Purchase Story

Constitution Cane Tops Americana Auction

Skinner, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts

Collections from all over featured in Skinner’s November 4, 2017, Americana auction in its Boston, Massachusetts, gallery, where collectors and the trade vied for good American furniture and other objects. Stephen L. Fletcher, who wears many hats as Skinner’s chairman of the board, executive vice president, and director of the Americana department, told M.A.D. days after the sale that he was pleased to see such good dealer participation. It wasn’t like the rip-roaring good old days but was good nonetheless.


The day’s highlight was this whalebone cane with a whale ivory top, the shaft engraved “Charles Ball. U.S. Frigate Constitution.”and “Bay of Callao July 4 1841,” along with this whale’s tooth engraved with an image of the “U.S.F. Constitution” at anchor in Callao Bay, Peru and commemorating Independence Day—a wildly raucous observance. The lot had descended in Ball’s family, had been on view at the USS Constitution Museum in Boston since 2013, and sold to a collector for $49,200 (est. $50,000/70,000). Skinner photo.

The day’s highlight was a whalebone and whale ivory cane engraved “Charles Ball. U.S. Frigate Constitution.”and “Bay of Callao July 4 1841.” Estimated at $50,000/70,000, it had descended in Ball’s family, had been on view at the USS Constitution Museum in Boston since 2013, and sold to a collector for $49,200 (including buyer’s premium).

Paintings from a Cromwell, Connecticut, collection included Pond in Newport, a 14" x 20¼" oil on canvas by John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872) with the artist’s monogram; acquired from Spanierman Gallery, it sold for $35,670 (est. $20,000/30,000). Late Summer by Richard William Hubbard (1816-1888), a 13½" x 12" oil on canvas, included The Cooley Gallery in its provenance and sold for $30,750 (est. $6000/8000).


The late 19th-century gilt copper pig weathervane with molded eyes and mouth, shaped sheet copper ears, and a curly tail came from a Cromwell, Connecticut, collection and sold on the phone for $30,750 (est. $10,000/15,000).


Highlighting the 16 lots of early American silver was this first lot of the day: a Boston silver cann made in the second quarter of the 18th century by Joseph Hurd (1703-1758), marked “HURD” and monogrammed “S / AM.” Estimated at $2000/4000, it brought $6765. Patricia E. Kane includes a Hurd porringer with the same monogram in Colonial Massachusetts Silversmiths and Jewelers (1998). Skinner photo. Not shown, a pair of Paul Revere Jr. teaspoons, marked “PR” and monogrammed “MLW,” brought $6150 (est. $5000/7000).


The catalog’s cover lot, Horses in a Pasture, a 40" x 38" oil on plywood panel by the American Modernist artist Stefan Hirsch (1899-1964), is unsigned but identified on a handwritten note on the reverse. It had been in the collection of sculptor Robert Laurent and in the collection of Alvin and Annie Schlesinger. Estimated at $800/1200, it realized $39,975. A New York artist, Hirsch was born in Germany to American parents and only arrived in New York when he was 20.


The 13¼" x 21½" oil on canvasby Worthington Whittredge (1820-1910), Platte River, Colorado, was estimated at $20,000/40,000 and sold on the phone for $40,590. It included Spanierman Gallery in its provenance.
Not shown, Whittredge’s 8½" x 12¼" oil on canvas Autumn on the Delaware, inscribed “Oct 16”—with no year—sold for $13,530 (est. $6000/8000).


This gilded copper Ranger setter weathervane by Cushing & White, Waltham, Massachusetts, 1870-80, had been made from a mold attributed to Harry Leach. As he hammered it down, auctioneer Steve Fletcher barked. The setter made no response, but it did bring $14,760 (est. $6000/8000).

The vane went to the same phone bidder who had paid $25,830 (est. $12,000/18,000) for a copper and cast zinc merino ewe weathervane (not shown), possibly made by A.J. Harris & Co., Kingston Street, Boston, and who had paid $7995 (est. $4000/6000) for a molded sheet copper cod weathervane (not shown), circa 1855, with crimped sheet copper fins and molded scales.

Thirty or so lots from a midwestern collection inspired lively bidding. Phone bidders set the phones ringing for a mid-18th-century New England oval-top tea table in red paint. The table sold to one of the phone bidders for $17,200 (est. $3000/5000); the collectors had acquired it in 1996 from Connecticut dealers Lincoln and Jean Sander. Also purchased from the Sanders in 1996 was a handsome set of four late 18th-century Windsor fan-back side chairs in green paint, possibly made in Rhode Island, that brought $5228 (est. $2000/4000).

For more information, call (508) 970-3100 or visit the website (www.skinnerinc.com).


The two-part Connecticut River valley cherry chest-on-chest, circa 1765, was pursued by two bidders to $20,910 (est. $8000/12,000). The underbidder, a longtime Skinner customer, was bitterly disappointed and suffered underbidder’s remorse even days later.


The late 18th-century Pennsylvania walnut dish-top tilt-top candlestand on a birdcage support, acquired in 1993 by midwestern collectors from H.L. Chalfant Antiques, West Chester, Pennsylvania, sold for $3075 (est. $800/1200).


The 18th-century tiger maple tea table on carved feet, possibly a Boston piece, realized $7380 (est. $1500/2500).


A Sailor’s Wedding Party, a 20" x 40" oil on masonite by Ralph Eugene Cahoon (1910-1982), has cherubs, sailors, a barrel of rum, and a single hot-air balloon but no mermaids. It came from a New Hampshire collection, was estimated at $8000/12,000, and sold for $20,910.


This Connecticut cherry serpentine-front chest of drawers made between 1760 and 1780, 32¾" high x 33¼" wide, had been acquired from H.L. Chalfant Antiques, West Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1993. It brought $9840 (est. $6000/8000). Skinner photo.
Not shown: a pair of circa 1760 Philadelphia walnut side chairs, purchased in 1990 from Campbell House Antiques, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, brought $8610 (est. $7000/9000), while a circa 1760 shell-carved mahogany side chair, purchased in 1991 from Nathan Liverant & Son, Colchester, Connecticut, brought $6150 (est. $1500/2500).


The 11¼" x 17" relief-carved, incised, and polychromed panel made between 1900 and 1910 was the subject of widespread admiration. It came from a camp on Brantingham Lake in the Adirondacks of New York state. Estimated at $4000/6000, it sold for $18,450. Skinner photo.


Originally published in the January 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest

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