EAST DENNIS, Mass. – A pair of masterpiece scrimshaw whale’s teeth by Eli Bangs, Jr., a China Trade ship portrait that descended in the family of a Cape Cod ship captain and a complete eight-volume set of Captain Cook’s Voyages are some of the highlights in Eldred’s Marine Sale, a 750-lot auction scheduled for July 19 and 20 at the firm’s headquarters in East Dennis, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod.
Capt. Cook Captures Attention
In recent years, the firm has positioned itself as the nation’s leading marine art auction house. “In 2016 we had the Mittler Collection, and at last summer’s Marine Sale, we set the world record for a piece of scrimshaw when we sold a tooth engraved by Edward Burdett for $456,000. To be in a position where we’ve put together another similarly strong, if not better sale this year, is unbelievable,” said Joshua Eldred, president of the company.
The first two lots of the sale are the pair of unique teeth by Eli Bangs, Jr. and a tooth to in scrimshaw circles as “The Map Tooth”. The large and lavishly polychromed pair by Eli Bangs, Jr., with depictions of a standing woman, full-rigged ships and Napoleon on horseback, a view after Jacques-Louis David’s “Napoleon Crossing the Alps”, were described as “scrimshaw of the first magnitude of any scale of measure – masterworks” by noted scrimshaw scholar Stuart M. Frank, senior curator of the New Bedford Whaling Museum and Founding Director of the Scrimshaw Forensics Laboratory.
The pair carries a $350,000/500,000 estimate. Eli Bangs, Jr. (1836-1923) is believed to have served on just one whaling voyage, aboard the Helen Mar from 1856 to 1861. He is credited with only two other works of scrimshaw, The examples include a mantle ornament. Plus, bidders will be presented with a smaller pair of teeth. Both are in the permanent collection of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
Uncommon Map Tooth May Bring $80,000
The “Map Tooth”, which has a finely detailed map/chart of New Bedford Harbor on the obverse and an active whaling scene on the reverse, is illustrated in Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders, Whales and Whalemen by E. Norman Flayderman. Flayderman purchased the tooth from Meylert Armstrong, now considered the preeminent scrimshaw collector in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. The only known example of another tooth depicting such a meticulously rendered map is in the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s collection. “It is an extraordinary opportunity to buy an exceedingly rare and interesting tooth,” said Bill Bourne, head of Eldred’s Marine Art department. The tooth has a $60,000/80,000 estimate, but early interest in it has been very strong, Bourne remarked.
The sale also features scrimshaw from the collection of Arthur and Sara Jo Kobacker of Nantucket and Carl and Sonia Schmitt of Walla Walla, Washington. Eldred’s sold the first 48 lots from the Kobacker Scrimshaw Collection in its November 2017 auction for almost $700,000. The last 91 lots from the Collection appear in this auction. Furthermore, they include scrimshaw whale’s teeth and walrus tusks, pie crimpers, swifts and Napoleonic Prisoner-of-War items.
Notable items include a Britannia Engraver tooth with a dynamic scene of a whale stoving a boat, estimated at $30,000/50,000, a Ceres Artisan tooth with a portrait of a sailor’s family, estimated at $20,000/30,000, and a carved whale ivory snake-form pie crimper with scrimshaw and mother-of-pearl inlay, estimated at $10,000/15,000. Items in the collection range in estimate from $300/500 for a pair of carved bone serving tongs to $50,000/100,000 for a Pagoda/Albatross tooth with whaling and onshore scenes.
“It’s a wonderful group collected for many years by Sara Jo and Arthur, full of intriguing and unique examples,” Bourne said. “There’s a whimsical tooth with whales, whaleboats and cartoon-like speech bubbles saying things like, ‘Must I Cut?’ and ‘Cut Line’, and I’ve never seen anything like it. What an honor it has been to handle this collection.”
Bourne also expressed similar thoughts about the Carl and Sonia Schmitt Collection. “For many years the Schmitts built a fine folk art collection, primarily from leading dealers and the top auction houses. They delved into marine art, acquiring a small but selective group, and some particularly exceptional pieces of whaleman art.”
Selection of Scrimshaw Tops 250 Items
Highlights from the Schmitt Collection include a tooth engraved during one of Darwin’s expeditions.
While aboard the Beagle, crewmember James Adolphus Bute, took to carving the tooth. It carries an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. In addition, a whalebone busk engraved with a whaling scene and poem, may bring $7,000-$10,000. A sailor’s shellwork valentine that appears in "Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders, Whales and Whalemen" by E. Norman Flayderman is on offer. It also appears in "Marine Antiques," by Marian Klamkin. It's estimate is $3,000 to $5,000. The Collection also includes three Napoleonic Prisoner-of-War carved bone items. The collection includes a spinning jenny, a sword sharpener and a unique, barrel maker. It's estimate is $5,000 to $7,000. Plus, the remainder of the Schmitt’s folk art collection will appear in Eldred’s Americana and Paintings Auction in early August.
“Between the Kobacker Collection, the Schmitt Collection and pieces from other private collectors, we have more than 250 pieces of scrimshaw in the sale, ranging from affordably priced pieces for young collectors to rare and valuable pieces for the experienced collector,” Bourne remarked.
In addition to scrimshaw, the sale includes a large collection of harpoons, document boxes and other whaling-related items, as well as important ship models, China Trade material and more than 130 marine paintings.
Chinese School Ship Paintings May Bring $120,000
Two Chinese School ship portraits, both housed in their original Chinese Chippendale frames, descended in the family of a Cape Cod sea captain. With an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000 and $70,000 to $100,000, they are among the feature lots in the sale. Other notable China Trade paintings include two scenes of Whampoa Anchorage and two sets of port views, all carrying estimates between $18,000/22,000 and $25,000/35,000.
Anticipated top paintings include “Treacherous Cove” by Thomas Birch (Pennsylvania, 1779-1851), one of America’s first marine painters, estimated at $40,000/60,000, two views of ocean-going vessels by Montague Dawson (British, 1890-1973), both estimated at $40,000/60,000, and “Sloop Yacht Below Hudson Highlands” by Elisha Taylor Baker (New York/Connecticut, 1827-1890), estimated at $30,000/50,000. In addition, the sale also includes five ship portraits by Antonio Jacobsen (American/Danish, 1850-1921), ranging in estimate from $6,000/9,000 to $15,000/25,000, as well as a number of pieces by contemporary marine artists Anthony D. Blake, William R. Davis and William G. Muller.
Both sessions of The Marine Sale, on Thursday, July 19 and Friday, July 20, will begin at 10 a.m. EST. Eldred’s ito register tobid via phone, absentee bid or online. Online bidding hosted by Invaluable.com will also be available. Interested bidders can visit the firm’s website or call 508-385-3116
For more information, visit www.eldreds.com.