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American Furniture, Decorative Arts, and 19th-Century Paintings

Lita Solis-Cohen | October 16th, 2013

William Trost Richards (1833-1905), Atlantic Coast, 1898, signed and dated, watercolor and pencil on paper, 24" x 47½", $28,125 (est. $10,000/15,000).

Benjamin Champney (1817-1907), View Near Conway, New Hampshire, 1881, signed and dated, oil on canvas, 20" x 32 1/8", $37,500 (est. $6000/8000). It was commissioned by Daniel Nute Stanton, who was in the railroad construction business. He grew up in Bartlett, New Hampshire, eight miles from Conway, and knew Champney. The painting had remained in Stanton’s family until it came to auction.

Richard William Hubbard (1816-1888), Idle Hours on the Hudson, 1875, signed with the artist’s “RWH” monogram and dated, oil on canvas, 8¼" x 15", $21,250 ($10,000/15,000).

The surprise of the sale was that this Federal inlaid mahogany sideboard from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 41½" high x 71½" wide x 26" deep, ex-C.L. Prickett, sold for $25,000 (est. $8000/12,000). Dining room furniture had been in a deep depression, but not at this auction. It was a strong price for an attractive piece in good condition.

Federal inlaid mahogany and bird’s-eye maple bowfront chest of drawers, first quarter 19th century, in the manner of Spooner and Fitts (active 1808-13), Athol, Massachusetts, 41" high x 42" wide x 18" deep, $7500 (est. $10,000/20,000) to a collector on the phone, without competition from the trade. A dealer would want to sell it for twice the price, so it was a good deal for a collector.

Federal figured maple slant-front desk, early 19th century, with valances over the pigeonholes and document drawers, the case with four graduated long drawers, on splayed feet, 44" high x 44½" wide x 17½" deep, $6250 (est. $1200/2000).

Doyle New York, New York City

Photos courtesy Doyle New York

Doyle New York has been pairing 19th-century American paintings with American furniture and decorative arts for the last several years with some success. “Collectors have learned that this is the place to shop for nineteenth-century paintings fresh to market from estates,” said Anne Cohen DePietro, who is in charge of American paintings at Doyle. Dealers check out Doyle as well.

The auction this fall, held in the firm’s New York City gallery on October 16, 2013, a month earlier than usual, offered a discovery, an 11" x 9" oil on canvas flower study by Sanford Robinson Gifford. It was well received and sold for $40,625 (including buyer’s premium), well above its $12,000/18,000 estimate. A still life is an unusual subject for masters of landscape painting, but not unheard of because of their interest in nature. Jasper Cropsey, David Johnson, and Benjamin Champney painted the occasional still life, but Sanford Gifford painted very few.

“This painting came to us as a Mary Jane Peale, the name that is incised on the stretcher,” said DePietro. “Under strong light on the lower right of the canvas I could make out ‘S.R.G…ord’ and ‘December 27, 1865.’ When I found the signature and the date, I called my good friend Professor Dr. William Gerdts and asked him to come over and take a look. He did, and he went back to his office, and sure enough he found the painting listed in A Memorial Catalogue of the Paintings of Sanford Robinson Gifford, N. A., published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1881.”

According to DePietro’s notes in the auction catalog, the memorial catalog lists two small still lifes, one of pears (now a promised gift to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.) and this flower sketch. The dimensions of the listed flower study match 11" x 9", though the painting is listed as having been painted in 1863—perhaps a mistake. DePietro finds the “fragile petals beautifully rendered,” and apparently so did several bidders. The small oil sold to a collector for nearly three times its estimate.

A few other paintings performed well. Doyle pictured Victor Dubreuil’s Barrels of Money on the catalog cover, hoping to encourage spending, and it sold for $87,500 (est. $70,000/100,000) to a numismatist. According to the trade, condition kept its price down; conservation can be costly. According to the catalog, Dubreuil specialized in trompe l’oeil depictions of American currency and painted at least three versions of Barrels of Money, a commentary on America’s preoccupation with wealth during the Gilded Age.

An appealing landscape by Benjamin Champney, View Near Conway, New Hampshire, sold for $37,500 (est. $6000/8000). The tiny town of Conway is depicted as nestled in the valley. The oil was consigned by descendants of Daniel Nute Stanton, who was born in New Hampshire and worked in the railroad construction business; later in life he built a house near Conway.

It seemed to be a good time to buy furniture and decorations. Only a Federal inlaid mahogany sideboard, made in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1800-20, brought a surprisingly high price, $25,000 (est. $8000/12,000), at a time when dining room furniture is hard to sell. A handsome 8'2" long cherry, maple, and pine Shaker trestle table from Mount Lebanon, New York, circa 1830, sold for $10,000 (est. $15,000/25,000)—the price of a good reproduction and one-tenth the price that one in pristine condition brought at the height of the market. Because many of these large tables had been cut down and made smaller by the Shakers themselves as their numbers dwindled, it is hard to find them in original condition.

Among the other very good buys was an assembled set of eight Federal mahogany side chairs attributed to John Carlile, Providence, Rhode Island, circa 1795, that sold for $6875 (est. $10,000/15000). An inlaid mahogany and bird’s-eye maple bowfront chest of drawers, in the manner of Spooner and Fitts (active 1808-13), Athol, Massachusetts, sold for $7500 (est. $10,000/20,000) to a collector on the phone. A Federal inlaid mahogany cylinder desk made in Baltimore, circa 1795, sold for $8750 (est. $5000/10,000); at Sotheby’s in January 2000, it had brought $18,400.

The 358-lot sale, 85% sold by lot and 87% by value, brought a total of $935,250 (including buyers’ premiums). For more information, contact Doyle New York at (212) 427-2730; Web site (

Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880), Flower Study, oil on canvas, 11" x 9", signed indistinctly “S.R.G…ord” lower right, dated “December 27, 1865”on the reverse, and the stretcher incised “Mary Jane Peale,” $40,625 (est. $12,000/18,000) to a private collector.

One of two still lifes listed in Gifford’s memorial catalog prepared by the Metropolitan Museum of Art after the artist’s death, it is listed as # 338, a Sketch of Flowers. This is a rare flower study by the well-known landscape painter, who painted few still lifes during the last year of his life and only two early in his career. The late still lifes are not included in the memorial catalog.

In 1880 this flower sketch was owned by Gifford’s sister Julia and her husband, Robert Wilkinson, in Poughkeepsie, New York. It came to Doyle from the estate of Leslie and Jane Katz, who inherited it from Leslie’s father; they thought it was by Mary Jane Peale because of the name on the stretcher.

An assembled set of eight (two shown) Federal mahogany side chairs, attributed to John Carlile, aProvidence, Rhode Island, circa 1795, sold for $6875 (est. $10,000/15,000)—at what seemed to be a rock-bottom price.

Federal inlaid mahogany cylinder desk, Baltimore, circa 1795, 43" high x 41" wide x 20" deep, $8750 (est. $5000/10,000). In January 2000, it had sold at Sotheby’s for $18,400 (est. $10,000/20,000), demonstrating how the market for Federal furniture has retreated.

Heriz carpet, Northwest Persia, first quarter 20th century, 11'10" x 8'6", with partial end borders, areas of wear, and spot stains, $6250 (est. $4000/6000). It was the highest-priced carpet of two dozen lots of rugs and carpets.

Originally published in the January 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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