Published: May 10, 2012
Freeman’s April 30 auction of American furniture, silver, folk and decorative arts, due to the provenance and overall quality of the property, generated excitement and interest among American and International institutions, private collectors and dealers.
The audience was broader than usual, with participation from 11 countries and new clients comprising more than ten percent of the auction registration. The sale ultimately realized more than $1.74 million dollars, and was well attended with highly active in-room, telephone and Internet bidding.
Lynda Cain, vice president of Freeman’s American furniture, silver and decorative arts department, said, “It was an exciting day, and we are pleased, not only with the auction record achieved for the Spitler blanket chest but also with the solid prices achieved throughout the sale. The combination of fresh, interesting property with significant provenance always sparks interest.”
The top lot, a rare painted and decorated yellow pine blanket chest attributed to Johannes Spitler (1774‱837) of Massanutten, Va., circa 1800 ($80/120,000), illustrated above, was with the consignor’s family for four generations before it came to Freeman’s. The blanket chest sparked spirited bidding and finally achieved $350,500, more than four times its low estimate. The client commented after the sale: “My family is thrilled with the results. Lynda Cain was extremely helpful and knowledgeable.”
Another rare blanket chest, a diminutive Queen Anne walnut blanket chest-on-frame, probably Philadelphia, circa 1760 ($3/5,000) also performed exceedingly well, realizing $46,875 to a bidder on the phone. Other highlights include the Charles Carroll Chippendale mahogany metamorphic architect’s desk, Anglo Irish, circa 1770 ($15/25,000), achieved $71,500, after a lengthy battle between a bidder in the room and one on the phone; while a watercolor of the interior of the J.S. Russell Whale Oil and Lamp Store, 55 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, by Joseph Shoemaker Russell (1795‱860) ($2,5/3,500) proved popular, ultimately selling for $23,750.
Three collections of private estate property added historical significance and diversity to the sale. Property from the estate of Janet Brown included tasteful and distinctive Twentieth Century furniture and silver. The collection of Mr and Mrs William R. Wister of Oldwick, N.J., offered American and English furniture and decorative arts, many associated with the historically prominent Philadelphia family and with the National Historic Landmark, Grumblethorpe.
Highlights from the Wister collection included an autograph letter signed, George Washington (lot 137, estimate $15/25,000), which realized $35,000; a life-sized silhouette of Sarah (Sally) Wister (1760‱804) ($2/3,000), her only known likeness, which achieved $27,500; a mourning picture for Captain Thomas Smalley by Hannah K. Smalley ($2/3,000), which brought $11,875; and a Chippendale mahogany bracket clock by John Childs (active 1813‱847), Philadelphia, circa 1825 ($3/5,000), which achieved $19,200.
The collection of Virginia H. Knauer, well-known and respected collector and consumer advocate from Washington, D.C., was the largest estate in the sale and included furniture from Philadelphia, Ireland and England and fine decorative arts, including a highly desirable collection of Chinese Export porcelain.
Notable lots included two marble and carved Irish tables, Eighteenth Century ($1/1,500 and $2/4,000), which sold for $17,500 and $33,750, respectively; a small walnut corner cupboard, Pennsylvania, circa 1800 ($1/2,000) that brought $25,000; a Chippendale carved mahogany fire screen, England or America, circa 1770, that brought $21,250; and a Chippendale carved walnut side chair, Philadelphia, circa 1770, that nearly doubled its high estimate to achieve $16,250.
Standout works of silver were all unique items made by the Gorham Corporation: an impressive sterling silver centerpiece ornamented with elephants, dating from the late Nineteenth Century ($8/12,000) led the way at $25,000.
Also selling above estimate were a fine five-piece sterling silver tea service, 1869, that achieved $8,960; a Twentieth Century punch bowl that brought $7,500 and an early Twentieth Century sterling silver repousse presentation bowl for $6,875.
All prices reported above include the buyer’s premium.
The next auction of American furniture, silver, folk and decorative arts will be in November. For information, www.freemansauction.com or 267-414-1237.
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