Skinner Inc.

Auctioneers and Appraisers

Author Archives: Christopher D. Fox

Americana Exceptionalism

A legacy of beauty, ingenuity, and craftsmanship in Skinner’s August Americana auctions

Rare Early Red-painted Pine Hanging Cupboard with Glazed Watch Window and Silver Pocket Watch, 18th century (Lot 28, Estimate: $4,000-6,000)

Skinner’s tradition of notable Americana sales continues with auctions on August 12 & 13 and an online auction August 6-14.  The two-day and online sales comprise nearly 1500 lots of fine American folk art, furniture, ceramics, and maritime antiques.  Day 1 kicks off the auction with two outstanding collections, the Collection of Gail and Don Piatt and the Arthur & Sybil Kern Collection of American Folk Art, Part I.  The Piatt collection features a delightful array of fine country antiques with an emphasis on early New Hampshire painted furniture, samplers, lighting, decorative arts, and painted miniature smalls.  Highlights include:

Watercolor Lipe-Lambert Family Record, William Murray, Vermont, 1806 (Lot 278, Estimate: $6,,000-8,000)

The Kern collection is encyclopedic in its representation of New England folk art.… Read More

The Tom and Adelle Hersh Collection of Mennonite Quilts of Waterloo County, Ontario

Mennonite ‘Steeplechase’ Quilt, St. Jacob’s, Waterloo Counter, Ontario, c. 1910 (Lot 544, Estimate $400-600)

Skinner is pleased to offer selections from the Tom and Adelle Hersh Collection of Mennonite Quilts from Waterloo County, Ontario. It is a collection that Canadian quilt historian, Carol Telfer, describes as “an important piece of western Ontario textile history.”  Most of the collection was assembled in the 1980’s, an era when many families were moving from the country to the city.… Read More

A Panoramic View of the Town of Boston in 1815

At Skinner we are privileged to be able to offer extraordinary items in all categories of antiques and fine art. Items of great historical importance are also regularly consigned for auction. Sometimes the objects are well known; often they are not or have not been seen for generations. The November 19 American Furniture & Decorative Arts auction features a beautiful watercolor panoramic view of the Town of Boston (Lot 2) that has been lovingly housed in a private collection since World War II.… Read More

Commemorating a Fallen General in Cast Iron

Cast Iron General Wolfe Fireback, 18th century (Lot 34, Estimate $2,000-3,000)

For centuries cast iron firebacks have decorated the insides of fireplaces and typically, served two primary functions. Firstly, they protected the wall at the back of a fireplace from the excessive heat of the hearth’s fire. This was particularly important in chimneys constructed of daub (a mixture of clay and straw over woven sticks or branches). The secondary function of a fireback is to radiate heat from the fireplace into the room.… Read More

War of 1812 History Recorded on Wood

Naval battle scenes have been popular subjects in American art for centuries, and actions during the War of 1812 inspired a great number of such works. For obvious patriotic reasons, in nearly all cases the scenes depict American victories. However, on occasion a remarkable work surfaces that captures the drama of naval combat from another perspective. A wonderful overmantel painting on wood (Lot 224) in the February 27 American Furniture & Decorative Arts auction records the battle between an American and a British frigate after the former slipped past a British naval blockade.… Read More

Keeping the Past Alive: Silver Tankard Tells a Fascinating Story

Silver Tankard

Objects with old inscriptions or accompanied by even a shred of historical information often offer great potential for further research.  Sometimes that research opens a window illuminating largely forgotten past events.

John Swan’s silver tankard, made by John Burt, Boston, Massachusetts, c. 1740 (Lot 10, Estimate $4,000-$6,000)

One such object is an 18th century silver tankard made by Boston silversmith John Burt, which is on offer in our Fall American Furniture & Decorative Arts Auction (2855B) on October 25th in Boston. … Read More

Buckets, Pails, and Firkins; What’s the Difference?

Buckets were used to draw water, such as from a well. Five Staved Wooden Containers (Lot 1132, Estimate $400-$600)

Whether painted or undecorated; staved or tinned, with or without lids; utilitarian buckets, pails, and firkins have for over a century, been popular with collectors. Like so many things with the passage of time, the terminology that is used to describe these humble objects has become muddled.  I have always been a firm believer that when describing historical objects, we should describe them today as they were described during their original period of use.… Read More