Purchase Story

Provenance Counts

Northeast Auctions, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Northeast Auctions began as it meant to go for its fall weekend sale, October 28 and 29, 2017, in the Portsmouth gallery. Every seat and some extras were filled. Dealers and collectors were a large presence. The first lot of the first day was a southern watercolor, circa 1820, that brought energetic bidding ending at $18,000 (includes buyer’s premium). The last lot of the second day was a 19th-century Canton porcelain blue and white reticulated oval fruit basket and stand that sold for $660 (est. $400/600). Over the two days every aspect of American furniture and decorative accessories crossed the block.


The first lot on the first day was a folky American watercolor, 6½" x 8½" (sight size), circa 1820. It depicts a young white family with an older black man, all in a landscape with logs. Tradition has held that it’s the depiction of a picnic, but there is no evidence of food on the scene, and the presence of logs suggests something entirely different. It came most recently from a fine New York collection, and its impressive provenance included the Garbisch collection, the Ralph Esmerian collection, and Pam Boynton. It sold to a collector for $18,000 (est. $5000/8000). Northeast Auctions photo.


This mid- to late 19th-century oil on canvas, 24¾" x 33½", shows a highly detailed view of the G. D. Braisted Palace and oyster ground along the Hudson River. It sold for $48,000 (est. $12,000/18,000). Garrett Dorsey Braisted (1819-1881) was a spar maker before taking up the oyster business, in which he was a great success. The painting, by an unidentified artist, had come from the collection of Esther F. Wycoff of Interlaken, New York, and had been exhibited at the Brockton Art Center, Fuller Memorial, Brockton, Massachusetts, in 1979. Northeast Auctions photo.


Carter Notch with Old Mill at Jackson, N.H., a 10" x 16" oil on canvas painted in 1879 by Frank Henry Shapleigh (1842-1906), sold on the phone for $6480 (est. $1600/2400). Northeast Auctions photo.

Among the paintings was a group of China trade pictures. A mid-19th-century view of the port of Hong Kong with western shipping interspersed among Chinese craft in the harbor brought $20,400 (est. $10,000/15,000). The 27½" x 35" oil on canvas included Vose Galleries of Boston in its provenance. An 18" x 23½" oil on canvas China trade portrait from the 1860s depicting an American ship in Hong Kong harbor was estimated at $3000/5000 and sold for $11,040. A circa 1830 portrait of the Boca Tigris and its forts on the Pearl River with American, British, Dutch, and Chinese shipping, in its original Chinese Chippendale frame, sold for $7440 (est. $3000/5000). That 10½" x 15" oil on canvas painting had been purchased in Hong Kong in 1977 by Louise Ines Doyle of Leominster, Massachusetts, and had sold previously at Northeast in August 2008 for $8775.


The label on the ornate period frame states: “The Red Rover /in the South China Sea / William J. Huggins / 1771-1845.” Huggins (British, 1771-1845) depicted this ship, known for making the fastest voyages between Canton and Calcutta. The opium clipper was built in 1830 in Calcutta by Captain William Clifton, who owned and operated it. Jardine, Matheson & Co. bought shares in the vessel in 1832.The 27½" x 38½" oil on canvas had been acquired in 1997 from Martyn Gregory Gallery in London and sold here for $44,400 (est. $10,000/15,000). Northeast Auctions photo.


A portrait of the American packet Excelsior arriving at Liverpool at sunset, circa 1850, by Liverpool artist Duncan McFarlane (British, 1818-1865) was estimated at $9000/15,000 and sold on the phone for $31,200. The 24" x 36" oil on canvas, which came from a coastal Maine estate, depicts the vessel off Perch Rock Fort and lighthouse at the mouth of the Mersey River and entrance to Liverpool Bay. In 1858 the chief mate, Henry Wilson, was imprisoned at Liverpool for barbarous behavior to crew and passengers.

From a coastal Maine estate, ship portraits by Liverpool artists turned heads. A 33" x 48" oil on canvas portrait by Samuel Walters (British, 1811-1882) of the American ship Star in three positions off Point Lynas in Beaumarais Bay awaiting a pilot for entering Liverpool was dated 1833 and sold on the phone for $21,600 (est. $15,000/20,000).

