Purchase Story

Rock Star Fizzles, but Totaig Wins by Several Lengths

Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, Thomaston, Maine

As often happens in the auction world, the rock star of the February 16-18 auction at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries in Thomaston, Maine, twinkled out without a sound. A 28" x 52" (sight size) oil on canvas by Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900) was signed and dated lower right “J. F. Cropsey / 1883,” placing it at the time when the artist’s fame and earned fortune had begun to fade. It was titled in barely legible script on the back, “Gray’s Elegy at Stokes Poges, Kent,” (actually Stoke Poges, South Bucks, Buckinghamshire, England) after a 1751 poem by English poet Thomas Gray (1716-1771), and it had an original written price of $400. It clearly reflects Cropsey’s love of Luminist lighting in the Hudson River style. But with a $200,000/300,000 estimate, it fizzled out and went unsold with a $175,000 bid. Before the sale, John Bottero, Thomaston Place’s auctioneer and vice president, noted, “There’s nobody with an interest in Cropsey that doesn’t know about it…, [but] there seems to be a diversion from American traditional to American contemporary.”

By Franklin Brooke Voss (1880-1953), this oil on canvas of the racehorse Totaig, winner of the 1932 Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot, England, sold for $46,800. The winner’s sterling silver trophy for the same race sold for $2691.

This European butcher’s trade sign was probably once painted but came to market in its natural spruce surface. With a forged iron tail and an old strap repair on the belly, Porky should still have some fat left in him at $2691.

A subset of the sale consisted of about 31 lots from the collection of Edmund Skillin, which had been on loan to a Maine museum for 35 years. This whalebone lazy Susan caster set, complete with a reassembled set of six blown-glass bottles (not shown), more than doubled the estimate to sell for $5265 (est. $1500/2000).

When it comes to decorated sleds, it’s hard to match this one for exuberant paint and carving. Probably by a German or Dutch immigrant and dating to around 1850 or 1860, it has sides covered with scenes of children playing games in a country village with churches and windmills in the background, a coat of arms on the seat, and intricate reticulated gilt carvings all around. A little research might reveal the original family owners via the coat of arms. It went for a reasonable $1989.

Numerous other items crept up from modest estimates to sell robustly. A set of three Chinese export armorial plates made for the English market, with the coat of arms of Fitzroy, Duke of Grafton, including an octagonal platter and a pair of soup plates, sold on a single bid. The motto in the banner, “Et Decus Et Pretium Recti,” translates in various ways, including “Rectitude is Both Honorable and Precious” and “The Ornament and the Reward of Virtue.” The set may have been given to the duke to celebrate his marriage to Elizabeth Wrottesley, or it may have been given to him by the East India Company in 1772. Despite some old repairs and defects, it proved to be a pleasant surprise when an aggressive Internet bidder jump-started it with a $10,000 bid, and that’s where it stopped, selling for $11,700 (including buyer’s premium) against a $3000/5000 estimate.

Appropriate for a sale only two days removed from Valentine’s Day, this large 19th-century sailor’s valentine is encased in an octagonal walnut case and filled with hundreds of shells arranged in heart and floral patterns. Somebody gave it a lot of love for $4095 (est. $1500/2500).

Chinese armorial plates with the Fitzroy coat of arms, sold for $11,700.

This 23¾" x 45¾" oil on canvas, Becalmed, by Massachusetts artist Marshall Johnson Jr. (1850-1921) of a sailing vessel, pilot boat, and schooner in placid waters went for $1404 (est. $2000/3000).

British artist Charles Walter Simpson (1885-1971) spent his career painting animals of all kinds, horses, birds, cows, even an occasional monkey or lion. This 22½" x 30½" oil on canvas is signed lower left, and the buyer got his goat for $1989.

