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Purchase Story

Jamaican House Painting Brings $100,000

Lita Solis-Cohen | April 26th, 2017

Freeman’s, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Photos courtesy Freeman’s

Freeman’s in Philadelphia can be counted on for at least one big discovery in its semiannual Americana sales. It lures the trade and serious collectors from all parts of this country to join the locals at presale exhibitions that are timed to coincide with the two major Americana antiques shows in the Delaware Valley—the Philadelphia Antiques & Art Show in April and the Delaware show in November.


Samuel Felsted (Jamaican, 1743-1802) painted Northeast View of the House of Emanuel Lousada, Kingston, Jamaica in 1778. Felsted was an inventor, musician, and artist, friend of Benjamin Franklin, and member of the American Philosophical Society. The artist signed and dated his work “S. Felsted Pinxit, 1778” in the lower left and inscribed it in a banner “A North-East View of the House of Mr. Emanuel Lousada, Kingston, Jamca.” The framed 24¼" x 31¾" oil on canvas sold for $100,000 (est. $10,000/15,000). According to Freeman’s catalog, it was consigned by a private collector in Virginia, and the Institute of Jamaica said a painting of a Kingston residence by S. Felsted dated 1778 had been offered for sale to the institute in 1947 by a London art dealer.

Samuel Felsted was born in Jamaica in 1743. His father was a London-born merchant who arrived in Jamaica in 1730 but was in Boston in 1737 (where he petitioned to establish a shop) and in 1741, before returning to Jamaica, married Joyce Weaver in Christ Church in Philadelphia. Samuel Felsted was a property owner by age 19 and baptized an Anabaptist when he was 20. He married Maria Laurence, daughter of a plantation owner, in 1770, and they had eight children.

In 1771, Felsted was one of four Jamaicans admitted to the American Philosophical Society. His interest was botany and butterflies. In his letter of recommendation, Dr. James Smith, a judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Jamaica, said he was “convinced of his [Samuel Felsted’s] merit in the three Sister Sciences: Poetry, Painting, and Music.” Felsted sent a design for a horizontal windmill to power sugar mills. He also served as organist at St. Andrew Parish Church in Kingston and is best known today as the composer of the first complete oratorio written in the Americas, titled Jonah, published in London in 1775.

According to the catalog, the splendid house in this painting belonged to Emanuel Baruh Lousada (1740-1797 or 1807), a Sephardic Jewish merchant, landowner, and trader in Kingston with family connections throughout the West Indies and London. (Other reliable sources online record his birth/death dates as c. 1744-1832.) He married an English cousin, Esther Lousada, who died in 1775, and later his brother Daniel’s widow, Rachel. The Lousadas traced their ancestry to Granada, Spain and frequently used the coat of arms seen in this painting. The family was active in the sugar and other businesses in Surinam, Barbados, Curacao, and Jamaica. Duncan Phyfe’s wife, Rachel, was a Lousada. (Her surname is spelled “Louzada” by Kenny and Brown in Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York, 2011.)

At Freeman’s sale on April 26, the big draw was Northeast View of the House of Emanuel Lousada, Kingston, Jamaica, painted in 1778 by Samuel Felsted, an inventor, musician, and artist, friend of Benjamin Franklin, and member of the American Philosophical Society. The artist signed and dated his work “S. Felsted Pinxit, 1778” in the lower left and titled it in a banner that reads “A North-East View of the House of Mr. Emanuel Lousada, Kingston, Jamca.”

Felsted is better known as an organist and composer than an artist. His oratorio Jonah,composed in 1773-74, when he was organist at Kingston Parish Church in Jamaica, was first performed in 1775. This first oratorio written in the Americas was published in London in 1775 with illustrations by Benjamin West, according to research by Thurston Dox that is available at the American Music Research Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Jamaica was a flourishing and fashionable island in the 18th century. Architectural competition abounded for the finest Jamaican/Georgian houses. The Lousada manse was clearly one of them. The Lousadas’ fancy coach with driver and post-boy is parked out front. It was probably emblazoned with the Lousada coat of arms, which appears in the upper right-hand corner of the painting.

Felsted was born in Jamaica in 1743 to English parents who were married in Philadelphia. He was baptized an Anabaptist in 1763 at the age of 20 and married Maria Laurence, daughter of a plantation owner, in 1770. They had eight children. In 1771, Felsted was accepted as a member of the American Philosophical Society. In support of his application for membership, Felsted sent drawings of Jamaican butterflies. Dr. James Smith, a judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Jamaica, wrote a letter of recommendation for “Mr. Samuel Felsted, an ingenious young Gentleman of good reputation…[and with] merit in the three Sister Sciences: Poetry, Painting, and Music, for which he has a natural genius.” After his admission to the American Philosophical Society, Felsted sent plans for a horizontal windmill designed to power sugar mills.

The owner of the grand house, Emanuel Baruh Lousada, was a prominent Jewish merchant, landowner, and trader in Kingston with family business connections throughout the West Indies and London. Lousada married an English cousin, Esther Lousada, who died in 1775, and he later married his brother Daniel’s widow, Rachel. The Lousadas traced their ancestry to Granada, Spain and frequently used the coat of arms seen in the painting.

