Published: June 26, 2012
Woodbury Auction offered more than 500 lots of fine and decorative art and American and Continental furniture from seven estates on June 17. The event was the firm’s third anniversary spring fine estates auction, and it was led by a couple of Alexander Calder jewelry pieces with a local provenance and a group of Royere lighting.
One of the sale’s consignments comprised two original pieces of silver jewelry by renowned local sculptor Alexander Calder (American, 1898‱976) whose workshop was in Roxbury, Conn. The items, a spiral brooch and a ring, had never been offered for sale, having been given by the artist to the consignor, a Woodbury resident, in 1953. According to Thomas Schwenke, Woodbury Auction’s owner and auctioneer, the items were discovered as a result of the firm’s consignment event this past April.
Schwenke said the same group of bidders competed for both items, although the jewelry ended up going to two separate bidders, totaling $76,200 for the two lots. With three phone bidders and two in the gallery vying for the pieces, two different phone bidders prevailed, with the brooch going to England and the ring to New York City, according to Schwenke.
Calder’s classic silver concentric spiral hand hammered brooch had a 2¼-inch diameter. The silver hand hammered ring had been executed in the form of the initials of the owner/consignor.
The story behind the pieces was as compelling as the items themselves. Schwenke explained that both had been acquired directly from the artist †in that they were a gift from Calder to the consignor’s mother for her birthday in May 1952 and a subsequent gift to the consignor. A notarized document describing the gift of the brooch to the owner/consignor’s mother, her friendship with Mary Calder, daughter of the artist, and her many visits to the Calder residence in Roxbury accompanied the lots.
“It’s full of emotion,” said Schwenke, citing a description by the consignor, who in 1951 went with her friend Mary to a high school dance, where later in the evening, Alexander Calder himself showed up to drive the girls home.
“I remember one night I had a dance with Mr Calder,” she wrote. “It was in the fall of 1951. Mary attended school in Roxbury and I was invited to a dance there. Mr Calder was to pick us up at 10 pm and I was staying overnight at Mary’s.
“I cannot remember how many boys I danced with †if any. It was a typical boy-girl dance, boys on one side of the dance floor and girls on the other side. The music was okay, the records were playing music of the fifty’s, which we all enjoyed. At about 9:45 the front door opened and there was Mr Calder dressed in his informal attire, wearing a full length raccoon fur coat. His white hair was wind blown, as he always drove his convertible with the top down all year.
“Mary threw her hands up to her face and said, ‘Oh no, my father’s early,’ and she turned and ran to the girl’s lavatory. There I was standing alone. At that moment the music was playing the last song of the night †it was a waltz. M. Calder came up to me and asked, ‘May I have this dance?’ What could I say? ‘Yes, I would like to have this dance with you.’
“Out on the floor we went, Mr Calder was a large man, but he was so light on his feet. And a wonderful dancer, we danced together until the song ended. It was such a wonderful experience. I was so glad my mother made me take ballroom dancing lessons the year before.”
Bidders hankering for Midcentury Modern pieces were not disappointed when a grouping of wrought iron serpentine wall sconces and a rare wrought iron circular serpentine chandelier attributed to the renowned French designer Jean Royere was offered. The items had been in storage for several years after being removed from a Connecticut location, where they were installed in the 1950s. The chandelier had a 53-inch diameter. Together the group brought $57,000, going to the trade after being pursued by the phone and an in-house bidder.
Also noteworthy in the sale was a consignment of about 15 paintings, most valued presale at between $300 and $500. But when the firm’s specialists looked a little closer, they discovered two works by Ernest Hennings that had not long ago been found in a Chicago attic. Hennings, a member of the famed “Taos Ten,” was known for his Taos, N.M., scenes. “One of the works was signed, and the other was unsigned,” said Schwenke. The signed work realized $19,200, while the unsigned, rougher work brought $4,200.
Among the rarest items in the sale was an original Art Nouveau-style bronze Porter garden telescope, serial number 27. The garden telescope was designed in the 1920s by Russell W. Porter, founder of the Springfield Telescope Makers, and an instructor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It finished at $11,400.
A spectacular rare carved and paint decorated monumental carved pediment doorway had rosette and meandering tulip and berry carving, fluted pilasters, dentil molded scrolled pediment with rosette carved terminals, brick molded detail and traces of original paint. It came from the Connecticut River Valley and dated to the Eighteenth Century, selling for $8,100.
From a Houston private collection came a late addition to the sale, a rare Philadelphia Chippendale carved mahogany side chair. It was apparently from the so-called General Anthony Wayne group of chairs attributed to William Wayne in Philadelphia, circa 1755‷5. The finely formed chair, measuring 40½ by 23¾ by 21½ inches, changed hands at $11,000. Another formal furniture lot that did well was a rare Sheraton carved mahogany game table attributed to the workshop of Duncan Phyfe in original, untouched condition, which fetched $4,400.
Some silver lots crossed the block, including an English sterling silver four-piece tea set by Thomas Prime & Son, 1872. Comprising a coffee pot, a tea pot, a covered sugar with nonmatching lid, and a creamer, all with bright cut design overall and monogrammed “CYH,” the set brought $2,280.
A gilt bronze figure, “Nude Study,” by noted American sculptor Paul Howard Manship, creator of the famed Rockefeller Center’s “Prometheus” sculpture, went to the trade bidding by phone for $10,200.
Musical instruments were also on offer. A Steinway & Sons mahogany Model M piano, serial #344552, Centenary Edition with brass cuffs and pedals, together with the original bench, found a new home at $7,800. And a concert-size Gibson L-3 archtop acoustic guitar manufactured in the second half of the 1920s, serial #89107, with sunburst finish, maple back and sides played to $1,020.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
The next auction for the firm will be conducted later this summer, with date to be announced. For additional information, www.woodburyauction.com or 203-266-0323.
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