April Americana at Skinner: Old Surfaces Abound; Two Connecticut Collections Featured
The April Americana online auction consists of over 850 lots of quality American furniture, decorative and folk art, and paintings from the 18th through early 20th centuries. The sale is gathered from collections built over decades, property from private collectors, talented members of the trade, and institutions; the auction contains breadth and depth and will give buyers quite a bit to look at, linger over, and love.
The Judi & Cy Stellmach Americana Collection
Skinner is honored to be offering Judi and Cy Stellmach’s well-known collection as a centerpiece of the April sale. The collection is defined by a rustic aesthetic of mellow, old surfaces, lovingly worn textiles, and early paint. All of it was collected and curated with care and a talented eye for design into the three-quarter cape house in Stafford Springs, Connecticut that the Stellmachs bought in 2002 (in, fittingly, intact antique condition). The collection is replete with objects defined by phrases like “unrestored,” “natural surface,” “as-is,” “original red,” and “make-do,” and which celebrate the collectors’ love of early craft and New England ingenuity. The collection appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of A Simple Life Magazine, an article in which Judi credits John Kirk’s 1975 work, The Impecunious Collector’s Guide to American Antiques, as an inspiration. That book changed the antiques business upon its publication and shaped Judi’s approach from that point. Kirk’s influence is evident throughout—in the furniture, the antique and primitive lighting, the well-used household goods, and in recognition of the charming and sometimes poignant refusal of early New Englanders never to throw anything away.
Property from the Collection of Donald Ballou Reid
Also giving the sale an early focus is property from the collection of Donald Ballou Reid, from his 18th century property called Butternut Farm in Glastonbury, Connecticut. He filled the farmhouse with period antiques, many made or used in Connecticut—painted tall chests and blanket chests, banister-back chairs, bottles, brass, and early lighting. Wall boxes and small cupboards populated the walls, alongside oil landscapes and early portraiture, needleworks, and 18th century prints.
Property of Historic Deerfield
Skinner is once again pleased to be working with Historic Deerfield in the deaccessioning of property, the sale proceeds of which benefit the Historic Deerfield Museum Collections Fund. The consignment consists of a very nice group of 18th furniture—cupboards (both slant-back and corner), blanket chests (one in a bright blue color), early painted tables, and a Windsor comb-back armchair of fine quality. Smalls include carved birds, early lighting, a good burl bowl, and an especially nice horse and sulky weathervane. Rounding out the group is a varied and interesting collection of schoolgirl needleworks and watercolors.
Furniture in the sale ranges from formal urban and “high country” furniture to more primitive pieces made by rural cabinetmakers. Leading the category are a fine Chippendale Block-front desk made in Massachusetts, c. 1760-80, a half-sideboard by talented Vermont cabinetmaker Rufus Norton (who was responsible for only two known works until the discovery of this piece), and a tall clock by Bridgewater, Massachusetts, maker Samuel Rogers, whose works are seldom found. A contrast between old and new is drawn in two pieces of bedroom furniture—a red/brown-painted and carved chest of drawers with scrolled and valanced skirt by the Dunlap family of New Hampshire, and a carved tiger maple version made by the shop of 20th century Hingham cabinetmaker Eldred Wheeler, whose furniture has been well competed for in recent years. Chairs, case furniture, candlestands, and worktables in all shapes and styles, mainly from New England, are represented well.
A collection of a few dozen pieces of mocha and other slip-decorated wares is led by examples exceptional for their size, their exuberant decoration, or their design, or all in combination. Standouts include a very modern-looking covered jug in bold black and blue bands, a monumental barrel-form pitcher with pressed and checkered designs, and three pieces with desirable “fan” decoration: a pepper pot, pint mug, and creamer.
Led by a Paul Revere Tablespoon having a possible association with the Spooner family of Boston and a rare George Washington inaugural button, the sale’s small objects and decorations are varied and appealing. There is 18th century Chinese export porcelain, early 19th creamware, and mid-19th century redware and stoneware. A handful of weathervanes are led by a nice early horse and rider example and an impressive large stag, c. 1930.
Color shows strongly through the folk art offered in the sale—a brightly painted ice cream shop sign, several game boards including a vibrant and graphic ring toss game, a group of carved birds by renowned 20th century New Hampshire carver Jess Blackstone, two figural fraktur, painted boxes, and a variety of portraits, landscapes, and watercolors by unknown artists.
Previews & Catalogs & Events
We invite you to preview items, ask questions of our specialists, and learn more about the auction process at Skinner. Appointments are required to ensure safety and health; please contact 508.970.3200 or [email protected].
The auction brochure can be viewed and downloaded online.
Americana specialists Stephen Fletcher, Chris Barber, and Christopher Fox will be leading an informal virtual tour of highlights for the April auction, brimming with impressive examples of American craftsmanship. The Skinner team will highlight items from the current auction, with information on the objects and their collectors, and answer participant questions. Join us live on Zoom Wednesday, April 7 at 5PM. Register here.
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