Published: April 26, 2022
By Z.G. Burnett, Photos Courtesy of Skinner
MARLBOROUGH, MASS. – On April 14, a collection worthy of a Henry James description was put up for sale at Skinner in their Marlborough showroom, titled “Luxe Living: The Bostonians.” From a prominent Boston couple’s exclusive Beacon Street address, the assembled objects typified the eclectic elegance for which Beacon Hill style is known. The town house was designed by celebrity interior decorator Bunny Williams, known for her selection of only the finest goods. From English mahogany to japanned cabinets, Chinese porcelain to majolica, the hallmarks of Gilded Age taste were all well-represented. Lots with higher estimates performed as expected, yet the surprises of the sale were no doubt gratifying both to Skinner and the former owners. The auction closed with just under $535,000 in sales, and 95 percent of the lots were sold.
“It was a very healthy sale,” said Stuart Slavid, senior vice president of European decorative arts and silver, “And the preview was one of the best-attended in years.”
The highest estimated lot was a Georgian red lacquer japanned secretaire that outperformed its $5/10,000 assessment, closing at $17,500. Crafted in the early Eighteenth Century, the secretaire was in very good condition, its red resin finish still vibrant. A Dutch four-paneled leather screen, also in the Asian decorative style, joined the secretaire in the top ten estimated lots but more than tripled its $2/4,000 estimate, expanding to $12,500. This was the trend for the highest selling lots in the sale, many jumping from the low thousands, sometimes hundreds, in their estimates to many multiples of those numbers.
Of the 12 gilt mirror lots in the sale, a pair of carved giltwood mirrors topped their category and the sale in total. The foliate-decorated mirrors were rather large at more than 5 feet high and 3 feet wide, one with considerable areas of desilvering but otherwise only showing minor repairs and touch ups. The mirrors had been in storage prior to the sale, and their condition added to their bidding appeal. Selling for $68,750, the pair of mirrors reflected more than 18 times their $2/4,000 estimate.
Such fortune came in pairs at this auction. The second highest valued lot was a pair of George III mahogany Hogarth armchairs, named for its cyma curve profile in relation to the artist William Hogarth’s (1697-1764) “line of beauty” theory. The chairs went for $26,250, far surpassing their $1/1,500 estimate. Similarly astonishing was the third most expensive lot, a $500/700 pair of Chinese “famille jeune” jardinieres that collected $22,500.
Another exponential price was achieved by a majolica garden seat, also estimated at $500/700 but selling at $17,500. This matched the red japanned secretaire’s earnings but came from the bottom of the estimate list rather than the top. Majolica has been regaining popularity in the past year, and although horned stag heads supporting an earthenware pillow may not seem the most comfortable of seats, the appeal is apparent in its rich colors and striking figural motifs.
Other objects in the sale exemplified both the grandeur and slight eccentricity of the collection that can be found in many New England estates. A Queen Anne card table crafted from an exquisite piece of walnut burl was one of the sale’s earliest examples of English furniture, boasting its original concertina movement with contemporary interior embroidered lining. The table also dealt above its $1,2/1,800 estimate, folding at $2,875.
Among lots of figural character jugs and inkstands, the quirkiest lot was a pair of lamps made from mounted riding boots. The age on both boots indicates that they were worn often and were not originally lighting fixtures. The spurs did not appear to be original, however, the lamps’ hardware seemed to be installed within the boots’ trees. These too almost doubled their estimate, cantering across the block at $1,200.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For additional information, 508-970-3211 or www.skinnerinc.com.
January 31, 2023
January 31, 2023
January 31, 2023
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