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Wyeth, Vroman, and Landesio Pace Thomaston Sale

Mark Sisco | June 1st, 2013

This carved wooden fruit display opened the auction and blew away the $600/800 estimate when it sold for $6785.

India ink drawing by Andrew Wyeth, In the Georges Islands, $60,375.

Oil on canvas ship portrait of the Alfred Keen by Rockland, Maine, artist James Gardner Babbidge, $13,800.

Sometimes good period furniture seems on the verge of making a comeback, especially when it’s still highly functional. Such was the case with this New England Sheraton dining table in strongly grained tiger maple, with ring-turned legs and drop leaves that draped almost to the floor. Estimated at $1000/2000, it finished well north of the mark for $4887.50.

Oil on canvas landscape of The Valley of Mexico by Eugenio Landesio, $46,000.

Seventeenth-century European reticulated tiara, set with rubies, emeralds, periodots, and pearls in gilded silver, $11,500.

This rare miniature crystal regulator-form carriage clock by the French maker Breguet, in hallmarked silver, and with its original leather carrying case, nearly quadrupled the $1000/1500 estimate, finishing at $5750.

Appointment of Moses Davis as justice of the peace, dated 1781 and signed by John Hancock, $6325.

Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, Thomaston, Maine

Photos courtesy Thomaston Place Auction Galleries

Andrew Wyeth, Adam Vroman, and Eugenio Landesio were the marquee names that headed up the Thomaston Place Auction Galleries two-day auction on June 1 and 2 in Thomaston, Maine. The auction started off on a promising note. Except for the slightly drab coloration, an elegant and highly realistic carved and painted wooden folk art fruit display on a turned wooden pedestal look tasty enough to crack a molar on. Estimated at $600/800, it finally commanded a big $6785 (includes buyer’s premium).

Misidentified in the catalog as by “John Gardner Babbage,” a 19" x 29" oil on canvas of the Alfred Keen was actually initialed and dated lower left “JGB ‘81” for James Gardner Babbidge (1844-1919). The Keen was built in Rockland, Maine, for owner J. L. Snow in 1865. Babbidge was a local Rockland artist who served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. The painting easily passed the $6000/8000 estimate and finished at $13,800.

Another ship portrait fared just as well. An oil on canvas by William Alexander Coulter (1849-1936) depicted the four-masted steel barque Arthur Sewall, built in Bath, Maine, and launched in 1899. She was named for wealthy shipbuilder and industrialist Arthur Sewall (1835-1900), who was William Jennings Bryant’s vice-presidential running mate in 1896. The ship Sewall sailed for about eight years until she was carrying a load of coal in 1907 and was lost without a trace. The 36" x 52" painting sold within the estimate for $14,950.

A 32" x 46" sight size oil on canvas by Italian artist Eugenio Landesio (1810-1879) was one of the sale’s leaders at $46,000, just topping the $30,000/45,000 estimate. The Valley of Mexico: View on Lake Texcoco; The Modern City of Mexico in the Distance showed a distant view of the city under menacing clouds and sunlight illuminating the far distance. Landesio was most active in Mexico from about 1855 to 1877 when he held a professorship at the Academy of San Carlos.

An Andrew Newell Wyeth (1917-2009) drawing topped everything. It was a 14 5/8" x 29" India ink rendition, signed lower right and dated 1940 and titled In the Georges Islands. There was a Macbeth Gallery label affixed on the reverse that had a price of $275. When the hammer came down, it just barely cleared the high estimate to sell for $60,375.

It’s often interesting to track the movements of an item from one auction to another. A historically significant document regarding the appointment of Moses Davis to the position of justice of the peace of Lincoln County, Maine (then Massachusetts), in 1775 drew $1650 at a Robert Foster auction in Newcastle, Maine, on January 1. But some careful analysis of the contents suggested considerably more value.

The document was signed by 17 members of the provisional congress of Massachusetts, including lawyer and revolutionary patriot Perez Morton (1751-1837). The catalog listed it as a “treasonous document,” citing the October 7, 1774, date of the organizing of the congress with John Hancock as president. Moses Davis was a housewright who lived on Davis Island, off Edgecomb, Maine, and he served as a major in the revolution. The document was written on a British form with the heading scratched out and overwritten with “The Government & People of Massachusetts Bay, New England.” But the expectation of increased value proved too optimistic. With an estimate jacked up to $20,000/30,000, the document ultimately went unsold.

Another Revolutionary War document relating to Moses Davis bore the easily recognizable signature of John Hancock. It appointed Davis to another term as justice of the peace in 1781. At Foster’s in January, it sold for $5500. This time around, it brought $6325.

By the time Adam Clark Vroman (1856-1914) was 40 years old, he was a highly accomplished photographer. In 1895, he started the first of eight photographic expeditions to the American Southwest where he photographed much of the Spanish and Native American culture, arts, and traditions. Thomaston offered an album of his platinum prints, Pueblos, 1899, Vol. XI, Isleta to Zuni and Cebollita Valley. It was in its original half leather binding and included 68 of the original negatives, titled in pencil. In 2010, Thomaston sold another volume of Vroman’s work for $54,625. This one sold for somewhat less, finishing at $46,000.

For more information, check the Thomaston Place Auction Galleries Web site ( or call (207) 354-8141.

Brother Thomas pottery is as unique as the man who created it. This elegant oxblood-red ovoid vase bore his mark, reading “Benedictine Monast., Weston VT.” Brother Thomas Bezanson (1929-2007) was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. He entered the Benedictine monastery in Weston, Vermont, in 1959, and later traveled to Japan where he learned from that country’s five “Living National Treasure” potters, often adapting their styles and techniques to his own work. The vase was well appreciated and sold for $6900 (est. $2000/3000).

Adam Clark Vroman’s album of 68 platinum prints of the inhabitants and culture of the Southwest brought $46,000.

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

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