ActivePaper Archive Summer Fun At Osona’s - Antiques and The Arts Weekly, 8/22/2014

Auction Action In Nantucket, Mass.

Summer Fun At Osona’s

Arts Of Nantucket Are Crowd Pleasers


“I’ve sold cars and boats but never airplanes,” said Rafael Osona, who swung by the family auction house in this 1959 Fiat Jolly 600 convertible. Painted a brilliant turquoise with wicker seats and musical horn, the car, perfect for tooling around the island, was manufactured by Ghia on a chassis supplied by Fiat. It sold in the room for $70,200. According to Osona, fewer than 100 of the 1959 Jollys survive.


The sale’s star lot was a whaling journal of the ship Golconda, which departed from New Bedford, Mass., on a three-year journey to the Pacific in 1836. Dense with detail, the illustrated volume went to a California collector bidding in the room for $53,820.


Inscribed by the Nantucket artist James Walter Folger and dated October 1911, this painted relief carving of a flying shell drake brought $12,870.


“Seaside Portrait of a Woman Under Umbrella” by Wendell Macy drew $10,530.


Osona staffer Ethan Heinonen with “Pulling The Dory Ashore” by Nantucket artist Wendell Macy (1845–1913). The oil on wood panel brought $10,530 from a phone bidder.


English dolls by Norah Wellings date from 1926 to about 1960, though most are from the 1930s and 1940s. Sailor dolls such as these, $293, were made as souvenirs for cruise ship passengers.


Kay Jones, who divides her time between Greenwich, Conn., and Nantucket, inspects “Lost at Sea” by Ralph E. Cahoon. An add lot, the 15¾-by-13-inch oil on Masonite left the room at $8,775.


“The Old Mill, Nantucket” by Nantucket artist Lincoln J. Ceely (1865–1950) fetched $5,850.


Rafael Osona is a born showman who loves engaging his audience. His firm has a reputation for Nantucket arts and nautical fare, such as this circa 1800 English or French prisoner-of-war ship model of the Minerve, which attained $35,100.

NANTUCKET, MASS. — The expression “make hay while the sun shines” might have been invented to describe Osona Auctions, which works around the clock during high season on the resort island of Nantucket. Between May and December, when the last part-time residents depart for more forgiving climes, the Osonas — Rafael and Gail, their sons and staff — conduct 13 auctions plus a ten-day cash-and-carry marketplace. It is a pace that few auctioneers could match.

The family’s hard work reaps rewards. Over 34 years, the Osonas have built a distinctive business as notable for its strong retail following for its emphasis on items of local interest: whaling artifacts, lightship baskets, marine art and antiques, and paintings by artists who lived on Nantucket or spent considerable time there.

The star is auctioneer Rafael Osona, an old-school showman who believes that, yes, bidders are there to have fun.

“He has a great time engaging the audience. It’s what he really enjoys,” says Gail.

For Osona’s big cataloged Americana, fine art and marine sale on August 2, Rafael arrived at the preview with a merry toot of a horn in the ultimate beach buggy, an open-air 1959 Fiat Jolly 600 with wicker seats. He later sold the car for $70,200 to a delighted, albeit somewhat startled, man standing in the rear of the Osona salesroom, the American Legion Hall at 21 Washington Street.


Nantucket views by Anne Ramsdell Congdon (1873–1958) find a ready market here. Less desirable because it was a New Hampshire subject, “Church of Litchfield from Thornton’s Ferry,” a 23-by-17½-inch oil, signed and dated 1925, made $7,020.

“I’ve sold cars and boats but never planes,” Osona later told Antiques and The Arts Weekly. The August 2 auction began with Nantucket coin silver, a set of eight circa 1830–37 table-spoons stamped Easton and Sanford fetching $702 and a sauce ladle of circa 1840 by the same maker bringing $293.

The auctioneer proceeded quickly to Nantucket paintings, avidly collected by local residents.

Born in New Bedford, Mass., to Nantucket descendants, Wendell Macy (1845–1913), was represented by two small oils on wood panel — “Seaside Portrait of a Woman Under Umbrella” and the characteristic “Pulling The Dory Ashore,” each $10,530

— and the slightly larger oil on canvas “Floral Still Life,” $9,360. Macy is known to have exhibited his Nantucket work as early as 1872.

