• EAST DENNIS, Massachusetts
  • /
  • July 14, 2021

  • Email
Portrait of the schooner yacht Palmer by J.E. Buttersworth, part of Eldred's Marine Sale

East Dennis, Mass. – Paintings by James Edward Buttersworth and Antonio Jacobsen and scrimshaw by Edward Burdett and Josiah Sheffield are some of the headliners at Eldred’s annual summer Marine Sale, scheduled for August 19 and 20, 2021 at the firm’s headquarters in East Dennis, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod.

“As the only U.S. auction house with a dedicated Marine department, we take great pride in curating our bi-annual Marine Sales,” said Joshua Eldred, president of the firm. “Every sale is different, but I feel this is one of the better-balanced sales we’ve had in several years. Scrimshaw is well-represented as usual, but it is nicely complimented by a fine selection of paintings, instruments and models.”


More than 150 paintings will be offered, ranging from important 18th and 19th Century examples from the canon of maritime art, including works by Buttersworth, Jacobsen, William Bradford, Joseph B. Smith and Robert Salmon, to paintings by renowned contemporary marine artists like Timothy Thompson, Thomas Hoyne and Patrick O’Brien.

Highlights include four works by James Edward Buttersworth (1817-1894), notably two circa 1870 portraits of the schooner yacht Palmer, owned by Rutherford Stuyvesant. One depicts the yacht racing off Staten Island and the other the yacht off the cliffs of Dover, and both exhibit the moody, dramatic backdrop typical in Buttersworth paintings. They come from a private New Jersey collection and are estimated at $60,000/90,000 and $50,000/70,000. 

Scrimshaw painted walrus tusks with motifs possibly pertaining to slavery, included in Eldred's Marine Sale

Other notable lots include one of William Bradford (1823-1892)’s later and finest ship portraits, showing the starboard side of the Harry Bluff, estimated at $40,000/60,000, a view of the sloop Rebecca by Joseph B. Smith (1798-1876), estimated at $25,000/35,000, and a busy view of the Mersey by Robert Salmon, estimated at $30,000/50,000.

Four works by Antonio Jacobsen (1850-1921) are included, ranging in estimate from $6,000/9,000 for a Black Ball Line ship portrait, to $30,000/50,000 for a view of an 1887 America’s Cup race between Volunteer and Thistle.

Several other lots in the sale pertain to the America’s Cup, notably a log of the yacht Resolute for the 1914 racing season, which was cut short by the start of World War I in August, estimated at $6,000/8,000, as well as assorted ship models and contemporary paintings of historic races done by Richard K. Loud (b. 1942) and Roy Cross (b. 1924).   

A large selection of China Trade material is also included, highlighted by a fine set of four watercolors by Youqua (active 1840-1870) depicting Canton, Shanghai, Macao and Amoy Harbors, circa 1863, estimated at $20,000/30,000, and a Chinese Export porcelain serving dish with the armorial crest of the British East India Company, believed to be from the last set produced by the Company in 1805, estimated at $2,500/3,500.  

Four single-owner collections are featured in the sale catalog: The Kelton Collection of Marine Art and Artifacts, Property from the India House, New York, the Collection of Ian R. MacKenzie, and the Michael Gill Whaling Collection. 

The Kelton Collection includes a wide cross-section of paintings, ship models and rare navigational instruments amassed by California businessman Richard Kelton over a 30-year period; the anticipated top lots are a 17th Century brass astrolabe recovered from the wreck of the Spanish galleon Neustra Senora de Atocha, which sank in a storm off the coast of Florida in 1622, estimated at $40,000/60,000, and a view of the American ship Caravan assisting the ship Casilda, circa 1866, by William Gay Yorke (1817-c. 1888), estimated at $6,000/8,000.

The India House, a social club housed in a landmark 19th Century building in lower Manhattan, had a renowned collection of maritime art, much of it donated to the organization by members throughout the years. Items in the sale include a large Napoleonic prisoner-of-war bone model of the first-rate 110-gun HMS Royal Sovereign, estimated at $30,000/50,000, and the bronze bell from the superliner Leviathan, estimated $4,000/6,000, as well as rare early prints and ship models.

