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An auction descended from eras under sail

antique auction news marine painting sales results

By Virginia Bohlin GLOBE CORRESPONDENT  APRIL 25, 2015

A model of the whaling ship Sunbeam, which sailed out of New Bedford during the last half of the 19th and the early 20th century, is a highlight of Boston Harbor Auctions’ sale of ship models and nautical antiques May 3 at the Lannan Ship Model Gallery, 187 Purchase St.

The 39-inch model with detailed rigging and sails was made by Norwegian-born Captain Peter Henrik Ness (1890-1956), who after 20 years at sea settled in East Boston and began making ship models, some of which are today in major museums, including the Mystic Seaport Museum and the Museum of Science in Boston. Photos of the Sunbeam by the New Bedford artist Clifford W. Ashley (1881-1947) are featured in “Sperm Whaling From New Bedford” by Elton W. Hall (New Bedford Whaling Museum, 1982). The Sunbeam model, which Ness made as a wedding gift to his daughter Marguerite, has a $20,000-$30,000 estimate.

This also is the estimate for a rare circa 1915 tri-power binocular telescope engraved “Ernst Leitz Wetzlar,” the German maker, and described in the auction catalog as “the earliest example of a binocular telescope” and “the most powerful one we have ever examined.”

The expected top seller of the 309-lot auction is a pair of 50-inch copper and brass marine beacons made in England by Patent Lighting Co., Ltd. The estimate is $25,000-$35,000.

In addition to the Sunbeam, there are more than 50 other ship models, including the USS Constitution ($7,000-$9,000); Sovereign of the Seas, the clipper ship built in the 1850s by Donald MacKay in East Boston ($6,000-$9,000); Xarifa, the two-masted schooner used in the slave trade ($5,000-$7,500), by the model maker William Hitchcock; the Lightship Nantucket ($4,000-$6,000); and the presidential steam yacht Mayflower ($3,000-$5,000).

Other offerings are as varied as an 1877 chart of Boston Bay and Massachusetts Bay showing the Massachusetts coast from Brant Rock in Marshfield to Cape Ann in Gloucester ($600-$1,000), a steel deck bucket painted “USS Wasp” from the sloop of war launched in 1800 and which saw service in the War of 1812 ($350-$550), a mahogany yacht sink with a porcelain basin ($1,000-$1,500), and a presentation pewter mug ($400-$800 ) lettered “Independence” and engraved “Boston May 18th, 1901, the day of the launching of the America’s Cup yacht. It was presented by the Hull Yacht Club to the boat’s owner, Thomas W. Lawson, the stockbroker known as the “copper king” of Scituate.

Nautical items transformed for home use include a steam launch model that has been made into a coffee table ($8,000-$10,000) and a bronze ship’s porthole that serves as the top of a round mahogany table ($1,000-$1,500). A bureau or desk box made from salvaged timber and with an engraved plaque that reads “From HMS Columba 1878-1955” has a $400-$800 estimate, while an 82-inch ship’s door with a brass porthole has a $1,200-$1,500 estimate.

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