Antiques & Collectibles

From venerable Vermont

By Virginia Bohlin
Globe Correspondent / August 7, 2011

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Vermont, the least populated of the New England states, did not have as many early cabinetmakers as Massachusetts, New York, and Philadelphia, so production was limited, and today 18th- and 19th-century Vermont furniture appears only occasionally on the market.

However, in a rare happening, 10 examples of early Vermont furniture will go on the block at Skinner’s American Furniture & Decorative Arts Auction next Sunday at 10 a.m. at its Marlborough gallery.

The examples are from the collection of 18th- and 19th-century Vermont furniture and decorative arts started decades ago by Barbara and Bob Levine, native Vermonters living in New York, on visits to their home state.

At first they collected coin silver spoons made by Vermont silversmiths, but as their interest in antiques grew, they embarked on a quest for hard-to-find authenticated Vermont material. Today the collection is thought to be the largest private collection of Vermont furniture and decorative arts in the country.

As they approach their 80s, the Levines have decided to downsize and are selling their collection.

Highlighting the 10 pieces is a Federal tiger maple and mahogany flame birch and bird’s eye maple veneer inlaid bureau made in Rutland, and described as a masterpiece by Stephen Fletcher, director of Skinner’s American Furniture & Decorative Arts Department.

The bureau, which has a $50,000-$75,000 estimate, was included in the 1995 Bennington Museum exhibition “The Best the Country Affords: Vermont Furniture 1765-1850’’ that took place after the museum’s curator, Kenneth Joel Zogry, inventoried its furniture collection and found pieces with characteristics that identified them as being made in Vermont. Before that, Vermont furniture was virtually unknown.

Also in the exhibition were three other pieces from the Levine collection, including a Federal sideboard from Hastings Warren’s workshop in Middlebury ($4,000-$6,000); a Classical sofa, possibly by Nahum Parker of Middlebury ($1,000-$1,500); and a paint-decorated sideboard attributed to the Asa Loomis workshop in Shaftsbury ($1,500-$2,500). The Levines’ 1798-1803 tall-case clock made by Asahel and Martin Cheney of Putney and which also was in the exhibit has a $10,000-$15,000 estimate.

Among the decorative arts is a 19th-century relief carved figure of a catamount with gilt over gessoed wood, probably from Bennington County ($12,000-$15,000). The catamount, or eastern mountain lion, now declared extinct in the East, was adopted by Vermonters as a symbol of their tenacity in the 18th century.

The collection also includes samplers and portraits by itinerant artists, including an 1835 portrait of a St. Albans woman ($4,000-$6,000), unsigned but painted by Ruth Whittier Shute according to the printed label on the back of the canvas. Ruth Whittier and Dr. Samuel Addison Shute were a husband-wife team who painted together until his death in 1836 at 32, so Dr. Shute was probably ill at the time of this portrait.

In addition to the Levine collection, the 951-lot auction features offerings from other consignors including 27 weather vanes, topped by a zinc and copper full-body rooster vane ($10,000-$15,000) made around 1854-67 by J. Howard of West Bridgewater.

Among the paintings is a 19th-century full-length portrait of 7-year-old Lavinia Fanning ($8,000-$12,000), whose father, Nathaniel Fanning, was an officer in the Continental Navy and later the US Navy. He had been a midshipman on the Bonhomme Richard under John Paul Jones during its 1779 victorious battle with the HMS Serapis, the battle where Jones uttered the famous words “I have not yet begun to fight.’’

Items from the careers of two Boston Celtics Hall of Famers are among the sports memorabilia to be offered at Grey Flannel Auctions’ 6th annual Hall of Fame Induction Auction Friday at 1 p.m. at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.

The items are Dave Cowens’s 1972-73 NBA most valuable player award and Bailey Howell’s 1968 world championship ring.

Rich Russek , president of Grey Flannel Auctions, said this is the first time an MVP award has come to auction.

The trophy, from Cowens’s personal collection, has a minimum bid of $10,000, the same as for Julius “Dr. J’’ Erving’s 1974 ABA Eastern Conference All-Star Game-used uniform worn when he played for the New York Nets. Howell’s ring has a $5,000 minimum.

Cowens, co-rookie of the year and seven-time all-star at center for the Celtics from 1970-80, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991, and Howell, a forward for the Celtics from 1966-70, was inducted in 1997.

Property of the late professional wrestler Walter “Killer’’ Kowalski (1926-2008), who opened a professional wrestling school in Malden when he retired, will be auctioned by Tonya Cameron Thursday at 5 p.m. at her gallery at 115 Bennett Highway, Saugus.

Offerings in the 305-lot auction range from robes and a pair of lace-up boots from Kowalski’s 30-year wrestling career from 1947-77, to Limoges and Dresden china, Waterford and Bohemian glass, chandeliers, Oriental porcelain, and garden furniture from his Malden home.

Jewelry includes Kowalski’s Rolex Oyster Perpetual wristwatch and cufflinks as well as Victorian, gold, and costume jewelry from the collection of his widow, Theresa Kowalski.

Kowalski was a pilot and his flight log is being auctioned along with wrestling photos, correspondence, and scrapbooks of his matches.

The 54th annual New Hampshire Antiques Show, featuring the wares of 68 dealers, will be held Thursday through Saturday at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester.

Hours on Thursday and Friday are 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and on Saturday 10-4. Admission is $15 on Thursday and $10 on Friday and Saturday.

Virginia Bohlin can be reached at