Published: January 29, 2002
In the Middle of It All: The Contents of Israel Sack, Inc., on the Block
By R. Scudder Smith
NEW YORK CITY
“We are not going to sit in the enclosed overhead boxes as some people do, but we are going to be right there with the bidder and in the middle of it all,” Albert Sack said the day before the sale, echoing the sentiments of his brother Robert. And true to their word, Albert sat in an aisle seat, about one-third back in the auction room, his head bowed into his catalog most of the time studying the numbers as the sale progressed. Robert was in the third row, with his wife Lee and daughter Gail, also following the sale as William Stahl, Jr, hammered out the lots of furniture and accessories.
The sale began at 2 pm with two Dutch delft chargers dating from the Eighteenth Century selling for $1,320 (all prices include the buyer’s pre-mium), and ended 234 lots later with $2,400 paid for an American four-piece engraved silver tea service, Hugh Wishart, New York, circa 1800. In betweenthere were some hefty buys, some good buys, and some disappointments for the Sack family.
After a selection of delft was sold, the first piece of furniture was a Federal highly figured maple dressing table, branded M. Cresey, probably Portsmouth, N.H., circa 1810, that sold for $16,800 against a high presale estimate of $12,000. It was followed by a Chippendale dish-top candlestand in mahogany, Philadelphia, circa 1770, 23¾ inch diameter top, for the same bid and just over high estimate.
Several lots of candlesticks were mixed into the sale and among the first batch was a pair of William and Mary brass sticks with urn standards and bell bottom bases, circa 1700, 9¼ inches tall. The high estimate was $2,500, and the final bid was $7,800. A Queen Anne carved walnut compass-seat side chair, Boston, circa 1750, sold well over the high estimate of $18,000, reaching $31,800.
Among the small pieces in the sale were a Federal inlaid mahogany and maple box, initialed “ET” for Elizabeth Thomas, Newcastle, Del., circa 1800, that sold for $15,600, and a Chippendale miniature chest of drawers in mahogany, Philadelphia, circa 1780, 15¾ inches tall, for $32,375 against a high estimate of $35,000.
Philip Bradley of Downingtown, Penn., was the successful bidder for the Federal inlaid figured cherrywood tall-case clock, Pennsylvania, early Nineteenth Century, that appeared to retain its origin two finials. The final bid was $32,375 for this piece that measured 8 feet, 2 inches tall with a farm scene painted on the dial. The estimate was $15/20,000.
One of the important pieces of furniture in the sale was the Chippendale blocked reverse-serpentine carved and figured mahogany chest of drawers, labeled by Jacob Forster, Charlestown, Mass., circa 1770. This chest, ex-collection of Mr and Mrs Mitchell Taradash, was estimated at $150/250,000 and failed to sell.
Lot 1203 was a Chippendale carved and figured mahogany side chair, Boston, circa 1760, and underneath both front and back seat rails are branded “Property of Mrs. J.A. Haskell.” The final bid of $18,000 topped the high estimate of $12,000. Lot 1213, a Federal mahogany and figured maple work table, school of Thomas and John Seymour of Boston, circa 1810, measures 28¾ inches high, 23 inches wide and 15¼ inches deep. The high estimate was $20,000 and it sold for $46,750.
A parcel-gilt and walnut overmantel mirror, George I, English, second quarter of the Eighteenth Century, 20 inches by 4 feet, 4 inches, brought $13,200, and a pair of George II petal-base cast-brass candlesticks, English, mid-Eighteenth Century, went well over the high estimate of $1,200, selling for $5,400. In the next grouping of brass sticks, a pair of large brass middrip candlesticks with domed bases, Continental, circa 1670, estimated at $2/3,000, sold for $7,200.
A phone bidder took a Chippendale walnut corner cupboard, Chester County, Penn., last quarter of the Eighteenth Century, 6 feet, 3 inches tall, for $28,350 against a high estimate of $15,000. Lots 1268 and 1269, a portrait of Joseph Stretch, pastel on paper, 27½ by 21 inches sight, and the Pomeroy family coat of arms, needlework, English, Eighteenth Century, 15½ by 16½ inches, both failed to sell.
Two similar Chippendale looking glasses, American, late Eighteenth century, one with jasper inset and the other with anchor panel, sold for $16,800, while a Chippendale mahogany serving table, Rhode Island, circa 1780, appears to retain the original cast brass hardware, 31¾ inches tall, 4 feet, 3 inches wide and 25¼ inches deep, sold for $43,875 against a low estimate of $50,000.
The Bowne family Chippendale carved and figured mahogany chest-on-chest, New York, circa 1770, the uppermost drawer of the lower section opens to reveal a writing surface surmounted by an arrangement of pigeon holes and short drawers, sold for $30,650, slightly under the high estimate of $35,000.
Toward the end of the sale, lots 1321-1325 were printed against a dark background, making the type hard to read. Auctioneer Stahl also had a hard time reading the page, noting the low contrast and adding, “It has been a long week.” Among these lots was a Federal inlaid and figured mahogany work table, mid-Atlantic states, circa 1800, that brought $10,200, right in the middle of the presale estimate. A federal inlaid mahogany desk and bookcase, Massachusetts, circa 1800, 7 feet, 4 inches tall, sold for $21,450, just over the low estimate. Toward the end of the sale, a Federal inlaid satinwood lady’s writing desk, New York, circa 1805-1815, sold for $64,000, just beating the low estimate by $4,000. This piece had been exhibited at the American Art Galleries, New York, Girl Scouts Loan Exhibition, September 25-October 9, 1929, and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1930.
The biggest disappointment of the sale to the Sack family was the buy-in of the Trask family oak chest with drawer, attributed to the Symonds Shop, Salem, Mass., 1680-1700. “I expected the Trask chest to bring at least $200,000,” Albert Sack said after the sale. This figure was the high estimate set by the auction house. Robert Sack also expected the chest to sell and be among the top lots in the auction.
As for the overall results of the sale, $2,228,645 with the buyer’s premium and only 34 of the 234 lots unsold, Albert Sack said “It was not great and I only wish the Trask family chest had found a buyer.” From Robert Sack, “It brought about what I expected.” Leslie Keno of the American furniture department at Sotheby’s noted, “We are very pleased with the sale and I am sure that some of the lots that did not sell here today will find buyers in the days to come.” He added that “it has been a great Americana Week for Sotheby’s and we are off and running again first thing tomorrow morning when Bill Stahl and I have an appraisal to do. It never stops.”
Totals for the American Week at Sotheby’s set a new record at $27,333,187, topping the old record set in 1997, $24.7 million. These numbers include the buyer’s premium, 20 percent of the successful bid up to $15,000; 15 percent on the next $85,000 up to $100,000; and 10 percent on any bid in excess of $100,000.
As for the future of the Sack family, neither Albert nor Robert are talking about retirement. In fact, Albert is heading for Portsmouth, N.H., where he will take on some duties with Ronald Bourgeault and Northeast Auctions, and Robert is planning an expansion of the Sack website to be called Sack Heritage Group, Inc.
Good Luck To All.
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