Published: January 30, 2001
Furniture, Silver, Prints, Folk Art and Decorative Arts at Christie’s
NEW YORK CITY – Dean Failey, John Hays, and Martha Willoughby all agree on one thing, “history sells.” And their point was well proven on Friday, January19, when Christie’s offered its sale of Important American Furniture, Silver, Prints, Folk Art and Decorative Arts. “Old surfaces and American history reigned at this sale,” Martha Willoughby, head of the American Decorative Arts department, said.
This “surface” point was well taken with the sale of the top lot, the Biddle-Cadwalader family Chippendale pie crust tea table in mahogany. This piece, attributed to the shop of Benjamin Randolph, Philadelphia, circa 1775, was listed as the property of a Philadelphia gentleman, a descendant of the original owner, and the opening bid was $750,000. The hammer finally fell at $1,300,000, making for a grand total of $1,436,000. The table, with circular molded and scalloped edge top, rested on cabriole legs with foliate carving and ball and claw feet fitted with castors. The top measures 35 inches in diameter and the height is 29 and a half inches.
“History” was best represented by the second highest lot sold, a miniature portrait of George Washington by John Ramage, 1789. This piece, measuring 21/8 inches high, was from the collection of Mr and Mrs Eddy Nicholson. This portrait, half length with Washington wearing a blue uniform of a general with yellow facings, gold epaulettes, yellow waistcoat, lace cravat, and the Order of the Cincinnati, brought $1,216,000 including the buyer’s premium. This watercolor on ivory was sold at a Christie’s London sale in 1988 and was shown by Alexander Gallery at the Winter Antiques Show, where Eddy Nicholson purchased it. The buyer is listed by the gallery as anonymous.
Prints made up the first 33 lots of the sale and they were sold on Thursday afternoon. Audubon dominated the sale, with the Hooping Crane, after John James Audubon, selling for $40,000, and the Pileated Woodpecker bringing $18,000. Seventeen lithographs with hand coloring, George Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio, hunting scenes and amusements of the Rocky Mountains, sold for $20,000 against a low estimate of $24,000.
The second lot of furniture, a set of four William and Mary walnut side chairs, French-Canadian, late Seventeenth to early Eighteenth Century, ball-turned front stretcher, ring, baluster and block-turned legs with bun feet, had a high estimate of $9,000 and sold for $32,000. $22,000 was bid for a Chippendale carved mahogany candlestand, Massachusetts, 1760-80, oval top above a ring and spiral urn-turned pedestal, sold within estimate for $22,000.
The Governor John Trumbull Queen Anne walnut side chair, Norwich, Conn., stayed in Connecticut with Colebrook dealer Arthur Liverant of Nathan Liverant and Son. The seat rails are inscribed on the interior, From the parlor of the late Gov. John Trumbull of Lebanon, Conn. and presented LD Cook by Peter Lanman Junr. Of Norwich, Conn Aug. 1841. The high estimate was $8,000, and the hammer bid was $24,000. A few lots later Arthur Liverant bought a William and Mary maple and ash turned slat-back armchair, New England, 1720-1750, the two front stretchers with tripartite ball and ring turnings, 49 and a half inches high, for $22,000 against a high estimate of $15,000.
“You really have to have a place for them,” Dean Failey commented after the sale, referring to a pair of Chippendale painted pine wall cupboards, Kutztown, pa., circa 1790. They were painted green with red interior and were tall, measuring 124 inches high. The high estimate was $12,000, and the hammer bid was $17,000.
The New Haven Historical Society consigned a Queen Anne Japanned maple high chest of drawers, Boston, 1735-1745, which carried an estimate of $20/30,000. There was extensive loss to japanning, the finials were missing, but interest was strong none-the-less. It opened at $24,000 and did not stop until Stephen Score of Boston lowered his paddle, the victor, at a hammer bid of $190,000. Bill Samaha, standing at the back of the room, commented “what would have happened if it had its original surface?” Stephen Score said later that “this piece represents everything in which I devoutly believe – simplicity of arch form and an understanding of what it once was. It is totally untouched, with a wonderful surface.” Funds from the sale of this piece are to benefit the acquisition fund of the society.
