Published: May 29, 2001
NEW YORK CITY – On May 16, Doyle New York held an auction of French furniture, decorations and Asian porcelains from the estate of Lady Sarah Consuelo Spencer-Churchill, the sister of the 11th Duke of Marlborough and granddaughter of Gilded Age heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt. Lady Sarah’s collection featured furniture and decorations from the mid- to late-Eighteenth Century, with signed pieces by the most prominent ebenistes of the period.
The sale totaled $1,512,457, doubling the pre-sale estimate, with 99 percent of the 125 lots sold by value. Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.
According to Andrea Frost, Doyle New York’s furniture and decorative specialist, “Doyle New York has a long history of offering quality single-owner auctions. We were thrilled at the international response to this sale and the high prices achieved for this extraordinary collection.”
The top lot was an elegant Louis XV gilt-bronze mounted marquetry bureau en pente, beautifully detailed and inlaid with musical instruments and a floral bouquet. The high price attained for the classic French piece reflects its grand sophistication. It features a fully finished back, perfectly suited to the European grand manner of placing a bureau in the middle of a room. After frenzied bidding, it sold to a French bidder for $179,750.
Several petits commodes offered in the sale performed exceptionally well, including a transitional Louis XV/XVI gilt-bronze mounted tulipwood and fruitwood marquetry petit commode that commanded a high price of $165,000. Although not signed, the commode can possibly be attributed to Charles Topino, as indicated by the marquetry inlay with pictorial scenes depicting vases.
Another Louis XVI gilt-bronze mounted mahogany petit commode by Joseph Baumhauer (died 1772) sold over its estimate for $26,400. Around 1749, the German-born Joseph Baumhauer was made a marchand-ebenist privilegie du roi (dealer and cabinetmaker to the king). He used the first name of Joseph, which he also put on his stamp, because his surname was unpronounceable to his colleagues. He also may have used Joseph to avoid prejudice in Paris against foreign-born craftsmen. His work evolved from the ornate rococo style of the mid Eighteenth Century to more academic neoclassicism of the 1770s, from which this piece was most likely made.
Also of importance from the furniture section of the sale was a Louis XV/XVI gilt-bronze tulipwood and kingwood marquetry gueridon by Charles Topino, “Maitre 1773,” which sold for $57,500. Topino was best known for his small-scale furniture and distinctive use of marquetry.
Floral garlands or bouquets often ornamented his furniture, or as seen in this piece, still life compositions with vases, pitchers and other objects. The decorative motifs were often derived from similar designs found on Chinese coromandel screens that were fashionable in the late Eighteenth Century.
In addition, a Louis XV gilt bronze mounted diminutive secretaire-a-abattant signed Pierre Migeon sold for $18,400. Migeon also specialized in fancifully designed, small-scale furniture such as travelling desks and folding tables. His style is defined by a preference for bombe shapes, exotic woods and lacquer, as is seen in this piece.
The collection featured many exquisite decorations, including a pair of Louis XVI gilt and patinated bronze four-light candelabra that achieved $77,000. The candelabra is decorated with two female figures that were probably inspired by a 1761 design by the French sculptor Etienne Maurice Falconet (1716-1791) for silver candlesticks. Many variations of this form exist, with different bases and candle arm arrangements.
Another highlight was a handsome pair of Louis XVI gilt-bronze chenets that realized $54,625. The chenets were in the Petit Salon of Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan’s Parisian home, the Hotel de Marlborough. The raised cassolette, with eagle heads and issuing flames, was a frequently used device in the Louis XVI period.
Gracing the cover of the sale catalogue was a set of Louis XVI gilt-bronze two-light sconces, with female figural back plates, that was purchased for $51,750. The sconces once lined the walls of the Petit Salon in the Hotel de Marlborough in Paris, and were designed by Jean-Charles Delafosse (1734-1791), a French architect known for ornamental designs of female figures morphing into foliate forms.
Outstanding among the Asian porcelains was an important pair of Kakiemon “Hampton Court” jars and covers, circa 1673-1681, that sold for $91,750. Covered hexagonal jars such as these are commonly referred to as Hampton Court vases because a similar pair is in the collection of Queen Mary at Hampton Court Palace.
Sculpture in the collection included a marble female figure of a seated “Venus” by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle (French, 1714-1785), dated 1771, that realized $23,000, and a graceful terra-cotta of a seated female nude after Augustin Pajou (French, 1730-1809), brought $10,925.
An important 1888 court dress offered at Doyle New York’s couture, textiles and accessories auction on May 2 and 3, set a new world auction record of a staggering $101,500 for an antique dress.
