EAST DENNIS, Mass. – Paintings by James Edward Buttersworth and Antonio Jacobsen and scrimshaw by Edward Burdett and Josiah Sheffield are some of the headliners at Eldred’s annual summer Marine Sale, scheduled for August 19 and 20 at the firm’s headquarters in East Dennis, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
More than 150 paintings will be offered, ranging from important 18th- and 19th-century examples from the canon of maritime art, including works by Buttersworth, Jacobsen, William Bradford, Joseph B. Smith and Robert Salmon, to paintings by renowned contemporary marine artists like Timothy Thompson, Thomas Hoyne and Patrick O’Brien.
Highlights include four works by James Edward Buttersworth, notably two circa-1870 portraits of the schooner yacht Palmer, owned by Rutherford Stuyvesant. One depicts the yacht racing off Staten Island and the other the yacht off the cliffs of Dover, and both exhibit the moody, dramatic backdrop typical in Buttersworth paintings. They come from a private New Jersey collection and are estimated at $60,000-$90,000 and $50,000-$70,000, respectively.
Four works by Antonio Jacobsen are included, ranging in estimate from $6,000-$9,000 for a Black Ball Line ship portrait to $30,000-$50,000 for a view of an 1887 America’s Cup race between Volunteer and Thistle.
Four single-owner collections are featured in the sale catalog: the Kelton collection of Marine art and artifacts; property from the India House, New York; the collection of Ian R. MacKenzie; and the Michael Gill whaling collection.
The Kelton collection includes a wide cross-section of paintings, ship models and navigational instruments amassed by California businessman Richard Kelton during a 30-year period. The anticipated top lot is a 17th-century brass astrolabe recovered from the wreck of the Spanish galleon Neustra Senora de Atocha, which sank in a storm off the coast of Florida in 1622. It is estimated at $40,000-$60,000.
Ian R. MacKenzie had a deep love for the island of Nantucket, and his collection centers around material pertaining to its marine history. Notable lots include a toggle harpoon stamped “Macy”, estimated at $1,500-$2,000; a large 19th-century Nantucket lightship basket, estimated at $2,500-$3,500; an 18th-century vellum telescope, estimated at $5,000-$10,000; and a pair of exceptional trailboards, possibly teakwood, carved in the forms of women with long cascading hair, estimated at $25,000-$35,000.
The core of the collection, however, is an outstanding group of scrimshaw, including a panbone ditty box depicting Alwilda, the female pirate, estimated at $12,000-$15,000. A tooth attributed to Moses Denning known as the Stark Tooth, which was part of the Barbara Johnson collection and known to be one of her favorite pieces of scrimshaw, carries an estimate of $30,000-$50,000. The lineup also includes a Susan’s Tooth, estimated at $50,000-$70,000.
One of the more intriguing lots is a pair of painted walrus tusks, one depicting a Black man, probably a slave, and the other a white man, possibly slave-driver or agent, and assorted imagery that could reference the Fugitive Slave Act or the Dredd-Scott decision. The pair was illustrated in E. Norman Fladyerman’s Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders, Whales and Whalemen and was once part of the Meylert Armstrong collection. They carry a pre-sale estimate of $8,000-$12,000.
The anticipated top lot in the collection, estimated at $80,000-$120,000, is a pair of historically significant whale’s teeth by Josiah Sheffield, known as the Log Teeth, the only known examples of scrimshaw that document a whaling voyage in the manner of a log, providing date, latitude and longitude, whales taken, and similar information. Sheffield served about the New Bedford whaleship Timoleon during an 1831-1835 voyage, and the teeth reference that voyage.
The Gill Whaling collection also includes a large selection of scrimshaw, highlighted by a signed tooth pertaining to the whaleship Northern Light, estimated at $20,000-$25,000, and a large panbone plaque depicting a whaling scene, estimated at $10,000-$15,000, as well as several whaling logs and logbook stamps and early navigation instruments.
Between the MacKenzie and Gill collections and other consignments, more than 150 pieces of scrimshaw are included in the sale. Other highlights include an extraordinary tooth by Edward M. Burdett, with a $300,000-$400,000 estimate.
Burdett was a Nantucket whaleman who pioneered American scrimshaw. The tooth, signed “Engraved by Edward Burdett of Nantucket Onboard of the William Tell”, depicts the New York whaleship William Tell engaged in active whaling, and the New London whaleship Friends heading toward port. The scenes, lettering, deeply engraved hulls and use of red sealing wax are typical of Burdett teeth and bear a striking resemblance to the Burdett tooth Eldred’s sold in July 2017 for the world-record price of $456,000.
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