• EAST DENNIS, Massachusetts
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  • February 18, 2022

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Scrimshaw whale's tooth by the Banknote Engraver with extensive provenance.

East Dennis, Mass. – “It’s a really good variety,” said Bill Bourne, vice president and head of the department, talking about the 350 lots in Eldred’s Marine Sale on February 24, at the firm’s headquarters in East Dennis, Mass., on Cape Cod. “We have a very select group of scrimshaw, whaling irons, prisoner-of-war material, paintings, instruments – something for every marine art collector.”

Highlights include scrimshaw whale’s teeth attributed to the Banknote Engraver and Ceres Artisan William A. Gilpin, paintings by Antonio Jacobsen and Joseph B. Smith, and early navigational instruments. The vast majority of the sale is sourced from private collections and is new to the market, Bourne said.

The sale includes about 60 lots of scrimshaw, notably a unicorn-form pie crimper, estimated at $12,000/15,000, a pair of polychrome whale’s teeth depicting portraits of George and Martha Washington after paintings of the couple by John Wollaston and Charles Wilson Peale, estimated at $40,000/60,000, and a girthy tooth abundantly engraved with whaling motifs, estimated at $25,000/35,000. The Gilpin tooth, estimated at $50,000/100,000, is subtly inscribed “Elizabeth”, the name of Gilpin’s wife, in the proscenium arch on the obverse. This is in identical fashion to a tooth signed “W A Gilpin” that connected a name to the formerly anonymous scrimshander “Ceres Artisan A”. The tooth also depicts a full-length figure of Hope, patriotic emblems and ship portraits.

The Banknote Engraver tooth, which depicts a whaling scene on the obverse and a full-rigged ship and a schooner on the reverse, descended in the family of whaleman Willard Brown and is accompanied by an old typewritten note reading, in part, “Debby’s great, great grandfather sailed on a three year whaling expedition as ships carpenter and did this work to pass the time”. This note and genealogical research could provide the identity of the hitherto anonymous “Banknote Engraver”. It carries a $50,000/70,000 pre-sale estimate.

“The Gilpin and Banknote Engraver teeth are rarities and potentially historically significant,” Bourne said, also mentioning that Dr. Stuart M. Frank, curator emeritus of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, had vetted the Banknote Engraver tooth. “But there’s also some nice mid-range folk art pieces,” he said, pointing out an engraved horse-form crimper with its ears intact, estimated at $700/1,000, and a polychrome tooth attributed to the Star Engraver depicting two birds perched above a five-pointed star and a Liberty shield, estimated at $3,000/5,000.     

Other whaling-related items in the sale include about 30 whaling irons from the Collection of Michael Gill, many of them with provenance to Bob Hellman of Nantucket, as well as several antique prints and whaling-themed paintings and whale carvings by Clark Voorhees, Jr. and Aletha Macy.

A fine selection of prisoner-of-war items includes a bone bodkin carved as a soldier, estimated at $4,000/5,000, a boxwood model of a 110-gun ship of the line, estimated at $1,000/1,500, a coquille nut snuff box carved in the form of the French ship of the line “Marengo”, estimated at $2,000/2,500, and a double-domed game box with fine figural carvings, estimated at $2,500/3,000. Several of the pieces being offered were once part of the Lloyd Collection and are illustrated in The Arts and Crafts of Napoleonic and American Prisoners of War 1756-1816 by Clive L. Lloyd.  

Nine paintings by Antonio Nicolo Gasparo Jacobsen (American/Danish, 1850-1921) are included in the sale, ranging in estimate from $1,500/2,500 for a 16” x 23” portrait of the clipper Rainbow to $15,000/20,000 for a 22” x 36” view of the auxiliary steamship Somerset.

Other notable paintings include a Joseph B. Smith (American, 1798-1876) portrait of the Adelaide, estimated at $10,000/15,000, an expansive view of an American ship in the Harbor of Naples by Giovanni Serritelli (Italian, 1810-c. 1880), estimated at $7,000/10,000, and “Schooner Sacramento at Albion, California” by contemporary artist David Thimgan (American, 1955-2003), estimated at $5,000/8,000.

Adding to the sale’s variety are items from two private collections: The Collection of Dr. Donald W. Sample of Annapolis, Maryland and the Kelton Collection of Marine Art & Artifacts.

“Dr. Sample was a beloved and longtime customer of Eldred’s,” said Josh Eldred, president of the firm. “We’re pleased to be offering the first group of items from his extensive collection in this sale, including some prisoner-of-war pieces as well as fine half hull models, antique navigational instruments and paintings.”

The Kelton Collection includes some important paintings by Thomas Whitcombe and William Gay Yorke, and a great group of fresh-to-market instruments, Eldred said. Highlights include a circa 1820 British reflecting circle by Thomas Jones and a circa 1885 hydrographic survey quintant by Henry Porter, both estimated at $2,000/3,000.

Eldred’s Marine Sale will offer online, absentee and phone bidding. In-person bidding to be determined, pending COVID-19 guidance at the time of the auction. The auction will begin at 9:30 a.m. Eastern. A public exhibition will be held February 23; previewing also available by appointment. All lots can be viewed at www.eldreds.com, and a printed catalog is available to order by mail.   


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 within the Eldred family. In addition to its headquarters on Cape Cod’s historic Old King’s Highway in East Dennis, Mass., the firm also has an office at 5 Roosevelt Avenue in Mystic, Ct. Eldred’s, the nation’s leading marine art auction house, conducts approximately 25 auctions per year encompassing Americana, paintings, Asian art, European decorative art, sporting art and collectibles in addition to marine art. It was recently named one of the top worldwide auction houses by Art + Auction and holds auction records across a wide range of collecting areas.  


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


Cheryl Stewart
508-385-3116 x128

1483 Route 6a
East Dennis, Massachusetts
About Eldred's

Eldred's is New England's oldest established antiques and fine arts auction house. Approximately 25 auctions are held year-round encompassing Americana, Asian Art, Americana and European paintings, European decorative art, Maritime antiques, and collectibles.

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