Published: October 30, 2007
Furniture was the main draw at Sotheby’s October 4 Americana sale, which realized $3,256,394 on 129 lots sold.
The property of a private collector, a circa 1740 Boston Queen Anne mahogany tray top tea table led the day, selling to Leigh Keno for $385,000 including premium, well below its estimate of $500,000․1 million.
Keno is no stranger to the elegantly attenuated piece, which is initialed “AO” on its underside and was perhaps originally owned by a member of the Oliver family, most likely Alexander Oliver. In 2005, Keno acquired the table at the Diane and Norman Bernstein auction for $436,000. He sold the table, then marked $770,000, at the 2005 Winter Antiques Show.
Gilded copper Indian weathervanes were the talk of Sotheby’s fall 2006 Americana sale, when a circa 1900 J.L. Mott chief from the Ford collection notched a new auction record at $5.84 million. This year a 45½-inch-tall molded and gilded copper weathervane of an Indian archer with his bow drawn, estimated at $40/60,000, crossed the block at $241,000, again selling to Keno. “It is completely original,” said the New York dealer, who acquired the folk sculpture for stock.
“My client reasoned that even if he wasn’t in the market for a $6.7 million Philadelphia Chippendale piecrust tea table, he could still go for the best of the best of early Nineteenth Century Philadelphia furniture. This is it. It’s a museum piece,” said Northport, Maine, dealer Seth Thayer, who together with New York dealer Margaret Caldwell purchased a lavishly carved dolphin-ended Philadelphia sofa for $253,000, more than quadrupling the high estimate, on behalf of a customer. The unknown maker spared no expense making the sofa, which is carved with six dolphins, a spread eagle, and has fully carved back legs and feet.
A Chapin School bonnet top high chest of drawers with a characteristic pieced swan’s neck pediment, shell-carved drawers, and ball and claw feet sold to Yardley, Penn., dealer C.L. Prickett Antiques for $229,000 against competition from the phone. The case piece may be the work of Julius Barnard of Northampton, Mass. Historic Deerfield owns a similar example.
Possibly from Stratford, Conn., the Wayland family Queen Anne cherry high chest of drawers sold to an anonymous phone bidder for $79,000. The unusual piece is characterized by exuberant fan carvings on its drawers and sides.
Virginia collectors Richard T. Spurzem and his wife actively competed for silver and furniture, including a central Connecticut flat top high chest of drawers with robust pinwheel carvings, sold for $58,000.
Six lots came from the Joan F. Kahn and B. Franklin Kahn Trusts. Albert Sack repurchased two items previously handled by Israel Sack, Inc. The first was a Newport, R.I., Queen Anne mahogany porringer top tea table. It went to the Durham, N.C., dealer for $115,000. For a client, Sack acquired a figured mahogany reverse serpentine chest of drawers for $73,000.
Other Kahn pieces included a Salem, Mass., bonnet top high chest of drawers, possibly by Elijah Sanderson, Salem, Mass., $58,000; and two Philadelphia Queen Anne compass seat open armchairs, each sold for $25,000 against estimates of $30/60,000 apiece.
“We have a nice paintings collection but not very much in this period,” explained Kaywin Feldman, director of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. For $34,000, the Tennessee institution went home with a pair of portraits by James Earl, brother of Ralph Earl, of Frances Hortin and her sister. A Loyalist, James Earl moved to London during the Revolutionary War but spent his last years as a portrait painter in Charleston, S.C. Feldman was recently named director and president of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, effective January 1.
A double portrait by Ammi Phillips of Sarah King Dewey and her daughter, Harriet, realized $34,000.
Thirteen carousel figures from the estate of collector Charlotte Dinger, author of The Art of the Carousel , illustrated the importance of rarity and condition in this popular, traditionally outdoor art-form. A rare carved and painted basswood teddy bear carousel figure by Charles Looff, circa 1904, headed the group, selling for $85,000. Minus paint, a circa 1905 Dentzel outside row stander horse went for $49,000. A painted circa 1890 Dentzel outside-row stander fetched $43,000.
Other folk art included a gilded metal fish monger’s trade sign, $31,000, and an inscribed Stoney Bluff, S.C., stoneware storage jar by the slave potter Dave. It garnered $28,000 from an absentee bidder.
Fifty-eight lots passed, including a Winthrop Chandler oil on panel overmantel painting ($100/200,000); a circa 1690 court cupboard with restorations, ex-collection Katharine Prentis Murphy and the New-York Historical Society ($300/500,000); and a tambour desk attributed to the Seymours ($200/500,000).
Prices include buyer’s premium. For information, 212-606-7000 or www.sothebys.com .
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