Maritime Collectibles for Christie’s New York Auction

. December 30, 2008

A large model of a British ship-of-the-line carved from bone and ebony, a 1916 New York Yacht Club trophy, and a scrimshaw whale’s tooth depicting the female pirate Fanny Campbell are some of the rare and enticing collectibles included in Christie’s Maritime Decorative Arts sale on January 15, 2009. The auction of over 200 items is devoted to high-quality maritime collectibles, including ships models, furniture, paintings, ship fittings, scrimshaw, silver, clocks, folk art and vintage photography.

Among the highlights of the upcoming January sale are two rare ship models. The first, a large Napoleonic prisoner-of-war model is hollowed, planked and pinned in bone from the keel to the waterline, and accented with an ebony waist. Among the intricate details carved in bone are the ship’s figurehead, a belfry with a bone bell, life boats, and a pair of Jacob’s ladders. The model – created in the late 18th or early 19th century – is unusual for its large size, measuring 31 x 41 ½ inches (estimate: $80,000 – $120,000).

The second is an exceptional exhibition-standard model of the schooner yacht Brilliant by Joseph Wheeler Appleton, one of the premier ship model builders of the 20th century. Appleton created the model in 1933 after sailing aboard the Brilliant during a record-setting trans-Atlantic crossing. Appleton’s models appear only rarely on the auction market; two others are in the permanent collection of the New York Yacht Club. His Brilliant model, judged as an “extraordinary” example of craftsmanship, was displayed at the Yacht Club for nearly 50 years, and has been passed down in private hands from its original owner, Walter Barnum of Connecticut (estimate: $40,000 – 60,000).

For devotees of yachting collectibles, the sale offers a silver New York Yacht Club trophy from 1916. The engraved trophy was presented by J.P. Morgan, a vice commodore of the club, to the crew of the Aurora, a First Division sloop built for Cornelius Vanderbilt (estimate: $10,000 – 15,000). Another highlight of the section is a 19th century mahogany yacht tiller from a private Swiss collection. Carved in an intricate rope-work pattern and topped with a monkey’s fist knot at the head, the tiller measures just over 7 feet long (estimate: $12,000 – 18,000).

Among many excellent examples of scrimshaw in the sale is an exquisitely detailed image of New Bedford harbor and the ship Kutusoff carved on whale’s tooth by the early 20th century scrimshander William Perry. Perry’s work is featured in several museum collections, including the Nantucket and the New Bedford whaling museums (estimate: $12,000 – 18,000). Among the 19th century scrimshaw offerings is a whale’s tooth attributed to the Bogota artist. The large tooth is decorated with an image of an American ship and an eagle clutching a shield (estimate: $15,000 – 25,000). Also from the 19th century is a scrimshaw whale’s tooth bearing the image of the female pirate Fanny Campbell. Immortalized by the author Maturin Murray Ballou in 1845, Fanny is described as a woman who could “row a boat, shoot a panther, ride the wildest horse in the province, or do almost any brave and useful act” (estimate: $5,000 – 7,000).

In keeping with recent strong sales of campaign furniture, the upcoming sale includes an 18th century portable roll top desk and stand originally owned by the Starbuck family of Nantucket. Crafted of camphorwood and maple, the desk was part of the Barbara Johnson Whaling Collection, one of the most prominent American collections of maritime and whaling decorative arts (estimate: $3,000 – 5,000). Another furniture highlight is a carpenter’s chest from the 19th century British gun ship H.M.S. St. Vincent. The hand-painted chest is fitted with drawers and trays and contains 29 different carpentry tools (estimate: $8,000 – 10,000). Also dating from the 19th century is a two-part Anglo-Chinese campaign chest of camphorwood and mahogany with lion’s paw feet (estimate: $4,000 – 6,000).

Category: Auction News

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