tim Isaac’s annual Thanksgiving Day sale, which took place on Monday, October 14, 2013, a number of pieces by cabinetmaker Thomas Nisbet and some great local art took center stage. The Isaacs always make this a special sale with some great items, apples and chocolates for customers in the auction room, and a fun, social ambiance among the close to 500 people in attendance. As usual the sale took place in the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre, which has recently undergone some changes and looks and feels warmer with a new carpet, warmer colors on the wall, and new lights on the ceiling.

The top lot was a mahogany sofa table made by Thomas Nisbet. It was in excellent overall shape and featured all the details one expects from New Brunswick’s, if not Canada’s, most famous cabinetmaker. It went to a telephone bidder for $18,500 (no buyer’s premium charged). A mahogany card table by this cabinetmaker came in second. With all the typical carved details it went to a phone bidder at $14,000. There were a few more pieces that were attributed to the shop of Thomas Nisbet, and they did well too. Another card table with a single pedestal, four legs, and typical carvings went for $11,000 to a phone bidder, and a small worktable with two drawers and four curled legs sold for $5100 to a bidder in the room. The sleeper in the sale may have been a sofa that had a Nisbet or Alexander Lawrence (another famous early 19th-century Saint John, New Brunswick, cabinetmaker) attribution. It sold for a mere $900.

Among the art, a wonderful early work by Saint John artist Miller Gore Brittain scored the highest price and went for $11,500. Other local artists fared well, too, and as usual the Isaacs had a nice selection of accessories.

For more information, please call (506) 652-3222 or check Isaac’s Web site (

This early pastel landscape, 17" x 13 3/8", by local painter Miller Gore Brittain (1912-1968) was signed and dated 1937 in the lower left and fetched $11,500.

Summer Cliff Scene, a 24" x 30" oil on board by New Brunswick artist Jack W. Humphrey (1901-1967) was signed and dated 1963 and fetched $1600.

Reflections, a 26" x 20" watercolor by local artist Fred Ross (b. 1927), was signed and dated 1963 and sold for $4500.

This small mahogany drop-leaf worktable with two drawers, with pine as secondary wood, was attributed to the workshop of Thomas Nisbet and sold for $5100.

This pastel, The Family, by Miller Gore Brittain measured 17" x 12" and sold for $5100.

This Maud Lewis (1903-1970)  acrylic on board, Almost Home, 11¾" x 14", fetched $3500.

Originally published in the January 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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