Sotheby’s 2010 Americana Week sales brought a combined total of $15,029,329, with both sales exceeding the high estimate in front of a packed salesroom. Sotheby’s two-day sale of important Americana totaled $13,334,005 and was 94.1 percent sold by value and 80.1 percent sold by lot. The series continued with Chinese Export porcelain from the private collection of Elinor Gordon, which brought a total of $1,695,324. The single-owner sale was 94.9 percent sold by value and 84 percent sold by lot.
A new auction record for American silver was set on January 22 when an important American silver punch bowl by Cornelius Kierstede, made in New York between 1700 and 1710, sold for $5,906,500. It had a presale estimate of $400/800,000, and auctioneer David Redden opened the bidding at $275,000. Almost instantly, a bid of $500,000 was called out by Ian Irving of Ian Irving Ltd. As many as six different bidders raised their paddles, but at around $3 million the battle was reduced to two determined clients, an anonymous gentleman seated in the room and New York dealer S.J. Shrubsole. The competition continued for several minutes before the winning bid was cast by the anonymous purchaser in the room bringing the gavel down to rousing applause. The final price of $5.9 million is more than seven times the previous record for American silver and is the second highest price ever paid for any piece of silver at auction.
John Ward, head of Sotheby’s silver department, commented, “The Cornelius Kierstede bowl was a fantastic item that made a fantastic price, which is wonderful for the market. This piece had it all: large size, great condition, beautiful design by an idiosyncratic maker, fresh provenance and a great story, all of which came together to create auction magic. The Kierstede bowl and the Maxwell vase both achieved exceptional prices, but we saw great competition throughout the silver portion sale, suggesting that collectors are enthusiastic about American silver at all levels.”
The punch bowl has descended in the family of Commodore Joshua Loring, whose stately home in Jamaica Plain, Mass., the Loring-Greenough House, has been preserved as a historic site. A Royalist, Loring abandoned his residence in August 1774 to take refuge in Boston, and the family emigrated to London in 1776. According to tradition, the bowl was hidden in a well on the property during the Revolution. Retrieved by the family, it descended quietly with them in England for 230 years, completely unknown, until the owners sent a grainy photograph to Sotheby’s London silver department in March 2009.
Also among the highlights of the silver lots offered on Friday was the Maxwell vase, an American silver presentation vase by Thomas Fletcher and Sidney Gardiner, Philadelphia, retailed by Baldwin Gardiner, New York, 1829, which sold for $494,500 to New York dealer S.J. Shrubsole. One of the most imposing pieces of silver created in early Nineteenth Century America, the 24-inch-tall testimonial was ordered from a New York retailer who had it secretly made by an accomplished Philadelphia workshop; the recipient, Hugh Maxwell, had prosecuted fraudulent corporate directors after the 1825 stock market crash.
Furniture, Folk Art And Carpets
Leslie Keno, head of Sotheby’s American furniture, noted, “With more than 2,000 visitors coming through our exhibition and a packed saleroom, there was a noticeable energy and enthusiasm this season among both longstanding clients and many first-time bidders. We saw renewed confidence among buyers, which generated lively competition and strong prices.”
Nancy Druckman, head of American folk art, said, “We were encouraged by the consistency of the quality of material on offer this season, and saw a perceptible energy and appetite among buyers.”
Leading the January 23 morning session of furniture, folk art and carpets was the Ranlett-Rust family Chippendale figured mahogany bombé slant front desk, probably by Francis Cook, Marblehead, Mass., circa 1770, which totaled $698,500. The desk is one of the rarest surviving examples of the esteemed bombé form; only 12 additional examples are known.
Extensive research suggests the desk was made north of Boston, in Marblehead, and through careful comparison with extant signed pieces, the desk has been attributed to Francis Cook.
The Captain Samuel Morris pair of Queen Anne carved and figured walnut rounded-stile compass seat side chairs, Philadelphia, circa 1745, was also sought after, bringing $362,500. Standing as superior examples of the Philadelphia Queen Anne style, these side chairs display a unified sculptural design, extremely fine construction and high-quality carving rarely matched on other seating furniture of the era.
A recently discovered Federal carved and figured mahogany marble top pier table, attributed to Thomas Seymour with John Seymour, carving attributed to Thomas Wightman, circa 1805, sold for $218,500. The table is among the most sophisticated, ambitious and elaborate pieces of American furniture made in the Federal period. Only three other tables of similarly ambitious design are known. The present table retains its original finish and imported marble top and has remained in a private Pennsylvania collection since the 1960s.
Two Federal paint decorated klismos side chairs attributed to John and Hugh Finlay, Baltimore, Md., circa 1809, representing the apex of Federal style, jumped to $194,500 each. A rare molded copper figure of an Indian with bow and arrow, probably Harris & Co., Boston, circa 1880, formerly in the collection of Dione Guffrey Kenzer, made $122,500. Four carved and painted Paine Corporation head portraits, circa 1910, brought $56,250. Two New York samplers by Jane Deall dated 1768 and 1765 also exceeded the presale high estimate, totaling $50,000.
Chinese Export Porcelain From The Private Collection Of Elinor Gordon
Sotheby’s Americana Week continued with Chinese Export porcelain from the private collection of Elinor Gordon, which totaled $1,695,324, in excess of the high estimate of $1.3 million. The saleroom was once again standing room only, with many lots seeing competition from as many as five or six bidders and selling for multiples of their high estimates.
Christina Prescott-Walker, head of European ceramics and Chinese Export porcelain, commented, “Sotheby’s is honored to have been able to present Chinese Export porcelain from the private collection of Elinor Gordon and to celebrate her love of collecting. From two sold-out lectures to a steady stream of visitors at the preview exhibition to a packed saleroom, we received a wonderful response to her collection. There was something for everyone in this sale, and we saw a great depth and breadth of bidding among both members of the trade and private collectors.”
Among the top prices achieved was a Chinese Export “Order of the Cincinnati” plate, circa 1785, from the earliest service decorated with the order owned by George Washington and Henry Lee, which sold for $83,500. The plate was one of four pieces sold from services decorated with the badge of the Society of the Cincinnati. At least five bidders competed for a rare Chinese Export figure of a reclining stag from the second half of the Eighteenth Century, driving the price past its $15/25,000 estimate to $62,500. A rare Chinese Export ship plate inscribed “Friendship Salem” sold for $53,125, far above its $6/8,000 estimate.
The sale’s top price was achieved by a watercolor and gouache view of Hong Kong, circa 1865, which brought $158,500, more than five times the high estimate of $30,000. Many of the China Trade paintings saw fierce competition, with a pair of paintings of Canton and Whampoa, circa 1820, fetching $40,625 against an estimate of $3/4,000 and a style of Spoilum portrait of a hong merchant, circa 1800, achieving $68,500 against an estimate of $8/12,000.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.sothebys.com or 212-606-7000.