In addition to impressive prices realized for over two centuries of vintage clothing, the sale also saw strong prices for an extraordinary single owner collection of Bakelite, costume jewelry and accessories. Also attracting much bidder attention was a special section of the sale devoted to the art and fashion archives of renowned New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham. The sale totaled $1,798,574 with 99 percent of the 1,349 lots sold by value.
The most celebrated lot of the sale was an elaborate velvet and satin gown with a 23-inch waist and a 10½ -foot detachable train, designed by the world’s first couturier, Charles Frederick Worth. The gown belonged to Esther Maria Lewis Chapin (1871-1959), the great-great-granddaughter of Elizabeth Washington Lewis (1733-1797), George Washington’s sister. Chapin’s father, Col Edward Parke Custis Lewis (1837-1892) was the American Minister to Portugal under President Grover Cleveland from 1885-1889. It was during this period that Chapin, age 17 or 18, was bestowed with the honor of being presented at court to Queen Victoria wearing this gown.
Monica Seggos of Harwich Port, Mass., a descendant of Chapin, was the consignor of the gown. Seggos attended both the exhibition and the auction and was “completely overwhelmed and overjoyed” regarding the high price brought for her family’s treasured heirloom.
“I’m still in shock,” she stated. The gown was estimated to bring between $15/20,000.
According to Jan Reeder, Doyle New York’s couture and textiles specialist, “We were thrilled to have been able to offer this gown and were delighted to see such an important piece of clothing make fashion history.” A foreign buyer who prefers to remain anonymous bought the dress.
In addition to the Worth gown, other couture highlights included a Madeleine Vionnet black halter evening dress with brilliantly colored applique roses in velvet clusters of lilac, salmon and magenta that sold for $11,500. The dress is from Vionnet’s last collection and was originally illustrated in Harper’s Bazaar, September 1938. Another bidder snapped up a classic Fortuny pleated silk Delphos dress for $9,775.
For over three decades Bill Cunningham has, as fashion and cultural documentarian photographer for The New York Times, covered the fashion world at New York’s many benefit parties and galas, art exhibition openings and on Paris runways. The special section of the sale that was devoted to his art and fashion archives not only chronicles Cunningham’s career but also captures the essence of Twentieth Century fashion.
The sale included sketches by prominent fashion illustrators, ballet drawings and gouaches, artwork, assorted publications, fashion memorabilia, photographs and accessories. Most of the rdf_Descriptions were chosen by him in the course of his daily professional activities as objects worthy to be preserved for their historic and artistic significance.
A selection of ballet and fashion illustrations were highlights of Cunningham’s archives. A 1911 limited edition album with original preparatory and underdrawings by Georges Lepape (French, 1887-1971), “Les Choses de Paul Poiret Vues par Georges Lepape,” signed by Paul Poiret and featuring the original pencil sketch of the frequently illustrated turbaned head, realized $28,759.
Also offered were early gouache preparatory drawings by Lepape that were shown in the 1978 exhibition “Diaghilev: Costumes and Designs of the Ballets Russes” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The drawings included depictions of the dancer Nijinsky in productions of Scheherazade (sold for $18,400), “Petrushka” ($9,775) and “Carnaval” ($12,650), among others. In addition, another portrait of Nijinsky in Scheherazade by George Barbier (French, 1882-1932) achieved $27,600.
Several thousand pieces of important costume jewelry by such designers as Wiener Werstatte, Chanel, Hobe, Miriam Haskell, Schiaparelli and Trifari were offered in the sale. Among the highlights was a Gianni Versace “Machine Age” flower necklace by Ugo Correani (Italy, 1988). The dramatic necklace is elaborately constructed of metal, enamel, crystal stones and lacquer flowers set on wire and springs. Estimated at $6/800, keen competition drove the price to $10,925.
Also attracting much bidder enthusiasm were two Schlumberger for Schiaparelli Circus Collection necklaces from 1938. The first was designed with two painted metal ostriches decorated with glass beads strung on blue silk velvet ribbon, and the other had a painted metallic form suspended from a pink velvet ribbon. It well surpassed its pre-sale estimate of $700/900 to sell for $11,500. Also of note was a group of three Theodor Fahrner matte enamel bracelets from the late 1920s that realized $11,500.
The Philadelphia bracelet is one of the most highly sought-after pieces of Bakelite. Featured in the sale was a fierce-looking Philadelphia bracelet with spiky multi-colored “teeth” jutting from it that sold for $8,912. In addition, a Bakelite googly eye brooch, in the form of a red dog holding a bone, sold for $8,625 to a private collector, and another brooch depicting a soldier courting under an apple tree brought $6,037.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm