August Americana at Skinner: Bidders find Comfort for their home, from their homes. Auction totals $1.8m

August Americana showcased fresh-to-the-market property owned by a variety of consignors who trusted Skinner to handle their collections with the care, honesty, and expertise for which Skinner has developed a reputation over their decades in business.

Property of Various Owners

A legendary, but long-dormant connoisseurs collection purchased quietly from many of the best dealers of the late 1960s and early 1970s produced some of the best prices and most competitive bidding. This included the auction’s top lot, a rare, diminutive, and extraordinary scalloped-top chest of drawers on frame from the Deerfield, Massachusetts, area, distinguished from other pieces of furniture in the same well-studied group by the dramatic shape of the top, and the overall remarkable state of its preservation. The standout piece brought $137,500.

Cherry Chest of Drawers on Frame, Deerfield, Massachusetts, area, late 18th century, sold for $137,500

Other furniture from the same Collection included the “MH” Hadley chest (sold for $62,500), a rare and early wing chair (sold for $50,000), and a bizarrely unique marble-top table with wonderful history from Concord, Massachusetts (sold for $17,500).

Queen Anne Upholstered Easy Chair, probably Boston, Massachusetts, c. 1725-35, sold for $50,000

Other furniture highlights included a classic Massachusetts block-front chest (sold for $27,500), a Philadelphia high chest of drawers (sold for $21,250) with understated (for Philadelphia) embellishments, and a subtle, calming, and downright useful blue-gray-painted cupboard (sold for $16,250). In all, over 140 pieces of furniture were sold, and furniture accounted for 8 of the sale’s top 10 lots.


Rare and early smalls also created a stir  – English salt-glazed stoneware, other early ceramics, needlework pictures, pocketbooks, and wallets. Some of the ceramics that proved quite desirable were a 1755 dated pitcher with sgraffito decoration colored in cobalt blue and referencing King George (sold for $3,750), and a pair of polychrome tin-glazed wall pockets (sold for $5,313).

Staffordshire Scratch Blue Decorated Salt-glazed Stoneware Jug, England, sold for $3,750

Several needlework pictures brought well into the four figures, including an especially colorful 17th century example which topped them all at $5,000.

Folk Art

There were strong prices among folk art and painted furniture as well. One of the most inspected and talked about objects in the sale was a small carved and painted figure of a Native American, which appeared to be a model for a mid-19th century ship’s figurehead. All that inspection and talk was not for nothing, and bidders drove the price on the 14-inch tall figure to $21,250.

Carved and Painted Model for an Indian Chief Figurehead, America, 19th century, sold for $21,250

Paintings were led by a Ralph Cahoon work titled Ship Ablaze (sold for $25,000) showing a shipboard fire being fought from the docks, and a full-length Prior-Hamblen School work of a girl in a salmon-red dress, which brought $13,750. A late 18th century needlework sampler from Marblehead (sold for $10,625), and a paint-decorated chest of drawers from Vermont with exuberant surface (sold for $9,375), helped to round out the top lots of folk offerings.

The Kolar Collection

The Kolar Collection, at its core, a group of Pennsylvania and Ohio painted furniture, redware, and fraktur, all of which attracted considerable interest. Devotees of the category phoned, emailed, and traveled for private, socially-distanced viewings by appointment to gather information about the material. A rare blanket chest from Sugar Creek Township in Tuscarawas County, Ohio (sold for $33,250) led the Collection.

Paint-decorated Dower Chest “Noah Mali,” Sugar Creek Township, Tuscarawas County, Ohio, 1846, sold for $33,750

Painted boxes, were led by a stylish dome-top from Somerset County, Pennsylvania, whose design incorporated pinwheels and hearts (sold for $5,625). Redware produced good prices, too, especially for a plate from the Dry Pottery in Berks County (sold for $5,000). Fraktur, that very Pennsylvania folk product, accounted for approximately two dozen lots of the Kolar sale, and were led by a rare house blessing (sold for $4,688). The Collection was also recognized for its Windsor chairs, one, in particular, produced great competition, a Rhode Island example in powder blue paint (sold for $11,250).

Shaker Collections

Shaker Collections, consisting of 189 lots, about 80% of which were from two well-put-together collections built over many years. Top prices in Shaker Collections, as is often the case, were well balanced between smalls and furniture. A yellow-painted cupboard (sold for $9,375), a butternut ten-drawer tall chest (sold for $5,938), and a red-painted chest of five drawers from Watervliet (sold for $3,625) accounted for some of the top furniture prices.

Shaker Yellow-painted Cupboard over Drawers, Hancock, Massachusetts, or New Lebanon, New York, 1840, sold for $9,375

Shaker classics like a bittersweet oval pantry box (sold for $6,875), a white-painted dipper (sold for $5,313), and yellow-painted bucket initialed “MC” (sold for $5,000) headlined the smalls. Also drawing noteworthy attention were a rare candle shelf (sold for $4,063) and a blue-painted buggy box (sold for $5,000).

Consignments welcome for fall 2020 auctions.


About Skinner

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