Published: February 13, 2001
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Weschler’s auction of European and American Furniture and Decorations February 3 played to a full house, with extra chairs placed in the room to accommodate the record number of first-time bidders and collectors vying against a coterie of dealers from around the country and abroad.
A William and Mary walnut stacked chest of drawers, probably Boston era, circa 1670-1700, carried a $5/8,000 estimate, but the attention awarded the piece during previews predicted that bidding would quickly outstrip the estimates, and it did. After intense competition over the phones, the chest of drawers sold to a collector for $23,000.
In contrast, a Gothic Revival carved oak tall-case clock retailed by Tiffany & Co. was not to Washington tastes and received limited attention during the previews. The out-of-town trade, however, was drawn to the massive – nearly nine feet tall – clock that was fancifully carved with monks, griffins and cherubs. The piece sold on the phone for $13,800, above the $7/10,000 pre-sale estimate.
The final American offering on the block was the cover lot – a Renaissance Revival oak congressional desk, attributed to Doe, Hazelton & Co., Boston, circa 1857. Reputedly used by Massachusetts Representative George Merrick Brooks who served from 1869-1872, the desk was patriotically decorated with a profusion of stars, a shield and a central orb draped with a banner inscribed “America.” Estimated at $6/ 8,000, the desk sold to a bidder on the phone for $14,950.
While limited in number, American artwork did extremely well. A portrait attributed in this sale to the School of Joseph H. Davis had an unusual history, having been sold at Weschler’s over a decade ago as a work by the artist, and later returned because it could not be authenticated. The richly colored profile of a young Martha Nelson Furber holding flowers in her outstretched hand made its way back to these rooms, and was offered at a modest $400/600 estimate. Collectors and dealers were undeterred by the earlier opinion, believing the watercolor to be indeed a Joseph H. Davis work and sent the bidding to $12,650. Some bidders also believed an unsigned American School marine oil on canvas, “Portrait of the American Schooner Restless” to be the work of Frederick Tudgay (British, d. 1877), and bidding quickly sailed past the $4/6,000 estimate to land at $33,000.
European furniture and decorations were also punctuated by some surprises. A diminutive Royal Worcester demitasse cup and saucer decorated with delicate white enamel dots and painted in landscapes and still lifes within four oval reserves, each signed by a different artist, did not escape notice. The single cup and saucer carried a modest $200/400 estimate, but collectors and dealers placed a higher value on owning the piece, and it sold in the room to the trade for $2,760.
French pieces also did well, with a Sevres-type ormolu mounted center bowl bringing nearly ten times its low estimate. The bowl carried a low estimate because of the extensive damage to the porcelain bowl, but dealers eager for fresh stock were undeterred, and the piece brought $3,220. A Sevres-type covered vase carried a $1,5/2,500 estimate after failing to sell at New York auction, but exceeded estimates to bring $3,450. A Louis XV style ormolu mounted Limoges enamel table screen had a $600/800 estimate and sold for $4,370.
Standouts in fine art include a pair of marble figures of a boy and girl. Depicted reading or writing, the pair captured the attention of buyers and went beyond the $1/1,500 estimate to bring $4,600. A Nineteenth Century French School portrait of a young woman also had appeal and glided beyond the $500/700 estimate to bring $4,140.
Continental furniture continued its run with a pair of Louis XVI style giltwood fauteuils a la reine, early Twentieth Century, bringing $3,450 and Louis XV style giltwood and Aubusson tapestry three-panel screen, also early Twentieth Century, selling for $3,680. A Louis XIV style giltwood marble top commode, late Nineteenth Century, brought $5,175 to one of the room’s first-time bidders. All rdf_Descriptions sold above estimate.
English furniture highlights included a pair of Regency mahogany armchairs. Estimated at $1,5/2,500, the chairs sold for $4,140. A George III mahogany tripod adjustable reading stand sold for $3,910 against a $1,5/2,500 reserve.
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