Folk Art Fireboard Sets House Record At Gaudreau’s

DAYVILLE, CONN. — A circa 1780 fireboard thought to have been painted by the Woodstock, Conn., folk artist Winthrop Chandler (1747–1790), who scholars Leslie and Peter Warwick have called the first known American artist to paint American landscapes, brought $54,050 at Gaudreau’s on June 7, setting a new house record for the Windham County firm. The buyer was Falmouth Foreside, Maine, dealer Chris Considine. The record price at auction for a Chandler overmantel painting is $240,000, set at Sotheby’s in 2005.

Measuring 34 by 48 inches, the unsigned oil on pine panel descended in the Danielson family, who settled the Danielson section of Killingly, Conn., around 1707. The painting is believed to have been in the house for 11 generations. Heavy attic grime has somewhat obscured the image, which is strong and intact but may require further cleaning to return it to its original brilliant condition, says Considine. The fireboard’s central motif is a vase of flowers. In the panel’s lower right, two trees frame a shepherd, above which floats a cherub’s head. Also depicted is a rabbit, a fisherman and pond. Considine believes the image is a resurrection allegory.

“It is a very good quality painting and in wonderful condition. The motifs lead me to attribute it to Winthrop Chandler, who lived five miles from the Danielson homestead. It is a very professional work and in his color palette. Its future has not been determined, but it will go to an important folk art collection,” says Considine.

The fireboard, which crossed the block promptly at noon, drew buyers from Boston, New York and beyond, plus phone and absentee bidders. The lot was part of a two-day auction featuring the contents of the three-story Danielson farmhouse and several outbuildings, an accumulation spanning three centuries.

Auctioneer Kevin Gaudreau recalls passing the house on many occasions while in the company of his father, Jim, who long hoped to sell its contents. Given short notice to settle the estate, Kevin Gaudreau worked around the clock to organize an early June sale.

“We started doing our thing: digging, moving, sorting, advertising, discovering, making lots, researching items and just getting plain, old filthy with barn dirt,” says Gaudreau. The firm found the fireboard in the loft of a shed near a large pile of raccoon droppings, he said. The estate’s astonished administrator offered to buy pizza for all if the fireboard brought more than $1,000, as Gaudreau predicted.

The Danielson property also included a tankard attributed to Boston silversmith John Burt (1692–1745). Bidding on the vessel opened at $5,000 and stopped at $14,375. Dating to circa 1749, Samuel Danielson’s school book realized $805. Two photo albums fetched $4,830; a wooden pitchfork, $115; and a Civil War quarter-plate ambrotype, $2,990. An Eighteenth Century slant-lid desk made $3,105 and a slave artifact dating from the early 1700s sold for $1,783.

“There were no record-breakers on day two, but those who attended had a great time and went away with treasures,” said Gaudreau, who wrapped up selling by 5 pm.

Session Two of the Danielson auction is set for Saturday, June 28, at 6 pm at Gaudreau’s salesroom at 21 Williamsville Road in Dayville.

“We have uncovered papers and other documents dating from 1672 to the mid-Nineteenth Century. Some of the documents are historically significant and touch on themes in Native American, nautical, military and New London County, Conn., history, ” says Gaudreau. Of particular interest are the papers of the Billings family of Stonington, Conn., among them a 1762 journal kept by a Captain Billings aboard the privateer sloop Dolphin.

For information, 860-933-6055.

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