Wedged between the Macys was “The Old Mill, Nantucket,” $5,850, by Lincoln J. Ceely (1865–1950), a Nantucket cabinetmaker and clockmaker also known as a carver and painter. A 1946 exhibition by the Artists’ Association of Nantucket identified Anne Ramsdell Congdon (1873–1958) as one of the five most important painters to work on the island. She is today celebrated for her Nantucket views, which have sold for more than $18,000 at auction. Somewhat less desirable in this venue, a New Hampshire scene, “”Church of Litchfield from Thornton’s Ferry,” a 23-by-17½-inch oil, signed and dated 1925, made $7,020.

Jane Brewster Reid (1862–1966) painted on the island between 1891 and the 1930s. Her watercolor on paper “Sconset Pump,” a local view, achieved $8,190, while an oil, “View of Stone Alley,” made $1,638.


Ralph Cahoon’s 25-by-19-inch oil on Masonite “Brant Point,” picturing a sailor and mermaids with a landmark Nantucket lighthouse, fetched $57,330.


“I sold this seven years ago to a Nantucket family that is now leaving the island,” said Osona, who elicited a phone bid of $5,265 for this mariner’s presentation clock with barometer. The brass, copper and silver instrument dates to about 1890 and measures 20 inches tall.


House mascot Betty White with a nest of eight Nantucket swing handle baskets attributed to Andrew Jackson Sandsbury. Osona was looking for a bid $50,000, but told the audience he would sell the baskets for $40,000.

A bidder paid $12,870 for a signed and dated 1911 painted relief carving of a flying shell drake by self-taught Nantucket artist James Walter Folger (1851–1918).

The day’s top painting, $57,330, was by Cape Cod artist Ralph E. Cahoon Jr (1910–1982), who depicted the island’s historic Brant Point lighthouse, first constructed in 1746, with a sailor and mermaids.

Among Nantucket decorative arts, a Davis Hall (1828–1905) lightship basket, dated 1903 and inscribed to Mrs Horatio Hall, fetched $2,106, while a unique circa 1950–60 friendship basket by Sherwin Boyer (1907–1964) brought $2,925. Decorated with inlaid panels depicting ships and the inscription “Gift to Susan,” a fitted Nineteenth Century sewing box garnered $2,633.

Leading sales of whaling art and artifacts, a handwritten journal describing the threeyear voyage of the Golconda, which departed New Bedford, Mass., in 1836, sold to a California collector in the room for $53,820. Written by Francis Harrison, the volume is profusely illustrated with 320 whale stamps, 76 ship stamps and numerous drawings of scenic venues along the way.

The auctioneer elicited a bid of $35,100 for the circa 1800 Minerve, an English or French prisoner-of-war ship model of boxwood, baleen and ivory that, housed in a custom glass case, measured 19 inches long.

Rounding out the selection were lots with off-island appeal. Among them were the signed Jane Peterson oil on canvas “Prams Along The Beach,” $21,060; “Marblehead Moonlight,” by the contemporary New Zealand artist Anthony D. Blake (b 1951), $12,870; a circa 1930s carved and painted eagle plaque, $8,190; a pair of English Minton majolica garden seats in the “Passion Flower” pattern, $11,700; and a 16-inch strand of South Sea pearls, $15,210. The Osonas barely paused before proceeding to their next big event, the August 23 auction of the contents of the Hadwen-Wright House. For decades, this majestic Greek Revival mansion at 94 Main Street in Nantucket served as the home of Washington D.C., and Boston attorney John A. Lodge and his wife, Katherine, an avid collector of marine and China Trade art and antiques. “The contents of the house represent one of the last large intact collections on the island. The family was here for 50 or 60 years,” notes Gail Osona. Those looking for a bunk might consider the 3,600-square-foot property, on the market for $4.9 million. Built in 1847, the house features a sweeping spiral staircase and a magnificent, dometopped ballroom where President Grant was once entertained. All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, 508-228-3942 or NEW YORK CITY — The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is featuring about 100 posters, lithographs, ephemera and illustrated books during the “The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters” exhibition through March 22. MoMA is at 11 West 53rd Street. For information, or 212-708-9400.