NANTUCKET, Mass. – Rafael Osona’s signature August sale is well regarded for its exceptional offerings from far-reaching corners. The two-day event, which takes place August 7-8, presents choice material ranging from Rembrandt etchings to Abraham Lincoln and Civil War US Treasury ‘redbacks’ to leading ‘Nantucket Renaissance’ painter Anne Ramsdell Congdon and modernist Vladimir Kagan. It also features furnishings and decor from the Starbuck East Brick mansion and a from two single-owner collections of Canton and Chinese Export porcelains. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Pacific Trade collectors and regulars at the annual Nantucket Antiques Show will recognize Gail and Rich Mellin’s meticulously curated Canton Collection; the couple are distinguished experts and authors in the field. Properties offered on August 7 preview the excitement to be expected among Osona’s future Mellin sales, and share the spotlight with furnishings from Nantucket’s iconic Starbuck East Brick mansion, completed in 1839 during the Island’s ‘whaling capital of the world’ heyday. The East Brick collection was assembled by Marie and Rick Wackenhut, during their residence in the splendid mansion.
A Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn self-portrait, the etching signed and dated on the print, and Rembrandt’s windmill, the etching signed and dated in the plate are offered among 23 properties directly descended in the family of former Congressman, the Hon. Major General Francis Elias Spinner, Treasurer of the United States, appointed by President Abraham Lincoln.
Spinner served as US Treasurer during the Civil War and thereafter, under three Presidents and six Secretaries of the Treasury. Aside from Lincoln himself, Spinner was among the most respected and recognized government officials of his day. Properties descended in his family include documents and commendation awards, including a President Abraham Lincoln signed proclamation for Spinner’s appointment to U. S. Treasurer as well as a framed lithographed Federal shield bearing 39 fractional currency notes, including 50 cent “redbacks” of the third issue, dignified by Spinner’s portrait and his famously flamboyant signature. (In the day, one could enjoy a fancy dinner, a good cigar and a newspaper for 50 cents, and still get change back.)
There’s opportunity in an important group of six paintings by Anne Ramsdell Congdon; the artist gave four of the six to a relative, and those four descended in the family to the present time. The paintings being offered coincide with a recently opened feature exhibition, Anne Ramsdell Congdon’s Nantucket Renaissance, presented by the Nantucket Historical Association. Congdon was active on Nantucket from 1926 through the late forties. “She was included in 1946 in a Kenneth Taylor Gallery retrospective of five artists ‘of national importance’ (including Henry S. Eddy, Edgar Jenney, Emerson Tuttle, and Eastman Johnson)” according to materials from the Nantucket Historical Association 2007 exhibit on the artist.
Significant among the Mellin collection is a Canton covered game or beefsteak platter with hot water reservoir, dating to circa 1810-1820; only three are known to exist. Another scarce piece on offer is a Canton fish basin. The two are offered among various Canton forms – those made for bathing and personal care, dining room service, lighting, kitchen storage, trays and tiles, umbrella stands, even spittoons.
From the Starbuck East Brick mansion, look for fine antique Serapi, Heriz, Ferahan Sarouk and Mahal carpets as well as China trade paintings on canvas. A pair of oval views of the nine-stage pagoda at Whompoa are notable in their skillful renderings. Among several properties painted in reverse on glass, a finely wrought painting of William and Mary, circa 1800, after Pollard, deserves attention.
A commanding American shadowbox measuring depicts the Nantucket whaleship Two Brothers under full sail. Captained by George Pollard, the ship was sunk in a gale. Tragically, Pollard had earlier captained – and survived – the sinking of the Essex, stove by a whale and of Melville fame. The shadowbox is housed in its original lemon gilt and vinegar frame.
A significant collection of shell work, including pristine 18th and 19th century coquillage dolls from Brittany, decorative and contemporary sailor’s valentines, shell-encrusted grotto style furnishings and Victorian floral arrangements under glass domes exemplify society’s longstanding interest in the exotic.
Collectors of Ralph Cahoon paintings will be delighted to see three in the sale lineup. Nantucketers will also appreciate the work of two of their kin in an East Brick mural, Boston Harbor in the 18th Century by Kevin Paulsen, as well as Vladimir Kagan’s modernist Capricorn garden furniture.
Rounding out the lots in the first session are two period ship portraits by Antonio Jacobsen, one of the Republic and the other depicting the Adelaide Barbour.
The August 8 session of the auction showcases a Joseph Clapp Nantucket whalebone, cherry wood and whale ivory birdcage. A strikingly similar birdcage, also made by Clapp, is in the collection of the Nantucket Historical Association.
Not to be missed is an early 18th century Dutch painting of two frigates by a follower of Abraham Storck. Equally worthy is a one-of-a-kind circa-1850 whaler-made nursing rocker of naive construction. A small baleen whale skull serves as back splat with whale ivory diamond inlays.
Leading the scrimshaw category is a historically relevant pair of sperm whale teeth, dating to circa 1846. One depicts a 28-star America flag above a portrait of George Washington, presumably commemorating the annexation of Texas to the Republic. The companion tooth, created circa 1846, is engraved with a courting couple, the reverses showing American and French Barks. Also on offer are three large scrimshaw sperm whale teeth attributed to the Britannia Engraver, from the first quarter of the 19th century. One depicts a British ship engaged in battle, with an enemy ship billowing smoke. The reverse depicts a ship coming over a large swell, sails furled, and initialed “LR” and “HA”. Also of note is a French Prisoner-of-War finely detailed, fully outfitted 60-gun ship-of-the-line bone and baleen model in a straw marquetry and parquetry box.
A round glass-topped inlaid ship’s wheel table on a custom base will turn heads in the dining room, as will a sought after wall-mount whale sculpture by carver Sunny Wood.
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