THOMASTON, MAINE — During the weeklong preview for his August 24–25 auction, Kaja Veilleux of Thomaston Place Auction Galleries noted this was his highest estimated sale his gallery has ever conducted. When it was all over that Sunday afternoon, the numbers proved him right, making this the best sale in the company’s history, with more than $2.8 million in sales.
“It was one of our most successful auctions ever,” he said. “We saw strong results across the board, but the art was the biggest driver of the sale. This demonstrates the powerful appeal of well-executed paintings, sculpture and folk art pieces, regardless of their age or style.”
The sale kicked off with three “grotesque” face jugs by Lanier Meaders of the renowned Georgia potter family. The three jugs of a man’s face, all with bulging eyes and prominent toothy grins, fetched in order, $5,462, $1,150 and $1,897. “The uglier they are, the more money they bring,” Veilleux joked as the first lot crossed the block.
Among the offerings early on were lovely groupings of spongeware spread across a few dozen lots. A college professor and avid collector had driven in from Ohio (his first time bidding here) the night before and did not go home empty-handed, winning all but one of the lots. Prices averaged around $600 per lot. The top selling lot in the collection was a six-piece set of Nineteenth Century lemonade pitchers in typical cylindrical form for $2,070.
Fine art dominated the auction, however, and the top lot was a oil on canvas painting by Rockwell Kent (1882–1971). His 1929 painting “West Greenland Landscape” brought $172,500 after a heated battle between phone and floor bidders.
Another fine art standout was Giovanni Boldini’s 1889 study, an oil on cradled panel portrait of Contessa de Luesse nata Berthier, that more than quadrupled its high estimate to fetch $126,500. The work came out of a private New York collection.
New England-related items accounted for much of the art, led by a watercolor/gouache work by Francis Augustus Silva (New York, 1835–1886) that held pride of place in the auction at the coveted lot 100 spot, which is usually the standout in auctions here. “Brace Rock, Cape Ann, Mass.” drew robust interest, selling for $66,125. This painting was made in 1876 and exhibited in the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park that year.
Also crossing the block were three oils on canvas, Dale William Nichols’ (Midwest, 1904–1995) 1949 “Where the Grass Grows Green,” for $47,150, “Capriccio of Figures in a Classical Ruin,” attributed to Jean Francois Millet I (Flemish, 1642–1679), that took $31,050 and “A Misty Morning — The Mosque Santa Sophia & Golden Horn, Constantinople” by Paul H. Ellis, 1889, for $31,050. An aquatint etching by Joan Miro titled “L’oiseau Mongol,” 1969, fetched $17,250.
Three-dimensional art was represented by several fine bronzes and sculptures in the sale, led by a large bronze sculpture, “The Olympian,” a floor-standing abstract figure of an athlete by Abbott Lawrence Pattison, that brought $4,025.
Well-known enameller Margaret Seeler (1909–1996) created “Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?,” a suite of five cloisonné panels on copper to pay tribute to World War II victims and symbolize the betrayal of her native Germany by the Nazis. The set realized $34,500.
A hearty round of applause erupted from the gallery when an Italian Carrera marble bas relief plaque of the Madonna and Child, attributed to Tino di Camaino, bested its $10/15,000 estimate to attain $109,250. The plaque was cataloged as Fifteenth Century but Veilleux said during preview that the item was now thought to be Fourteenth Century.
Other antiquities crossing the block were a medieval French ivory figure of Saint Peter wearing a blue robe with polychrome decoration that fetched $18,400, well over its $1/1,500 estimate; a Nineteenth Century amber sculpture bust depicting a Maori chieftain, possibly Chief Tumai Tawhiti, that took $13,800; and an ancient glass cast blue glass Egyptian altar figure of the goddess Hathor in the form of a cow that sold for $8,625.
Another standout was the Nineteenth Century ship’s bawdy figurehead showing a woman wearing an elaborate top hat with feather plumes but with her breasts exposed above her bodice. The barn-found figurehead brought $28,750. Veilleux said he had gone on a house call to a home in Christmas Cove, Maine, to look at furniture and spied the figurehead screwed onto a beam, high up. “I think the family forgot it was up there. After I saw her, I forgot all about the furniture,” he said.
Folk art continued to find favor with bidders, led by an important Nineteenth Century full-body codfish weathervane with wonderful, untouched patina. It came down from the top of the Captain Jefferds Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine, and attained $31,050. Another great vane in the sale was a running horse, attributed to L.W. Cushing & Sons, Waltham, that made $11,500.
Sold to benefit the Portland Animal Rescue League was a folky carousel horse in the style of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, circa 1905, that made $3,162.
A nice selection of Asian arts featured a dark green Chinese jade king seal with Qianlong six-character mark, lengthy inscriptions on all sides, and a double-headed dragon-form handle that sold for $27,600, as well as a Chinese ivory half tusk with interior carving of a woman seated under a tree amid a rocky landscape that realized $6,325.
Leading the decorative arts category was a Rookwood large and rare vase in vellum glaze vase decorated by A.R. Valentien, with carved rooks on a branch, that fetched $25,875. An 18K gold pocket watch by Patek Philippe finished at $24,150.
Shining bright in the sale among silver were a circa 1910 Russian cloisonné enameled silver serving spoon made for Faberge by Fedor Ruckert at $17,250, an 87-piece set of Jensen sterling flatware in the Acorn pattern for $12,650 and an Eighteenth Century silver porringer by Ebenezer Noyes Moulton (1768–1824) for $7,475.
Rounding out the auction were a lavishly decorated — on both front and back — allegorical Limoges platter that sold for $14,950 and a bronze figural fountain, “Turtle Baby,” by Edith Baretto Parsons (1878–1956), marked Roman Bronze Works, NY, that brought $14,950. A pair of bronze candlesticks, Sixteenth Century or earlier, were of heavy bronze and had tapered columns with pierced decoration. The pair sold for $12,650.
Fine jewelry was led by a handmade Art Deco period bracelet in platinum with a total of 434 diamonds at $86,250.
All prices include the buyer’s premium.
The next Thomaston Place Auction Galleries sale will take place November 9–10. For additional information, www.thomastonauction.com or 207-354-8141.