Franklin Brooke Voss (1880-1953) of New York definitely lived (and died) his art. He came from a family of sportsmen, rode racehorses, painted them, and died while on a fox hunt in Maryland. He painted a 35½" x 43½" portrait of the thoroughbred racehorse Totaig, winner of the 1932 Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot, England. It was signed and dated 1933. It showed the horse and jockey approaching the owner, American financier Victor Emanuel (1898-1960). The painting beat the $10,000/15,000 estimate by several lengths, crossing the finish line at $46,800. The winner’s trophy for the race, a sterling silver ewer and underplate, designed by Charles Sykes and made by Garrard & Co., London, came on a wooden stand labeled “The Royal Hunt Cup, Ascot, 1932.” The trophy was engraved “The Royal Hunt Cup, 1932, Won by Mr. Victor Emanuel’s Totaig, by Dawson City—Miss Carlin, Trained by George Duller, Ridden by B. Rosen.” It finished at $2691 (est. $3000/4000).

Another horse racing painting also made it into the five figures. In the running of the 1914 Kentucky Derby, Old Rosebud led for the entire race, winning with a time of 2:03 2/5, a record that stood for 16 years, and winning by a staggering eight lengths, a record that has yet to be broken. Artist Haddon Hubbard “Sunny” Sundblom (1899-1976) captured the race in a 32½" x 45" oil on canvas commissioned by Robert Hensley, CEO of Life Insurance of Kentucky. It was unveiled before the start of the 1963 Kentucky Derby. It sold for $15,210. Old Rosebud had a long racing career, hampered by injuries, but still won 40 of 80 races. A final injury in 1922 forced the end of his career and his life.

 For more information, call (207) 354-8141 or see (www.thomastonauction.com).

Auctioneer Kaja Veilleux is shown with an oil on canvas by Haddon Hubbard Sundblom (1899-1976) depicting the 1914 Kentucky Derby, which was won by Old Rosebud. The painting sold for $15,210.

Prominent musicians Yehudi Menuhin, Adrian Beers, and Siegfried Palm have all played instruments by Giovanni Grancino (1637-1709) and his family of luthiers. Here we have an example of a Grancino violin that was restored by the French company Jérôme Thibouville-Lamy & Cie. and carries the labels of both the maker and the restorer. Here’s the rest of the story. According to Amati, a London online auction house for violins, violas, and cellos, Giovanni’s son, also named Giovanni, worked in his father’s shop until he was arrested for the murder of Antonio Maria Lavazza, a rival Milanese instrument maker, whom he killed in a duel. The younger Giovanni was disinherited and banished from Milan but may have continued making violins in another location. He was eventually pardoned, but little is known about his violin-making activities, other than that he may have continued using the family name after his father’s death in 1709. Bidders weren’t inclined to fiddle around with it. They chased it to only $1989 (est. $3000/4000).

James Taylor Harwood (1860-1940) spent most of his working life in the Salt Lake City, Utah, area. Signed and dated lower right “J. T. Harwood / ’35,” this 15¼" x 18¼" oil on canvas is inscribed on the back with the name of his daughter Ruth, author of an exhibition brochure produced in Salt Lake City in the year of his death. It shows clear evidence of his evolution toward Tonalism and Impressionism, and it proved to be a major winner, eclipsing the $6000/8000 estimate and closing for $28,080.

This ornate walnut clock by Herschede, Cincinnati, Ohio, serial number 80677, latest patent date of 1921, has an eight-day triple-weight movement, eight tube chimes, and carved allegorical figures, including cherubs, an Indian chief, figures representing Bounty, lions, and more. It also bears a University of Montreal bronze shield. The end result was a $22,230 sale (est. $3000/5000). Thomaston Place photos.

This classic William Aiken Walker (1838-1921) 13½" x 19½" oil on canvas depiction of a dozen slaves in a cotton field, with shanties and an overseer on horseback in the background, sold well below the $20,000/25,000 estimate for $16,965.

This platinum, sapphire, and diamond ring, with a 6.71-carat oval faceted blue sapphire flanked by square-cut diamonds totaling 1.10 carats, sold for $18,720. Thomaston Place photo.

Here’s a stunning Austrian gilt, silver, enamel, and crystal compote, hallmarked for Vienna, 1872-1922, with an enameled ring of Classical figures representing Poseidon and other deities, possibly by Karl Bender, that sold within the estimate for $21,060. Thomaston Place photo.

“English Joe” was proud of his watchmaking business and wanted everyone to know it, with this 28" diameter hand-painted wooden trade sign with a now-nonfunctioning movement that hung over his door. There was no further information available about Joe or where he worked, but the sign brought $380.25.


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

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