From the Philadelphia Museum of Art, this mahogany easy chair with carving attributed to the Garvan carver, Philadelphia, 1760-65, 44¾" high, sold on the phone for $1,116,500 (est. $600,000/900,000) to dealer Todd Prickett of C.L. Prickett, Yardley, Pennsylvania, for a client. A similar chair sold at Christie's in January 2005 to Baltimore dealer Milly McGehee for $1,584,000. According to tradition, the PMA chair belonged to Edward Shippen (1729-1806) in Philadelphia and then to his daughter Elizabeth (Shippen) Burd (1754-1828) and was sold by the legendary Philadelphia dealer James Curran, circa 1925. It is published in William Macpherson Hornor, Jr.'s A Loan Exhibition of Authenticated Furniture of the Great Philadelphia Cabinet-makers (1935). Christie's catalog called it "One of the most successful creations of the renowned 'Garvan' carver...a triumph of Philadelphia design and artistry" and "[in] his mature style." Noting that it was long hailed as a Philadelphia masterpiece, the catalog also points out the chair frame's distinctive features linking it to a yet unidentified cabinet shop. According to Alan Miller, who first identified the carver's hand on a high chest in the Garvan collection at Yale University Art Gallery, this easy chair is "one of the two best" and of these it is "the most evolved" example of the form with carving attributed to this craftsman.
Mahogany blockfront chest of drawers, Boston, 1750-90, upper drawer with handwritten paper label: "This bureau belonged to Great-grandmother Blake born Lucy Ann Davenport, 1797, married Jeremiah Blake." It descended in the family. It is 31" high x 35½" wide x 21½" deep. It sold for $104,500 (est. $40,000/60,000) to dealer Roberto Freitas of Stonington, Connecticut. At Sotheby's in October 1993, it sold to C.L. Prickett for $51,750. Exhibiting classic Boston craftsmanship from the 18th century, this blockfront chest of drawers is distinguished by its recorded history in an illustrious family. The chest descended to the original owner's great-granddaughter, Edith Blake (Brown) Wilkie (1869-1907), a renowned designer and interior decorator whose papers are in the collection of Winterthur.
Japanned maple bureau table, the ornament attributed to Robert Davis (d. 1739), Boston, circa 1735, 34¾" high x 34" wide x 21½" deep, sold in the salesroom for $98,500 (est. $60,000/90,000) to a young bidder in the salesroom. At Christie's Eddy Nicholson sale in January 1995 it sold for $96,000.
A pair of extremely rare Spanish-foot carved maple banister-back rush-seat side chairs, 1720-40, with carving possibly by Joseph Davis (working dates 1726-1762) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, were 47" high. The chairs were both estimated at $8000/12,000, and they were both bought by dealer Bill Samaha of Massachusetts and Ohio, who paid $52,500 for the first one and $47,500 for the second one. They have a Katharine Prentis Murphy provenance, and were exhibited at the New-York Historical Society from 1951 to 1981.
Christie's, New York City
by Lita Solis-Cohen
Photos courtesy Christie's
Christie's offered some first-rate American furniture at 20 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City on September 24. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has to raise at least half of the $5 million cost of its recent purchase of "The Fox and Grapes" dressing table (see M.A.D., October, p. 11-A). The museum decided to sacrifice a first-rate easy chair with the carving on its knees attributed to the Garvan carver, the earliest fully developed C-scroll upholstered wing chair in its collection. The PMA also consigned a Philadelphia shell-eared side chair with carving by Nicholas Bernard, one of a pair in its collection, and a cherrywood tassel-back side chair.
The Wunsch Americana Foundation, which has been consigning some desirable furniture to Christie's in the last several years, consigned some early banister-back chairs and a fine tassel-back chair, made of mahogany but refinished. In addition, Christie's rounded up a significant consignment of furniture from a New England collection that had been off the market for a generation, and the result was that more bidders were in the salesroom than there were staffers on the phones, which is unusual at specialized New York sales these days. The sale brought $3,332,313 (with buyers' premiums) for 87 of the 102 lots offered; it was 85% sold by lot and 93% by dollar.
There were five phone bidders for the easy chair with its knees carved by the Garvan carver, and it sold on the phone for $1,116,500 to dealer Todd Prickett of C.L. Prickett, Yardley, Pennsylvania. That price raised $970,000 for the museum, assuming that Christie's does not charge museums a seller's commission when consigning major works (most auctioneers don't).
The shell-eared side chair sold for $32,500 (est. $30,000/ 50,000) to an absentee bidder who left a bid with the auctioneer. The cherrywood side chair sold for its low estimate on one bid to dealer Kelly Kinzle of New Oxford, Pennsylvania, for $25,000 (est. $20,000/30,000). The museum raised the first million towards its new purchase. The PMA will sell a dozen lots at Sotheby's in January and sent some consignments to Pook & Pook in October to fund another purchase, according to curator Alexandra Kirtley, who came to New York to watch the sale.
The top-of-the-line tassel-back side chair from the Wunsch collection, in mahogany not cherrywood, with more masterful carving, compromised in restoration, sold for $218,500 (est. $60,000/90,000) to collection advisor Seth Thayer of Maine, standing at the side of the saleroom; he bid $180,000, topping a bid from a collector standing against the back wall.
