Published: January 12, 2021
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Nadeau’s Auction Gallery
WINDSOR, CONN. – For the third decade, Nadeau’s Auction Gallery hosted its annual New Year’s Day sale on January 1, drawing bidders from around the world for a 703-lot auction that totaled $2.6 million, with 97 percent of the lots selling. The total was nearly $1 million more than the comparable sale in 2020 and more than the $2.3 million realized in 2019, good news in a challenging year for Nadeau’s and other auction houses that are coping with the Covid-19 pandemic. Nadeau’s has not gone full virtual as some others have, but its large gallery that can accommodate 350 people saw just 30-40 patrons at any one time during the sale, with social distancing measures in place. A total of 346 items, almost half, sold online. There were 7,387 registered bidders, the auction house at press time was unable to determine how many countries were represented in that number.
Edwin “Ed” Nadeau knows that what drives a sale’s success more than anything is “the stuff.” Good sales assemble a broad range of quality fresh material from blue-chip estates and consignors. This auction checked off that box in spades. Among material drawn from estates in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were Victorian furniture and accessories from the collections of Dana Cooley, Old Lyme, Conn., and Melissa Matthes and Dan Theriault, Woodbridge, Conn., the former home of actor Mel Gibson, Greenwich, Conn., and a pair of Park Avenue, New York City estates, as well as Nadeau’s signature offering of Margolis furniture, this time from a Glastonbury, Conn., estate.
The auction was presented in five parts, comprising sessions with jewelry and watches; silver; furniture, lighting and decorative accessories; Oriental rugs; sculpture and artwork. “It was a very good sale,” said Nadeau. “We’re very pleased. It was a long day, though,” referring to the 10½-hour marathon dispersal of lots that ended at 8:30 pm. “After six hours, I took a break for 10 or 15 minutes, then I went back and finished.”
Jewelry and Watches
In a world where precious gems and metals continue to command high prices, you cannot argue with the marquee power of jewelry, gold and, increasingly, vintage timepieces from iconic makers. This sale featured more than 250 lots of such material, led by a platinum and diamond ring set with a SI1 4.54-carat emerald cut diamond, flanked by trillion cut diamonds. With 12 or more phone lines on it when it crossed the block, the sparkler left its $40,000 high estimate in the dust to garner $204,000, going to the trade. Exhibiting natural, very light pink color, the ring measured 11.80 by 9.31 by 4.78 millimeters and was accompanied by a GIA report.
Not far behind at $141,450 was another diamond ring with interesting provenance. Bought by Francis Marion Smith (1846-1931), Oakland, Calif., known as the “Borax King,” probably from Shreve & Company, San Francisco, for his second wife, Evelyn Ellis Smith, approximately 1910, the ring was consigned by his granddaughter. The 14K white gold and diamond ring set with a 5.5-carat pear-shaped diamond, E color, VS1, measured 14.17 by 9.99 by 6.05 millimeters and was accompanied by a GIA report. It was purchased by a retail buyer in the gallery. Twenty-mule teams were first used by Smith to move borax out of the desert. In 1890 he formed the Pacific Coast Borax Company. After the 20-mule teams were replaced by a new rail spur, the name 20 Mule Team Borax was established and aggressively promoted by Pacific Coast Borax to increase sales. Perhaps its most famous pitchman was Ronald Reagan, who hosted the television show Death Valley Days in the mid-1960s, sponsored primarily by Pacific Coast Borax Company, which later became US Borax.
Fetching $25,200 was a Van Cleef & Arpels platinum diamond and blue sapphire ring. It was set with a center emerald cut diamond, flanked by three emerald cut diamonds on either side, center flanked by three emerald cut blue sapphires, flanked by five square cut diamonds on either side. Marked Van Cleef Arpels V1975, it was size 6½.
A pair of platinum diamond earrings in Edwardian period pendeloque style, each measuring 2½ inches long with non-pierced French back, finished at $16,800. Each earring had a round European cut diamond in the center, with an approximate carat weight of .62 carats.
Platinum proved popular again as a platinum diamond bracelet set with 330 diamonds, 21 in each of the four bar sections was bid to $16,250. The 7-inch-long bracelet featured four diamonds in each of the two round hinges attaching the floral trim pieces in the center, the trim in center of bars each set with one cushion cut diamond, (approximately .70 carats each). The catch was a small floral trim set with diamonds, the remainder of the 330 diamonds surrounding the three large diamonds.
Notable watches across the block included a Rolex 18K gold day date superlative chronograph man’s wristwatch, which sold for $15,990, and a Rolex 18K gold day date chronometer man’s wristwatch with 18K gold band, in a wood and electric box going out at $12,000.
Rounding out the top selling jewelry highlights were a pair of diamond stud earrings at $10,800; a Tiffany & Company 18K yellow gold and diamond open face lapel watchcase pave set with Old European cut diamonds for $10,455; and an Angela Cummings for Tiffany & Company 18K gold nocturnal design collar necklace with owl, moth, stars and moons from 1983 that rose to $10,625.
