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1870s minstrel figure headlines folk art collection set to sell

A headlining lot from a folk art collection on offer at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries' Feb. 11-12, is a late 19th century carved wooden minstrel figure.

THOMASTON, Maine – The lifetime folk art collection of Leo Wilensky is on offer through Thomaston Place Auction Galleries. The Winter Auction is February 11-12.

This folk art collection will be on offer without reserve on Feb. 11. The selection includes museum-caliber examples of American folk art, colonial furniture, paintings, and accessories. Offerings from multiple family collections will follo to conclude the day on February 11 and Sunday, February 12.

'Breathless' Finds in Folk Art Collection

Carved minstrel figure

American carved minstrel figure, circa late 19th century, may realize between $125,000 and $175,000. (All photos courtesy of Thomaston Place Auction Galleries)

Thomaston Place owner and auctioneer Kaja Veilleux noted, “When we walked in to view Mr. Wilensky’s items in his New York countryside home, the quantity and quality of the folk art took our breath away. We hope it will leave our buyers breathless, too.”

Thomaston Place accepts bids on-site, as well as absentee, telephone, and via Thomaston Live, BidSquare, Invaluable, or Live Auctioneers). The buyer’s premium is 17% for live, telephone, and absentee bidders, and 20% for online bidders.

A circa 1870 American carved wooden minstrel figure is one highlight. The item depicts the image of “Jim Crow” or “Daddy Rice”. The characters are part of the history of theaters or cigar shops. It carries an estimate of $125,000 to $175,000.

Historic Carved Trade Figure May Command $100,000

A tobacconist trade figure of an American Indian is a headlining lot. The figure is by William Rush (1756-1833). Its role includes greeting visitors at a 19th century Philadelphia shop. It's estimate is $75,000 to $100,000. This may be the earliest surviving example of a Native American figure used as tobacco advertisement.

A large, circa 1820s portrait depicting a prosperous family of five is among the fine art lots. Possibly by Ammi Phillips (NY/CT, 1788-1865), the painting's estimate is $80,000 to $100,000. Other paintings in the collection include works by John Sherburne Blunt (1798-1835), William Henry Machen (1832-1911), and Erastus Salisbury Field (1805-1900).

An important 19th century weathervane in the form of an American fire engine steam pumper drawn by two horses will be offered. Its monumental width (more than 7-feet) adds to its rarity and desirability. It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.

American Furniture Focus of Folk Art Collection

Family portrait

Early 19th century portrait depicting a prosperous family of five, possibly by Ammi Phillips (NY/CT, 1788-1865).

The folk art collection also includes a superlative selection of American furniture, led by a circa 1760-70 mahogany Chippendale block and shell form chest attributed to the Townsend-Goddard furniture shop ($100,000-$150,000). This three-drawer chest with molded top is raised on ogee feet and retains what appear to be the original brasses. It is accompanied by a Christie’s appraisal of $175,000 from 1980.

An Eastern Massachusetts 1690-1710 joined oak and pine pilgrim century chest with molded panel drawers and black lacquered trim will also be presented ($30,000-$40,000).
Other furniture highlights include an uncommon circa 1750-70 Delaware Valley red painted child-size highboy in original condition ($30,000-$40,000), and two pieces of 19th century paint decorated Mennonite made “Soap Hollow” furniture from Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

Of historic interest will be an early 19th century mahogany and rosewood liquor chest with brass inlay reputedly owned by Commodore William Bainbridge (1774-1833), known for his victory over the HMS Java during the War of 1812. Inside the lid is an etched mirror depicting an American eagle with an ‘E. Pluribus Unum’ riband ($10,000-$15,000).

Antique Textiles to Cross Auction Block

The auction also includes an unusual and highly detailed patchwork quilt dated 1876 depicting a marriage scene with church, village houses and people ($20,000-$30,000). This important textile was featured in the May 1934 issue of The Magazine Antiques, with “The Editor’s Attic” describing it as “the best of an excessively rare type.”

Highlighted among the many fine items to be sold in the general fine art and antique auction will include: a portrait of George Washington ($75,000-$150,000); a humorous oil on panel Old Master work titled “The Joke” ($40,000-$60,000); a pair of Josiah Loring desktop terrestrial and celestial globes in their original stands, dated 1833 and 1834 ($8,000-$10,000); an early 20th century bronze inkwell by Tiffany Studios in the form of three standing scarabs ($7,000-$9,000); and a 19th century painted tin anvil and hammer form blacksmith trade sign marked “Taft’s” from Millville, Massachusetts ($7,000-$9,000).

The auction will begin at 11 a.m. Eastern each day. For more information, visit or call 207-354-8141.