Published: July 6, 2016
Review and Onsite Photos by W.A. Demers;
Additional Photos Courtesy Schwenke Auctioneers
WOODBURY, CONN. — Several lots of Midcentury Modern elicited enthusiastic bidding at Schwenke Auctioneers’ American and estates auction on June 26, notably a George Nakashima (American, 1905–1990) triple sliding door cabinet, circa 1973, with American black walnut slab-form top and freeform front edge that was bid to $30,500. Underbidder George Champion, a Woodbury dealer in Modern design, kept the action going in the room against an equally determined private collector on the phone.
The lot, which was estimated $6/9,000 and was accompanied by the original 1973 receipt from the Nakashima workshop, ultimately went to the phone. It was a larger than normal sale for Schwenke, the last of the 808 lots hammering down at about 8 pm — all called by owner Tom Schwenke with three brief intermissions.
It was a long day for the auctioneer, who incidentally was marking the firm’s seventh year since its inception in May 2009. “Lotsa lots,” said Schwenke as he mounted the podium and outlined the order of sale for the approximately 60 patrons seated in the gallery. “I thought the results were good,” said the auctioneer after the sale. “We never know what to expect in this market. Across the board, there was good material, a tremendous amount of interest, and although it was a challenging amount of items, I have a great staff so it all went very smoothly.”
The first 50 or so lots were assorted categories, then moved into jewelry, silver and glass and art. These were followed by Eastern European art, Asian and African material, with the rest of the afternoon devoted to English and American furniture and decorative arts, books and finally Oriental rugs.
A rare New York Federal carved mahogany octagonal ladies worktable, with one working drawer, raised on molded arched cabriole legs ending in carved paw feet with flat shelf stretcher, attributed to Duncan Phyfe, New York, circa 1800–10, garnered much interest. It stood 29 inches high, 22½ inches wide and 15 inches deep. It also carried great provenance, having come from the collection of Norman Hascoe, Greenwich, Conn. In formal American furniture’s heyday it had once pulled $80,000 at Sotheby’s, but these are different times and so it brought a less frothy $24,400.
Grouped with the Duncan Phyfe table at preview was a matched pair of Chippendale carved mahogany side chairs from a Ridgefield, Conn., estate and attributed to the school of Thomas Tuft or James Gillingham, circa 1770–75. With shaped crest rail with bead and scrolled volutes, centering a leaf carving, above a Gothic interlaced splat with quatrefoil design, the chairs were bid to $10,980. They featured a square seat with floral and leaf carved knees with cabriole legs ending in carved claw and ball feet.
All told, it was a good day for formal American and Continental furniture. Estimated just $2/4,000, an important Eighteenth Century Massachusetts Hepplewhite carved mahogany side chair with elaborately carved shield-form back, upholstered seat and floral, leaf and stop-fluted carved front legs, die-stamped “S. Badlam” on rear seat rail, left the gallery at $10,248. Stephen Badlam (1751–1815) was a cabinetmaker in Dorchester Lower Mills, Mass. The chair also bore the initials “SF” for journeyman Samuel Fiske, and its carving was attributed to Samuel McIntyre.
A few lots later, a New England Chippendale carved mahogany reverse serpentine oxbow four-drawer chest with slide, also estimated $2/4,000, was bid to $9,760. Raised on ogee bracket feet, the Eighteenth Century chest, probably from Massachusetts, was 32½ inches high, 36½ inches wide and 21 inches deep.
Also among the sale’s top ten were a Boston Chippendale carved mahogany tea table that brought $4,575 and a Queen Anne cherry wood lowboy that finished at $4,270.
Phone and internet fireworks erupted when an early English carved oak joint stool, Eighteenth Century, branded “IB” under its top crossed the block. From a private New York collection and estimated just $200/400, it finished at $2,760 to a phone bidder.
A fine art highlight was an oil on canvas board painting by Emile Gruppe (American, 1896–1978), “Seagulls,” oil on canvas board, which was signed lower right, titled and signed on verso with original sales receipt from Emile A. Gruppe Gallery, Gloucester, Mass., dated 1975. Measuring 153/8 by 19½ inches, the work attained $7,320, exceeding its $5,000 high estimate.
There were about 25 lots of ethnographic and native/tribal arts on offer around the midpoint of the sale, including African tribal masks, figures and tools. The most notable of these was a tribal carved and painted wood shield, 53 inches long and 14½ inches wide, that soared from its $100/200 estimate to take $3,538.
Rounding out the sale were about 30 lots of Oriental rugs, led by a Caucasian prayer rug — the penultimate lot, which handily smoked its $300/400 estimate to settle at $4,270.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.woodburyauction.com or 203-266-0323.
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