Painting of Hallowell from 19th century being auctioned at Sotheby’s
HALLOWELL – A 19th century oil painting showing downtown Hallowell from the Chelsea side of the Kennebec River is up for auction at Sotheby’s.
The bid on the painting starts at $ 20,000, but an estimate from Sotheby’s put the painting at $ 30,000 to $ 50,000.
The painting is listed as part of the estate of Margaret P. Gregory of Connecticut, sister-in-law of noted folk art collector Stewart Gregory.
Sotheby’s was founded in London and is headquartered in New York City. It is one of the world’s largest brokers and auctioneers of art, jewelry, real estate, and other collectibles.
According to the listing, the painting is dated around 1860 and measures 35.5 cm wide and 20.75 cm deep. According to the auction information, the painting shows slight cracks and age-related signs of wear on the canvas.
State historian Earle Shettleworth said he came across a black and white photo of the painting about a year ago in the collection of the Hubbard Free Library. The back of the photo is labeled with the Connecticut Historical Society name. However, when Shettleworth contacted the group, there was no record of the painting.
Shettleworth said he gave up looking for the painting until about a week ago when a friend told him to look at a list on Sotheby’s website.
“When I opened the computer and the picture was there, it was the same picture I saw in the photo,” said Shettleworth.
The Hubbard Free Library photo is not the only record of the painting. Shettleworth said the Gregory family had owned the painting since at least 1971 when it was featured in a photo that had a story about their property in an antiques magazine.
While little is known about the painting, the age of the art was determined by the presence of the bridge connecting Hallowell and Chelsea, which was built in 1860 and destroyed by floods in 1869 and 1870. Shettleworth said the range can be reduced to 1867 because of the configuration of the Hallowell Cotton Mill to the left of the painting.
“In 1867, cotton mill was educated by a story and took its current configuration with a flat roof,” said Shettleworth. “That hasn’t happened in the painting yet.”
The painting is not signed and neither Sotheby’s nor Shettleworth could endorse the artist. Shettleworth said he was searching newspaper archives at Hubbard dating back to 1796 to find any mention of the painting.
“We know very little about artists who worked in Augusta, Gardiner, Hallowell in the 1850s and 1860s,” Shettleworth said.
Shettleworth said he looked through the 1863 and 1864 newspapers but found no mention of the painting. However, an editorial note in the Hallowell Gazette dated August 10, 1861 gave him hope that a mention of the artist might come.
“Nice view – the town of Hallowell from the height of the Chelsea side of the river,” the note reads. “We doubt that there is any other town or village in the Union that is better suited to maintaining the immortal charm of a paintbrush.”
The painting depicts many of Hallowell’s historical landmarks, including the Old South Congregational Church, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, First Baptist Church, Cox Memorial United Methodist Church, and Row House. Rafts, schooners, and a steamboat also float down the river, evoking the city’s history as a bustling river port.
Helene Farrar, president of the board of directors at Hallowell’s Harlow Gallery, said Sotheby’s estimate of the painting’s value could be inflated to generate more auction revenue. She said the value could also be negatively affected as the artist was not known.
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