Published: July 6, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring
DALLAS – “Overall, it was an exciting sale,” Heritage Auctions’ director of decorative arts, design, silver and vertu Karen Rigdon told Antiques and The Arts Weekly after the June 22 Fine Furniture & Decorative Arts Signature Auction wrapped up. “We’ve seen interest rise through the pandemic; the question is whether it is momentary or whether it will continue. We saw tremendous interest in a wide range of things. All of our consignors – both estates and collectors – are happy with the results, which is always encouraging.”
Rigdon said that the sale size was smaller than usual, but the result was better than usual, and the sale totaled $1,258,011 at press time. She said that more than 90 percent of lots sold, which is a good result by any standard.
“Of course, lining up bidders for the Thomas Hope vase was incredibly exciting. I was hoping it would go where it did, so I’m thrilled.” Rigdon was speaking about the sale’s top lot, a gilt-bronze-mounted patinated copper two-handled vase designed by Thomas Hope for his Duchess Street mansion and executed by Alexis Decaix, circa 1802-03. It sold to London dealer H. Blairman & Sons, Ltd., for $225,000. An extensive catalog essay accompanied the lot, which is a mate to a vase Blairman sold to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1983.
“We had five phone bidders altogether and bidding opened at $20,000. It had an estimate of $40/60,000 and most people were saying it would sell for $50,000 but I thought it would do better.”
Bidding for Blairman was Martin Levy, who told the auction house, “Having owned the pair to this vase, acquired in 1983 by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, we are thrilled to have been the successful bidder at Heritage Auctions. Our plan is to present this beautiful and classic example of Thomas Hope’s design at the Winter Show in January 2022.”
The vase had come from the Tulsa, Okla., estate of David D. Denham but its provenance prior to that has been lost. “I have no idea where he acquired it or any records that he even knew what it was,” Rigdon said. She noted that when Heritage discovered the vase in Denham’s house, it had a glass top across the tops of the handles, which was secured in place with a domed cover and finial. “Seeing this, it is highly unlikely that David Denham believed that it was anything more than a reproduction.”
Thomas Hope made his London home on Duchess Street into an outstanding example of Neoclassical design. In 1807, he published an illustrated account of the house and its furnishings titled Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, which would come to have considerable influence on other architects and designers working in the Greek Revival style. He is known to have sought out Alexis Decaix to make the vase after Hope’s design. Decaix was a French bronzier who came to London as a refugee from the French Revolution.
The pendulum swung from an early Nineteenth Century design to a late Twentieth Century one. The next highest price in the sale was $37,500, which was paid for a 202-piece Versace porcelain dinner service in the Les Trésors De La Mer pattern, 1996. “It was so bright and cheery. I had great expectations for the Versace service, but it exceeded my expectations tremendously. The service does not typically come up but it was so pretty I couldn’t resist.” The service was from the Fort Worth, Texas, estate of Kenneth Alan Hill, Sr, that also included a 69-piece porcelain dinner service in the Medusa Red pattern, which achieved $16,250.
A pair of Louis XV-style gilt and patinated bronze nine-light figural chandeliers, inscribed F. Linke, were also from the Hill estate and brought $32,500.
Several of the other top lots in the sale were from the collection of John Robert Clark, a Dallas antiques dealer with what Ringdon said was “an exceptional eye for quality.” Bidders clearly appreciated his taste, taking a pair of 32-inch-tall Italian carved marble busts of Acis and Galatea, circa 1700, to $37,500. A pair of Louis XVI gilt-bronze candlesticks after a design by Jean-Démosthène Dugourc, circa 1783, that relates to a pair in the Wallace Collection in London, was also from the Clark collection and finished at $19,375, within estimate.
Clark’s collection also featured a set of 16 Royal Copenhagen reticulated dinner plates in the Flora Danica pattern. “We always do well with Flora Danica; it’s a long-favored pattern that just pops out at you,” Rigdon said, explaining the $15,000 price realized.
Two pairs of chairs from Clark’s collection featured a chartreuse zebra print upholstery that could not be described as subtle under any circumstances. The pair that brought $10,625 were French Empire carved mahogany hall chairs, while a pair of French Regence carved giltwood fauteuils made $8,750.
Works made in the United States were less well represented than their English or European counterparts, but choice examples and surprises were still to be had. Most notably among these was a Renaissance Revival carved walnut desk, made by the Wooton Desk Manufacturing Company in Indianapolis, Inc., which had an estimate of $5/7,000. Rigdon said bidding on the desk had opened at just $2,500 but it got a $17,000 boost from a bid that carried it from $3,000 to $17,000, with it ultimately finishing at $30,000 – near the highest ever paid for a Wooton desk at auction.
Rigdon was pleased with the interest and results of a pair of enameled glass vases attributed to Lobmeyr of Austria, which she said were “beautiful, large scale pieces” that she “would love to see more of.” The pair made $10,000.
The market for Continental tapestries has been soft so Rigdon was also pleased at the $8,750 result achieved for an Eighteenth Century Flemish Verdure tapestry from a Pacific Northwest collection.
On August 10, Heritage Auctions will offer furniture and decorative arts from the Las Vegas residence of Phyllis McGuire, one of the 1950s singing trio The McGuire Sisters.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For more information, www.ha.com.
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