Published: February 13, 2007
It all began on Friday, January 19, at 10 am when the first lot of the Americana sale at Sotheby’s was put up for bid. It all ended late Sunday afternoon, January 21, when the last of 1,080 lots was hammered down. “We are all very happy with the sale results,” Leslie Keno, senior vice president and head of the American Furniture Department, said early the next week. And well they should be, as the various owner sale ($20,688,560), the Susan and Mark Laracy sale ($7,075,680) and the Marc and Laurie Krasny Brown sale ($1,285,080) came to a total of $29,049,320, setting a record for the highest total ever for a series of Americana Week auctions at Sotheby’s.
All of the prices quoted in this review include the buyer’s premium, but estimates do not include the premium. With this sale a new premium schedule went into effect, 20 percent on the first $500,000 (up from $200,000), and 12 percent on anything over $500,000.
Lot 25 in the print section of the sale, “Carolina Parrot” (plate 26), John James Audubon (after), a hand colored engraving with etching and aquatint, by R. Havell, circa 1829, sold for $84,000, in the middle of the presale estimate.
The first lot of the silver portion of the sale, a Chinese Export tureen and cover dating from the late Nineteenth Century, embossed with flowers, foliage and birds, foo dog finial, sold for $4,800, and two American silver Chrysanthemum pattern fish platters, Tiffany & Co., circa 1899–1905, 26 inches long, sold for $27,000, against a high estimate of $10,000.
A popular lot was John Quincy Adams’ gold-mounted carnelian fob seal and gold pair-case watch, circa 1816–1777, the carnelian matrix finely carved with mottoed lyre backed by a spread eagle and surrounded by 13 rayed stars. It carried a high estimate of $90,000, and sold for $132,000. The provenance lists John Quincy Adams to his son, Charles F. Adams, to his son John Quincy Adams, to his daughter Abigail Adams, to her son Robert Homans, husband of the consignor.
The Saturday session began at 10 am with a good number of lots approved for deaccession by the board of trustees of Historic Deerfield, Inc, beginning with a William and Mary banister back armchair, New York, circa 1740, that was sold together with another William and Mary banister back armchair from the North Shore, Mass., circa 1750, and a ladder back armchair, New York, circa 1770. A bid of $3,900, just shy of the high estimate, took the lot.
Other Deerfield property included a Queen Anne dressing table in cherrywood, Connecticut River Valley, circa 1770, appears to retain the original hardware, for $57,000; a Federal figured mahogany and birchwood bow front chest of drawers, northeastern Massachusetts, circa 1800, together with a Federal figured mahogany New England chest of drawers, circa 1820, for $8,400; and the Josiah Bartlett carved Chippendale reverse serpentine desk and bookcase in cherrywood, Kingston, N.H., circa 1800. It appears to have the original hardware and measures 86 inches high, 43 inches wide and 22 inches deep. It was owned by the family of Josiah Bartlett, Chief Justice of New Hampshire and signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Also from the property of Deerfield was a Chippendale carved and figured mahogany pie crust tilt-top tea table from the mid-Atlantic states, circa 1770. The top measured 35½ inches in diameter and it has carved knees, and ball and claw feet. It sold at the high estimate, $75,000.
Lot 304, property from the collection of Mr and Mrs William T. Earls, included a Queen Anne carved maple and walnut C-scrolled easy chair of Boston origin, circa 1750, with front legs replaced. In pointing out the lot, auctioneer Bill Stahl mentioned, “It is the one Ron Bourgeault is sitting in.” That may or may not have hurt the price, as it went for $16,800, below the $20,000 low estimate.
Also from the Earls was a very rare Queen Anne figured mahogany eight-leg, drop leaf dining table, New York City, circa 1770. It had one drawer and measured 29 inches high, 25 inches wide and 62½ inches deep. Oval when open, it measured 72¼ inches. The final bid was $72,000 against a high estimate of $50,000.
One of the works of art from the Earls’ collection was a profile portrait of John York, aged 11 years, May 1st, 1837, watercolor, pen, ink and pencil on paper by Joseph H. Davies. Measuring 9¼ by 7¼ inches and estimated at $3/5,000, it sold for $20,400 to Bill Samaha.
Lots of interest was shown in lot 331, a profile bust portrait of a rosy-cheeked young boy by Ruth Henshaw Bascom, 15 ½ by 11 ½ inches, cutout paper with pastel, pen and ink on a tinted blue paper ground. It was executed in 1830 and appears to be in the original frame. Interest in this lot took the final bid to $72,000, well over the high estimate of $9,000. Prior to that lot, a pair of portraits by the same artist, of Miss Harriet Phillips Gouldign Powers and Mrs Philander Powers, sold for $18,000, just under the high estimate.
C.L. Prickett Antiques of Yardley, Penn., bought lot 336, a Chippendale figured mahogany block front chest of drawers, Boston, circa 1770, for $66,000, against a high estimate of $40,000. A rare mahogany and ivory stick barometer, Simon Willard, Boston, circa 1810, inscribed “S. Willard/warranted/Congress Street/Boston,” 38 inches long, sold for $20,400. The high estimate was $7,000. With a high estimate of $20,000, a very rare William and Mary red painted maple banister back side chair, Philadelphia, circa 1730, sold for $39,000 to a phone bidder.
A phone bidder also took lot 355, a Pilgrim Century carved and joined oak and chestnut chest with two drawers, possibly by John Savell, Braintree, Mass., circa 1660. This chest was originally illustrated in Luke Vincent Lockwood’s seminal publication, American Furniture. With replaced lid, it sold for $84,000 to a phone bidder for just over double the high estimate. One lot later a very rare Pilgrim Century red painted oak and yellow pine document box attributed to John Moore, Windsor, Conn., circa 1670, 10 inches high, 293/8 inches wide and 16¾ inches deep, sold to a phone bidder for $51,000, well over the $10,000 high estimate. It appears to retain the original painted surface and lock and the number 300 is painted on the inside.
Several dealers chased lot 370, a red painted, comb back, knuckle arm Windsor armchair, New England, circa 1780, 44 inches high, with red over the original green. It sold for $57,000 with a $10,000 high estimate. Albert Sack was the successful bidder for lot 379, a pair of Chippendale brass and wrought iron andirons, New York, circa 1780, 22 inches high and 19½ inches deep, that sold for $27,000 against a high estimate of $5,000.
A carved and figured mahogany five-legged games table, New York City, circa 1770, sold for $138,000 to a phone bidder and was underbid by Leigh Keno. It has a serpentine facade with carved front rail, large projecting front square corners, a playing surface with counters and candle rests, and cabriole legs ending in claw feet.
Lots of interest in the Bliss family pair of Queen Anne walnut side chairs, Springfield, Mass., circa 1760, original surface and measuring 42 inches, drove the bidding up to $108,000, against a high estimate of $12,000. These chairs are remarkable for their undisturbed surface, delicate baluster and ring turned stretchers, and large shoe. These chairs are one of the original items in the Bliss-Morris homestead.
Session three on Sunday, January 21, followed the sale of the Brown collection and got off to a good start with lot 455, an overmantel painting attributed to Jared Jessup, Stonington, Conn., circa 1783, selling well over the $60,000 high estimate at $96,000. The central panel was decorated with yellow farmhouse shed and out buildings, all with red painted roofs, feathered trees, and a garden of strawberries. It measures 34 by 54 inches and retains the original chestnut lathing and fluted pilasters painted white. A set of five miniature portraits by James Sanford Ellsworth, watercolor, pen and ink on paper, 3¼ by 2¾ inches, circa 1840, including mother, father, two boys and a girl, sold for $36,000.
Among the weathervanes in the sale, a molded and gilded copper and zinc horse and rider trotting horse vane, probably New England, Nineteenth Century, cast zinc heads, 30 inches long, that sold for $39,000. Several lots later a Queen Anne carved and figured walnut side chair, Philadelphia, circa 1770, 40½ inches high, central carved shell and leaf motif on the crest, scrolled ears, cabriole legs and ball and claw feet. It went for $36,000, just over the high estimate.
Furniture continued to do well with the Jeremiah Warder Chippendale carved and figured mahogany side chair, Philadelphia, circa 1765, 38 inches high, one from a set of likely 12 chairs, brought $144,000, while a Federal eagle-inlaid and parcel gilt mahogany, satinwood and eglomise looking glass, New York, circa 1800, 65 inches high, sold for $96,000.
A very fine Chippendale plum-pudding figured mahogany reverse serpentine blocked-end chest of drawers attributed to John Chipman, Salem, Mass., circa 1790, sold for $168,000 against a high estimate of $120,000. The John Brown Chippendale carved walnut easy chair, Philadelphia, circa 1760, 46 inches high, retaining the original straw and burlap lining attached to the wings, carved knees and ball and claw feet, sold for $204,000, over the high estimate of $120,000.
As usual, rugs brought up the end of the sale with lot 653 the top money winner. This Heriz carpet, Northwest Persia, circa 1900, about 17 feet 4 inches by 11 feet 7 inches, sold for the high estimate, $60,000.
Nancy Druckman, senior vice president and head of the American Folk Art Department, noted that “extraordinary prices were achieved throughout the sale for a wide range of folk art, weathervanes, decoys and folk portraits, particularly for the pair of John Brewster portraits and the Hamblen portrait which set a new record for the artist at auction.” Leslie Keno reinforced the success of the sale by commenting on the packed salesroom and very competitive bidding, demonstrating that the market for Americana is very strong overall.
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