It was an irresistible draw for collectors and dealers: an auction on the grounds of a Newport “cottage” along Cliff Walk, the hydrangeas in full cobalt bloom, the privet fragrant and gentle sea breezes rising off the bay. The Gustave J.S. White July 6 sale was conducted by auctioneer Michael R. Corcoran at the carriage house of Clarendon Court.
The 1904 house designed by Horace Trumbauer, and the site of headline grabbing events over the years, was sold recently by antiques dealer Glenn C. Randall. It was used as a set for the movie High Society in 1956 and later achieved even greater notoriety when Claus von Bulow was in residence and his wife Sunny fell into an irreversible coma.
Thanks to von Bulow, Clarendon Court remains a major curiosity to this day, although it is not open to view. Corcoran, a longtime and generous supporter of Newport arts and preservation, imposed an admission fee of $10 to benefit The Preservation Society of Newport County. Since the space allotted to the sale was limited, it was a smart move as the admission charge served to keep the idle curious at bay.
The sale comprised some objects from Clarendon Court, other pieces once owned by Newport doyenne Mrs Harold Brown, and other additions. Corcoran peppers his auctioneering with interesting and sometimes entertaining tidbits about old Newport, the families and the “cottages.” There were plenty of objects of value, bidders also snapped up the pieces with interesting provenance.
A fine Mahal rug from a Watch Hill, R.I., estate was a highlight and sold for $14,400. A lot of two Soumak rugs attracted $4,800, and a Heriz runner fetched $4,560.
A large gilt metal cooler with the liner, which had been used at Marble House in Newport, built in 1892 for William Kissam Vanderbilt, went to a New York dealer for $13,200. It was marked “WMK Maison Meuble, Neuprt.” A considerably less glamorous example, an Art Nouveau silverplate cooler, was still respectable when it brought $720. A copper pudding mold, also from the Vanderbilt house, sold for $120.
Silver lots included a sterling tray that sold for $2,300 and a pair of vases that was $832. One tray lot of silver overlay objects went for $1,320, and a silver overlay vase with green glass brought $1,080, while a tray lot of miscellaneous silver pieces fetched $2,160. A cased lot of Tiffany flatware elicited $3,360, and a cased set of Gorham sterling flatware was $1,680. A four-piece tea set with Art Nouveau-ish decoration brought $1,320. Other elegant accessories included a fine pair of knife boxes that went to the Connecticut trade for $2,280, while a cased set of three etched glass decanters owned once by John Nicholas Brown brought $360.
Furniture lots included a stylish paint-decorated commode with a marble top that sold to “Harry” for $3,600.
A pair of Chinese red enamel and gilt chairs with chinoiserie decoration and shell carving and set on ball and claw feet brought $2,160 from a local collector, and a cupboard with a fitted interior sold for $1,440. A Chippendale mahogany chest with four graduated drawers commanded $1,080, and an English table brought $1,680. A Chinese stand with an inset marble top was carved elaborately and sold for $480.
Tall items crossing the block include a tall gilt mirror with a carved mermaid and merman comprising the crest and with other carved mythological figures along the sides that sold for $2,700. A gilt trumeau mirror, even taller, with a decoration of two children in the upper panel brought $1,800. A tall pair of mirrored obelisks was etched with flowers and foliage and sold for $1,080.
Louis Vuitton was present and accounted for by a large trunk that was fitted beautifully and retained the basket, marked “MMG,” and sold for $8,400 to a dealer who is a regular at Corcoran’s sales. The same dealer paid $3,900 for a smaller wardrobe trunk with the same monogram.
Tack benches do not show up at auction much, but the pair that appeared here attracted $840. A double horse boot scraper fetched $240.
A model of the sailing yacht Lark realized $480, a pond yacht with no rigging drew $240 and a sizeable model of a lapstrake skiff on a cradle brought $360.
Of the 75 paintings that were offered, most had considerable life still left in them. The Nineteenth Century oil on panel scene of horses outside a stable by Dutch artist Wouterus Verschuur Sr realized $9,600 from a phone bidder. A portrait of a young woman in a woodland setting by French artist Charles Louis Lucien Muller sold to a local buyer for $6,600. English artist Thomas Buttersworth’s oil on canvas view of racing yachts achieved $5,400.
Edmund Darch Lewis’s view of the Camden (Maine) Harbor with sailing vessels sold on the phone for $5,100.
A large and colorful scene of “The Nottingham Goose Fair,” an event held annually in the English city since the Thirteenth Century, realized $3,000 from a Massachusetts dealer, while a pastel portrait of the youthful Genevieve Swinburne by Joseph Henry Hatfield realized $2,400.
An Emile Gruppe view of mountains was a very good buy when it sold for $2,100, and Daniel Ridgway Knight’s scene of a woman raking or sweeping that came from a Cincinnati, Ohio, collection went for $2,040. A portrait of a geisha was also $2,040.
A landscape with buildings along a river by Russell Smith brought $2,160 from a dealer who is a regular at Corcoran’s sales. Nineteenth Century German artist Gustav Koken’s village scene with buildings brought $1,800. A seascape by James Gale Tyler, the Connecticut artist who visited Newport every year for 30 years to paint scenes of the America’s Cup races, sold for $1,560. Then there was a still life with flowers that Corcoran had obtained from an Attleborough, Mass., convent. It brought $360.
Chinese Export porcelain drew interest as a Rose Mandarin water jug was $720, a Rose Medallion punch bowl went for $840, a Rose Medallion baluster-form vase was $360 and a Rose Medallion vase sold for $240.
Included on the traditional Corcoran “walk around” that caps most of his sales was a set of cast iron garden furniture comprising a settee and two armchairs with dog head handholds that fetched $1,920. A set of four cast iron chairs with seahorse and scallop shell backs and teak seats sold for $1,320.
A 6-foot, 8-inch model of the 1739 Colony House, the Newport building that was the primary state house of Rhode Island from 1739 to 1901 until the state house opened in Providence, brought a modest $500 from a Stonington, Conn., dealer who waited around for it to come up for bid.
Rounding out the sale was an Imari porcelain umbrella stand for $360; a blue Imari scalloped plate at $180; two framed Hermes scarves for $420 and $360; and a fireplace surround from an area house for $1,680.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, 401-841-5780.