Published: October 7, 2003
Auction buyers seem to have shaken off the recession blues, according to Stair Galleries, whose recent sale saw steady strong bidding in the room and from absentee bidders as well as periodic bursts of lively phone bidding.
The action pushed the September 6 sale’s total more than $230,000 over the high estimate. Of the 498 lots offered, only 18 went unsold. With 360 eager participants, many lots sold well over estimate, with a few taking forays into the stratosphere.
English furniture flew off the block at the auction, which was appropriate since Colin Stair, president of the company, is the fourth generation of a family steeped in this category of the antiques trade. His great-grandfather, Arthur C. Stair, founded Stair & Andrew, in London in 1912, and specialized in first-rate English furniture.
Three outstanding lots came from one consignor who made his fortuitous purchases in London, circa 1958. A set of ten mahogany chairs from The Rt Hon the Viscount Downe at Wykeham Abbey, Yorkshire ($10/15,000) sold to the trade for $66,125; three George III painted and parcel-gilt armchairs ($3/5,000) sold to a private buyer for $19,550; and a pair of Chippendale carved giltwood mirrors ($7/9,000) made $31,050.
Other notable George III rdf_Descriptions included a cellerette on later stand, which brought $3,335 and a pair of tea caddies in the form of cutlery urns, which made $1,610 against a $3/500 estimate.
French and Continental pieces were also popular with bidders. A Louis XVI giltwood mirror sold for $3,450 and a pair of Italian giltwood mirrors with etched plates fetched $5,750. Four Louis XVI chairs brought $2,415. An armada chest with an amazingly intricate working lock mechanism topped out at $5,175. Also selling at $5,175, more than three times its high estimate, was a handsome Italian neoclassical bureau plat. An interesting German carved oak saint estimated at $800/1,200 made $5,463.
Although the American furniture section was small, the sale attracted enough interest to catapult a Pennsylvania armchair to $14,375, well past its $1/1,500 estimate, even though one leg appeared to have been replaced. A late Federal mahogany sewing table made $2,300.
Other miscellaneous highlights in the sale included an ivory table screen for $8,625; a pair of giltwood pineapples for $1,150 and an eight-fold Japanese hunting screen that made $4,313 against a $150 to $250 estimate.
Perhaps the best story in the sale involved a lovely child’s dress. When the local ladies hospital auxiliary found it in their donation bin, they thought it looked quite old and contacted Stair. Stair then contacted textile expert Titi Halle of Cora Ginsburg LLC, who confirmed that the dress was indeed old. The auction house offered to sell it at no commission for the auxiliary. The dress swept past its $5/700 estimate and was hammered down for $4,600, going to The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Prices quoted include a 15 percent buyer’s premium.
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