Published: February 1, 2011
Christie’s said good-bye to the subdued selling of 2009 and 2010 with a series of auctions that began on January 18 with Native American art and concluded January 25 with Chinese Export art. The sales, timed to coincide with Americana Week shows around the city, grossed $22 million, demonstrating marked success across many categories.
Furniture And Folk Art
The various owners’ sale of important American furniture and folk art garnered $12.8 million, including premium, on 223 lots and saw new benchmark auction prices for a Newport bureau table and for Federal furniture. It was Christie’s best result for furniture and folk art since 2007.
Bidding on behalf of an undisclosed client, Pennsylvania dealer Todd Prickett claimed a three-shell, blocked façade Newport bureau table for $5,682,500, a record for the form and the fourth highest auction price for American furniture. The piece last sold at auction in 2005 for $940,000. Family tradition holds that the bureau table was made by master craftsman John Goddard for his daughter Catherine around 1765.
Prickett also purchased an inlaid Pembroke table attributed to William Whitehead of New York for $194,500; a Pennsylvania bonnet-top spice cabinet, probably from Montgomery County, for $182,500; and a Federal shield back side chair with crisp carvings attributed to Samuel McIntire for $662,500. The record-setting chair is from a set of eight made for Elias Hasket Derby and his wife, Elizabeth Crowninshield, of Salem, Mass. Four chairs from the set belong to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A fifth is at Winterthur.
G.W. Samaha purchased a joined, carved and painted oak Connecticut “Sunflower” chest of 1675‱710 for $482,500 and a tall clock with English works and carving attributed to James Reynolds of Philadelphia for $290,500. A second carved and painted Massachusetts “Hadley” chest of circa 1700 sold to Connecticut collector William Mayer, also for $482,500.
Conservator Alan Miller won a Philadelphia William and Mary cedar dressing table for $482,500. Philadelphia dealer Elle Shushan bought a rare miniature portrait on copper of Samuel Barrett by John Singleton Copley for $386,500. Delaware dealer James Kilvington purchased a set of six Philadelphia Chippendale side chairs for $170,500.
A slim sale of American silver on January 20 grossed $2.7 million on 102 lots. As is customary, the auctioneers began with Twentieth Century pieces and worked back to a handful of colonial examples.
Made by Hans Brassler and Eleder-Hickok of Newark, N.J., around 1936 for Detroit auto magnate Lawrence P. Fisher, an extravagant silver, gold and hardstone dinner service sold to an Asian private buyer for $422,500.
A dazzling example of Tiffany’s most imaginative work, a gem-set cup with peacock-colored translucent plique-a-jour enamel sold to London dealer S.J. Phillips for $134,500. The cup’s first owner was Henry Walters, founder of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Md.
The session’s cover lots, a mixed metal gourd-form tray and related centerpiece, both designed by Edward C. Moore for Tiffany between 1878 and 1880, sold to an agent bidding for one client for a combined $425,000.
Timothy Martin of S.J. Shrubsole said he was pleased to buy a Daniel Henchman of Boston tankard engraved with the arms of Greene for $98,500 and a Henchman ladle for $8,125, both at the low end of their range. The New York dealer also acquired a Myer Myers of New York strainer for $18,750. Topping colonial silver sales was a Boston tazza by John Edwards and John Allen. It came in under estimate to sell for $350,500 to an American collector.
Collectors know folk art when they see it, even if they cannot define it. Naively decorated Seventeenth and early Eighteenth Century English delft and slip decorated earthenware has always been a favorite in the marketplace. In recent years, it has ridden the wave of interest in folk art to historic price levels, as was evident in Christie’s January 24 sale of English pottery from the Longridge Collection. The collection assembled by the late American collector Syd Levethan grossed $3.1 million on 141 lots and was 94 percent sold by estimated value. Private buyers had their pick of the top pieces.
Christie’s described the top lot, a London delft dish dated 1638, as “quintessentially a ‘Syd’ dish.” Initialed for Aaron Wit and Frances Allen, who married in Southwark in London that year, the piece is elaborately decorated with the biblical story of the Adoration in a rich palette imitating that found on Renaissance majolica. The dish sold to a collector for $218,500 against its $120/180,000 estimate.
Winterthur purchased a London delft blue and white chinoiserie wine bottle of 1628 for $86,500. Shards similarly decorated with the “bird on rock” pattern have been excavated in Jamestown, Va., and in New York City. The Delaware museum plans to include the bottle in its 2012 exhibition “Uncorked: Wine, Objects and Tradition.”
The top-selling slipware lot was a Staffordshire dish made circa 1702 in Hanley or Burslem, England. Inscribed with the name “John Wright” and bearing the images of a bird and a crowned monarch, the dish sold to an American collector for $158,500.
Chinese Export Art
Chinese Export art rounded out the week on January 25. Though not a blockbuster year, 269 lots realized a more than acceptable $2.3 million in a sale that was 88 percent sold by lot.
“China trade paintings from old collections attracted lots of attention,” said Christie’s senior specialist Becky MacGuire. In particular, an unusually large and detailed watercolor and ink painting on paper of tea production in China brought $116,500.
New buyers from around the globe †including Chinese, Middle Eastern and Latin American collectors †buoyed results for porcelains, among them a large pair of famille rose jars and covers, $98,500.
Native American Art
New York dealer John Malloy organized Christie’s January 18 sale of Native American art. The succinctly edited selection covered the range of material associated with the category, from Navajo weaving and Hopi kachina to Northwest Coast carving.
Malloy, who exhibited at the American Antiques Show, added contemporary jewelry by Charles Loloma, the Hopi craftsman whose innovative designs incorporate nontraditional materials, such as gold, lapis lazuli and sapphires. A silver cuff bracelet cast in silver with a textured surface and inset with a Persian turquoise cabochon brought $18,750.
Top honors went to an early Great Lakes painted hide shirt dating to the first half of the Eighteenth Century. The consignor acquired the shirt, which sold for $362,500 against an estimate of $250/300,000, from Canadian dealer Don Ellis.
In all, Native American Art grossed $1.1 million on 147 lots.
Prices include buyer’s premium.
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