Published: May 16, 2023
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Doyle
NEW YORK CITY — All things American, be it furniture, folk art, decorative arts, textiles, paintings and prints were offered in back-to-back sales at Doyle, May 2-3. Crossing the block first, 372 lots, of which more than 87 percent sold for a sale total that just exceeded $794,000, was the American decorative arts sale.
“I am delighted we were able to put together so many late Eighteenth through late Nineteenth Century pieces. Understanding that the market for those objects is not as strong as it has been, I am nonetheless buoyed by the prices we got and the participation we had on a number of pieces,” said Chris Barber, Doyle’s senior vice president and director of American decorative arts.
Capping the sale at $113,400 was a 10½-inch-tall sand bottle made in 1876 by Andrew Clemens (American, 1857-1894) that showed up at Doyle’s Boston office. It had provenance to a Boston family, descendants of Mr and Mrs H.J. Boardman, whose names were featured on the bottle, along with many decorative motifs considered characteristic of Clemens’ work, including a wing-spread eagle, patriotic shields and flags and geometric patterning.
“It was bigger than average, and also very early, so it was instructive as to what Clemens was to become, and how his work would develop.” Barber said. He confirmed that it sold to “an experienced collector of these bottles, on the East Coast.”
“It was a really good day for late Nineteenth Century furniture,” Barber declared. “The people who collect this furniture at this level have the same kind of attention to detail, academics and provenance that has historically been associated with Eighteenth Century furniture.” He noted that interest in some of the pieces was driven by connections to known commissions.
Earning the sale’s second highest price at $31,500 was a Renaissance Revival carved and parcel gilt rosewood and repoussé copper center table that was made by the New York City firm of Pottier & Stymus in the late Nineteenth Century. The table was listed in the catalog as the property of a New York family but had a more extensive provenance to the family of Judge Henry Hilton and the Stewart Collection and was accompanied by an 1887 American Art Association catalog, which featured it.
The seller of the Pottier & Stymus table also sold, for $8,190, a set of four Gothic revival carved rosewood chairs, possibly made by Alexander Roux, New York City, circa 1850. An interesting element of the chairs, two armchairs and two side chairs, were the letter “A” carved into the shield at the peak of each chair’s back.
A Fifth Avenue Collection was the source for several high-priced lots, including a Classical games table, also made in New York City but attributed to the workshop of Barzilla Deming and Erastus Bulkley, circa 1825. It featured verte antique and gilt dolphin carved front and spiral carved rear supports, the medial plinth supported by four dolphin feet. Barber said it sold to a private collector for $17,640, a little below expectations.
Of slightly earlier vintage but also from the Fifth Avenue Collection and exceeding expectations at $12,600 was another Classical rosewood grained and gilt stenciled fold-over card table, attributed to the Baltimore, Md., workshop of John and Hugh Finlay, which also sold to a private, if different, collector.
The Americana sale started with more than 100 lots of silver of objets de vertu. The category was led at $18,900, the third highest price of the auction, for a late Nineteenth Century Chinese export silver double tea caddy, bearing the artisan’s mark of Quan, a silversmith working in Canton between 1860 and 1900; the catalog said Quan “is regarded as the finest maker of silver boxes and tea caddies,” further noting that double tea caddies of this size are rare, suggesting it may have been a bespoke order.
American silver was represented by makers from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century, including a Gorham sterling silver tea and coffee service, seven pieces in all, that topped off at $15,120, and a tablespoon made by Paul Revere, Jr (1735-1818), that exceeded its high estimate to bring $11,970. It was one of two tablespoons by Revere in the auction; the second one brought $8,820.
American Paintings and Prints
Though Doyle’s May 3 sale of American paintings and prints was less than half the size of the Americana sale the day earlier, it earned about $750,000 with a similar sell-through rate of about 87 percent gaveling down successfully.
“There are always highs and lows, but I feel we had more highs than lows; overall it was a great sale,” said Bill Fiddler, Doyle’s director of American art. “We had a great collection from a single consignor — a couple who are changing their focus — that featured a lot of marine paintings and generated a lot of interest among our audience. The market for American art is good; you have to have good examples of known artists, and its gotten tighter in the mid range. The ones we expected to do well did.”
Sailing into a first-place finish at $44,100 was “Cliffs off Grand Manan Island,” circa 1885, by Alfred Thompson Bricher (American, 1837-1908), which had, at one time, been handled by New York City paintings dealer Godel & Co Fine Art. The same seller offered another example by the artist, a watercolor and gouache on paper moonscape, that rose to $28,350.
Other marine or paintings with nautical themes included “In the Bahamas” by Anthony Thieme (American, 1888-1954), which had been owned by Cynthia Wrightson Twitchell, a descendant of John Hartford, owner of A&P supermarkets. The sunset scene surpassed expectations, bringing $31,500.
A breezy view by Albert Ernest Backus (American, 1906-1990) titled “Late Afternoon on the Indian River,” that was consigned to Doyle from the Old School Square Center for the Arts in Delray Beach, Fla., rose to $23,940, just shy of its high estimate.
From marine paintings and seascapes to still life pictures and Western art, Doyle’s fine art sale ran the gamut, offering a breadth of choice and depth to potential buyers. An impressive still life by John F. Francis (American, 1808-1886) that was titled, variously “Still Life – Wine, Fruit, and Cheese” and also “The Wine Taster’s Table,” dated to the 1850s. It came to Doyle from the Bronxville, N.Y., estate of Rosemary Hardart Dobbin and tempted bidders to take it to $34,650, the sale’s second highest result.
Doyle Boston will sell American furniture and paintings, as well as other categories in its inaugural sale on June 8.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium. For information, 212-427-4141 or www.doyle.com.
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