Review & Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Catalog Photos Courtesy Devin Moisan Auctioneers
EPPING, N.H. – For most of his business career, Devin Moisan resisted the trend of conducting online auctions. Those days are past now and his sales, two or three a year, are online only, with absentee bids accepted. Moisan and cataloger Rebecca Davis do an outstanding job of describing each lot, using multiple photos, and often the two add original research to whatever may be obvious, or told to them by consignors. Their description of lot 25, a Newcomb College art pottery pitcher, is an example of the additional research often done even though it was unlikely to be the most expensive item in the sale. Moisan has a large gallery, and although his October 29-30 auction of Americana and decorative arts included more than 1,200 lots, all could easily be examined by those previewing the offerings.
Several items in the sale had New Hampshire connections, including furniture made in the state and items from the Wendell house in Portsmouth. There was a selection of Hampshire art pottery and a selection of studio pottery by Ed and Mary Scheier, there were pieces of silver made in New Hampshire, stereographs of New Hampshire scenery, a painting by a Canterbury, N.H., Shaker sister and more. There was also a wide selection of early American and English furniture, Staffordshire, Flow Blue, flint enamel Bennington, silver and Inuit carvings, along with several books. The sale also included a large collection of well-organized marbles and some unusual, one-of-a-kind offerings like a collection of printed Edward Tesla patents. A wide variety of artwork was offered and the three highest prices in the sale were achieved by paintings.
Lilly Martin Spencer’s “Basket of Strawberries” sold for $19,375, the top lot in the sale. She lived from 1822 to 1902 and was a respected artist both in her day and afterward, with works exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Academy and the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. She is best known for domestic scenes and portraits.
A watercolor and gouache marine scene by Montague Dawson (1895-1973) brought the second highest price, selling for $10,313. It depicted a fully rigged sailing yacht in a choppy sea, with a smaller yacht in the background. A label on the reverse indicated that it had “formally been the property of Arthur L. Shipman Jr. Purchased at Auction Sale for benefit of Wadsworth Atheneum, May 10, 1957.” Rounding out the top three lots was a watercolor by Chiura Obata (1885-1975), a Japanese/American painter, and the scene was titled “Country Road, Concord.” A rural winter scene by Forrest K. Moses (1893-1974), dated 1965, earned $5,625. “View of Clough’s Pond” by Canterbury Shaker sister Cora Helena Sarle (1867-1956) brought $1,375; a handwritten label on the back was inscribed “Provenance given to W.S.M. by Eldress Bertha Lindsay.”
Selling for $6,563, the fifth highest price, was a 5½-inch-tall Newcomb College art pottery pitcher decorated by Katherine Severance Wraight, New Orleans, La., in 1905. It was fully marked, including the initials of the potter, Joseph Meyer. It remained in the Wraight family until it was consigned to Moisan. The extensive catalog description indicates that Wraight was a student at Newcomb College from 1902 to 1906 and details much of her life after that. She was also known to design jewelry, often including pieces of pottery.
The sale included more than a dozen pieces of Hampshire pottery made in Keene, N.H. Several of the pieces had been designed by Cadmon Robertson in the years between 1904 and 1914. He was superintendent of the works, and a chemist as well, credited with devising more than 900 glaze formulas. A 7-inch-tall vase with a deeply curdled matte green glaze, with an oval paper label reading “Hampshire Pottery, Keene N.H.” brought $688. Other pieces, in a variety of glaze colors, sold between $125 and $594. Moisan has developed a reputation for selling Scheier studio pottery and there were seven pieces in this sale. Husband and wife, Ed and Mary Scheier worked and taught at the Durham campus of the University of New Hampshire for more than 20 years, starting in the 1940s. A 10-inch footed bowl with the typical Scheier incised and sgraffito decoration of anthropomorphic figures conjoined with vertical fish, earned $1,188. Other pieces ranged between $250 and $813.
Of the several lots of silver, a Tiffany & Co. sterling silver seven-piece tea and coffee service was the most popular with bidders. Made in the Egyptian Revival style, probably between 1892 and 1902, and weighing 269.03 troy ounces; it realized $8,750. A circa 1904 set of six sterling silver candlesticks, each 13 inches tall, made by Howard & Co. of New York brought $4,688.
There were some pleasant surprises in the mix of country and formal American furniture. A New Hampshire four-drawer bowfront chest, attributed to Stephen Ross, Salisbury, N.H., sold for $4,063, well above the estimate. It was constructed of birch, with satinwood inlays, including a small fan on the skirt. An early pine stepback cupboard in old red paint with scrolled wrought iron hinges, with Colonial Williamsburg in its provenance, earned $3,750. An early pine chimney cupboard with traces of red, double panel door and pinned hinges reached $2,375, also well over the estimate. Another early chimney cupboard, cataloged as Eighteenth Century, with three open shaped shelves brought $2,250.
Some unusual Americana included two early tavern signs. One was double-sided, with an eagle holding an American shield and a brace of arrows above the name, “S. Akin.” It sold for $3,625 and had its original iron bound frame and wrought iron chain. The other, with wrought iron brackets, was believed to have originated in Connecticut. It was double-sided and depicted a sheaf of wheat with a rake and scythe and the name “W. Jones” and sold for $2,625. Also in the Americana offerings was a large handsome elm burl bowl that was almost 25 inches wide, with large carved hand holds and a scraped interior; it finished at $3,125.
We don’t often write about marbles, but this sale included a large collection that was divided into about 100 lots. It was extensively described and displayed and some were sold individually, some were on gameboards, some were sold in mason jars and some in display cases. A red and white onion-skin example, more than two inches in diameter, with red spotting and traces of blue in the pontil was expected to be the star of the collection, and it was, realizing $1,500. There were several sulphides. A group of six with birds and animals brought $375 and another, with an encased numeral “2” brought $125. Several were sold on solitaire “General Grant” gameboards, each with 33 marbles. Prices varied, depending upon the marbles on the board, with the highest being $1,000 for one with handmade marbles, including Indians, onion skins and peppermints. A lot of three mason jars filled with clay marbles brought $281.
The varied sale combined Americana with paintings and a wide assortment of material. A few days after the sale, Moisan said he was pleased with the results. “It went well, especially the paintings. We had to really do our homework on some of the items, like the Spencer painting and the Newcomb College piece, but I’m glad we took the time. The prices justified the extra time. We did over $640,000, which I’m pleased with. There were several hundred people watching the sale on the online platforms. We’re all pleased.”
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For additional information, 603-953-0022 or www.moisanauctions.com.