Published: October 1, 2002
Wethersfield Highboy Brings $149,500 at Gustave White
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. – The Gustave White Company auctioned a Wethersfield, Connecticut Queen Anne highboy for $149,500 on September 24. Bidding opened on the lot at $50,000 with two phone bidders sparring to $85,000 mark, where one dropped out. Stonington, Connecticut dealer Marguerite Riordan picked up the slack by entering a bid of $90,000. Thereafter the phone bidder and Riordan dueled with the telephone bidder, later identified as New York City dealer Leigh Keno, eventually claiming the lot. The highboy was one of seventy lots offered at auction of Mrs. Jean Braman’s estate.
Auctioneer Michael Corcoran told correspondent Bob Jackman, “It is a wonderful highboy with great provenance. Mrs. Braman’s daughter said that the highboy was sold in the 1920s at the auction of Abraham Redwood’s estate in Portsmouth. Redwood’s ancestors founded the Redwood Library in Newport, and he was an important early collector of Newport furniture.”
The highboy featured fine design and craftsmanship. It demonstrated exceptional verticality that sprung from finely curved cabriole legs, continued with a strongly shaped skirt, and terminated in an uncommonly steep bonnet. The slender lines were further accentuated by a case slightly narrower than similar Wethersfield pieces. Gently carved pinwheels decorated the central finial support and the center drawers of both the upper and lower case. The shaped apron continued around to the sides, and the rear legs were fully worked.
The case of the highboy was in exceptionally fine condition with particularly tight joints indicating fine craftsmanship and an abuse-free history. Some previewers were concerned with a crack at the bottom of the pinwheel on the center finial support, but others were not concerned. Woodbury, Connecticut dealer Don Heller commented, “Most of these have a crack in that area that was produced by cross-grain shrinkage. The front has horizontal grain, and the cleat clinched tightly to it on the back has vertical grain. As the wood shrunk, something had to happen.” Many drawer interiors were stained around 1930 and a couple drawers were patched. The chest had Newport-style replacement finials from about 1920 variously attributed to Vernon or Riddie.
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