Antiques & Collectibles: Auction records have Boston accents

A circa 1760-90 Chippendale parcel-gilt and mahogany block-front dressing glass, a rare form of 18th-century Boston furniture, sold at Christie’s Americana Week auction for $185,000 against a $10,000-$15,000 estimate.
A circa 1760-90 Chippendale parcel-gilt and mahogany block-front dressing glass, a rare form of 18th-century Boston furniture, sold at Christie’s Americana Week auction for $185,000 against a $10,000-$15,000 estimate.

A record for any auction of American folk art was set at Sotheby’s Americana Week sales when folk art from the collection of Ralph O. Esmerian sold for $12,955,943.

The previous record was $12,299,528, achieved at Sotheby’s combined January and October 1994 auctions of the collection of the late Bertram K. and Nina Fletcher Little of Brookline, whose Essex summer home, Cogswell’s Grant, is now the property of Historic New England.

The Esmerian sale, together with Sotheby’s sale of Important Americana, brought its Americana Week total to $18.4 million.


Topping the Esmerian sale was the $875,000 paid for a 3-foot-tall Santa Claus that Samuel A. Robb, the famed carver of cigar store Indians, carved in 1926 as a Christmas present for his daughter.

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Other top sellers included a circa 1832 watercolor portrait of young Jeremiah H. Emerson of Nashua ($665,000) by the husband and wife team Ruth Whittier Shute and Samuel Addison Shute, and three circa 1835 watercolor portraits of members of the Carver family of Freeport, Maine, by an unknown artist ($521,000).

Topping the Important Americana sale was a circa 1900 decoy of an eider drake carved on a Maine island ($767,000) and a circa 1800 Aaron Willard tall-case clock ($185,000) that was made for Colonel Asa Stebbins and was purchased by Historic Deerfield, which owns the 1799 Stebbins house.

Boston offerings were among the top sellers, including a 1748 needlework picture of a hunting scene ($185,000), a circa 1835 Classical work table ($127,000), and a circa 1755 Queen Anne pier table ($100,000).

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Boston pieces also were among the top sellers at Christie’s Americana Week sales, which grossed $10.2 million.
Four of the 10 top furniture prices were for Boston pieces and two of the 10 top silver prices were for Colonial Boston silver.

The circa 1785 Jarvis family bombe chest of drawers sold for $485,000 and a circa 1779 bombe chest of drawers for $425,000.

A rare 1760-90 Chippendale gilt mahogany block-front dressing glass, one of only a few examples of this form known to have been made in 18th-century Boston, sold for $185,000 against a $10,000-$15,000 estimate, and a circa 1809 Federal paint-decorated sewing box attributed to Thomas Seymour and its paint work to John Ritto Penniman went for $125,000 against a $3,000-$5,000 estimate.

The second- and third-highest prices paid for silver were $233,000 for a pair of circa 1715 chafing dishes by John Coney and $161,000 for a pair of circa 1780 sauceboats by Paul Revere Jr.

The top-selling silver was a circa 1690 New York brandywine bowl by Cornelius Vander Burch that sold for $317,000.


The top selling furniture was a Philadelphia Chippendale carved mahogany scallop-top tea table that brought $905,000.

The 78-lot folk art collection of the late Kristina Barbara Johnson brought $855,375. It was topped by an 11¼-
inch limestone sculpture, “Mother and Child,” by the African-American artist William Edmondson (1874-1951) that sold for $263,000 against a $50,000-
$80,000 estimate.

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Copley Fine Art Auctions of Newbury Street will hold its Winter Sale at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston, S.C., a three-day celebration of wildlife and nature featuring wildlife-related paintings and sculpture, decoys, conservation exhibits, and other events.

Thursday’s 11 a.m. auction at the American Theater features 404 lots of decoys, paintings, prints, and sculpture.

Stephen O’Brien Jr., president of the auction company, describes the 200 lots of decoys as “our finest Winter Sale offerings to date.”

The auction is highlighted by 26 documented decoys from the collections of the late William J. Mackey Jr. and Dr. James McCleery, who built two of the most distinguished collections ever assembled.

Decoys with McCleery provenance include a circa 1910 rigmate pair of “paddle-tail” red-breasted mergansers carved by George Boyd (1873-1941) of Seabrook, N.H., and a circa 1885 pair of dowitchers by Newton Dexter and Dr. Clarence T. Gardner of Little Compton, R.I. The hen and drake merganser each have a $100,000-$150,000 estimate, while the dowitcher pair has a $200,000-$300,000 estimate.

Headlining the fine art are four paintings by Ogden M. Pleissner (1905-83), three depicting fishermen angling for salmon with estimates of $40,000-
$60,000 and $20,000-$40,000. “Southern Cabin,” a watercolor depicting two black women washing clothes outside a shanty, has a $20,000-$40,000 estimate.

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A recently discovered collection of decoys that had been wrapped in newspaper and stored in an attic for more than 50 years will be offered at the Guyette, Schmidt & Deeter auction Friday at 2 p.m. at the Charleston Marriott, also in Charleston.

The decoys were collected in the late 1940s and ’50s by James “Spann” Jeffers, who died in 1957 when the plane in which he was returning home to Red Bank, N.J., from Martha’s Vineyard crashed at the New Bedford airport.

The 16 decoys have estimates ranging from $9,500-$12,500 for a circa 1905 extremely rare Mason Decoy Factory old squaw drake recently found on the South Shore to $400-$600 for an early-20th-century canvas over wood frame pintail drake from North Carolina.

Decoys from other collections are highlighted by a large mallard drake by A. Elmer Crowell dated 1939 and a very rare classic 1936 model greenwing teal drake by the Ward Brothers of Crisfield, Md., each with an $8,000-$12,000 estimate.

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Skinner’s 225-lot American Indian & Tribal Art Auction Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. at its Marlborough gallery offers a wide diversity of items with estimates ranging from $4,000-$6,000 for an early-19th-century classic Mexican saltillo serape to $200-$250 for pre-Columbian pottery fragments. Highlights in addition to the serape include an 1880s Lakota cradle ($2,000-$3,000), an Apache basketry olla ($2,000-$2,500), and a Plains beaded and quilled hide bow case and quiver ($1,500-$2,000).

Virginia Bohlin can be reached at