The leader among the silver lots in the sale was a stately Hans Bolek (1890-1978) pedestal fruit bowl made by Eduard Friedmann, Vienna, which brought $17,500 against its $1/2,000 estimate. With a silver and gilt interior, original cut glass liner, oval-shape fluted flaring side, the bowl’s top section had engraved spiral volutes with leaves marked Vienna 900 silver mark and the maker’s monogram mark.
The 12 Days of Christmas may have only been at the halfway mark on the day of the sale, but that did not deter a buyer from symbolically evoking them with the purchase of a set of 12 Jocelyn Burton sterling silver plates for the holiday table, the set fetching $15,350, the high estimate. Each plate had gold wash center with shell, hallmark on bottom JB, lion and mask, with a diameter 12-1/8 inches.
Totaling 106 pieces, a Christofle Talisman pattern silverplated and enameled flatware set found a buyer at $9,600. Included were 12 dinner forks, 12 dinner knives, 10 fish knives, 12 salad forks, 12 tablespoons, 12 teaspoons, 12 luncheon knives, 10 cheese or butter knives, 12 demitasse spoons, a serving spoon and fork, all stored in a burl Christofle fitted box. Also setting the table was a 308-piece Gorham Melrose sterling silver flatware set to include 13 large serving spoons and forks, 12 soup spoons, 12 tablespoons, 40 luncheon forks, 12 salad forks, 12 hors d’oeuvre forks, 12 ice cream forks, 12 ice tea spoons, 12 dessert spoons, 18 teaspoons, 18 demitasse spoons, 18 butter knives, 12 fruit knives, 12 fish knives, 16 dinner knives, 13 lunch knives, six ladles and 58 various serving pieces. Weighing in at 270.3 troy ounces, the set commanded $8,750.
Four Paul Storr sterling silver open salts brought $9,000. Each featured a top with scroll and shells on floral repousse bodies with lions, set on claw feet, standing 2-5/8 inches high.
There were additional highlights in this category, including a seven-piece Gorham sterling silver tea and coffee set from a New Jersey estate that fetched $7,500; an R. Wallace & Sons sterling silver Monterey pattern custom hand hammered flatware setting for 12 that went out at $6,600; and a seven-piece sterling silver tea and coffee set in the late Georgian pattern that was bid to $6,300.
Furniture, Lighting and Decorative Accessories
There were literally heavy-hitters leading this category in the sale, namely two massive Baccarat chandeliers that were offered consecutively with the sweetener that the auction house would provide a specialist to dismantle, deliver and reassemble each within a 100-mile radius for an additional fee of approximately $3,000 to $4,000. Otherwise, the successful bidder would be responsible for dismantling the chandelier. Taking $43,750, a Baccarat crystal Mille Nuits 42-light example, 105¼ by 51½ inches, designed by Mathias featured bevel-cut crystal having decorative scrolls with hexagon and prisms, and the signature red crystal drop. Made from three chandeliers, it could be refitted to three chandeliers again, the top having six arms with lights, middle section having 12 arms with lights and the bottom largest section having 24 arms with lights. Catalog notes revealed that the chandelier would retail new for approximately $155,000.
Lighting up to $37,120 was a Baccarat crystal Zenith 36-light chandelier that would set someone back approximately $103,000 if purchased new retail. At a height of 73¾ inches, it was 50 inches wide.
On a much smaller scale, a Tiffany Studios Apple Blossom leaded glass table lamp with shade having rare raised branches, flowers with pink petals and yellow center realized $23,040. It was 21½ inches high with a shade diameter of 16-1/8 inches. Marked Tiffany Studios, New York, it stood on ribbed bronze base.
Tiffany was also represented in a 12-light candelabrum of gilt bronze, circa 1910, marked Tiffany Studios, New York. Missing its snuffer and standing 15½ inches high, it garnered $9,375.
A selection of English and Continental furniture was robust, with a set of 24 Gillows Louis XVI-style walnut dining chairs with oak leaf carved backs and leather upholstered backs and seats going out at $16,800. Their provenance as coming from the former Greenwich home of actor Mel Gibson probably juiced their final price versus the $2/3,500 estimate. Each was signed Gillows on a rear leg and stood 35¾ inches high.
Similarly, a Gillows round burled and figured walnut dining table from the former Mel Gibson home with 11 leaves, all on turned and fluted legs, bettered its $4/8,000 expectation to bring $14,400. Opening to 308 inches (25½ feet) with leaves that came in a fitted oak, two-door cabinet, the table was 29 inches high. “Not too many of those around,” quipped Nadeau.
On the American side of furniture, an Eldred Wheeler tiger maple secretary desk sold for $8,100. It was in two parts, with full bonnet top over two raised panel doors resting on lower section with slant lid, over four drawers, on ogee feet, interior with stepped drawers, and was 91 inches high, 37½ inches wide.
