MARLBOROUGH, MASS. — “Call it ‘Scattering Up The Fragments,’” urged John Keith Russell, pulling me aside at Skinner’s much anticipated June 15 auction of the Andrews Shaker Collection. The dealer in Shaker art and artifacts was referring, of course, to Gather Up The Fragments: The Andrews Shaker Collection, the definitive account of the contributions of the pioneering Shaker scholars Faith and Edward Deming Andrews, who created the market for Shaker design in the 1920s and 1930s. The book is by Mario S. De Pillis and Christian Goodwillie, a consultant to Skinner’s sale and a contributor to its beautifully presented catalog.
Much of the Andrews collection and archives years ago found its way to Hancock Shaker Village, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum in Britain and Winterthur. The 138 lots that Skinner sold for $785,478 including premium were well loved and well used — pieces that the couple passed on to their children or that, according to knowledgeable sources, the family had offered privately over the years but had not sold. Two of the couple’s grandsons, Ted Andrews and Garrett Andrews, attended the sale. A third brother, Peter, lives and works in Lisbon, Portugal, and could not make it.
“We set the bar pretty high. We wanted to put together a superior catalog. We did pretty intense email marketing to the far reaches of the globe,” said Stephen Fletcher, executive vice president and chief auctioneer. Sprinkled through the catalog were the iconic duotone images by William F. Winters that illustrated the Andrews 1937 book Shaker Furniture: The Craftsmanship of a Communal Sect, where Fletcher and many others gained their initial exposure to Shaker design.
The Sunday afternoon sale drew Shaker enthusiasts to the firm’s Marlborough galleries. Many others participated by phone and Internet. Bidding through Skinner president and chief executive officer Karen M. Keane, one especially persistent phone caller claimed most of the day’s top lots. Was the mysterious buyer Philippe Segalot, the New York dealer in contemporary art who owns a country house in the Berkshires and made a splash at Willis Henry’s two-part McCue sale in 2012 and 2013? Traveling in Europe to attend Art Basel, Segalot informed Antiques and The Arts Weekly that he, alas, was not the one. “I bought a couple of pieces, missed some too,” he confirmed.
From Mount Lebanon, a compact loom bench in red paint with a shaped seat and one drawer beneath was a crowd pleaser. Estimated at $6/8,000, it sold to the phone for $52,275, underbid by Connecticut dealer David Schorsch.
“It was arguably the best thing in the sale,” said Russell.
Chichester, N.H., dealer Doug Hamel concurred. “My two favorite pieces were the loom bench and the two-drawer candlestands. I liked the first candlestand best. It was hardwood, the finish was nice and it had spider legs, a popular feature with the Shaker crowd.” The first table, of maple and cherry, fetched $55,275. The second, maple and pine with cabriole legs, brought $28,290.
An early Nineteenth Century New Lebanon rocking armchair with a four-slat back crossed the block at $18,450. But when an armless production rocking chair snatched a bid of $14,700, well above its $100/150 estimate, Fletcher wondered aloud if a Shaker spirit drawing was hidden in the webbing of its seat.
Filled with medicinal herbs when the Andrews found it in the nurse shop at the North Family in Mount Lebanon, N.Y., a circa 1860 pine and butternut cupboard with original paper labels still affixed went for $123,000, more than double its estimate. Its mate is at Hancock Shaker Village, the repository for most of the Andrews’ collection.
Hamel underbid the rangy Mount Lebanon schoolhouse cupboard and drawers that went to the phone for $110,700 ($60/80,000). “It’s a fascinating object. In a certain way it reminded me of the John Nicholas Brown desk and bookcase,” said Schorsch, summoning the memory of the Olympian Newport casepiece, sold for a record $12.1 million in 1989.
Surely one disappointment was a red-painted pine blanket chest attributed to Brother Gilbert Avery of Mount Lebanon, N.Y., 1837, that sold mid-estimate for $12,300. The Andrews acquired the widely published piece, which had been privately offered for $110,000, from the Second Family in Mount Lebanon in 1928.
Accessories are an important part of any Shaker collection and the Andrews’ group contained some desirable rarities. To David Schorsch went an 87/8-inch high stoneware pitcher with a Shaker-made lid, $5,166, and a rare tin hanging candle sconce, $5,535, illustrated in a Winters photograph.
A yellow painted bucket, $11,070, opened the session. Standouts among oval boxes included a three-finger example labeled “Irish Glue,” $7,380, and a five-finger example labeled “Queen of the Meadow,” $18,450.
A sampler worked by 11-year-old Charlotte M. Stevens, born in Hancock in 1808 but not conclusively proven to be a member of the Shaker community there, achieved $3,998. Other novelties included a Shaker mangle iron, $1,845, and, for tailoring, a pair of maple sock dryers, $2,583.
Works On Paper
The sale ended with Shaker labels and other works on paper, seeing a high bid of $7,380 for a mid-Nineteenth Century circular oval box lined with an herbal broadside. A first edition, second printing copy of the Andrews’ book, Shaker Furniture, with intact dust jacket crossed the block at $2,460 ($100/150).
“Steve Fletcher and Chris Barber did a great job. Good stuff brought strong prices and the rest reached its level,” said Doug Hamel, echoing the views of his colleagues.
Skinner returns to Marlborough on August 9 with the Howard Roth collection of early American iron and, on August 10, with a choice selection of sculptural Americana aimed at New Hampshire Antiques Week buyers.
For information, 508-970-3000 or www.skinnerinc.com.