Two paintings from a New England estate were attributed to Charles François Daubigny (French, 1817-1878) on the basis of style; because of the attribution, buyers were given 30 days to dispute their authenticity. Landscape with Driver and Horse Cart Alongside a Stream, a 23¾" x 39½" oil on canvas, sold for $11,400 (est. $7000/10,000). River Landscape with Sheep Grazing on the Banks, a 13½" x 22¾" oil on panel dated 1873, brought $8700 (est. $2500/4000).

A view of Greenock, Scotland by Robert Salmon (British, 1775-c. 1845), a 15½" x 23" oil on canvas, was signed, numbered 854, and dated 1836 by Salmon. It had sold previously at Northeast in 2000 and was published by John Wilmerding in Robert Salmon: Painter of Ship & Shore. The painting brought $18,000 (est. $16,000/24,000).

A group of early watercolors included an American miniature portrait on ivory of a blue-eyed young woman in a white gown with a blue sash and seated on a blue garden bench. Palm trees in the distance suggested a southern setting, and many were drawn by the image. Small and sweet, the circa 1815 portrait, 3" x 2½" in a cutout red-painted frame, was well under the money when it sold for $1080 (est. $1500/2500). A pair of miniature watercolor profile portraits by Rufus Porter (1792-1884) depicting Mr. and Mrs. T.W. Churchill of Elmira, New York, sold for $5520. A miniature hollow-cut silhouette portrait with ink and watercolor by Ezra Wood, the Puffy Sleeve Artist, depicting Nancy Draper, born in 1813 in Worcester, Massachusetts, realized $4080 (est. $800/1200). An Ezra Wood miniature hollow-cut silhouette portrait with ink and watercolor depicting an unidentified woman in a white blouse and holding a sprig of red berries fetched $960 (est. $800/1200).


An early 19th-century British colonial album of 34 botanical watercolors (one shown) with butterflies and insects, cataloged as likely painted by Indian artists in Calcutta, sold for $13,200 (est. $2000/4000). The album bears an armorial bookplate with the arms of Cabot of St. Trinity, Jersey, and descended in a Boston family. Northeast Auctions photo.

A memorial silhouette, 14½" x 9¾", of Ruth Dickinson Sanderson of Whately, Massachusetts, who was born on April 20, 1829, and died on August 12, 1830, was hollow cut with ink and watercolor and brought $4320 (est. $1800/2800). Beneath the legend “Sweet Babe!” was a remembrance poem. Provenance included Joan R. Brownstein American Folk Paintings, Newbury, Massachusetts; the dealer had assumed that it was by Ruth Henshaw Bascom (1772-1848).

The Birds of America: From Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories by John James Audubon (1785-1851) in the royal octavo edition, published between 1840 and 1844 in New York and Philadelphia by E.G. Dorsey for Audubon and J.B. Chevalier, brought $34,800 (est. $25,000/35,000).

Two Civil War commissions appointing Lincoln R. Stone as surgeon in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, one signed by Abraham Lincoln and his secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton, in 1864, and the other signed in 1863 by John A. Andrew, governor of Massachusetts, brought $7500 (est. $7500/9000). Stone was promoted to full surgeon as a result of his bravery at Antietam. The documents were accompanied by a group of Civil War cartes de visite and had descended in Stone’s family.

A coverlet in vibrant red and white wool and cotton depicting Washington on horseback, 88" x 74", double woven with patriotic and floral elements and dated 1841, brought $3840 (est. $150/250). James Cunningham of New Hartford, New York, created the Washington on horseback coverlets, which bear the slogan “United We Stand, Divided We Fall, Under This We Prosper.” This example was signed in the weaving “Harriet Chapman.”

A 9" tall carved and painted figurehead of a smiling woman with her hair in ringlets held by a fancy comb was undated and estimated at $600/900 but realized $1920. A mid- to late 19th-century painted ship carving of the bust of a woman within a laurel wreath, 24½" x 30½" x 6", brought $3120 (est. $1200/1800).

A 6" x 4¼" tile advertising the Grueby Faience Company, dated between 1904 and 1909 and decorated using the cuenca technique, was inscribed “GRUEBY TILE” and had the initials “MD” on the reverse. Estimated at $3000/5000, it brought $4080. A Duffner & Kimberly Company table lamp with a green slag glass shade in the Water Lilies pattern and having a cast, patinated bronze base was dated between 1906 and 1911. The lamp brought $6900 (est. $1400/1800).

