Purchase Story

Fresh Kensett Painting Tops $1 Million

A September 18 online sale described as “small   and exclusive” by Cottone Auctions, Geneseo, New York, netted $3.75 million, with a painting by John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872), a Navajo chief’s blanket, and a circa 1870 timepiece setting the pace.

Singing Beach & Eagle Rock, Magnolia, Massachusetts by Kensett, a Hudson River school painter, sold for $1,080,000 (including buyer’s premium), well over the $200,000/400,000 estimate. One of a number of lots from the Buffalo, New York, collection of Mr. and Mrs. Roy W. Doolittle Jr., the beach scene had not been on the market since the 1950s, said auctioneer Matt Cottone. “This is one of [Kensett’s] more important works,” Cottone added.

Singing Beach & Eagle Rock, Magnolia, Massachusetts by John Frederick Kensett, $1,080,000. Photo courtesy Cottone Auctions.

Singing Beach & Eagle Rock, Magnolia, Massachusetts by John Frederick Kensett, $1,080,000. Photo courtesy Cottone Auctions.

The collection of the Calculagraph Co., East Hanover, New Jersey, featured a number of clocks, including an E. Howard & Co., Boston, astronomical hanging regulator #49 that went for $174,000 (est. $50,000/80,000). Cottone called it a rare and premier example. It had been purchased by Calculagraph to help calibrate instruments it invented.

A 44" x 59" handspun striped chief’s blanket, 1860-70, netted $162,000 (est. $40,000/60,000). It has an interesting back story. A photo that accompanied the lot shows Red Cloud, a Sioux chief, meeting with Othniel Marsh, a paleontologist, in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1883. The blanket purportedly was a gift to the scientist, who while digging for fossils in Dakota Territory noticed what he thought were deplorable conditions on some reservations and reported them to the government.

The 169-lot sale had a small selection of furniture, Chinese porcelain, and majolica, plus a number of Tiffany lamps and Favrile vases. “There was great interest in the lamps from collectors,” Cottone said. A circa 1910 Dragonfly table lamp netted $153,600 (est. $60,000/80,000) after furious bidding. Several other lamps exceeded their estimates, and a Tiffany Studios stained-glass window estimated at $15,000/25,000 sold for $44,400.

Cottone said the trend with art is toward contemporary, but he was happy that the Kensett proved an exception. Two modern pieces sold well. Maternité by Vietnamese artist Vu Cao Dam (1908-2000) brought $21,600 (est. $8000/12,000), and a 1983 etching and aquatint by Ed Ruscha (b. 1937), Sea of Desire, sold for $19,200 (est. $10,000/15,000).

A heavily marketed French painting by Jules Joseph LeFebvre (est. $50,000/80,000) was bid to $44,000 but was passed. Cottone said afterward that the oil, Morning Glory, had later sold but declined to give the price.


Originally published in the December 2021 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2021 Maine Antique Digest

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