Purchase Story

Primitive Paintings Color Auction

Hap Moore, York, Maine

They weren’t the priciest items on the block, but the flavor of Hap Moore’s June 24 auction in York, Maine, seemed to emanate from some primitive paintings and a nifty piece of classic Maine painted furniture.

A Prior-Hamblen school portrait of Mercy Dixon of Lebanon, Maine, came with no specific artist’s attribution. A handwritten letter from the consigning family suggested that the portrait probably was done sometime around the mid-1850s, possibly on the occasion of Dixon’s wedding. Stylistically it was as simple as a primitive portrait can be, with the attractive young lady posed before a swag-draped curtain and holding a rose in her left hand. The hand and facial features were simple and flat. With only minor condition problems, the painting seemed well worth the $1035 (including buyer’s premium) paid. The back was overlaid with masonite, so there is no telling what additional information might be underneath.

This unattributed Prior-Hamblen school portrait of Mercy Dixon of Lebanon, Maine, sold for $1035.

Young William Curtis must have been a budding artist and historian. A pencil inscription on the back of a primitive 24" x 36" watercolor identified him as its creator. It reads “Dewey at Manila / Drawn & Painted / By William Curtis [illegible] / Age 13 – 1898.” The Battle of Manila Bay happened on May 1, 1898, and the decisive victory by U.S. naval forces under the command of Admiral George Dewey effectively marked the end of Spanish colonization of the Philippines. Young Master Curtis must have taken up his pen and paints to memorialize the event. He got the historical details mostly right, showing the wreck of the Spanish vessels Isla de Cuba, Castilla, and others at the hands of the American fleet, led by the flagship U.S.S. Olympia. The watercolor sold for $718.75.

This delightfully naïve watercolor depiction of the Battle of Manila Bay by 13-year-old William Curtis brought $718.75.

Madison Tuck might not be a household name to anyone besides Edwin Churchill or readers of his scholarly volume titled Simple Forms and Vivid Colors: An Exhibition of Maine Painted Furniture, 1800-1850 (1983). According to Churchill’s book, Tuck was born in Fayette, Maine, in 1809. He relocated to Hallowell around 1830 and operated as a cabinetmaker until about 1840. He then left the furniture trade to pursue other ventures as a trader, butcher, and yeoman (a small farm cultivator). He also engaged in a series of land trades, which eventually netted him a series of foreclosures. That history would date a yellow-painted dressing table offered by Moore to between 1830 and 1840. The details of the decoration, particularly the edge trim and the stenciled fruit bowl on the backsplash, made the work attributable to Tuck. Another similar example of his decoration is on a yellow dressing table that currently resides in the Maine State Museum, a gift from Sam Pennington, M.A.D.’s cofounder. The example sold here was appreciated to the tune of $920.

Solidly attributed to Maine furniture maker and decorator Madison Tuck, this paint-decorated dressing table sold for $920.

The Horace Bundy portraits of William Merriam and Frances Jane Whitcomb Merriam sold jointly for $1035, but their unsigned and unnamed kid got no love at all. The poor baby got only $57.50.

Two portraits signed on the back by Horace Bundy (1814-1883) and dated 1849 came up together. Bundy was a self-taught itinerant artist who is known to have painted throughout eastern Massachusetts and northern New England. Bundy is well documented to have painted in the 1840s and 1850s in numerous towns in New Hampshire, including Fitzwilliam, where the subjects resided. He was also a licensed Adventist preacher and earned a dual living with his traveling preaching and painting. He often signed and dated his work on the back, as he did with the portraits of Frances Jane Whitcomb Merriam and William Merriam. The pair fetched $1035.

For more information, call (207) 363-6373 or visit the website (www.hapmoore.com).

The best of about 50 lots of silver in the sale was this six-piece coffee or tea service set by Edward Lownes of Philadelphia, circa 1820, that includes four pieces with highly detailed bird finials and three with equally detailed dog-head spouts. The set sold for $3680.

A variety of brass and bronze buttons were minted around 1789 to commemorate the inauguration of President George Washington, many with the honorific phrase “LONG LIVE THE PRESIDENT” either arching over or fully encircling the initials “GW.” This one had vaguely defined crosshatching or stippling in the field behind the initials. Apparently that’s an important detail to collectors. It went to a new home for $2070.

This 18k gold man’s watch by Patek Philippe, Geneva, Switzerland, with a 14k gold band, serial number 727719, sold for $2875. Hap Moore photo.

This 24" x 39" hooked rug with a classically romantic sleigh scene captured $460.

This splay-legged 18th-century pine tavern table sold for $402.50. Note the curiously nonmatching button feet and breadboard ends with cutout corners.

It was difficult to spot the signature on this 16" x 20" oil on canvas of a calf standing by a stone wall. But once it is located on the rock beside the stream bed, it is clearly that of Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), perhaps most famous for her oil on canvas known as The Horse Fair. The location under the signature is legible as “Paris.” Some significant chips and paint loss are the likely culprits that held the price in check to a reasonable $1035.

This Barbizon-type landscape is attributed via a plaque on the frame to “DAUBIGNY.” The problem is that there are at least three noted 19th-century French artists by that name. I squinted hard at it but was ultimately unable to discern a signature. For whatever it’s worth, my money is on Charles François Daubigny (1817-1878). At only 4½" x 10½", it is hardly his magnum opus, but the buyer’s money was on it for $2415. Moore affirmed that there is a faint signature on it but said that he was unable to determine for certain to which Daubigny it belongs.

This spectacularly ornate Asian rosewood tripod pedestal table with a brown marble-top inset topped out at $1150.

Bidders went full steam ahead for this 43" tall brass ship telegraph made by Robinson-Evershed of Liverpool, England, but then bidding came to a dead stop at $690

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

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