Seven phone bidders and an absentee bidder competed for the 24¼" x 31¾" oil painting of the Lousadas’ house, and it sold on the phone to the trade for $100,000 (est. $10,000/15,000). The consignor was a Virginia collector.

There was much speculation before the sale that there would be museum interest in this painting. Furniture historians knew that on February 17, 1793, Duncan Phyfe married Rachel Louzada
(c. 1781-1851), a descendant of the New York branch of the Sephardic Jewish family, according to Michael Brown and Peter Kenny in Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York, the catalog for the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011. They also mention that an Isaac Louzada (c. 1776-1858) was a cabinetmaker in New York in the first decade of the 19th century. The family sometimes spelled its name with an “s” and sometimes with a “z.”

There were more staffers taking phone bids than the 20 or so bidders who came and went in the salesroom. The 230 lots offered in a small catalog with tiny print, easier to read online, were 85% sold by lot and brought a total of approximately $810,000 including the 25% buyer’s premium ($646,470 hammer), not quite mid-presale estimates $579,896/806,000, figured without buyers’ premiums. More sold on the phone and Internet than to bidders in the salesroom.

The sale began with a collection of Native American beadwork, pottery, baskets, textiles, and furniture that was consigned by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, founded by Saint Katharine Drexel in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. The facility has closed, and the sisters have moved to a retirement community in Maryland. Saint Katharine Drexel dedicated her life to bettering the educational opportunities and social condition of minorities and indigenous tribes. The proceeds from the sale of 51 lots, around $70,000, will go toward continuing the ministry and supporting the retired sisters.

A San Ildefonso blackware vase sold for $4063 (est. $1800/1200). A mission-made carved and painted dining table and three chairs made in the first half of the 20th century and decorated with polychrome geometric designs went to an online bidder for $3380 (est. $800/1200). From another consignor came a Northwest Coast carved wood speaker’s staff collected by Dr. Bertrand K. Wilbur (1870-1945), scion of the Wilbur Chocolate Company, and it sold for $5313 (est. $1000/1500). Lancaster, Pennsylvania, dealer Steve Smoot, a specialist in Native American wares, was the major buyer and offered some of his purchases for sale at the York show two weeks later.


The San Ildefonso blackware pottery plate by Maria (1887-1980) and Julian (1879-1943) Martinez with black-on-black geometric motifs, signed on the underside “Marie + Julian” and 13 5/8" in diameter, sold for $3750 (est. $1000/1500). The San Ildefonso blackware pottery vase, signed on the underside “Marie + Julian” and decorated with black-on-black motifs, 12¾" high, 5 1/8"diameter, sold for $4063 (est. $800/1200).


This Navajo eyedazzler rug in red, cream, navy, teal, orange, and brown, 44" x 71", sold for $4688 (est. $600/800).


A Navajo silver and leather concha belt sold together with a silver squash blossom necklace (not shown). The necklace has a central pendant mounted with a turquoise stone; the belt is 36" long, early 20th century, and they sold for $5000 (est. $800/1200).


This Northwest Coast carved wood speaker’s staff, collected by Dr. Bertrand Kingsbury Wilbur (1870-1945), scion of the Wilbur Chocolate Company, sold for $5313 (est. $1000/1500). Wilbur had worked as a physician in Alaska, and when a brother died he returned to Pennsylvania to run the family’s chocolate factory.

The market for relics is brisk. Two Walt Whitman (1819-1892) gold hair rings and a carte de visite sold as one lot on the phone to a Whitman scholar for $20,000 (est. $3000/5000). The carte de visite is a photograph of Whitman with Harry and Kitty Johnston, the children of close family friends, taken by William Kurtz, a well-known photographer in New York.


Not shown are two Walt Whitman (1819-1892) memento gold hair rings (1881 and 1878) that sold with this carte de visite of Whitman in New York. The lot sold for $20,000 (est. $3000/5000). Kitty and Harry Johnston, in the photo with Whitman, were the youngest children of New York jeweler John Henry Johnston (1837-1919) and his wife, Amelia F. Johnston (d. 1877). According to the Walt Whitman Archives quoted in the catalog, Johnston “provided personal and financial support for the aging poet and housed him for long stays in New York in the 1870s.” Whitman stayed at the Johnstons’ summer house at Mott Haven on the Harlem River to finish editing his new edition of Leaves of Grass. All of the Johnston children affectionately called him “Uncle Walt.” The lot was accompanied by a photocopy of a handwritten note: “...Walt W.’s hair cut from his head by Alm. Cald. J. in 1881 / W.W.’s hair cut from his head at 1309 Fifth Avenue on July 1878.”