Ian R. MacKenzie had a deep love for the island of Nantucket, and his collection centers around material pertaining to its marine history. Notable lots include a toggle harpoon stamped “Macy”, estimated at $1,500/2,000, a large 19th Century Nantucket lightship basket, estimated at $2,500/3,5000, an 18th Century vellum telescope, estimated at $5,000/10,000, and a pair of exceptional trailboards, possibly teakwood, carved in the forms of women with long cascading hair, estimated at $25,000/35,000.

The core of the collection, however, is an outstanding group of scrimshaw, including a panbone ditty box depicting Alwilda, the female pirate, estimated at $12,000/15,000, a tooth attributed to Moses Denning known as the “Stark Tooth”, which was part of the Barbara Johnson collection and known to be one of her favorite pieces of scrimshaw, estimated at $30,000/50,000, and a “Susan’s Tooth”, estimated at $50,000/70,000.

One of the more intriguing lots is a rare pair of painted walrus tusks, one depicting a Black man, probably a slave, and the other a white man, possibly slave-driver or agent, and assorted imagery that could reference the Fugitive Slave Act or the Dredd-Scott decision. The pair was illustrated in E. Norman Fladyerman’s Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders, Whales and Whalemen and was once part of the Meylert Armstrong collection. They carry a pre-sale estimate of $8,000/12,000.

The anticipated top lot in the collection, estimated at $80,000/120,000, is a pair of historically significant whale’s teeth by Josiah Sheffield, known as the “Log Teeth”, the only known examples of scrimshaw that document a whaling voyage in the manner of a log, providing date, latitude and longitude, whales taken, etc. Sheffield served about the New Bedford whaleship Timoleon during an 1831-1835 voyage and the teeth reference that voyage.

The Gill Whaling Collection also includes a large selection of scrimshaw, highlighted by a signed tooth pertaining to the whaleship Northern Light, estimated at $20,000/25,000, and a large panbone plaque depicting a whaling scene, estimated at $10,000/15,000, as well as several whaling logs and logbook stamps and early navigation instruments.

“The MacKenzie and Gill collections are comparable with the Kobacker and Vardeman scrimshaw collections,” said Bill Bourne, head of Eldred’s Marine Art department, referencing two blockbuster collections the firm sold in recent years.

Between the MacKenzie and Gill collections and other consignments, more than 150 pieces of scrimshaw are included in the sale. Other highlights include a pair of teeth depicting “Hope” and “Victorious”, descended in the Howland family, estimated at $35,000/50,000, a unicorn pie crimper, estimated at $12,000/15,000, and several fine thread stands and sewing baskets, estimated from $4,000/6,000 to $9,000/12,000. Bourne remarked there are lots at every price level, from pieces with estimates in the $200/300 range, to those for the top end of collectors, including an extraordinary tooth by Edward M. Burdett, with a $300,000/400,000 estimate.

Burdett was a Nantucket whaleman who pioneered American scrimshaw. The tooth, signed “Engraved by Edward Burdett of Nantucket Onboard of the William Tell”, depicts the New York whaleship William Tell engaged in active whaling, and the New London whaleship Friends heading toward port. The scenes, lettering, deeply engraved hulls and use of red sealing wax are typical of Burdett teeth and bear a striking resemblance to the Burdett tooth Eldred’s sold in July 2017 for the world-record price of $456,000.

Other notable lots in the sale include a pair of circa 1880 signed yachting signal cannons, estimated at $20,000/30,000, a circa 1790 plank-on-frame model of an English frigate and a builder’s model of the spoon-bow freighter Daleham, both estimated at $15,000/20,000, and a bronze or brass gangway board with patriotic motifs, probably Great White Fleet-era, estimated at $8,000/12,000.

“One of the great joys of collecting is the thrill of discovery,” Eldred said. “While there are certainly some ‘old friends’ in the sale looking for new homes, a majority of the items offered have been off-market for many years, or just seeing the market for the first time. I encourage everyone to come to the auction or browse the online catalog as there are many new treasures to uncover.”

Eldred’s Marine Sale will be a live auction with in-person, online, absentee and phone bidding available. Both sessions will begin at 9:30 a.m. Eastern. A sale preview will be held August 18; viewing 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.

  • Email
Rappaport Lecture

ARTFIXdaily Artwire