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Antiques & Collectibles: Salem Civil War soldier lives in history

A photograph dated Oct. 12, 1863, of Luis F. Emilio of Salem, then a second lieutenant on Morris Island in South Carolina, is from his Civil War archive being sold by James D. Julia — the hat cord appears to be the one seen and the second  lieutenant straps are possibly the pair found in the archive.

A photograph dated Oct. 12, 1863, of Luis F. Emilio of Salem, then a second lieutenant on Morris Island in South Carolina, is from his Civil War archive being sold by James D. Julia — the hat cord appears to be the one seen and the second lieutenant straps are possibly the pair found in the archive.

The Civil War archive of Luis F. Emilio, a young Salem soldier who became a captain in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the first all-black military unit raised in the North, headlines James D. Julia’s Fine Art, Asian and Antiques Auction Tuesday through Friday at 10 a.m. in Fairfield, Maine.

The archive of letters, documents, photographs, hand-drawn maps, diaries, medals, insignia, and newspaper clippings, which had remained with the Emilio family until recently, is so vast that it is being offered on Wednesday in two lots, one with an $80,000-$120,000 estimate and the other with a $40,000-
$60,000 estimate.

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Emilio, who was born Dec. 22, 1844, of Spanish parents who had immigrated to this country six years earlier, was a high school student in Salem at the outbreak of the war in 1861. Caught up in the fervor of the war but at 16 too young to join the Massachusetts Volunteers, he convinced his father to sign his consent and to state he was 18. The original document signed Oct. 19, 1861, is among the documents in the archive.

In less than a year Emilio was promoted to sergeant. Five months later on Feb. 27, 1863, he was made a second lieutenant in the newly formed 54th Massachusetts Regiment, and in May he was made a captain and put in command of Company E of the black regiment portrayed in the 1989 Academy Award winning film “Glory.”

Not yet 21, Emilio retired from the Army in March 1865, and in 1891 he wrote his personal account of the war in the book “A Brave Black Regiment.” He died in 1918 and is buried in Harmony Cemetery in Salem.

The Essex Institute in Salem houses Emilio’s collection of military buttons and the Massachusetts Historical Society houses many of his photographs of the 54th Regiment along with his 1863 diary.

Emilio’s other military diaries are in the archive that is being sold. Among his personal items are his second lieutenant and captain straps, the cord from his officer’s cap, and a pair of brass officer’s spurs.

In addition to all the letters written by Emilio during his Army years, there are a number of family letters written in Spanish by his parents in the 1830s and ’40s to their relatives in Spain. The letters are contained in a dome top document box with a label dated 1888 stating the box was made in 1840 in Malaga, Spain, for Emilio’s mother. Among the items found in the box was a 10-karat gold cross.

Other highlights of Wednesday’s session include a rare 13th-century reliquary chasse, a repository for the holiest of objects ($50,000-$150,000), an oil portrait of George Washington by William Post (1720-1800) and a 30-by-72-inch painting by Thomas Savory (1837-52) depicting the Philadelphia Cavalry in formation (each with a $50,000-$75,000 estimate), and a 19th-century copper centaur weather vane attributed to A. L. Jewell & Co., Waltham ($30,000-
$50,000).

The auction’s Tuesday session
features 634 works of fine art as varied as a 19th-century portrait “Boy in Black Dress With Greyhound Dog” ($30,000-$40,000) by the New York landscape, portrait, and genre artist James Henry Cafferty (1819-69), and the painting attributed to the British artist Samuel Walters (1811-82) of the clipper ship Nunquam Normio, built in Bath, Maine,in 1864 ($10,000-$15,000) . A collection of 37 paintings, prints, posters, and a puzzle by the Brooklyn, N.Y.-born pop artist James Rizzi (1950-2011) has estimates ranging from $2,000-$3,000 to $400-
$600.

The 1,500 lots of Asian art are highlighted by a 10½-by-7¼-inch gilt bronze seated figure of Amida Buddha, from China’s Hsuan Te period. The estimate is $50,000-$60,000.

Other offerings of note include a 20th-century jade carving of peaches and foo dogs ($20,000-$30,000), a 19th-century brush pot carved as a tree trunk ($22,000-$25,000), and a calligraphy hanging scroll ($16,000-$18,000) attributed to the renowned Chinese artist Qi Gong (1912-2005).

.   .   .

Offerings in Skinner’s American & European Paintings Auction Friday at
4 p.m. at its Boston gallery are as diverse as the maquette by the Italian-born artist Harry Bertoia (1915-78) for the screenlike sculpture at MIT’s Kresge Chapel and a 16th-century Flemish devotional diptych.

The maquette or preliminary model for the metal sculpture that brings glittering light from the circular skylight to the white marble altar in the windowless chapel is expected to bring $70,000-$90,000. The Old Master diptych ($10,000-$15,000) is from the estate of Hester Marion Chanler Pickman of Billerica (1894-1989) and was purportedly purchased in Paris in the 1920s or ’30s.

Other top offerings include a marsh view ($70,000-$90,000) by Boston Impressionist John Leslie Breck (1860-99), the 1949 watercolor “Young Love: Walking to School” ($50,000-$70,000) by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), the 1940 watercolor “Paris Theatre” ($50,000-
$70,000) by Everett Shinn (1876-1953), and the 1971 gouache “Red Circus Horse” ($40,000-$60,000) by Alexander Calder (1898-1976).

Skinner’s American & European Prints & Photography Auction at noon is highlighted by “Mao” ($12,000-$18,000), a 1971 lithograph in red and black by Roy Lichtenstein (1923-97) and “Madrid” ($8,000-$12,000), a gelatin silver print photograph of children at play in a Madrid plaza taken in 1933 by Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004), the French photographer considered the father of photojournalism.

.   .   .

A two-session 871-lot auction of Asian art will be held tomorrow and Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Skinner’s Marlborough gallery.

Estimates range from $6,000-$8,000 for a 38-inch Chinese seated Buddha to $100-$200 for such other Chinese items as an 18-inch famille verte vase, an 11-inch lozenge-shape planter with a stylized phoenix, and two 5-inch ginger jars.

Bidding on Skinner’s online auction of 334 lots of Asian art concludes on Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Virginia Bohlin can be reached at vbohlin@comcast.net.
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