MARLBOROUGH, Mass. – Each year, Skinner times its August Auction to attract Americana enthusiasts from across the country who attend the numerous focused annual shows held in New Hampshire. This summer was no exception, with well-attended public previews and many requests from those not viewing in person. The two auctions, held August 18 and 19, offered fine American furniture from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, along with a robust and diverse selection of pottery, porcelain, silver, folk art, weathervanes, maritime art, pewter, and Shaker items consigned by private collectors, talented members of the trade and institutions. On the whole, buyers agreed, and the sale totaled 50% above the high estimate.
Decorative and Fine Art highlights were led by a cup and saucer from Samuel Shaw’s Society of the Cincinnati Chinese Export Porcelain Service, which sold for $75,000. Made circa 1786-1790, Shaw commissioned society tea services for himself and fewer than 10 other members of the Massachusetts branch of the society. Each tea service originally consisted of about 45 pieces. Previously, Shaw procured a Society of Cincinnati porcelain set with blue Fitzhugh border decoration that George Washington eventually purchased.
A bold Andrew Clemens patriotic sand bottle sold for $75,000. Skinner holds the record for Clemens’s work for $275,000. Stephen Fletcher, Skinner’s Director of American Furniture & Decorative Arts, commented that he looks forward to offering an example with detailed and impressive provenance in the upcoming fall auction.
Weathervanes outperformed with two different molded copper models of the ‘Massasoit’ (lots 122 and 138), leading the way in that category at $31,250 and $43,750, respectively. In addition, a charming portrait of a child in a blue dress by William Matthew Prior climbed to $28,750 in spirited competition.
Furniture highlights included two examples of New England formal furniture consigned by a southern collector. An inlaid and serpentine-fronted bureau attributed to Nathan Lumbard and showing Providence, Rhode Island characteristics, and an elegantly designed but understated Portsmouth, New Hampshire work table, brought $17,500 apiece. Three lots of furniture (two pairs of chairs and a dressing table) made in Bermuda in the late 18th century brought $42,500 to the same dedicated collector.
A textbook example of a Wethersfield, Connecticut high chest achieved $15,000, and a documented Tiger Maple bonnet-top chest-on-chest made by Cornelius Allen, New Bedford, Massachusetts brought $11,875. Allen was a nephew of Newport cabinetmaker John Goddard, and Cornelius’s brother Ebenezer likely apprenticed with Goddard. Goddard’s (and Newport’s) influence is seen in the design of this piece which, along with a directly related example are illustrated and discussed in Harbor & Home: Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts, by Brock Jobe.
Skinner was proud to offer property from many well-formed and widely recognized collections across the two sales, including pewter from the collection of the esteemed and knowledgeable John Schneider of Greenwich, Connecticut; slip-decorated wares from Jonathan Rickard’s collection; Chinese Export Porcelain from the collection of Thomas Hodge of Shelbyville, Kentucky; and Shaker items from Francisco “Frank” Sierra of New York City. Many folky watercolors, pen, and ink family records and works on paper from the same collection met with strong results.
Far exceeding expectations was a group of 18th and 19th century clothing descended from the Manning, Dodge, and Burnham families. Included was a dress exported from China and an unusual pair of pink- and red-embroidered wedding shoes identified as “The Wedding Slippers of Mary Dodge who married Ebenezer Burnham of Ipswich, Ma, 1792.” The lot, in highly competitive bidding, brought $20,000.
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