Published: April 28, 2020
Review by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy Sotheby’s
NEW YORK CITY – English and European decorative arts pushed together a $2.45 million sale result for Sotheby’s in the firm’s biannual online Style: Silver, Furniture, Ceramics sale April 10-22. Offerings included tapestries, rugs, clocks, silver, vertu, ceramics and furniture, and were led by a collection from the estate of interior decorator and garden designer Andrew Hartnagle.
Hartnagle’s collection came out of his Pennsylvania residence Twin Silo Farm, known for its award-winning gardens. The sale also featured a group of French furniture from a private Greenwich, Conn., collection, as well as a Southern collection.
The auction debuted a new digital catalog format for Sotheby’s, which told the story of consignors and their material in an exploratory manner. The new layout lends itself to telling the story of the objects along with their consignor’s collecting journey in a visual and design-forward way.
“That was very helpful, it makes it much more interactive. It’s a format like a magazine, where there’s background about the collector with strong visuals,” said Dennis Harrington, head of Sotheby’s English and European furniture department. “What it’s really doing is focusing on certain aspects and groups of property. We like to try to bring in what we call sequences, things from one collection. We had property from Andrew Hartnagle, who had a fantastic property in Bucks County, Penn. We wanted to show that to bidders, featuring the indoors and outdoors, and relate the collection to each. We had a nice collection of French furniture from a house in Greenwich, which was built to look like a French chateau, and it offered good property from top French dealers. We found our clients really liked that in this market. They like to read the stories behind the property. You can click on items within a roomshot and go to descriptions within the catalog. It makes it much more fun.”
The auction went just shy of 73 percent sold by lot. Sotheby’s reported that 20 percent of all buyers were completely new to the auction house and one-third of all bids were placed on mobile devices.
Property from Hartnagle achieved an aggregate result of $795,500 and was 89 percent sold by lot. The Southern collection achieved $258,875 and was 95 percent sold by lot.
“We were very pleased,” Harrington said. “It did better than our average mid-season sale. There was interest across the board in all the categories, from furniture to silver to ceramics. Some Nineteenth and early Twentieth pieces, but mostly Eighteenth Century – traditional antiques.”
Leading the sale was a pair of Louis XVI-style ormolu and Chinese glazed earthenware figures that blew past the $6,000 high estimate to sell for $100,000. They came from the Connecticut collection.
The auction’s silver offerings supplied the strongest category. Bringing $87,500 was a pair of George III silver pail-form wine coolers by Eighteenth Century London silversmith Benjamin Laver. They measure 11-3/8 inches high and weigh 109 ounces. Each bore the arms of Craufurd of the Kerse, Dalrymaple, East Ayrshire, Scotland.
A 58½-inch-high .800 silver flamingo by Mario Buccellati took $75,000, near the top end of its estimate. It was well-modeled with applied and textured feathers and weighed nearly 219 oz.
“It was fabulous,” Harrington said. “It’s something that makes you smile, and I think that’s something we all need at the moment. And on a technical basis, it’s a tour-de-force, these Bucellatti animals are very intricate.”
Catching $56,250 was a pair of George IV silver-gilt sauce boats in a marine theme by London silversmith Robert Garrard, dated 1820. The boats were 9-5/8 inches high and each sat on a double dolphin and shellwork base, the figural handles modeled after Venus and Adonis. Also in a Roman mythology theme was an elaborately modeled George IV silver-gilt tankard by London maker Paul Storr, circa 1829, that took $40,000. The body featured a Bacchic scene, the handle a maenad, and the cover topped by Neptune and a young hippocamp.
On bidder interest, Harrington said they saw good activity from the trade as well as private buyers throughout the world, from Russia, the Middle East and India. Some of the bidders had never bid in this format sale before, including some contemporary art buyers.
“Silver lends itself well to the online format,” Harrington said. “It’s smaller scale, and buyers can get a sense of it from a photograph.”
In gold, the sale found a leader in a Danish varicolor gold and enamel oval snuff box with assay mark from Frederick Fabricius, circa 1775, that brought $43,750 on a $10,000 estimate. The cover is mounted with an enamel miniature of Mars. Also above estimate at $40,000 was a rock crystal, gold and hardstone heron-form cup by Verdura, dated 1968.
All prices reported include buyer’s premium, as reported by the auction house. For information, www.sothebys.com.
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