Purchase Story

Sunflower Chest Brings $32,400

Nadeau’s Auction Gallery, Windsor, Connecticut

There was little doubt what the top lot at Nadeau’s 501-lot sale on October 21, 2017, in Windsor, Connecticut, would be. A Connecticut sunflower chest, fresh to the market, sat front and center during the preview, drawing both the curious and the desirous.

The star of the sale. This Peter Blin-attributed sunflower chest sold for $32,400 to collector Dick Everett of East Haddam, Connecticut. The estimate was $30,000/50,000.

Estimated at $30,000/50,000, the sunflower chest sold to collector Dick Everett of East Haddam, Connecticut, for $32,400 (includes buyer’s premium), underbid by the phone. The 87-year-old blacksmith, who lives in an unheated 17th-century home in East Haddam, Connecticut, said the price was “a little higher than I wanted.” He told Nadeau’s that he had been looking for a “sunflower” chest for a long time.

The chest was not without some condition problems. It had been refinished, probably around 100 years ago, at least one dealer thought. The top had obviously broken at the hinges, and there was a strip repair added. Curiously, there was also another strip repair, perpendicular to the hinge repair strip. The rest of the top was all one piece, and many wondered if it was the original top that had been cut down and reused to facilitate the repair.

The wear markings on the interior of the top where the till lid had been used to prop the top open over the years almost lined up with the till lid. The till may have been replaced. A date, February 24, 1703 or 04, was applied to the interior of the lid.

“We originally thought the top was right, but as we learned more about it, we’re now saying the top is probably not right. With that being said, we think the price was very good. If the top was right, it should bring double or triple that,” said Ed Nadeau.

The legs were fine, but the lock was hollowed out, and the drawer runners had been replaced, according to Everett. “They needed to wax those every once in a while,” he said. Everett, described by one member of the audience as a “mechanical genius,” once built a ten-speed bicycle, his own airplane, and an open sloop. He built the smoke jack at Mount Vernon, and he worked in the past with legendary dealer Zeke Liverant.

The chest was believed to be a wedding chest for Ruth (1681-1737) and Thomas Kimberly (1681-1729), who were married on February 24 in 1703 or 1704. It had stayed in the family ever since. It was attributed to Peter Blin (c. 1640-1725), a Wethersfield, Connecticut, joiner widely credited with the production of many of the sunflower chests, according to Kevin Sweeney’s essay in Chipstone’s American Furniture 1995 journal. The sunflower is most likely a marigold, a traditional emblem of the Huguenots, according to Philip Zea’s catalog entry in The Great River: Art & Society of the Connecticut Valley, 1635-1820, citing both Benno Forman and Sweeney.

Nadeau’s acquired the consignment from the family a few months ago. The chest had been in storage.

When Christie’s sold a similar sunflower chest in September 2016 for $30,000, the catalogers hedged a little on the maker. “The Blin attribution remains conjectural as the large number of surviving chests, though remarkably consistent in ornament and construction, were undoubtedly made in several shops, perhaps concurrently or by apprentices emulating the practices of a master,” they stated. (Christie’s holds the record for a sunflower chest, selling a rarer one-drawer example with an old surface and original paint to dealer Arthur Liverant of Nathan Liverant and Son for $482,500 in September 2010.)

As for the rest of the auction, Ed Nadeau said, “I thought the sale did very well overall. You always have items that go below what you expect, and you have always have items that go way above what you expect, but the middle-of-the-road stuff, I think went good overall.” Many of the country Americana goods came from the estate of Arthur C. Pinto, M.D., who died in February 2016. Nadeau said the sale total was approximately $410,000. “The painted stuff—it wasn’t like yesterday’s prices—but it was very strong.”

For more information, contact Nadeau’s Auction Gallery at (860) 246-2444 or via the website (www.nadeausauction.com).

An Internet bidder paid $5937.50 for the circa 1790 blue-painted raised-panel wall with a fireplace cutout and built-in cupboard, 93" high x 145" long. It had been removed from the Kimberly house in Litchfield, Connecticut, and donated to the Litchfield Historical Society. Edward J. Litwin (d. 2012), who restored early American homes, had originally removed it from the house.

This Shaker green-painted oval box with three fingers and copper points and tacks, 3" high x 7¾" long and ex-Arthur Pinto, estimated at $400/800, sold for $960 to a phone bidder. Nadeau’s photo.

Ex-Arthur Pinto, this dome-top box in old blue-green paint with black, red, and yellow trim, stamped “B North” on the bottom, 8¾" x 18¼" x 8½", sold for $1560.

This Joshua Wilder (1786-1860) Federal mahogany dwarf clock has replaced feet, a white-painted tombstone dial marked “J. Wilder / Hingham,” an inlaid case, brass works, and three brass finials. Standing only 49" high, it sold for $8400. Nadeau’s photo.

Mahogany lowboy with shell carving, cabriole legs, and ball-and-claw feet, 34½" x 29½", $5700 (est. $2000/4000). Nadeau’s photo.

This pair of Chippendale mahogany side chairs with carved ears and pierced carved splats, circa 1770, ex-Arthur Pinto, was estimated at $400/800 and sold for $2160. Nadeau’s photo.

The condition of the vellum George Washington-signed Society of the Cincinnati membership certificate, appointing Robert Gamble, is bad, but the lot still sold above the $1000/3000 estimate, bringing $3900 from a phone bidder. Robert Gamble, born in Augusta County, Virginia, in 1754, served in the Virginia Line of the Continental Army, as a lieutenant in 1776 and captain in 1778. He died in 1810 in Richmond. Nadeau’s photo.

Painted game wheel, ex-Arthur Pinto, 26½" in diameter, in red, black, and yellow, estimated at $300/500, sold for $1140.

This Federal diminutive stand or footstool with three drawers, on carved legs and with carved ends, in grungy old red and black paint, 8¼" x 18" x 7¾", easily topped the $250/450 estimate to bring $840. It is ex-Arthur Pinto.

Miniature chest in red and yellow paint, 8½" x 8", ex-Arthur Pinto, estimated at $100/200, sold for $960.

The red-painted miniature chest with 12 drawers is only 7½" x 7" x 3½". Estimated at $400/800, it sold for $1200. Nadeau’s photo.

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

comments powered by Disqus
Web Design By Firefly Maine Maine Web Design