Published: January 17, 2017
Review and Photos by Laura Beach
PORTSMOUTH, R.I. – “We’re going to move quickly,” Mike Corcoran of Gustave J.S. White warned before the start of his December 28 sale, a selection accented with property from Fairholme and Oakwood. Famous for his cleanouts of grand Newport estates, Corcoran runs an energetic event, leading bidders from room to room, upstairs and down, at the two-building Gustave J.S. White auction complex situated midway between Newport and Providence.
“Always onsite, never online” is the auctioneer’s motto. For the December 28 sale, there was no catalog or checklist, no published list of prices realized, and, heaven forbid, no online bidding platform. This was a very dealer-friendly sale. The house was full of returning buyers.
Corcoran is an old-time auctioneer and one of the best in the business. He entertains, he cajoles, he knows his stuff and he knows his customers. They love him for it.
One of the day’s most active buyers was dealer Heidi Stevens of North Kingstown, R.I. “Mike is an institution in these parts. I don’t know what we would do without him,” Stevens told Antiques and The Arts Weekly by phone after the sale. “I’ve had a shop, called Re, here in North Kingstown for eight years. We’re opening a second shop across the street. We have all kinds of events. My background is in design. My goal is to get younger people to like antiques. I come at it from the perspective of line, design, balance.”
“I’ve been going to Mike’s sales for 20 years. He’s amazing. His memory and energy astound me,” said another regular customer, Edythe Davinis. The owner of Edythe & Co. in Osterville, Mass., on Cape Cod noted, “I had a bigger shop on 6A in Sandwich, Mass., for 18 years. Now I have the smaller shop and do shows. I only sell what I love – quirky, fun things, and, of course, garden pieces.” Though Davinis lost out on several lots, she did get the Chinese porcelain garden seat she coveted.
As a cherished local institution, Gustave J.S. White offers a crash course in local taste. This observer was happy to learn more, via several lots in the sale, about George E. Vernon & Company of Newport. Corcoran likens the firm that began as an antiquary but continued as a maker of replica furniture until 1967 to Margolis of Connecticut. Also desirable locally are vessels by the Italian American silversmith Alfredo Sciarrotta (1907-1985), who worked in Newport at the US Naval Torpedo Station before designing tableware for all the big American retailers, from Cartier to Shreve, Crump & Low.
The bits and pieces from Fairholme, the 1875 Tudor Revival mansion that sold in 2016 for $16.1 million, and Oakwood, which garnered $4 million, provided a tiny glimpse of the mildly Anglophilic Newport lifestyle, complete with adorable paintings of spaniels by the artist known as Lillian Tiffany and Limoges luncheon plates hand-painted with portraits of favorite pooches.
Auction highlights are arrayed on these pages. Get to a Gustave J.S. White sale soon. As Mike Corcoran likes to say, “More action!”
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
The Gustave J.S. White Company auction galleries are at 1674 and 1676 East Main Road. A real estate company of the same name is based in Newport. For more information, 401-841-5780.
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