Review By Rick Russack, Photos Courtesy Eldred’s
EAST DENNIS, MASS. – Now in its 75th year, Eldred’s conducted its Fall Sale on November 17-18; it grossed $1.3 million. Bidders could choose from more than 700 lots, including 250 paintings, three of which were by Vietnamese artists and led the sale, as well as numerous works by Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century American artists, and Twentieth Century Cape Cod artists. There were also Elmer Crowell carvings and other decoys, nautical accessories, Eldred Wheeler furniture, historical documents, Eighteenth and Nineteenth furniture, Chinese export porcelains, Oriental carpets, Nantucket baskets, a Samuel Robb cigar store figure, early firearms and more.
Seven paintings were among the most successful lots of the sale, which was started – on the second day – by three paintings by Vietnamese artists: two by Vu Cao Dam (1908-2000) and one by Le Pho (1907-2001). One of the Vu Cao Dam works, depicting a mounted rider and two women, and the Le Pho painting of a mother and child, tied for the sale’s first place honors, as each brought $68,750. Vu Cao Dam studied at Hanoi’s Ãcole des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine and later in Paris. He was influenced by French impressionists and his subjects usually included studies relating to his homeland and its people. The second painting of his in the sale also depicted a mother and child and sold for $43,750. Le Pho also studied in Hanoi, also went to Paris, and was a close friend of Vu Cao Dam. These three paintings came from the same seller, and each sold to phone bidders, with Vietnamese bidders in competition and one selling to a buyer in Israel.
Three American paintings also finished high on the second day. A scene of waves crashing against a rocky shore by William Trost Richards (1838-1905), which may have been painted in England, realized $35,000. One of four works by Martha Farham Cahoon (American, 1905-1999) was in this group. It depicted subject matter characteristic of Cahoon family artists; in this case, a unicorn with a mermaid emerging from the water. It earned $15,000. Another work by Cahoon – “Jack Jumping Over the Candlestick” – featured different subject matter and did not fare as well, bringing just $531. A snowy winter scene, titled “Fifth Avenue, New York City” by Guy Carleton Wiggins (American, 1883-1962), rounded out the three most sought-after American paintings, finishing at $21,250.
More than 100 lots of furniture were on offer, with a set of six late Eighteenth Century Pennsylvania Chippendale side chairs earning $33,750. Each had bow-shaped crest rails with scrolled ears and shell carving. The set had a strong Pennsylvania provenance, descending in the Nicholls family back to Pennsylvania Governor Joseph Hiester (1752-1832, in office 1820-1823). A circa 1780 Pennsylvania Chippendale wingchair, stripped of upholstery, also did well, bringing $12,500. An Aaron Willard Roxbury tall case clock, circa 1810, realized $8,750. The face was signed “Aaron Willard Boston” and the mahogany case was attributed to John Doggett. The moon phase movement included a second sweep and a calendar dial. A refinished circa 1780 Massachusetts Chippendale block-front slant-front desk earned $3,250.
The Eldred Wheeler furniture company, which made fine quality reproductions of Eighteenth Century furniture were on hand, as well as examples by other makers; all continue to be popular. An Eldred Wheeler tiger maple block-front four-drawer chest sold for $13,750. After the sale, Eldred’s vice president, Bill Bourne, said that the block-front chest was an exceptional piece and would have required many hours of work to carve the three shells and the ornate bracket base. He said “it may have been a special-order piece. I don’t remember seeing it in its catalog, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it sold for pretty close to that price when it was new.”
In all, there were ten pieces of furniture by the company, founded in the 1970s, in the sale. A fan-carved miniature chest-on-frame earned $2,375. Some auctioneers find that early beds are not easy to sell but there were three Wheeler beds, each sold, with a king size tiger maple example, still in the original packaging, selling for $4,375. A set of six bow-back Windsor side chairs, made by the Warren Chair Works, with an antiqued black and red finish, realized $3,500. Josh Eldred commented that several collectors of early American furniture use these high-quality reproductions in their summer homes on the Cape. “They do better with the salt air and weather conditions here so we’re seeing collectors using these pieces in vacation homes.”
Chinese export porcelains and other arts were well represented. Bidders reacted positively to a Nineteenth Century circa 1802 reverse painting on glass, “Apotheosis, Sacred to the Memory of George Washington,” which sold for $25,000. It was based on an 1800-02 print by John James Barralet and Simon Chandron of Philadelphia. It showed Washington rising from his tomb guided by figures representing Genius and Immortality as figures of Faith, Hope and Charity look on. At the base of the tomb were symbols of America, including an eagle, shield, Lady Liberty and a Native American man with headdress and tomahawk. Bidders also liked a late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century pair of export porcelain cranes, each standing 22 inches, which sold for $2,640. A set of eight Nineteenth Century pith paintings on paper brought $2,500. Six of the eight depicted butterflies and flowers and two depicted exotic birds in a floral landscape.
Folk art sold on the first day included a circa 1890 cigar store Native American princess by Samuel Robb. She had an early painted surface and wore a headdress, belt, etc. She was holding a rose and multiple boxes of cigars. According to the catalog, roses were carved on Robb’s later maidens to honor the death of his wife. It came from the collection of Robert Shelton, owner of Old Tucson Studios and was said to have been used in Western movies of the 1960s shot there; it made $25,000.
Also sold on the first day was a small, single owner collection of decoys and miniature carvings. The gem of the collection was a full set of 25 miniature songbirds, circa 1925, carved by Elmer Crowell. Full sets are rare, especially sets of songbirds, and this set included Crowell’s original typed and handwritten receipt, which lists all 25 birds and the original price, $125. The bottom of each bird was numbered, corresponding with the receipt. The set had been purchased directly from Crowell and remained in the consignor’s family until this sale. It sold for $31,250. Also included were miniatures by Virginia carver Frank Finney. Generally known for his bird carvings, this collection had four miniature whales, including a 12-inch narwhal, which sold for $938 and a carved and painted humpback whale that swam to $1,125.
Nautical items included sailors’ valentines, both Nineteenth and Twentieth Century examples. A well-done mid-to-late Twentieth Century example with small shells surrounding a portrait of a woman sold for $688. Two double-cased Nineteenth Century examples each earned $2,500. A Nineteenth Century six-board sea chest earned $563, and a brass-bound camphor-wood chest went out for $531. A 38-inch wooden sailor made model of the Liverpool packet Hottinguer, together with a framed print of the ship, sold for $938.
After the sale, Josh Eldred said, “it was good to see the preview so well attended. There must have been over 200 people come through.” When asked, he said that the company would probably be doing 25 sales next year. Bill Bourne said, “Phone bidders were very active and, of course, so was the internet. We had about 20 bidders in the room for the sale and they were successful bidders on many items and underbidders on more. Our sell-through percentages have been strong for the few sales and we passed just a few items this time.”
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For additional information, 508-385-3116 or www.eldreds.com.