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Skinner, Inc will host an auction of American Furniture and Decorative Arts on Sunday, March 6, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. in its Boston gallery, 63 Park Plaza, Boston. The sale features an exciting example of ship portraiture, a collection of firefighting material, and some exceptional Portsmouth furniture.
William Bradford’s 1853 oil painting The Whaleship Speedwell of Fairhaven Outward Bound off Gay Head descended in the family of Captain Benjamin J. Gibbs, the ship’s first and only master. This 24 x 36 inch work is in the original gilt-gesso frame and accompanied by the Speedwell’s daybook, kept by Benjamin J. Gibbs. Previously exhibited at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the painting is a lively scene depicting the Speedwell cutting through turbulent water under full sail past smaller ships. The piece is estimated at $100,000 - $150,000.
An eclectic collection from the family of Col. Rockwell Campbell Tenney includes firefighting items such as leather fire helmets, brigade buckets and the sale’s cover lot, a rare and extraordinarily detailed working “squirrel tail” pumper model. The late 19th century working model of the hand-drawn and hand-pump engine, known as the “Red Jacket”, is made of brass, plated in nickel and painted. The model bears a placard identifying it as a facsimile of the engine owned by the Red Jacket Veteran Firemen’s Association of Cambridge, Massachusetts and containing a challenge from W.T. King, noted expert on steam fire engines, to “play this model against any other of its size for $100 a side.” The model is estimated at $40,000 - $60,000.
Some beautiful examples of Portsmouth furniture, passed down through the prominent Portsmouth mercantile Simes family, are drawing early interest. The rare Federal flame birch and mahogany veneer reverse serpentine chest of drawers is elegantly proportioned and features ivory inlay and slightly flared tall French feet. It is estimated at $20,000 - $30,000. A rare Queen Anne carved walnut veneer high chest of drawers, attributed to Joseph Davis c. 1735-50, according to family history once belonged to John Wentworth, British Colonial Governor of New Hampshire from 1767 – 1775. According to the consignor, the Simes family bought the chest at a 1776 auction conducted by Portsmouth’s city fathers to pay the former governor’s debts, left unpaid when he fled from the Revolution with his family and settled in Nova Scotia. The estimated value is $50,000 -$75,000.
The first lots of the auction will be 26 miniature waterfowl figures from a single collection, carved by A. Elmer Crowell (1862- 1951), a friend of the original collector. The pieces are estimated between $600 and $1,500 each. From the same collection is a dwarf clock by Joshua Wilder of Hingham, Massachusetts, c. 1821-24. Standing 52 inches, the clock is estimated at $30,000 - $50,000.
Also being offered is a painted pine and maple chest, made by Edmund Titcomb of Newbury Massachusetts c.1700, coming to Skinner from the Historic Winslow House in Marshfield, Massachusetts. In American Furniture, 1620 to the Present, Jonathan Fairbanks and Elizabeth Bidwell Bates called this a “key specimen of the cabinetmaker’s art in New England … recognized as one of the rare signed and documented examples of the second major style of furniture making in this country.” The chest is estimated at $100,000 - $150,000. Proceeds will benefit the maintenance and conservation of the Historic Winslow House collection.