Eldred's Landmark Marine Sale Scheduled for July 19 and 20

  • EAST DENNIS, Massachusetts
  • /
  • July 12, 2018

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Pair of masterpiece scrimshaw whale's teeth by whaleman Eli Bangs, Jr.

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.


Following very strong marine sales in 2016 and 2017, 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 two of the most highly anticipated: the pair of double-sided teeth by Eli Bangs, Jr. and a tooth referred 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 – a mantle ornament and a smaller pair of teeth – both of which are in the permanent collection of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.



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 Wind's Highway" by Montague Dawson


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 will be sold in this auction, including 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.”


Highlights from the Schmitt Collection include a tooth engraved during one of Darwin’s expeditions aboard the Beagle by crewmember James Adolphus Bute, estimated at $20,000/30,000, an exceptional whalebone busk engraved with a whaling scene and poem, estimated at $7,000/10,000, and a sailor’s shellwork valentine that was illustrated in Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders, Whales and Whalemen by E. Norman Flayderman and Marine Antiques by Marian Klamkin, estimated at $3,000/5,000. The Collection also includes three Napoleonic Prisoner-of-War carved bone items: a spinning jenny, a sword sharpener and very rare, if not unique, barrel maker, estimated at $5,000/7,000. The remainder of the Schmitt’s folk art collection will be sold at 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.  


Two Chinese School ship portraits, both housed in their original Chinese Chippendale frames, descended in the family of a Cape Cod sea captain. Estimated at $80,000/120,000 and $70,000/100,000, they are expected to be two of the top 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. 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.


Other notable lots in the sale include a Napoleonic Prisoner-of-War carved bone model of a 72-gun ship of the line, estimated at $7,000/10,000, a handwritten whaleman’s songbook, estimated at $2,500/3,500, a group of U.S.S. Constitution-related material, and a complete set of the voyages of Captain Cook in a uniformly bound eight-volume set plus a folio atlas volume. The set, published in 1773, 1777 and 1784, contains hundreds of plates, charts and maps detailing the famous expedition. It carries a pre-sale estimate of $20,000/30,000.


All lots from The Marine Sale auction can be viewed online at www.eldreds.com. All lots will be exhibited during the sale preview at the firm’s headquarters in East Dennis on Wednesday, July 18, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 


Both sessions of The Marine Sale, on Thursday, July 19 and Friday, July 20, will begin at 10 a.m. EST. Eldred’s is located at 1483 Route 6A, East Dennis, Mass.  Interested bidders can visit the firm’s website 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 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

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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