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The End of the Winter that Wouldn't Die

Mark Sisco | March 29th, 2014

This ship portrait of the Charles Dennis, built in Richmond, Maine, in 1873, sold for $4715.

Coastal Maine eider duck decoy, $4600.

Chinese dreamstones represent a harmony between man and nature. Nature creates the scenes, but it takes the hand of man to reveal them. The series of ten marble dreamstones was framed in three wooden panels, and it took very little imagination to see mountainous landscapes, icy glaciers, and tree-lined horizons silhouetted against the sky. They sold for $4485.

Maple or birch cased tall clock with a full-column bonnet with three finials, signed on the face “B. C. Gilman/ Exeter,” for New Hampshire clockmaker, inventor, and silversmith Benjamin Clark Gilman (1763-1835), finished with a respectable, if not extravagant, $3105.

This tall white three-piece Chinese majolica figure of a magician playing castanet-like rattles while seated atop a pedestal sold for a strong $1322.50.

Hap Moore Antiques Auctions, York, Maine

Just as a banker can freeze one’s assets, a long and cold winter can freeze out the buying and selling business. But by March 29, the unusually severe and seemingly interminable winter had given way to hopeful signs of spring, and there was enough of a thaw for Hap Moore to hold an auction in York, Maine.

“It’s been the damn cold weather. It’s been four months since we’ve had an auction,” Moore noted resignedly. “Nobody calls in the cold weather to sell their stuff….All the antiques dealers were saying the same thing.”

The top lot of the sale turned out to be a 28" x 40" oil on canvas of a square rigger, identified by a painted name below the deck rail as the Charles Dennis. She was shown flying an American flag and a pennant reading “TJS,” and with passengers strolling on the deck. The Charles Dennis was built in Richmond, Maine, at the T. J. Southard & Son yard, in 1873. She was declared lost at sea under unknown circumstances after she failed to arrive in San Francisco with a load of coal in 1891. The Southard yard was one of the most productive in the state, turning out 75 to 100 wood-hulled ships in 44 years. The painting closed for $4715 (including buyer’s premium).

Eider ducks are perfectly equipped for Maine’s frigid coastal waters, and if it looks like a Maine duck, swims like a Maine duck, and quacks like a Maine duck, then it’s a Maine duck. According to one very knowledgeable dealer, the dovetailed inset head clearly identified a decoy at the auction as a Mainer. Certainly it was from coastal Maine, but some folks questioned Moore’s attribution to Monhegan Island. Moore made hopeful mention of the Monhegan eider that sold at Sotheby’s in January of this year for $767,000. But this duck didn’t have that kind of smooth paint styling and sophistication. Still, it moved out quickly for $4600.

A framed and glazed 4¼" x 5½" sight size etching by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, titled Mon Vieil Ami Seymour Haden (My Old Friend Seymour Haden), sold reasonably for $575. It served as the title page to Whistler’s 1858 collection of etchings called “The French Set.” The image was based on a drawing of Whistler’s roommate and traveling companion Ernest Delannoy, but it could just as well have been a self-portrait.

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This tall and elegant Queen Anne chest-on-frame in curly maple, with uneven graining on the drawer fronts and skirt and a fine deep fan carving in the lower section, sold for a respectable $3450.

This American clock in dark mahogany, 94" tall, with a small fan carving on the base, string inlays on the base and waist, hand-painted geometrics in the spandrels, and a full-column three-finial cutout crest, was unsigned, but it still brought $1995.

This little Federal document box in richly grained mahogany proved a winner at $2875. With dovetailed corners and a cutout bracket base, it nearly perfectly mimicked the proportions of a full-size chest.

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

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