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Americana at Bonhams

Clayton Pennington | January 23rd, 2014

The highest Americana price of the day belonged to a carved and inlaid automaton hall clock commissioned from Tiffany & Co. and delivered in April 1901. Estimated at $40,000/60,000, it went at $100,000 to a phone bidder.

 

 

 

 


A phone bidder on the line with Madelia Ring paid $72,500 (est. $70,000/100,000) for the tall-case clock with works by Ephraim Willard and the dial painted by John Ritto Penniman. The case was by Stephen Badlam, according to clock experts. “One would like to see some feet,” one said, regarding the lack of feet. The dial was signed on the back “J. Penniman/ No. 9” and likely done when Penniman (1782-1841) was just a teen. Bonhams’ catalog referenced the Penniman checklist included with Carol Damon Andrews’s July 1981 article in The Magazine Antiques, noting that there were five other clock faces decorated by Penniman known, each with a different number (Nos. 1, 8, 10, 11, and 14). In January 1999 at Christie’s auction of the Britton collection, the No. 1 clock sold for $48,300. It is unknown whether the numbering system is sequential or designates style numbers.


This massive sterling silver two-handled oval footed tray by Robert Garrard II, London, 1836, had a mahogany panel with ivory feet on the underside to give it support. It measured 32½" x 26¾", weighed approximately 342 troy ounces, and sold for $40,000 (est. $15,000/20,000). The tray was engraved with the coat of arms for Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879) and his cousin and bride, Charlotte von Rothschild (1819-1884), who were married on June 15, 1836.

Bonhams, New York City

Photos courtesy Bonhams

Even though an eagle clutching an American flag graced the catalog cover of Bonhams’ January 23 sale in New York City, Americana was only a small part of the auction. The section of the catalog titled “American Furniture, Folk and Decorative Arts and Clocks” comprised only 98 lots—less than a quarter of the approximately 412-lot offering. The entire sale brought in a total of $1,655,187.50, with the Americana portion accounting for $440,887.50, about 26% of the total.

The two highest lots to sell in the Americana portion were clocks, but that’s where the similarity ends. The highest-selling Americana lot was a 1901 carved and inlaid automaton hall clock, commissioned from Tiffany & Co. for Henry and Adelaide Seligman’s mansion at 30 East 56th Street in New York City. Each room in the mansion was decorated with a specific design, and the clock was believed to have been produced for the Japanese-themed smoking room. Tiffany imported the case from Japan and fitted it with a movement made in New York. The clock is recorded in the manuscript order book kept by Tiffany’s clock department from 1879 to 1918, now in the collection of the New-York Historical Society.

The case of the 98" tall clock was carved with bamboo and flying cranes with applied carved flowers, and it sat on an elaborately carved plinth carved with minogame, feather-tailed creatures that live in the water and in Japanese culture represent longevity and felicity. The top featured a model of a temple with a large bell that is struck by an automaton figure. The circular dial had chapters representing the Asian zodiac with hands in the form of arrows. Estimated at $40,000/60,000, it sold to a phone bidder for $100,000 (including buyer’s premium).

The other clock was a Federal tall-case clock with works by Ephraim Willard, a dial painted by John Ritto Penniman, and a case probably by Stephen Badlam. A phone bidder on the line with Madelia Ring paid $72,500 (est. $70,000/100,000). The dial was signed on the back “J. Penniman/ No. 9” and was likely done when Penniman (1782-1841) was just a teen.

Bonhams’ catalog referenced the Penniman checklist included with Carol Damon Andrews’s July 1981 article in The Magazine Antiques, noting that there were five other clock faces decorated by Penniman known, each with a different number (Nos. 1, 8, 10, 11, and 14). The No. 1 clock was sold for $48,300 in January 1999 at Christie’s auction of the Britton collection. Whether the numbering system is sequential or style numbers is unknown.

There were some failures. A mahogany tall clock with a movement by Peter Stretch (est. $15,000/18,000) was passed at $12,000, as was a 1740-60 mahogany blockfront kneehole desk from Boston (est. $15,000/25,000) that in October 1993 had sold at Sotheby’s for $21,850. A New England Chippendale mahogany serpentine chest that had brought $4600 at Sotheby’s in June 1995 remained unsold at Bonhams (est. $4000/6000). A satinwood-inlaid mahogany chest of drawers, attributed to Michael Allison, was passed at $3800 (est. $5000/7000); in October 1992 it had sold at Sotheby’s for $3300.

Sales of a couple of passed lots after the auction helped the total. A wildly inlaid marquetry low table that failed to sell at the auction sold afterward for $9375 (est. $10,000/15,000), and a Herter Brothers cabinet, ex-Margot Johnson, that had been passed at the auction sold for $12,500 (est. $15,000/25,000).

For more information, contact Bonhams at (212) 644-9001; Web site (www.bonhams.com).

A phone bidder, underbid by consultant Alan Miller and another phone, paid $20,000 (est. $10,000/15,000) for The Babes in the Wood, a 16½" x 49½" x 33" marble sculpture by American sculptor Thomas Crawford (circa 1813-1857). The short-lived Crawford is best known for his work in the U.S. Capitol, including designing Freedom, which tops the dome, and for the George Washington equestrian monument in Richmond, Virginia. According to Bonhams, the sculpture is based on an English folk tale that concludes: “Thus wandered these two prettye babes / Till death did end their grief; / In one another’s armes they dyed, / As babes wanting relief. / No burial these prettye babes / Of any man receives, / Till Robin-redbreast painfully / Did cover them with leaves.” Another version of The Babes in the Wood is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, bequeathed by former New York Governor, U.S Senator, and U.S. Secretary of State Hamilton Fish (1808-1893), who commissioned the artwork.

This carved and polychromed eagle by George Stapf (1862-1958), 32½" high from the flag tip to the bottom of the shield and with a 39½" wingspan, sold to a telephone bidder for $23,750 (est. $8000/12,000). The condition report noted that there was an old break and repair to the left wing and that it had old losses to the feet. Other similar eagles by Stapf, who worked in Lancaster and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, carving eagles for GAR posts and public buildings, have brought much more, such as $57,500 at Alderfer’s in September 2007, $54,000 at Sotheby’s in May 2005, and $52,900 at Pook & Pook in May 2004.

A bid of $35,000 won this 6¼" x 9½" x 9½" Russian .84 silver figural writing-stand in the form of a bogatyr warrior with sword (est. $1800/2200). Possibly by Dmitry Gorbanov, Moscow, 1899-1908, the stand with shield-form feet and a later quill-form pen was marked in Cyrillic and weighed approximately 35 troy ounces.

E.F. Caldwell & Co., New York City, produced this 26½" x 8¾" x 6¾" gilt bronze and marble mantel clock around 1900. The white enamel dial, supported by Atlas, is inscribed with Caldwell’s name; the dial surround has the signs of the zodiac and is topped by a seated ivory figure with a bronze eagle. The base is of variegated green marble with inset bronze panels on dolphin feet. Estimated at $4000/6000, it brought $15,000 from a bidder on the phone with Jonathan Snellenburg of Bonhams.

 

Inlaid rosewood table attributed to Herter Brothers, ex-Margot Johnson, $10,000 to a phone bidder (est. $6000/9000).

A phone bidder paid $22,500 for this 29¼" wide Delaware Valley walnut dressing table, 1740-70, underbid by Pennsylvania dealer Kelly Kinzle. The brasses were old and possibly original. The estimate was a low $5000/7000.


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

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