Published: November 21, 2000
Colorful Socialite’s Collection Packs Washington, D.C. Auction Gallery
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Furnishings from the famed studio house of prominent Washington socialite and artist Alice Pike Barney were auctioned at Weschler’s November 1 to a standing-room-only audience of both serious bidders and curiosity seekers.
The colorful Mrs Barney was determined to bring culture to the nation’s capital, constructing a studio house on Sheridan Circle in 1903, and filling it with the atmospheric furnishings she had observed in artists’ studios in Paris and London. Mrs Barney regularly held salons of musicals, plays and poetry readings in the house, entertaining such notable figures as President Theodore Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.
Previews for the sale were held at the Sheridan Circle house. Large crowds came for a final view of rdf_Descriptions not seen by the public in nearly a decade as Weschler’s staff fielded requests for seances from followers of the house’s eccentric original owner.
The sale began with rdf_Descriptions from the first floor reception room, with a pair of American Art Nouveau-style table lamps selling for $4,370 ( including buyer’s premium,) esting the $2/$3,000 estimate. An Italian majolica charger with a biblical scene of Adam holding an apple tempted bidders to double the pre-sale estimate, bringing $1,610.
Barney’s flair for the dramatic was apparent in a pair of Renaissance-style andirons in the shape of griffins; strong bidding for the unusual pieces sent the final price to $4,140, well above the pre-sale estimate of $1,5/$2,500. All 19 lots of textiles, several elaborately embroidered with the initials “A.B.,” found buyers.
The Renaissance Revival fume oak dining table, designed for the Barney’s by the Cincinnati workshop of Henry L. Fry, saw fierce competition, finally selling in the audience for $5,520 against a $2/$3,000 estimate. Other furniture popular with bidders were an Italian Baroque walnut library table, which brought $8,050 (est $3/ $5,0000); a Spanish Baroque style vargueno on stand realized $8,050 (est $2/ $3,000); and a Louis XVI style gueridon formerly owned by artist Romaine Brooks and given to Alice Barney’s daughter Natalie brought $3,680 (est $1/$1,500.)
The sale included two pairs of Renaissance Revival parcel-gilt armchairs designed by Alice Barney. Determined bidding in the audience brought the first pair to $4,830 (est $2/$3,000); the second pair saw equally strong bidding, selling for $5,060 against a $2/$3,000 pre-sale estimate.
The final lot of sale, an American oak easel brought the gavel down for the last time at $1,610 to a round of applause. This was a fitting conclusion considering Alice Barney Pike’s status as a Washington artist and patron.
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