Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy of Skinner Inc
BOSTON – Skinner Auction’s European Furniture & Decorative Arts sale on Saturday, July 13, totaled $829,948 with more than 95 percent of the 536 lots selling to an auction that was “pretty well attended,” according to Stuart Slavid, Skinner’s senior vice president and director of fine ceramics, silver and European furniture and decorative arts. He added that it was “a very healthy European sale considering the downturn in interest over the past several years. Goes to show that if you have the right things at the right estimates the market is still responding well.”
Leading the sale was a Wedgwood Fairyland Lustre temple on a rock vase and cover, which quadrupled expectations to sell for $ 61,500 to a phone bidder who was underbid by another bidder on the phone. According to Slavid, it is one of two premier pieces of Fairyland and one of only two or three he has personally handled. After the sale, it was revealed that it was acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Following on the leaderboard was a Japonisme gilt and silvered bronze figural gueridon that sold for $23,370, more than 20 times its low estimate. Rounding out the top three lots in the sale was another piece of Wedgwood, this a solid black jasper “Northwood” copy of the Portland Vase that found the sweet spot in its $15/25,000 estimate and closed at $18,450. When asked, Slavid said it was one of approximately 12-15 that had been produced and the condition was “fabulous.”
A large component of the sale was a group of 109 lots of English ceramics from the collection of Theodore “Ted” Spak, who was the director emeritus of the board at Florida International University (FIU). According to Spak’s will, half of his collection was to be given to the permanent collection at FIU while the remaining half would be sold, with FIU benefitting from the proceeds of the sale. Slavid had helped vet the Spak collection, choosing to leave for FIU’s collection pieces that would “tell the story of Wedgwood.” The Spak collection brought solid results for Skinner.
Of the top ten lots in the sale, six were from the Spak collection. Only two lots from the collection failed to find buyers at the sale but Slavid said they were likely to sell within a few days after. FIU did not respond to requests for comment or an explanation of how the proceeds were to be used.
European furniture in the sale generally performed to market expectations. A British japanned cabinet on stand, attributed to the West Midlands from the early Nineteenth Century, exceeded its high estimate ($5/10,000) to sell for $14,760. When furniture is priced conservatively, it can sell well. Very well, as seen with a pair of George II upholstered mahogany open armchairs, estimated at $300/500, that went into orbit and finally landed at $10,455.
Among Continental works, six Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century Italian marquetry plaques depicting Roman gods and goddesses that was estimated at $800-$1,200 were tempting enough to generate interest to $5,228, the same result achieved by a late Nineteenth/early Twentieth Century Louis XV-style kingwood, mahogany veneered ormolu mounted bureau plat estimated temptingly at $700/900. As further proof that strong estimates are often a deterrent to selling, a pair of Nineteenth Century French Sevres-style porcelain bronze mounted portrait vases and covers estimated at $5/7,000 failed to sell during the sale.
Shining brightest among the offerings of silver was a seven-piece Tiffany & Co., sterling tea and coffee service. It had been perfectly estimated at $5/7,000 and sold for $8,610. A Gorham “Paris” pattern flatware service for 24 in a mahogany box fell a little short of expectations ($10/20,000) when it went out at $6,765, but a group of approximately 35 pieces of Shreve & Co., sterling silver table wares tempted bidders sufficiently to finish at $5,228, well past presale expectations ($1,2/1,800).
All prices quoted include buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. Skinner’s next European Furniture & Decorative sale is October 11.
Skinner is at 63 Park Plaza. For information, 617-350-5400 or www.skinnerinc.com.