By Rita Easton
BOOTHWYN, PENN. – Crossing the block at Briggs’ special auction held on Monday, May 20, were 233 lots from the collection and inventory of the scholar, historian, collector, and dealer Robert Edwards of Swarthmore, Penn., with additional lots from other consignors. The Edwards collection featured American decorative arts from 1860 through 1960. The event was attended by approximately 500, and was preceded by two viewing sessions.
Highlights from the auction included four rare and important pieces of furniture from the Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony of Woodstock, N.Y. The most notable piece was a 1904 oak cabinet with polychrome maple leaf decoration, designed by Zulma Steele, a primary designer at the Byrdcliffe Colony.
The cabinet sold to a private collector for $99,000, a new world record for Byrdcliffe furniture sold at auction. It is one of only four existing similar cabinets, each having a different, unique design on the door panels. This cabinet was probably painted by Jane Byrd McCall Whitehead, the wife of Ralph Radcliffe-Whitehead, who, together, founded the Byrdcliffe Colony. The blue/green transparent stain on the cabinet is identical to that on the “sassafras cabinet” now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Other Byrdcliffe furniture included a mahogany desk, circa 1904, that belonged to Ralph Radcliffe-Whitehead (cofounder of the Byrdcliffe colony), inscribed with Greek and Latin phrases on the back and side panels, which sold for $7,150; a unique birch library table (circa 1904), in its original green stain realized $12,100; and a cherry lamp stand with decorated side panels of lilies painted by Zulma Steele brought $11,000. Bidding for these pieces was brisk, both on the floor and over four telephones, as dealers and collectors from across the country competed.
Other notable rdf_Descriptions from the Edwards collection included a rare pair of cypress wood side chairs by John Scott Bradstreet that fetched $19,000; a George Ohr free form pottery bowl realized $6,160; a pair of red and black Venetian blown glass vases garnered $2,200; and a pair of oil paintings by Henry Albright in their original artist-designed frames were purchased for $2,310.
Prices quoted reflect a 10 percent buyer’s premium.