The highlight of a group of early arms was a 60½" long New England cherry drop-stock flintlock fowler with four ramrod pipes and a hickory ramrod with a carved tip that went for $6000 (est. $2200/3800). A 19th-century punched sheet metal hexagonal three-light lantern, estimated at $300/500, brought $4560.

American furniture seemed up a tick, but only a tick. A late 18th-century Massachusetts Chippendale mahogany blockfront slant-lid desk on bracket feet realized $4800 (est. $6000/9000). A Salem or Boston, Massachusetts, Hepplewhite mahogany desk-and-bookcase, circa 1800, in two parts with inlay and with two glazed doors with diamond mullions above two cupboard doors over three drawers and a writing surface brought $2400 (est. $1200/1800).


It was almost like the good old days when a Philadelphia Chippendale walnut dressing table with a long drawer over three drawers, the central of which was carved elaborately with shell and scrolling, and with acanthus-carved cabriole legs and ball-and-claw feet sold on the phone for $50,400 (est. $6000/9000). Auctioneer Ron Bourgeault thought he might be having a senior moment. The successful bidder and the underbidder discovered the identity of the maker, but as of press time, their lips were still sealed. Northeast Auctions photo.

A Chippendale birch chest-on-chest, 71½" tall and with five long graduated drawers on the top and four on the bottom, brought $4080 (est. $600/900). A New Hampshire Queen Anne figured maple highboy, 75 1/8" x 37½" x 18½", with applied molding and a secret drawer and a Dunlap-like carving on the skirt, all on cabriole legs, brought $3360 from the trade.

Bidding on a Pennsylvania Chippendale mahogany Pembroke table, made in Philadelphia between 1770 and 1780, opened at $1800 and jumped immediately to $3400 from an online bidder. The table sold online for $7920. A Philadelphia Chippendale mahogany card table with a single drawer and cabriole legs on ball-and-claw feet brought $3360 (est. $1200/1800).

An 84½" high Pennsylvania Queen Anne tall-case clock with works marked Benjamin Chandlee Jr. of Nottingham in Chester County, in a walnut case by John Janvier Jr., dated 1750-90, was estimated at $6000/9000 and realized $5400. A late 18th- or early 19th-century Chinese elmwood altar table was exceptionally long, 11'7", and with lattice panels. It realized $1200 (est. $2000/3000).


This Massachusetts Chippendale mahogany blockfront kneehole desk realized $4800 (est. $8000/10,000). Northeast Auctions photo.


This Boston Sheraton mahogany chest of drawers, circa 1810, attributed to the Seymour school, had been purchased from North Andover, Massachusetts, dealer Roland B. Hammond by a New England collector and sold for $3840 (est. $1200/2200). Northeast Auctions photo.

A group of 28 lots of English canary yellowware ceramics from the Doris and Stanley Tananbaum collection bequeathed to Winterthur was sold to benefit the museum’s ceramic and glass collections. The Tananbaum collection sold at Northeast in its August 2017 sale included 18 lots of canary ware. Additional lots were included in the October sale, the highlight of which was a Staffordshire milk jug, made between 1800 and 1810, that sold for $720 (est. $200/400). The 5 1/8" high jug was engine turned in a pattern of alternating solid blocks and reeded squares and rectangles and was accompanied by a 3 5/8" high Staffordshire jug in a yellow glaze.

For more information, visit (www.northeastauctions.com) or call (603) 433-8400.


A 9" diameter Chinese export porcelain plate, made for the Dutch market and decorated in famille rose enamels with images of Dutch ships at anchor in Table Bay off Cape Town, South Africa, was estimated at $3000/5000 and sold for $8640.


This 19½" tall ovoid Japanese Meiji Satsuma vase, decorated in Gosu blue and other colors with flowering hostas along a stream, clouds, peonies, and diaperwork, brought $6000 (est. $1000/1500).


This large 20th-century Chinese export porcelain wucai vase, 22¾" tall and painted with eight Buddhist symbols beneath a key fret border, brought $31,200 (est. $200/400). The vase was made in the Qianlong era and has a Nian Zhi seal.


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

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