A tiny Louis Vuitton trunk, a bronze lobster, and George Washington portraits triumphed at Thomaston Place

Louis Vuitton salesman’s sample trunk, which sold for $9,375 at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries.

THOMASTON, Maine – ‘Correct in detail, material and quality of construction, down to brass hardware, stencilled cloth and monogrammed leather trim’, a miniature Louis Vuitton trunk hammered for $7,500 and sold for $9,375 at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries. Only a handful of these diminutive luggage pieces are known, made at the time either as salesman samples or as playthings for the children of wealthy Louis Vuitton customers. Following every detail of the full-size version, this suitcase measuring 11in (27cm) across was in good condition, save the interior, which had been relined in a marbled paper. Beneath it may be a label for Louis Vuitton’s offices at 149 New Bond Street and the Paris Champs Elysees. The miniature trunk sold well above its estimate of $800-$1,000, topping the first day of the February 23-25 Winter Enchantment auction.

Sharing its estimate and winning second place on Day One was a Meiji-period bronze model of a lobster. Described in the lot notes as ‘hyper realistic, fully jointed and moveable’, it was one of the remarkable models produced by Japanese metalworkers in the post-Samurai era. Despite lacking one of its antennae, it hammered for $6,000 ($7,500 with buyer’s premium).

Day Two was dominated by two portraits of George Washington by or after Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828). Estimated at $3,000-$5,000 but sold at $27,000 ($33,750 with buyer’s premium) was a circa-1805 version of the classic George Washington bust portrait – the so-called Athenaeum type, painted from life in Philadelphia in 1796. Stuart referred to these portraits as his “$100 bills” as, whenever he needed the money, he would retire to his Boston studio and paint another. He sold more than 70 of them in his lifetime, and there are many others that were painted by followers after he died. This unsigned portrait in its original frame was attributed to Stuart.

Stuart created the original full-length portrait of George Washington at Dorchester Heights for the City of Boston in 1806. It shows the general in his battle pomp posing next to the backside of a horse. The original hangs in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts with versions in Faneuil Hall in Boston and Mechanic’s Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts, but the version offered at Thomaston Place was one of many impressive if somewhat pedestrian copies. A stencil on the verso for Goupil & Co., New York dates it to the 1850s. Housed in a heavy gold molded cove frame standing 6ft high, it hammered for $26,000 ($32,500 with buyer’s premium) against an estimate of $5,000-$7,000.