Eldred's Important Marine Sale Slated for July 20

  • EAST DENNIS, Massachusetts
  • /
  • June 09, 2017

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Masterpiece scrimshaw whale's tooth by Edward Burdett

East Dennis, Mass. – Nearly 500 lots of maritime art will go across the block this July 20 at Eldred’s Marine Sale, highlighted by the third and final session of the Thomas Mittler Scrimshaw Collection, as well as an important Montague Dawson seafaring scene and a scrimshaw whale’s tooth by Edward Burdett. The sale will be held at the firm’s headquarters in East Dennis, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod.

“For more than five decades, Eldred’s has been a leader in the field of marine art, but I honestly believe this is the greatest marine sale we’ve ever put together,” said Joshua Eldred, president of the company. “The breadth and scope of material, from paintings to scrimshaw to other nautical antiques, is exceptional, and there is truly something for everyone, from the novice collector to the seasoned connoisseur.”


The first lot of the sale is the Edward Burdett tooth, considered amongst many in the collecting community as the scrimshander’s masterpiece. The extraordinarily detailed tooth, which comes from a private American collection, is inscribed “Engraved by Edward Burdett of Nantucket Onboard the Ship William Tell” and depicts a whaling scene of the William Tell and the George and Susan on the obverse and a coastal view of the whaleship William Thomson on the reverse. From the inscription, the tooth was created while Burdett was onboard the ship William Tell, which left New York in November 1829 and returned to port in February 1833. Based on shipping records, it is likely the William Tell encountered the William Thomson and the George and Susan while in the Pacific whaling grounds, somewhere between October 1830 and February 1833.

"Ships That Pass" by Montague Dawson

Edward Burdett was a pioneer of American scrimshaw, and in his short but prolific career he produced what are widely considered masterpieces of the genre. He was born on Nantucket in October 1805, the son of a merchant sea captain. His first whaling voyage was aboard the Foster from 1822 to 1842. In successive voyages he sailed aboard the William Tell and the Montano. In November 1833, while serving as first mate onboard the Montano, Burdett was entangled in line, dragged by a whale overboard, and drowned.

“This is certainly one of the best pieces of scrimshaw to come on the market in years,” said Bill Bourne, company vice president and head of the Maritime Art Department at Eldred’s. “The quality of work, its condition and its size are all exceptional. We expect it to be very well received and should, with the Mittler Collection, provide an exciting start to the day.” The Burdett tooth carries a pre-sale estimate of $160,000/210,000. It will be immediately followed by the final 74 lots from the Thomas Mittler Scrimshaw Collection.

The third and final session of the Mittler Collection includes a “Susan’s Tooth” by Frederick Myrick, as well as teeth by the Britannia Engraver, W.L. Roderick, the Arch Engraver and the Pagoda Artisan. The sale will also include whaleman-made utilitarian items like crimpers, watchtowers and blocks. Pre-sale estimates on items in the collection range from $300/$500 to $100,000/$150,000.

The first 120 lots from the Mittler Collection were sold during Eldred’s Maritime Arts Auction in October 2016 and its Americana, Paintings and Maritime Art Auction in April 2017. Competition for most items in the collection has been fierce, driving sale prices on seven lots over $50,000 and three over $100,000. The top seller from the collection, so far, has been a scrimshaw whale’s tooth by W.L. Roderick, which sold for $180,000, a record price for the scrimshander, during the October 2016 auction.

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, Mass. Mittler died suddenly in 2010 at age 67. The October Maritime Art sale was the first time items from the Mittler Collection were put up for sale.

“It’s been a pleasure to handle such a fine group of quality scrimshaw and to see pieces find new homes in other collections,” Bourne commented. “We look forward to hosting people in the collecting community for this final session of Mittler items. Between the Burdett tooth, the Mittler Collection, and a supporting core of other fine pieces, we expect it to be another very strong auction.”

The Marine Sale will also include a wide array of maritime-themed fine art, ship models, navigational instruments, yachting memorabilia, sailor-made handicrafts and much more. Notable lots include an extensively illustrated and highly detailed journal covering four whaling voyages from 1847 to 1850, kept by Nathan Young of Provincetown, Massachusetts, estimated at $20,000/30,000, a rare double-lollipop Nantucket basket, estimated at $40,000/60,000, and a Napoleonic Prisoner of War bone model of an 86-gun warship on a two-tier base, estimated at $35,000/50,000. The ship model, from the Lloyd Collection, was the cover illustration and figure 97 in John Rinaldi’s 1986 catalog.

Important paintings include “Sunset Over Baltimore Harbor”, an oil on canvas by Nicolino Vicompte Calyo, estimated at $10,000/15,000, “Cruise Off Boston Lightship” by contemporary artist William R. Davis, estimated at $18,000/22,000, and four whaling scenes by Anton Otto Fischer, original works for illustrations in a 1931 edition of “Moby Dick”, estimated between $5,000/7,000 and $12,000/15,000. Ship portraits by Louis Dodd and Antonio Jacobsen as well as maritime scenes by Clement Drew and Derek Gardner come to auction from a private New Jersey Collection; estimates from that collection range from $1,000/1,500 to $18,000/22,000.

The anticipated top lot from the paintings category, however, is “Ships that Pass”, a dynamic on-board view of ships at sea by famed maritime artist Montague Dawson, conservatively estimated at $30,000/50,000. “Dawson said his goal was always to make the viewer feel like they were in the scene – to feel the salt spray, to hear the waves crashing against the hull. He very obviously achieved that in this painting,” Josh Eldred remarked. “Eldred’s is thrilled to handle a truly fantastic work by arguably the greatest marine painter of the 20th Century.”

In addition to the Burdett tooth and items from the Mittler Collection, nearly 50 pieces of scrimshaw from other collections will also up for auction. Highlights include a rare and possibly unique whaleman-made swift with a whalebone base made in the form of a building, possibly a meetinghouse or customs house. It comes to auction from a private collection. Other significant lots include a whalebone plaque engraved by W.L. Roderick with a whaling scene titled “The Death”, two teeth with battle scenes by the Lady Wellington engraver, an 8.25” tooth with a polychrome scene of warships on the obverse and a portrait of a Victorian lady on the reverse, and a tooth engraved “Ship Lion Nantucket” with a portrait of the ship on obverse and an image of a scantily clad woman on reverse.

All lots from The Marine Sale auction can be viewed online at www.eldreds.com. Catalogs will be available for purchase for $23.00 including shipping and handling ($24.00 inclusive of tax for Massachusetts and Connecticut residents). Select highlights from the sale will be on view at the company’s Mystic, Conn., gallery on June 28, and all lots will be exhibited during the sale preview at the firm’s headquarters in East Dennis on Wednesday, July 19, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Marine Sale will begin at 10 a.m. EST on Thursday, July 20, 2017. Eldred’s is located at 1483 Route 6A, East Dennis, Mass. 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 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

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

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