Furniture prices were reasonable. A Federal painted and decorated pine blanket chest with tall, splayed French feet and hearts and tulips painted on a blue ground sold for $5000 (est. $2000/3000). A Lancaster County architectural blanket chest with the name “M=Bucher” and dated 1784 that descended in the family of the consignor sold on the phone for $13,750 (est. $8000/12,000). Windsors were good buys. A set of eight grain-painted birdcage Windsor side chairs sold on the phone for $2500 (est. $1500/2500), and a bamboo-turned Windsor settee sold to the trade for $1125 (est. $1000/2000).


Four Philadelphia painted and gilded Classical mahogany klismos chairs, circa 1825, 34" high, in need of some conservation, sold for $6875 (est. $600/1000).

There was good competition for two Chinese export brass-banded and studded leather-covered camphorwood traveling trunks, and they sold together for $4063 (est. $800/1200). There was less interest in orange Fitzhugh pattern China trade porcelain. One lot, consisting of an oval serving platter, a warming dish, and four saucers with the initials “EAT” for Edward and Ann Thomson, sold for $2250 (est. $1500/2500). Edward Thomson was a merchant in the China trade.

A collection of quilts and coverlets from the McLin family of Washington County, Tennessee, 1830-1910, sold well. The McLin women were known for their weaving and quilting skills passed from mother to daughter to granddaughter. A Morning Star quilt by Rachel Blackmore McLin or daughters, Washington County, Tennessee, 1850-60, of cotton in red and white and green prints on a muslin ground, with feather and parallel quilting, 72" x 90", sold on the phone for $4375 (est. $1500/2500). Another Morning Sun or New York Beauty pieced quilt with a sawtooth border of printed red and green cotton patches on a white muslin ground by the same quilters, with the same date and the same size, sold for the same price. Lynda Cain, who heads Americana at Freeman’s, said some of the quilts and coverlets were bought by Tennessee institutions and by McLin family members.


This Morning Sun or New York Beauty quilt by Rachel Blackmore McLin or her daughters, Washington County, Tennessee, 1850-60, was pieced with printed red and green cotton pieces on a muslin ground and heightened with feather and parallel line quilting. Measuring 72" x 90", it sold for $4375 (est. $1500/2500).

“There was interest in Americana fresh to the market, and numerous bidders from the South, new to Freeman’s, participated in the bidding,” said Cain. “The Jamaican painting of such historical significance brought people who had never been to Freeman’s before. Our small but intriguing sale showed there is indeed great interest in Americana.”

For more information, call (215) 563-9275 or check the website (www.freemansauction.com).


Two bidders wanted the circa 1775 David Rittenhouse (1732-1796) clock in a walnut case. Its silvered dial was probably engraved by James Smither, an English immigrant active in Philadelphia from 1741 to 1797, and its case is branded twice “I. Parrish,” probably for Isaac Parrish, an early owner. According to the catalog, the clock was owned by Peter Ozeas, who died in 1824, the great-grandfather of William Keehmle Ramborger, who bequeathed it to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1919. Philip Bradley apparently bought it when the hospital sold it and then sold it to a Virginia collector, who consigned it to the Freeman’s sale. It sold on the phone for $68,750 (est. $30,000/50,000), underbid by a Philadelphia collector in the salesroom. It has new feet and some repairs to its pediment, but the finials are original, and the rococo engraved silver dial is first-rate.


This framed United States Civil War era patriotic 34-star flag, 18½" x 28", 1861-63, sold for $5625 (est. $1000/2000). Considerably rare, 34-star flags were official for only two years during the Civil War under Abraham Lincoln. The 34th star is for Kansas, admitted to the Union on January 29, 1861.


The miniature carved and painted redheaded woodpecker, stamped by A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952) of  East Harwich, Massachusetts, with the species identifications in ink and “7” in pencil on the base, 2 3/8" high x 3" long, sold for $1125 (est. $1000/1500). It was the top price of a group of Crowell miniatures. Others (not shown) from the collection sold for $875 apiece or did not sell.


This was the cover lot—a painted and decorated leather and felt parade hat for the Franklin Fire Company in Germantown, Philadelphia, 1840-60, decorated with a polychrome portrait of Benjamin Franklin within a banneret inscribed “Franklin Fire Compy,” surrounded with gilt foliate flourishes, and the date 1764 on the back with gilt initials “W.G.” on the top. The hat is numbered “92” on the inside band, the underside of the brim is painted green, and it retains its paper liner and leather inner brim. Measuring 6½" high and 13¼" in diameter, it sold on the phone for $18,750 (est. $8000/12,000) to dealer David Wheatcroft. He said that the following week he bought another hat from the same fire company in even better condition for the same hammer price at a sale at Kaminski Auctions in Beverly, Massachusetts. According to Kaminski’s catalog, it had been purchased at a yard sale in Milton, Massachusetts, from a family formerly of Pennsylvania. Wheatcroft now has a pair! At Kaminski’s he paid $18,000 (with 20% buyer’s premium). The 1764 date refers to the founding of the Franklin Fire Company, organized in March 1764 in the Upper Ward on Franklin Street in Philadelphia. The heyday of parade hats was from 1840 to 1860. According to Freeman’s catalog, a related hat is at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.


Originally published in the July 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest

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