Kelton Collection Leads Eldred’s Annual Marine Sale August 13

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East Dennis, Mass. – Eldred’s annual summer Marine Sale is highlighted this year by the Kelton Collection of Marine Art and Artifacts, a wide cross-section of paintings, ship models and rare navigational instruments amassed by California businessman Richard Kelton over a 30-year period. The annual auction, believed to be the only dedicated marine art auction in the U.S., will be held Thursday, August 13 at the firm’s headquarters on Cape Cod, and will also include an extensive selection of scrimshaw, prisoner-of-war ship models and other nautical antiques.

William Bradford's portrait of the clipper ship Golden West, part of Eldred's annual Marine Sale
William Bradford’s portrait of the clipper ship Golden West, part of Eldred’s annual Marine Sale

Kelton, who died 2019, was an avid yachtsman and explorer, and a prolific collector, much of it focused on marine art and the Pacific Ocean. In 1982, he established the Kelton Foundation to sponsor archaeological and ethnographic expeditions, and to exhibit, loan and research his collection, estimated to number 5,000 items. Eldred’s will be offering more than 200 lots from his collection in a series of sales through 2021, although the bulk of the material is part of this particular Marine Sale.

Highlights include four ship portraits by Samuel Walters (British, 1811-1882), ranging in estimated from $12,000/18,000 to $20,000/30,000, a circa 1742 Davis quadrant by John Dean II, estimated at $5,000/8,000, and a circa 1843 American builder’s plating hull model of the Canton packet Cahota by William H. Webb, estimated at $3,000/5,000.

Gregg Dietrich, Senior Consultant at Eldred’s, has worked with Richard Kelton since the early 1990s and said, “It is an honor to be working with this collection again. Mr. Kelton loved the history behind marine art and antiques he purchased, which is evident by the amount of research that he put into each piece he collected. I will miss his perspective and dedication to researching and understanding the pieces he collected.”

The anticipated top lot from the Collection is a portrait of the clipper Golden West of Boston by William Bradford (American, 1823-1892), estimated at $60,000/80,000. The ship is depicted outward bound, departing on her maiden voyage to San Francisco in 1852. The clipper was active in the Pacific and California trades, and she still holds the record for the fastest sailing passage between Japan and San Francisco – 4,876 miles in just over 20 days. The 32” x 48” oil on canvas is described in the catalog as a formal painting, particularly in comparison with Bradford’s whaleship images, and that it seeks to capture the search for speed under sail.

From the Kelton Collection, paintings by John Lynn, the Yorkes, Duncan McFarlane, Antonio Jacobsen, Joe Duncan Gleason and other noted 18th, 19th and 20th Century marine artists will also be included, as will several builder’s half hull and tank test models, and six 18th and 19th Century instruments, notably a rare Victorian angle barometer, estimated at $3,000/5,000, and a circa 1770 azimuth and steering compass by George Adams, retaining its original labels, estimated at $5,000/8,000.

Several other private estate and collections will also be represented in the sale, principally an Important Newport, Rhode Island collection that includes two views of the schooner Coronet, one by 19th Century artist Franklyn Bassford, estimated at $30,000/40,000 and one by contemporary marine painter John Mecray, estimated at $40,000/60,000. 

From the collection of J. Revell Carr, director emeritus of Mystic Seaport, is a backstaff quadrant that belonged to noted maritime historian Marion Brewington, and Brewington’s personal annotated copy of his seminal volume Navigating Instruments published in 1963. Both pieces were gifted to Carr by Marion Brewington and his wife Dorothy, in commemoration of their long and close friendship. The quadrant carries a $6,000/8,000 estimate and the book a $700/1,000 estimate.

“The Brewington backstaff is a wonderful addition, both for its historic value as an instrument and its connection with Brewington,” said Bill Bourne, head of Eldred’s Marine Art department.

For several years running, Eldred’s has been at the forefront of the scrimshaw market, setting the world record price for the whaleman handicraft. This year’s offerings are “a nice group of scrimshaw with several higher end pieces,” Bourne said.

The top scrimshaw lot is a whale tooth engraved by Edward M. Burdett, a Nantucket whaleman and a pioneer of American scrimshaw, whose short but prolific career produced what are widely considered masterpieces of the genre. As typical of Burdett’s pieces, the tooth depicts whaling scenes and is engraved with the ship name “William Tell”. This example, estimated at $140,000/180,000, is also signed “Engraved by Edward Burdett”.

