Published: May 8, 2001
By Laura Beach
NEW YORK CITY They are also among the best documented.
It was of no small interest when a Hadley chest catalogued as property from the estate of Peggy Bailey turned up on the cover of William Doyle Galleries’ April 25 sale of American furniture and decorations. Intricately carved with tulip and leaf designs, the lift-top, one-drawer chest enclosed the initials “MM” in its central panel.
The “MM” chest appears as example number 53 in Clair Franklin Luther’s pioneering 1935 book, The Hadley Chest. According to Luther, the piece was made circa 1700 in Hampshire County, Mass. It descended in the Severance family of Bellows Falls, Vt. Ebenezer Severance (1673-1723), the son of an important land-owning family in Deerfield, Mass., where many of the Hadley chests were from, married a woman named Mary in Deerfield in 1695. Luther theorized that the chest was made for her. In 1930, the dealer-collector Malcolm A. Norton found the “MM” chest. He sold it to Greenwich, Conn., dealer William Richmond, who in turn sold the piece to the consignor about 40 years ago.
“A one-drawer Hadley of this kind in great condition is worth about $125,000 to $150,000. This one wasn’t in great condition,” noted Jonathan Trace, an upstate New York dealer who was present at the sale but didn’t bid on the rdf_Description.
The Hadley chest is one of about 200 known examples of its kind. Repairs and replacements, some of them noted seven decades earlier by Luther, kept the price to $40,250 including premium. The “MM” chest sold to a phone bidder for just below low estimate. Luther had noted restoration to the chest’s drawer and bottom rail, both of which appear to be replacements. Experts also said the top of the chest was not original, and that one foot had been repaired.
The sale’s top lot had come up just a minute earlier. Standing 71 inches high, a walnut-veneered Queen Anne highboy made in Boston between 1730 and 1750 was knocked down to a telephone bidder, later identified as Manhattan dealers Bernard & S. Dean Levy, for $48,300 (est $40/60,000). The flat-top casepiece with scalloped skirt and cabriole legs ending in pad feet is not unlike the Collins Family maple and walnut-veneered highboy sold by Northeast Auction in March. Interestingly, the same bidders competed on the Collins highboy, which went to the Levys for $87,750.
New York dealer Carlo Fiorentino underbid an attractive Rococo Revival walnut center table with an inlaid specimen-marble top. The Philadelphia piece of circa 1845 sold to the phone for $8,050 (est. $2,5/3,500). “It wasn’t a deluxe example, but it was a nice form and size,” Fiorentino’s partner, American decorative arts specialist Margaret Caldwell later said.
A gumwood kas, made in New York or New Jersey around 1800, sold to a phone bidder for $10,925 (est $4/6,000). Other furniture sales included a set of 14 Chippendale-style mahogany dining chairs in the Philadelphia manner, early Twentieth Century, $12,650 (est $8/12,000).
Paintings And Prints
Doyle devoted the first hour and a half of the auction to fine arts, including folk art portraits, landscapes and still lifes from the estate of Phyllis and Stanley Ehrlich. The New Jersey collectors operated the Clothes Horse in Millburn and Madison, N.J., for three decades.
Confirming the maxim that pictures of children are the easiest to sell, an oil on board portrait of young girl in a blue dress garnered top honors, selling to a phone bidder for $27,700 (est $3,5/4,500). The likeness, measuring 14 5/8 by 10 5/8 inches, carried the provenance of a respected former dealer in folk art, George E. Schoellkopf. A second Prior, a 13 7/8 by 10 1/8-inch oil on board portrait of a woman in a green dress, sold to the same bidder for $6,325 (est $3/5,000) including premium.
The caller was also successful in his bid for a Nineteenth Century view of a Monmouth County, N.J., city. From the Ehrlich estate, the 22 by 36-inch oil on canvas view showing the then lightly inhabited landscape, fetched $6,037 (est $2,5/3,500.)
Among several topographical selections was George H. Walker & Co.’s lithograph of Vineyard Haven. The Martha’s Island view measured 14 by 18 inches and showed some minor damage. It sold to an absentee buyer for $1,725 (est $7/900).
Two oil on canvas board paintings by Albert Webster Davies sold to one bidder. Both were New Hampshire views. One, “The Webster Auction, Salem Depot, New Hampshire,” brought $4,025 (est $1/1,500).
Native American Art
Sixty lots of Native American Indian art, mostly Twentieth Century works, included Northwest Coast, Eskimo, Plains, Pueblo and Eastern Woodlands examples. A globular form pottery jar, 5 ¾ inches in diameter, sold for $6,612 (est $2/3,000). The San Ildefonso Pueblo piece was crafted by Maria Martinez and her husband Popovi Da, the most famous of the Pueblo potters and the popularizers of matte-on-glossy black wares. Other sales included an Apache basket bowl with figures of dogs and humans, 14 inches in diameter, $6,325; a Navajo Tec Nos Pas rug, circa 1925, 7 by 5 feet, $5,462; and a Hopi leather case mask, $4,750.
Decorations And Accessories
Several smaller collections added interest to the auction. Eighteen stick barometers, many of them labeled American examples, sold for prices ranging from $546 to $4,312. The best selling barometer was Benjamin Pike and Son, New York, device. It measured 39-1/2 inches log and featured a stepped, molded cornice above a convex face and standard, the bottom set with an urn.
Brightening textile offerings was a silk and linen needlework family record, possibly from Connecticut, circa 1825. The 19 1/2 by 18-inch piece depicting a house, weeping willow and tomb, documented the Richard Wilcox family. It sold to a phone bidder for $8,050 (est $800/1,200). A group of four framed needlework pictures, all English and dating to the first half of the Nineteenth Century, went to a New England dealer for $2,990.
A charming framed wool on canvas needlework picture of a dog, 19 by 23 inches, was competitively bid to $2,300. A large, vividly colored needlework picture of George Washington was knocked down to an absentee bidder for $4,600. The framed piece was patterned off of Gilbert Stuart’s famous portrait.
A selection of colorful Victorian glass saw a bid of $805 for a 7 ¾-inch Peachblow glass Morgan vase; $1,610 for a group of three satin-glass vases; and $977 for five Burmese glass table articles. From a consignment of Parian, a 13-inch tall figure of “The Greek Slave,” based on one of the Nineteenth Century’s most popular sculptures, sold for $805. A group of three United States Pottery Company Parian ewers from Bennington, Vt., 1852-1858, sold for $747. Decorated with oak leaves, lily pads, and palm trees, two of the vases were on a blue ground, the third on brown ground.
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