Published: February 2, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Nye & Company
BLOOMFIELD, N.J. – More than 800 lots crossed the block at Nye & Company on January 20-21, in the firm’s “Estate Treasures Auction” and the first event of the new year. Selling on four internet platforms, the sale generated a total of about $1,125,000, significantly exceeding its aggregate his estimate of approximately $650,000.
“It was exciting and rewarding,” John Nye said when we reached him the week after the dust had settled. “We had a strong sale in December and to be able to go back-to-back like that was really encouraging. It brought well above the high estimates and it’s always nice to know that people are watching and participating.”
Three lots of George II Anglo-Chinese huanghuali chairs swept the leaderboard, selling for an accumulated $498,150. Offered consecutively, the group generated interest from around the world and saw competition from not less than nine phone bidders as well as those online. The compass-seat armchair, offered first, realized $116,850; a pair of side chairs with caned seats and squab seat cushions closed at $159,800 and the other pair, with compass seat frames and slip seats, made the most, selling for $221,400.
“We knew they were good but we did not expect them to bring what they’d brought,” Nye said the day after the sale. “They are early, rare, documented and show up in a painting…they had a lot going for them.” He said that one lot was staying in the United States, with the other two lots going to international buyers.
The catalog note for each lot was extensive, noting that the similar chairs had been included in a painting of the Gough family done in 1741 by William Verelst. Comparable examples were cited showing up in a sale at Bonhams New Bond Street in 2013, and a sale at Sotheby’s London in 1998. As if those prior sales were not enough to tempt buyers, related chairs have been published in Carl L. Crossman, The Decorative Arts of the China Trade, (1991); Lucy Wood, The Upholstered Furniture in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, (2008); Percy Macquoid, English Furniture, Tapestry and Needlework, (1929); Edward Lennox-Boyd ed., Masterpieces of English Furniture: The Gerstenfeld Collection, (1998); and in Country Life, July 31, 2013, “The Art Market Review,” in which a set of 12 chairs was featured having been exhibited at Masterpiece 2013 by Mallett of Dover Street. All of the chairs in this sale were from the estate of investment banker, Robert K. Johnson of Maine and South Carolina.
The Johnson provenance proved to be a magic touch, with several of the more than 50 lots from that estate surpassing expectations, in some cases considerably. A late Eighteenth Century George III ormolu-mounted mahogany secretary brought $22,140, while a George III mahogany architect’s desk of similar vintage achieved $11,070, more than ten times its low estimate. A pair of George II scarlet-japanned corner cupboards that had once been handled by preeminent London furniture dealer, Mallett’s, did similarly well, bringing $9,225 against an estimate of $800-$1,200. Lighting up to $9,840 was a pair of three-light candelabra that were attributed to John Blades.
“His rug collection brought back the old days of rug prices. We hadn’t seen such strong rug prices in a long time,” Nye said, referring to a selection of nearly a dozen rugs from the Johnson estate. Bidders unrolled a late Nineteenth Century Caucasian Shirvan prayer rug to $9,225, and two Heriz carpets, offered consecutively, brought $7,688 and $6,765.
Another collection that contributed a few other top price-realizing lots in the sale was that of private collectors, Steve and Stephanie Alpert. American folk art – both Twentieth Century and earlier – as well as formal fine and decorative arts had been a focus for the Boston area collectors, who also applied a whimsical eye to design. Leading the collection was Pedro Friedeberg’s “Standing Ovation” hand and foot chair, which had been acquired at the Harcourt Gallery in San Francisco in 1980 and realized $11,685, just shy of its high estimate. Apparently, distinctive seating furniture appealed to the Alperts; a pair of red and blue painted wooden lounge chairs, made by Cassina after a design by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, brought $3,998. Two cigar store Indian figures brought $5,228 and $1,353. Several whimsical carved and painted works by Felipe (1910-1991) or Leroy Archuleta (b 1949) romped through the first day of sales, with a tortoise by Felipe crawling to $4,305 and an alligator and giraffe, both by Leroy, each selling for $1,845.
Nye was offering works from the Siegmund Collection, which was also being simultaneously offered in Christie’s Americana sale on January 20-21 in New York City. Highlights from the collection included a Regency mahogany double-pedestal dining table, $2,768; a George III mahogany brass-bound sideboard, $1,722; a group of five mochaware pepperpots, $2,091; and a papier mache nodding French bull terrier, $1,599.
For unusual lots, it would be difficult to beat a set of four Robert Venturi “Chippendale” chairs, made by Knoll International in 1984-85 in laminate on plywood with leather seats. Estimated at $10/20,000, the set realized $18,450. They had been consigned from a Montclair, N.J., collection.
American furniture saw varied results, with strong prices realized for a Mid-Atlantic states Chippendale mahogany drop leaf dining table that had been expected to sell between $2/3,000 but which instead brought $10,455. Bringing $6,150 against a $3/5,000 estimate was a Classical parcel-gilt marble top mirrored table attributed to New York City, circa 1825.
Ever wonder what an auctioneer personally likes? Ask them! John said that one of his favorite lots was an early Nineteenth Regency bright-cut brass and mahogany serving tray from the Johnson estate that he thought had particularly nice figured mahogany. He had estimated it at $1/2,000 and it sold to a buyer in Delaware for $984. He also liked a Nineteenth Century Regency giltwood dragon-decorated convex mirror that had four candle arms and a dolphin form pendant. It exceeded its expectations to bring $3,998. John’s wife, Kathy, loved a pair of baroque-style verdigris side chairs with lush leaf carving, in the English taste but made in the Twentieth Century. They had been from the Boston estate of William Hodgins, which Nye has been selling for a couple of sales and has only a few more things in the pipeline left to sell. Estimated at $600/900, it sold to a New York collector for $984.
The next sale at Nye and Company will take place on March 3.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For further information, www.nyeandcompany.com or 973-984-6900.
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