A whale tooth signed by whaleman William Sizer, dated 1834 and robustly engraved with patriotic and maritime motifs, carries a $50,000/100,000 estimate. It is one of two teeth by Sizer in the sale; the other is engraved with a floral compote and a portrait of a woman in Renaissance clothing and carries a $3,000/5,000 estimate.

Other noteworthy pieces of scrimshaw in the sale include a snake-form pie crimper, estimated at $10,000/15,000, a pair of walrus tusks engraved with an intriguing array of Hawaiian, British and American motifs, estimated at $3,000/5,000, a dresser box with extensive ivory and exotic wood inlay, estimated at $4,000/6,000, a whalebone sailboat toy, estimated at $3,000/5,000, and a meticulously engraved tooth by the aptly monikered Banknote Engraver, estimated at $10,000/15,000.

The sale will also have a number of more moderately estimated pieces appropriate for entry-level scrimshaw collectors, such as simple utilitarian items and teeth with rudimentary engravings. The whaling section is rounded out with more than 30 lots of harpoons, as well as logbooks, bottles of whale oil, and photographs and other ephemera.

Nearly 60 ship models are in the sale, notably several prisoner-of-war examples, a superbly detailed miniature model by Donald McNarry, a cased model of the whaleship Charles W. Morgan, and fine pond models. Estimates range from $300/500 to $15,000/25,000, based on complexity, age, material and maker.

Other important paintings in the sale include “The Stone Jetty” by Montague Dawson (British 1890-1973), estimated at
$70,000/100,000, a pair of seascapes by James Edward Buttersworth (Anglo/American, 1817-1894), estimated at $60,000/80,000, and four works by Robert Salmon (Anglo/American, 1775-c. 1851), estimated between $5,000/7,000 and $40,000/60,000.

Garnering significant early interest is an exceptionally carved billethead, estimated at $1,500/2,000, and a figurehead in the form of the goddess Demeter, estimated at $1,500/2,500. The nearly 450-lot sale also includes several Boston Artistic carved wooden eagle plaques, yachting memorabilia, Nantucket baskets and many items from other areas of collecting interest.

“It’s a pleasure to present such a well-balanced and diverse Marine Sale,” said Joshua Eldred, CEO and president of the firm. “As always, we want to include something that will appeal to every collector, and we feel this sale certainly does that. We’re looking forward to another exciting auction.”

All lots in the Marine Sale can be viewed on Eldred’s website,, and a catalog is available to order by mail. The auction will be held at the firm’s headquarters, located at 1483 Route 6A, East Dennis, Mass., beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern. The auction is slated to have limited floor bidding; please call 508-385-3116 to pre-register. Phone, absentee and online bidding also available. A public exhibition is scheduled for August 12, but private preview appointments are also available. As Massachusetts advisories pertaining to the spread of COVID-19 could impact bidding options and exhibition schedules, prospective bidders are encouraged to confirm these by calling 508-385-3116 or visiting the website.

About Eldred’s
The Robert C. Eldred Co. is New England’s oldest established antiques and fine arts auction house, now in its third generation of ownership within the Eldred family. In addition to its headquarters on Cape Cod’s historic Old King’s Highway in East Dennis, Mass., the firm also has an office at 5 Roosevelt Avenue in Mystic, Ct. Eldred’s conducts approximately 25 auctions per year encompassing Americana, paintings, Asian art, European decorative art, maritime antiques, sporting art and collectibles. Eldred’s, the nation’s leading marine art auction house, conducts approximately 25 auctions per year encompassing Americana, paintings, Asian art, European decorative art, sporting art and collectibles in addition to marine art. It was recently named one of the top worldwide auction houses by Art + Auction and holds auction records across a wide range of collecting areas.

For more information please call (508) 385-3116 or email [email protected].

1483 Route 6a
East Dennis, Massachusetts
[email protected]

About Eldred’s

Eldred’s is New England’s oldest established antiques and fine arts auction house. Approximately 25 auctions are held year-round encompassing Americana, Asian Art, Americana and European paintings, European decorative art, Maritime antiques, and collectibles.

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