A laminated rosewood acorn shelf clock, dial signed by the Forestville Manfacturing Co., Bristol, Conn., 1847-1850, sold just under the low estimate at $10,000, while a Federal red-stained pine dwarf clock, Hingham, Mass., circa 1815, shaped skirt and bracket feet, 48 inches high, went over the $8,000 high estimate selling for $12,000.
Urn and plinth form brass andirons with acorn finials, Philadelphia, late Eighteenth Century, 22 and a quarter inches tall, sold for $14,000, and $18,000 was paid for a Federal giltwood and eglomise banjo clock, dial signed by William Cummens, Roxbury, Mass., circa 1800-1810. The clock measures 43 inches high and had a high estimate of $5,000.
A Federal figured-maple hall rack, estimated to sell for between $1,000/1,500, went out at $5,500, while the next lot, a Federal inlaid mahogany sideboard, New York City, 1790-1810, bowed front and line inlay, sold to a phone bidder for $30,000. A Federal inlaid mahogany two-part dining table, New England, 1790-1810, Greek key inlaid apron, square and inlaid tapering legs, 28 and a half high, 80 inches long and 38 and a quarter nches wide, brought $55,000 from a phone bidder, just slightly under the low estimate. A phone bidder bought a Chippendale carved cherrywood tall case clock, dial signed by Reuben Ingraham, Preston or Plainfield, Conn., 1780-1800, 93 and a quarter inches tall, for $18,000, the high estimate.
A pair of Classical card tables in mahogany, attributed to the shop of Duncan Phyfe, New Yoprk City, 1815-1820, rectangular tops with canted corners, splayed legs with paw feet fitted with castors, sold for $22,000, while the John Brown set of twelve Chinese export porcelain pudding dishes, circa 1789, went for $7,500. Each had gilt borders centering a swag-draped shield with the cypher JB, six and a half ches in diameter. A set of three pieces of faux bamboo figured maple furniture, attributed to R.J. Horner & Company, New York City, circa 1890, sold in three lots as follows: the bedstead brought $8,000, the dressing bureau, $6,000, and the washstand, $3,000.
The end of the morning sale was devoted to folk art, with a silk and watercolor needlework picture of figures under palm trees, American, possibly Southern, early Nineteenth Century, selling for $18,000, over the high estimate of $10,000.The portrait of the fire chief of Plainville with presentation speaker, Julian Scott, dated 1881, signed lower right and dated, oil on canvas, 27 by 22 inches, sold for $15,000, the low estimate.
A large gilded cast and sheet iron horse weathervane, attributed to the Rochester Iron Works, New York, late Nineteenth Century, 26 inches high and 37 inches long, went for $26,000. The high estimate was $10,000. Another weathervane in the sale was of sheet iron, American, Nineteenth Century, in the form of a uniformed soldier firing a cannon with a stack of cannonballs behind him. The high estimate was $3,500, and it sold to a Pennsylvania dealer for $9,500. A child’s or sample Windsor settee, New England, Nineteenth Century, 27 inches wide, sold for $3,200, and a set of six painted ring-toss figures, American, early Twentieth Century, brought $4,200.
Silver headlined the afternoon session and the first lot, a silver water pitcher and matching cup, Tiffany & Co., New York, 1938-47, vase form on a square base, went for $11,000 against a high estimate of $6,000. A pair of Martele silver vases, Gorham Mfg. Co., Providence, circa 1912, flaring cylindrical on an everted base, hammered body chased with poppies, buds and foliage, 11 inches high, sold for $20,000, the low estimate.
The sale ended with more “history,” the sale for $732,000 (premium included) of the John Jay Freedom Box from the collection of Mr and Mrs Eddy Nicholson. This American gold snuff box was presented by the Corporation of the City of New York to John Jay. It has the marker’s mark of samuel Johnson, New York, 1784, and is also signed by the engraver, Peter Rushton Maverick. The cover of the box is engraved with the seal of the City of New York and it measures three and a half inches long and three quarters of an inch high. This piece has been exhibited at the Museum of the City of New York, the Yale University Art Gallery, and it was on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1941-1991.
Martha Willoughby noted after the sale that “it went all right in general, not spectacular, and sales were not up the last year.” She said that paintings did not do so well and that there was a tightening at the top level of furniture. Americana will surface next at Christie’s East in June, and then again at the Rockefeller Center headquarters and galleries in October.
Prices quoted are the hammer bids and do not include the buyer’s premium, unless indicated.
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