Antiques & Collectibles: Rockwell commands the front burner

This oil study for Norman Rockwell’s “The Fireman” will be offered with a $50,000-$100,000 estimate at Grogan and Co.’s auction next Sunday.
This oil study for Norman Rockwell’s “The Fireman” will be offered with a $50,000-$100,000 estimate at Grogan and Co.’s auction next Sunday.

There has been a growing demand for works by Norman Rockwell in the past decade, but even more so since last fall, when his “Saying Grace” sold for $46 million, the highest price ever paid for an American painting.

Collectors will have an opportunity to acquire a Rockwell work that is appearing on the market for the first time when Grogan & Co. offers the oil study for “The Fireman” at its auction next Sunday at 10 a.m. at its Dedham gallery.

The 14-by-11-inch oil on paperboard study for the painting that was the cover for the May 27, 1944, issue of the Saturday Evening Post has descended in the family of its original owner and has a $50,000-$100,000 estimate.


“The Fireman,” which is in a private collection, was inspired by a gilded gold frame carved with hoses, axes, ladders and other firefighting equipment that Rockwell found in a junk shop. The sitter was Howard Lewis, president of Dodd, Mead and Co., whom Rockwell met at a publishers’ party in New York and invited to his studio, where he dressed Lewis in a turn-of-the-century fire fighter’s uniform and took his picture.

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Later as a gesture of thanks Rockwell gave Lewis the oil study and the photograph, which he autographed “To Howard Lewis / the Fireman who came to my rescue / Sincerely / Norman Rockwell.” The framed photograph is being sold with the oil study.

The 887-lot auction opens with the sale of 150 lots of jewelry highlighted by a 14-karat gold ring set with an emerald-cut emerald flanked by a pair of triangular-cut diamonds. The estimate is $15,000-$25,000.

Other jewelry includes a 17-inch, 14-karat gold necklace with 89 bezel-set round diamonds ($6,000-$9,00), an 18-karat gold ring set with an oval-cut ruby flanked by three diamond baguettes ($5,000-$8,000), and a 28-inch natural pearl necklace ($5,000-$7,000).

Silver offerings include an 18th-century cann (or mug) by Nathaniel Hurd (1729/30-77) ($3,000-$5,000), and three spoons by Paul Revere Jr., a sugar spoon ($500-$1,500) and two tablespoons, each with a $1,000-$2,000 estimate.


In addition to the Rockwell study there are 200 other lots of fine art including a seven-volume leather-bound set of John James Audubon’s “Birds of America,” octavo edition with 500 hand-colored lithographs ($25,000-

Other fine art ranges from an Old Master 17th-century drawing “The Flood” ($3,000-$8,000) to four 20th-century watercolors by the Irish artist Louis Le Brocquy (1916-2012) with estimates of $20,000-$30,000 and $15,000-$25,000.

Paintings by American artists are highlighted by “Deer Isle, Maine” ($20,000-$30,000), a 1932 watercolor by New Jersey-born John Marin (1870-1953), who had a summer home in Maine, and by “Springtime, Woman With Apple Blossoms” ($10,000-
$15,000), an 1882 watercolor by the New York-born Boston School artist Dennis Miller Bunker (1860-90).

Highlighting the Asian works of art is a 19th-century Chinese carved rhinoceros horn that descended in a Boston family whose forbears were in the China Trade and lived for a time in Macao. The horn, which has a $25,000-
$50,000 estimate, was among family possessions brought back to Boston on the clipper ship The Flying Fish in 1867.

Among the furniture offerings is a large selection of Georgian pieces from a Boston residence including a set of 10 carved mahogany dining chairs and a mahogany secretary bookcase, each with a $3,000-$5,000 estimate. Oriental carpets from the residence include a circa 1870 Sultanabad carpet ($10,000-
$20,000) and a circa 1910 Kirman palace carpet ($5,000-$10,000).


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A half-plate daguerreotype of an 1849 Gold Rush campsite picturing five young prospectors from Ipswich is among a treasure trove of historical items and other finds from an 1800s
Ipswich house to be offered at John McInnis’s auction Saturday at 10 a.m. at his Amesbury gallery.

The initials of the teenagers are seen on the small camp building along with the word “Agawam,” the name of Ips-wich when the land was purchased in 1633 from the Indians. The teenager holding a mining pan with gold nuggets is identified as William Cogswell, likely a descendant of John Cogswell (1592-1669), one of Ipswich’s first settlers. The daguerreotype has a $20,000-$30,000 estimate.

Over the years additions were made to the house and they were used at various times as a bicycle repair shop, a cabinetmaker’s shop, and a photography studio.

Among the studio finds was a collodion camera on stand ($300-$600) that was used by E. L. Darling, whose wood trade sign “Darling, Photographer” has a $500-$700 estimate. Other finds include over 400 stereo views and two stereoscopes ($500-$1,000), ten 19th-century photo albums with cabinet cards and tintypes ($150-$300), and a large number of daguerreotypes, including one of George Armstrong Custer, the ill-fated leader of the battle of Little Big Horn ($3,000-$6,000).

A 19th-century assembled collection of clipped signatures of the Declaration of Independence signers, centered by John Hancock’s signature and mounted on cardboard, has a $20,000-$40,000 estimate.

Other offerings are as varied as a pair of 18th-century men’s hand-sewn leather shoes with wood soles ($800-$1,200), a 19th-century parade tambourine marked “Ipswich Police” ($150-
$300), a circa 1790 linsey-woolsey quilt ($800-$1,200), a turn-of-the-century silk stars-and-stripes parasol ($150-$350), a wooden shovel ($100-$200), four tin candle molds ($200-$300), an Aldro Hibbard (1886-1972) Vermont winter scene ($3,000-$5,000), and hundreds of coin silver spoons that are being sold in lots, including a lot of 47 teaspoons with a $250-$450 estimate.

In addition to the more than 200 items from the Ipswich house, the nearly 700-lot auction features property from other consignors, including a collection of more than 100 lots of Asian art assembled in the 1950s and ’60s. Famille rose garden seats, huanghuali furniture, white jade carvings, snuff bottles, ivory carvings, netsuke, and Japanese satsuma are among the offerings.

Virginia Bohlin can be reached at