A rare original Gramophone by Emile Berliner, circa 1890-93, played to $22,800. It was the first series of production by Kammer & Reinhardt of Germany for playing 5-inch Berliner records, with hand-cranked mechanism, soundbox with patent date 8th Nov. 1887 and original shipping box. German emigrant Emile Berliner patented his invention in Germany and America simultaneously, followed by patents in several other countries. Berliner’s machine, however, ultimately awoke little interest in America because Thomas Edison unveiled an improved cylinder phonograph at the Paris World Exhibition two years later.
Sculpture and Artwork
Art continues to surge in value, and in this sale art combined with literary pedigree and provenance to strongly propel a couple of pieces by John Tenniel (1820-1914), English illustrator, graphic humorist and political cartoonist prominent for his illustrations to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871). A set of three original pencil drawings from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland reached $72,000. All were signed and monogrammed along with a written letter by the artist talking about “Alice in the Armchair,” and provenance went back to the consignor’s great-great-uncle Bronson Winthrop, who was a philanthropist and socialite from Paris who moved to New York and whose father was founding member of Knickerbocker Club in New York. “They came from a local house, maybe ten miles from us here,” said Nadeau. “The person who bought it showed us a Sotheby’s Parke-Bernet catalog from 1945 when those items were sold.”
From the same consignor came another set of three Tenniel “Alice in Wonderland” drawings. On the left was “You are old, said the youth, as I mentioned before, and have grown most uncommonly fat; yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door – pray, what is the reason of that?” In the center was “Alice in Wonderland,” and on the right was “In my youth, Father William replied to his son, I feared it might injure the brain; but now that I’m perfectly sure I have none, why I do it again and again.” This set sold for $48,000 to the same private buyers.
American artist Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902), best known for his heroic, sweeping landscapes of the American West, provided a tender image of a butterfly, a watercolor on paper, which sold for $35,840. Measuring 9 by 12½ inches, it was untitled, signed and dated lower left Albert Bierstadt, April 16/96 and came with a certificate of authenticity and provenance from Roberto J Cayuso.
A 41-inch-high sculpture by Richard MacDonald (American, b 1946), “Trumpeter, Draped,” a half life-size bronze with polychrome inscribed on the base and numbered 51/90, went out at $29,440.
International fine art highlights included a country landscape by Johann Hendrik Weissenbruch (1824-1903), a watercolor signed lower right, 13 by 20½ inches, making $28,800, and a view of boats on a Venice canal with Saint Mark’s Basilica in the background by Felix Ziem (1821-1911), a signed oil on board that sailed to $25,000.
And, of course, it would not be a midwinter treat without an iconic snowy cityscape by Guy Wiggins (American, 1883-1962). His “Washington Square,” an oil on canvas signed lower right, 24 by 30 inches, was consigned to the sale from the Matthes-Theriault collection, Woodbridge, Conn., and changed hands at $23,370.
Rounding out the top fine art highlights were a Modernist painting from 1944 by Albert Eugene Gallatin (1882-1952), “Composition No. 35,” oil on board signed and dated verso, at $20,910, and James Guthrie’s (Scottish, 1859-1930) “Portrait of Edward Martin Dressed for Fox Hunting,” an oil on canvas, signed and dated center right James Guthrie, 1896, 78 by 40 inches, finishing at $19,200 against an $8,000 high estimate.
Could the fact that the top Oriental carpet in the sale – one with a muted design and colors that nevertheless outperformed its $4/8,000 estimate to finish at $26,880 – have anything to do with it having come from the former Greenwich, Conn., home of actor Mel Gibson? It measured 20 feet 6 inches by 30 feet 6 inches. “In these days, we asked ourselves, are we going to find any clients that want a 20-by-30 rug,” said Nadeau. “I don’t know if the name had anything to do with it, but it’s a good possibility.”
A Serapi carpet with an end fraying and one low spot in field, 10 feet by 12 feet 5 inches, realized $12,000, while just $300 more availed the purchase of an Oushak (with wear, cut and patched) 14 feet 6 inches by 24 feet 7 inches, that had seen foot traffic in Mel Gibson’s home.
Fetching $9,840 was a Caucasian Oriental runner, 3 feet by 9 feet 4 inches, and going out at $7,500 each were a large Aubusson wall tapestry depicting a Flemish estate garden, with reeds and a swan, Eighteenth Century or later, 9 feet 8 inches by 11 feet 4 inches, also from the Mel Gibson home, and a Hatton Garden Teniers tapestry, Seventeenth Century Aubusson in silk and wool with a Teniers scene, possibly by Francis or Thomas Poyntz after David Teniers the younger. It depicted a mountainous harbor scene with fishing boats and peasants and fish market, hillside landscape with fortress and lighthouse, floral border with animals and a poodle sitting on a pillow. It measured 8 feet 5 inches by 9 feet 7 inches.
Nadeau’s Auction Gallery’s next sale is set for Saturday, January 30. After that the gallery will be hosting a sale that will include Modernism and midcentury. All prices given include buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For more information, www.nadeausauction.com or 860-246-2444.
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