The Shaker movement, which had about 5,000 members in 18 settlements at its height in the 1840s, has today only three members at Sabbathday Lake Village in New Gloucester, Maine, the last active Shaker community.
However, interest in Shakerism keeps growing and the number of Shaker collectors is growing too.
That was evident at the Willis Henry Shaker Auction last month at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, where all but six of 220 lots found buyers, with new collectors buying the top selling lot from each of the auction’s two sessions.
The top seller at the 164-lot session featuring Shaker items from important collections was a rare Union Village, Ohio, rocking chair that brought $67,260, more than 11 times the high of its $4,000-$6,000 estimate.
The top seller of the 56-lot McCue Collection II was a 63½-inch-high cupboard over drawers, made around 1825-40 at Watervliet, N.Y., which sold for $47,200 against a $30,000-$40,000 estimate.
The McCue Collection, Part I of which sold last year for $1.2 million, was formed over 60 years by the late J. J. Gerald McCue and his wife, Miriam.
“This is a great time to buy Shaker. Collections that were formed in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s are now coming onto the market, and many of the pieces were bought directly from the Shakers,” said Willis Henry, who with his wife, Karel, specializes in Shaker auctions.
Other top sellers from the McCue Collection include an 1862 New Lebanon, N.Y., washstand ($44,250 against $10,000-$15,000), a New Lebanon tailoring counter ($38,350 against $20,000-$30,000), a rare trustee’s desk ($32,450 against $30,000-$50,000), and a sister’s sewing desk ($31,860 against $15,000-$20,000).
In addition to the rocking chair, other rarities sold in the session included a circa 1795 Canterbury shelf clock that brought $25,960 against $20,000-
$30,000, a large oval carrier ($23,600 against $8,000-$12,000), an 1830-40 Canterbury 10-drawer chest ($21,240 against $15,000-$20,000), and a circa 1840s New Lebanon wood candle sconce ($11,200 against $5,000- $7,000). New Lebanon, N.Y., was home to the Mount Lebanon Shaker Society from the late 1780s to the late 1940s.
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Furnishings from Oprah Winfrey’s Montecito, Calif., home will be auctioned Saturday on the grounds of the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club by Kaminski Auctions of Beverly, which also has locations in Beverly Hills and San Diego.
The sale of 317 lots of furniture, paintings, rugs, decorative accessories, and sundry other items follows the announcement by the media mogul in the March issue of O, The Oprah magazine, that she was doing a makeover of her 23,000-square-foot mansion.
Proceeds from the sale will benefit the college fund she has set up to enable graduates of her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Meyerton, South Africa, to continue their educations.
Auction estimates range from $30,000-$50,000 for an 18th-century Louis XVI bureau by the French cabinetmaker Leonard Boudin (1735-1804) to $50-$75 for a McCoy teapot.
Furniture is as varied as a 19th-century English tilt-top breakfast table ($4,000-$6,000) and a modern cylindrical silvered leather side table ($300-
$500), a 13-foot-long custom-made home theater sofa ($2,000-$5,000) and an ottoman upholstered in white terry cloth ($100-$200).
The more than 50 paintings have estimates ranging from $8,000-$12,000 for a Nativity scene by the self-taught African-American artist Clementine Hunter (1886-1988) to $100-$200 for a floral still life. Lamps and lighting fixtures have estimates ranging from $20,000-$40,000 for a 19th-century French chandelier to $100-$200 for a brass student’s lamp.
Among the sundry offerings are a French Jumeau doll ($5,000-$8,000), five Jetson electric bikes that Winfrey autographed and used in promotions (each with a $1,000-$2,000 estimate), two Silvertone and RCA radios ($150-$250), and 14 rolls of wallpaper ($800-$1,000).
The 1,589-lot auction, which also includes property of Bob Greene, Winfrey’s former personal trainer, and from other consignors may be previewed Wednesday-Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tickets for the 5-8 p.m. Friday preview party benefiting the college fund are $100 and include VIP seating at the auction. Free general admission seating is available by pre-registering for tickets at www.kaminskiauctions.com.
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A 1942 Ferrari 246 GT leads off Skinner’s 754-lot Clocks, Watches & Scientific Instruments Auction featuring Historic Arms & Militaria Saturday at
10 a.m. at its Marlborough gallery. The estimate is $140,000-$240,000.
Highlighting the militaria offerings is a cased model 1852 sword that was presented in 1901 by citizens of Boston to Boston-born Rear Admiral Frank Wildes (1843-1903) in recognition of distinguished service as captain of the cruiser Boston at the Battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898. The sword case, which had remained unopened by the family since the admiral’s death, was recently opened and found to contain items related to Wildes’s naval career, and will be sold with the sword. The estimate is $20,000-$30,000.
Headlining the 276 clocks are two circa 1890 quarter-chiming tubular bell tall clocks and a 30-day No. 25 astronomical regulator made around 1875 by E. Howard and Co. of Boston.
Each of the clocks has a $60,000- $80,000 estimate. The cases of the quarter-chiming clocks are attributed to R. J. Horner. The movement of one of the clocks was manufactured by Waltham Clock Co. and the other by Elite in Germany.
Other important clocks include a quarter-repeating bracket clock made around 1695 in London by William Speakman; a gilt-brass table clock made in Augsburg, Germany, around 1835 with a standing Madonna figure holding the infant Jesus; a musical table clock topped by a putto holding a scale and sword made around 1780 in London by Stephen Rimbeault; and a petite sonnerie skeleton calendar clock made around 1839 in Paris. Each has a $20,000-$30,000 estimate.
Among the scientific instruments is a rare 18th-century boxwood and brass surveyor’s compass with a whale-bone plaque reading “Daniel King Fecit 1758.” Only a few works by the Salem instrument maker (1704-90) have survived, including a quadrant at the Maine Maritime Museum and a compass at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. The estimate is $8,000-$12,000.
Virginia Bohlin can be reached at email@example.com.