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Rockwell Kent Painting a Big Hit

Mark Sisco | August 24th, 2013

Fourteenth-century carved marble plaque, attributed to Tino di Camaino, $109,250 (est. $10,000/15,000).

West Greenland Landscape, 1929, a 28" x 34" (sight size) oil on canvas by Rockwell Kent (1882-1971), more than doubled its estimate to sell for $172,500.

Francis Augustus Silva (1835-1886), a view of Brace Rock, off Cape Ann, Massachusetts, watercolor and gouache, 16½" x 28½" (sight size), $66,125 (est. $30,000/40,000). Photo courtesy Thomaston Place.

This 32" long 19th-century fish weathervane made a big splash with bidders. The full-bodied copper cod with well-delineated scales, an old verdigris patina, and two bullet holes came from the Captain Jeffords House in Kennebunkport, Maine. It easily shot past its $10,000/15,000 estimate and sold for $31,050.

When the Grass Grows Green, a 23¾" x 26¾" (sight size) oil on canvas by midwestern artist Dale William Nichols (1904-1995), signed and dated 1949 and in the artist’s own painted frame, sold for $47,150 (est. $15,000/25,000). Photo courtesy Thomaston Place.

Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, Thomaston, Maine

“It’s the highest estimated sale we’ve ever had,” auctioneer Kaja Veilleux told me before commencing Thomaston Place Auction Galleries’ annual end-of-summer auction, held August 24 and 25 in Thomaston, Maine. The capstones were a couple of items that shot past their estimates into six figures.

For the second time in a row, the auction started on a very promising note with an item that easily surpassed its estimate. This time it was a stoneware “grotesque” jug by Lanier Meaders (1917-1998), who took over his Georgia family’s pottery business in 1967 and replaced its line of utilitarian products with his own specialty of face jugs. The rare two-sided Janus-style jug that doubled as a candelabrum, with a horn-headed male face on one side and a female face on the other, was an instant hit, scoring $5462.50 (including buyer’s premium) against a $2000/3000 estimate.

The sale’s major success story came early on the second day with a bleak 28" x 34" (sight size) oil on canvas landscape by Rockwell Kent (1882-1971). Kent was an inveterate traveler over the course of his artistic career, and between 1915 and 1935 he visited Newfoundland, Alaska, Tierra del Fuego, France, Ireland, and Greenland. West Greenland Landscape, 1929 showed an expanse of tundra, backed by rocky mountains partly hidden in a low-lying cloud bank. It more than doubled its $75,000/85,000 estimate, finally coming to rest at $172,500.

Veilleux tipped me off ahead of time that a carved marble plaque was a potential breakout rock star. The 19½" x 14¾" relief portrayal of the Madonna and Holy Child, centered in a deep, carved frame integral to the image, was attributed to the 14th-century Italian sculptor Tino di Camaino (ca. 1280-ca. 1337), who worked in Siena and Pisa and created numerous funerary monuments, such as that of Emperor Henry VII and Queen Mary of Hungary, among other nobles. Despite being infused with smoke and having several hairline cracks and some minor loss to Mary’s crown, the plaque crushed its $10,000/15,000 estimate and broke into six figures with a winning $109,250 price.

Numerous other items scored solid five-figure hits, including a framed watercolor and gouache of Brace Rock, off Cape Ann, Massachusetts, by Francis Augustus Silva (1835-1886) that went at $66,125 (est. $30,000/40,000). Signed and dated “’76,” it had a paper label on the reverse indicating that it had been shown in the U.S. International Centennial Exhibition that year. Silva was well known for his Luminist views from the Chesapeake Bay to the Hudson River to the Massachusetts shore.

A rare and spectacular Vellum glazed Rookwood vase with two carved rooks (birds of the crow family) perched on a branch over a sea green background easily met its expectations and brought $25,875. It was dated 1901 and signed “A.R. Valentien” for Albert Robert Valentien, who began his career as a pottery designer for T.J. Wheatley & Company in Cincinnati and worked as Rookwood’s artistic director from 1881 to 1905 before turning to painting full time.

A comically bawdy 19th-century ship’s figurehead in the form of a woman wearing a top hat with a feather plume, her breasts exposed over a lowered bodice, made a big hit with bidders. The surface was crusty, flaking, and well weathered, but the grungy old paint was all that was needed to push it well past the $10,000/15,000 estimate to $28,750.

For more information, call Thomaston Place at (207) 354-8141; Web site (

Margaret Seeler (1909-1996) created Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?, a suite of four 7½" x 4½" and one 7½" x 6½" cloisonné and enameled panels, as a memorial to Germany in World War II and the artist’s view of the betrayal of her country by the Nazis. The framed suite sold for $34,500. Photo courtesy Thomaston Place.

This fine 18th-century silver porringer by Boston silversmith Ebenezer Noyes Moulton (1768-1824), who worked at various Boston locations between 1790 and 1820, served up a $7475 price (est. $800/1200). It had an open latticework handle, an engraved script monogram “A,” and Moulton’s mark under the handle. Photo courtesy Thomaston Place.

Christmas in Madison Square Park, a 27" x 16½" (sight size) oil on canvas by Paul Cornoyer (1864-1923), who specialized in Tonalist scenes of rainy New York City streets, sold for $17,250.

Rookwood Vellum glaze vase with two carved rooks perched on a branch, signed “A. R. Valentien” and dated 1901, $25,875.

Cleaned and with some minor touchups, Little Nellie, Little Seamstress, a 30" x 25" (sight size) oil on canvas by William Wallace Gilchrist (1879-1926), sold for $17,250. Gilchrist was an acquaintance of Winslow Homer and one of the few artists to receive favorable criticism from him. His works were virtually unknown to the public until they were discovered in the late 1990’s. They were stored in his old home where his descendants still resided as of 1999.

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

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