• EAST DENNIS, Massachusetts
  • /
  • September 20, 2016

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James Edward Buttersworth yacht racing scene.

East Dennis, Mass. – The Robert C. Eldred Co., Inc. opens its fall auction season October 15 with the 540-lot Marine Art Auction, highlighted by a James Edward Buttersworth yacht racing scene and 60 lots of scrimshaw from the Thomas Mittler Scrimshaw Collection, widely regarded as the best scrimshaw collection to come on the market in 30 years.

Thomas Mittler, who owned a large welding supply company in the Midwest, began his scrimshaw collection in 1969 after attending an antiques show. His collection was the subject of the 2015 book, “Through the Eyes of a Collector: The Scrimshaw Collection of Thomas Mittler”, by scrimshaw historian Nina Hellman of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Mittler died suddenly in 2010 at age 67. This is the first time items from his scrimshaw collection will be up for sale.


The 60 lots offered in the auction include exceptional scrimshaw whale’s teeth and panbone pieces as well as whaleman-made utilitarian items like pie crimpers, watch towers and busks. Notably, many of the pieces were created by recognized scrimshanders including the Brittania Engraver, Edward Burdett, Ceres artisan William Gilpin and the Bank Note Engraver. Highlights include an extremely rare whalebone birdcage, purportedly Mittler’s favorite item from his collection, a large pair of finely detailed scrimshaw walrus tusks by J.A. Tuthill, a cased whaleman-made swift, and a scrimshaw whale’s tooth by the Lady Wellington engraver featuring a fish face on the tip and whaling scenes on the obverse and reverse. Pre-sale estimates range from $300/$500 to $50,000/$100,000.

Whale's teeth from the Thomas Mittler Scrimshaw Collection.

“From the moderate pieces to the high-end teeth, each item is exceptional,” said William Bourne, company vice president and head of Eldred’s Marine Art department. “It is a pleasure to handle such a concentrated collection and certainly one of the best to come on the market in years.”

The sale also includes a recently discovered James Edward Buttersworth painting depicting an October 26, 1875 New York Yacht Club race between the Dauntless and the Mohawk off Sandy Hook. The painting descended in the same family for more than 100 years and has never before been offered for sale. The painting has a pre-sale estimate of $250,000/$350,000.

“The Buttersworth is a truly exceptional discovery having descended in the same Massachusetts family for generations,” said Joshua Eldred, company president. “It is also in a remarkable state of originality and preservation retaining its original frame and pine backing boards. We are honored to handle such and important work by one of the true masters of maritime art.” 

The Buttersworth is one of nearly 150 paintings included in the sale. Other significant 19th Century works include a sunset coastal scene by Francis Augustus Silva, estimated at $20,000/$30,000, a portrait of the Cunard steamship S.S. Servia by Antonio Jacobsen, also estimated at $20,000/$30,000, a fishing scene by Edward Moran, estimated at $10,000/$15,000, and six works by Massachusetts artist Charles Henry Gifford, which have estimates ranging from $1,200/$1,800 to $18,000/$22,000. The sale also features a private Connecticut collection of paintings by contemporary maritime artists including Anthony D. Blake, Maarten Platje and Roy Cross.

Also featured in the sale are 100 lots of yachting memorabilia from the Estate of Robert Tiedemann of Newport, Rhode Island. Tiedemann, who owned a Newport yacht charter company, began restoring vintage yachts as a teenager and is credited with helping revitalize Newport’s rich yachting history. He passed away in 2006 at age 56. Items in the Robert Tiedemann Collection include paintings, ship models, nautical instruments and apparatus, Rosenfeld photographs, and period tableware from 19th and early 20th Century yachts.

Other items of note in the sale include an exceptional nest of Nantucket Lightship baskets attributed to Andrew Jackson Sandsbury, estimated at $30,000/$40,000, a silver travel cup that accompanied celebrated Naval officer John “Mad Jack” Percival when he captained the U.S.S. Constitution on her only circumnavigation, estimated at $12,000/$18,000 and a 1914 logbook from the America’s Cup defender Resolute, also estimated at $12,000/$18,000. The sale also includes antique navigational instruments, including a circa 1830 Hatton & Harris gimbaled chronometer, estimated at $7,000/$10,000, as well as a fine group of sailor-made boxes.

“From top to bottom this is a very diverse and very strong sale,” Bourne said. “From the Mittler Collection, through the pieces from Bob Tiedemann’s estate and other fine consignments, this is the best auction of maritime collectibles we have put together in years. There is something that will appeal to everyone from the novice to the very experienced collector.”

All lots from the Marine Art auction can be viewed online at www.eldreds.com. Catalogs are available for purchase for $23.00 including shipping and handling ($24.00 for Massachusetts and Connecticut residents). Select highlights from the sale will be on view at the company’s Mystic, Conn., gallery October 5 and 6. All lots will be included in the sale preview at the firm’s East Dennis, Mass., headquarters, Friday, October 14.

The Marine Art auction will also take place at the company’s headquarters, located at 1483 Route 6A, in East Dennis, Mass., on Saturday, October 15, beginning at 10 a.m. EST. Interested bidders can visit www.eldreds.com or call 508-385-3116 to register to bid via phone, absentee bid or online. Online bidding hosted by Invaluable.com will also be available. Those wishing to bid live in the audience may register at the offices the day of the auction.

About Eldred’s

The Robert C. Eldred Co. is New England's oldest established antiques and fine arts auction house, now in its third generation of ownership under the Eldred and Schofield families at the same location on Cape Cod’s historic Old King’s Highway in East Dennis, Massachusetts. The firm also has an office at 5 Roosevelt Avenue in Mystic, Conn. Eldred’s conducts approximately 25 auctions per year encompassing Americana, paintings, Asian art, European decorative art, maritime antiques, sporting art and collectibles. It was recently named one of the top worldwide auction houses by Art + Auction.


For more information please call (508) 385-3116 or email info@eldreds.com.

Cheryl Stewart
508-385-3116 x128

Robert C. Eldred Co., Inc.
1483 Route 6A
P.O. Box 796
East Dennis, Massachusetts

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