Published: January 23, 2018
Photos Courtesy of Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Doyle
In a week of sales, beginning on Wednesday, January 16, and continuing through Sunday, January 21, more than 2,000 lots crossed the block at Doyle, Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Here are just a few of the notable lots. More extensive sale reviews will follow in later issues.
Doyle began both the New Year and New York Antiques Week with the auction of the Noel and Harriette Levine Collection on January 17. This remarkable collection comprised important English furniture and decorations from the Levines’ elegant home on Park Avenue and their country house in Bedford, N.Y.
With international competitive bidding in the saleroom, on the telephones and via the internet, the auction totaled $1,614,781, with 89 percent sold by lot and by value.
The sale was led by a Chinese gilt-bronze figure of Seated Tara, which achieved a remarkable $187,500, including premium. It was followed by a pair of Chinese export polychrome-decorated clay nodding head figures from the late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century depicting a man and woman and measuring 21 inches in height. Bid to $162,500 against a $40/60,000 estimate, the figures illustrate the incredible fascination that Europeans had for Chinese objects and helped to educate them about Chinese life and society. The first known example of similar figures appears in a European 1777 inventory, where they are described as “china dolls.”
Furniture highlights in the sale included a pair of George II walnut library armchairs that also sold for $162,500, a George III inlaid mahogany china cabinet that realized $81,250 and a Chinese polychrome painted and parcel-gilt coromandel black lacquer cabinet on a Continental giltwood stand that brought $68,750.
Less was more at Christie’s, which limited selling to a manageable two days. The roughly 570 lots offered contributed, minus withdrawn and bought-in items, to the $8,255,750 total. Including a hundred lots from the eminent dealer Marchant, Chinese export art realized $2,129,125 on January 20. The following morning, Outsider and vernacular art, much of it from the blue-chip collection of Marjorie and Harvey Freed, garnered $2,017,375 and delivered just the outcome specialist Cara Zimmerman intended: an energized hall with diverse and notably younger group of bidders than buyers of the traditional fare in the next session. The grand finale was important American furniture, folk art and silver. Generating $4,109,250 overall, the robust performance of most compelling lots of furniture, clocks, paintings and silver offered reassuring news to a market that has seen some ups and downs.
Sotheby’s offered historic American manuscripts alongside the usual Americana week offerings; this strategy had been a success in January 2017 and the firm hoped to repeat the trend. With approximately 1,250 lots offered in eight sessions over five days, Sotheby’s sold 958 lots totaling $13,890,664. Of this, historic manuscripts brought $4,289,502, led by the million-dollar-plus Declaration of Independence with provenance from collector Mrs J. Insley Blair, while the session that featured silver, Chinese export porcelain and prints contributed $1,798,064. Several notable collections crossed the block, demonstrating varying levels of interest throughout.
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