Published: September 18, 2007
Between the 1970s and the 1990s, Marguerite Riordan’s booth at the Winter Antiques Show was a mandatory stop for Americana collectors. Known for her fine eye and confident presentation of New England decorative arts, Riordan mingled graceful furniture with boldly articulated weathervanes, primitive portraits and landscapes, and schoolgirl embroidery and decorated furniture. Twice at the Winter Antiques Show, Riordan sold folk paintings by Edward Hicks for what were then record prices.
In early September, Riordan confirmed that she and her husband, Arthur, had consigned the contents of their Stonington home to Christie’s. The cataloged, single-owner sale will be a highlight of Americana Week in January.
The Riordans, who are in their early 80s and have lived in Stonington for 35 years, say they are simplifying their lives with an eye toward eventually selling their house, a renovated 1887 furniture store on Pearl Street in the former whaling town. Riordan’s by-appointment gallery, offices and library are at street level. The couple’s loft-style living quarters, featuring sweeping views of Stonington Harbor and nearby Fishers Island, are two floors above. Riordan will continue advising clients privately.
“For four or five years, we had casually discussed selling,” Riordan said recently. An August call from a friend, Christie’s chairman Stephen Lash, resulted in an impromptu discussion about selling. Christie’s deputy director John Hays followed up. Without investigating other auction houses, the Riordans sealed the deal.
Led by experts Dean Failey and Margot Rosenberg, the Christie’s team begins cataloging in late September. An estimated value has not yet been put on the collection, which will total roughly 200 lots.
“These are things that Marguerite and Arthur loved and lived with. Their taste was for clean, straightforward pieces, not fancy or fussy. Marguerite guided her clients to the same aesthetic,” said Failey. “There will be a few pieces, all wonderful, that were in her shop. They are very much in the Riordans’ taste. We expect them to do very well.”
Sale highlights include a Marblehead, Mass., bonnet-top high chest of drawers and two Connecticut flattop high chests that are almost a pair.
There are six exceptional Windsor chairs, paintings by Ammi Phillips and John Blunt, and a large paddle-wheeler ship weathervane. The collection is also rich in decorated stoneware and portrait miniatures, including many by Mrs Moses B. Russell.
“It was a difficult decision to make but we didn’t want to burden our children,” said Riordan, who parted with some pieces privately over the past several years. “Now that it is made, we are full of confidence. It was time.”
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