Massachusetts and Ohio dealer Bill Samaha bought a pair of extremely rare Spanish-foot carved maple banister-back rush-seat side chairs, 1720-40, from the Wunsch collection, the carving possibly by Joseph Davis who worked in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, from 1726 to 1762. Samaha paid $52,500 for the first one and $47,500 for the second (both had estimates of $8000/12,000).
It was a Philadelphia dressing table's third appearance in the salesroom. At Sotheby's Deyerle sale in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1995, it sold for $95,000 hammer-$107,000 with the 15% buyer's premium. In January 2000 at Sotheby's it fetched $160,000 hammer and $178,500 with buyer's premium. This time an unknown young man in the salesroom bid $95,000 for it, paying $116,500 with buyer's premium. Here is an example of a price retreating to 1995 levels even though the wood has now been identified as mahogany, not walnut as cataloged in the past, and the carving is attributed to the so-called "Spike" carver. According to Alan Miller and Luke Beckerdite, the "Spike" carver's work is distinguished by elongated leafy tendrils and gouge cuts that run through the ends of the leaf tips and shell lobes.
The same bidder paid $98,500 for a japanned maple bureau table attributed to Robert Davis, Boston, circa 1735, the only one known. At the sale of Eddy Nicholson's collection at Christie's in January 1995, before it was restored, it sold for $96,000.
A mahogany blockfront chest of drawers, Boston, 1750-90, clean and pure with cabriole legs and a carved drop and with a history in the illustrious Davenport family, sold for $104,500 (est. $40,000/60,000) to Stonington, Connecticut, dealer Roberto Freitas bidding from the back of the salesroom. A blockfront slant-lid desk that descended in the Cabot family and possibly was made by Nathaniel Gould (1734-1781) or one of his contemporaries on the North Shore of Massachusetts, 1760-80, sold to a collector on the phone for $92,500 (est. $60,000/$90,000), underbid by a collector standing at the back of the salesroom. Both prices showed strength in the market for first-rate New England furniture.
A blockfront desk-and-bookcase attributed to Benjamin Frothingham, Charlestown, Massachusetts, 1750-70, sold for its low estimate to a private buyer in the salesroom who paid $74,500 (est. $60,000/90,000). The low price reflected the fact that the door panels had been replaced. Two phone bidders competed for a Boston hairy paw side chair, 1760-85, and it went to the trade for $60,000 (est. $20,000/40,000).
The same price was paid for a Federal mahogany and figured maple veneered sideboard attributed to John and Thomas Seymour, Boston, 1800-20, that was estimated at $20,000/40,000. The buyer in the salesroom was Baltimore dealer Milly McGehee bidding for a client. A New York mahogany sideboard, with figured veneers, sold for $16,250 (est. $7000/10,000). The price suggests there is an uptick in the market for high quality sideboards, which have not been selling well in the last few years and are now more affordable.
A small wall clock, 1778-90, with a silvered dial signed by Aaron Willard, Grafton or Roxbury, Massachusetts, sold for its low estimate for $98,500 (est. $80,000/120,000) to a private buyer. It had restorations and a hole cut into the bottom of its case to make the pendulum visible. An Aaron Willard shelf clock, signed in the églomisé panel, "Aaron Willard, Boston," from the Wunsch collection, sold in the salesroom to Massachusetts dealer Gary Sullivan for $47,500 (est. $10,000/15,000). He said it was a rare bride's clock, and he was glad to get it.
Two Federal parcel-gilt, églomisé, and inlaid mahogany look-ing glasses, one 59" high x 22" wide, the other 59½" high x 20" wide, were each estimated at $3000/5000 and sold for $9375 apiece. One went to the trade on the phone; the other went to Seth Thayer in the salesroom. These established the current price for this style of Federal looking glass. A slightly larger similar New York looking glass with a $20,000/40,000 estimate failed to sell.
Two Windsor chairs brought respectable prices but were far below prices of ten or 15 years ago. A green-painted fan-back side chair made in Massachusetts in the last quarter of the 18th century sold for $10,625 (est. $6000/ $9000) to a phone bidder. At Sotheby Parke Bernet in November 1977 it sold for $2100 (est. $750/1000). A Nantucket Windsor armchair from the last quarter of the 18th century sold for $8125 (est. $5000/8000) to another phone bidder. It seemed like a fair price in this market, and it was well below the price at the market high.
The full-length portrait of Almira Canning Cowles and her rabbit on a blue ribbon leash by Erastus Salisbury Field (1805-1900) came directly from the family and was a new discovery. It sold on the phone for $80,500 (est. $50,000/80,000), underbid in the saleroom by a collector.
Two phone bidders and a bidder on the Internet battled for a pair of pastel portraits of an elderly couple, Abraham Staats and Margaret Dubois Staats, likely dating between 1818 and 1820. The pair was sold together with two surveyor's scales in wooden cases that had belonged to Abraham. The lot sold well over its $7000/10,000 estimate on the phone for a strong $47,500.
Marine paintings by Antonio Nicolo Gasparo Jacobsen (1850-1921) found buyers. An oil on board of the paddlewheel steamer St. John, signed and dated 1880, sold on the phone for double its high estimate at $45,000 (est. $12,000/18,000). An oil on board of the Fred B. Dalzell, a steamship, signed and dated 1892, with the same estimate, sold for $25,000 on the phone. Several other Jacobsens fetched much less. An oil on canvas of the pilot boat New Jersey sold for $10,000 (est. $5000/10,000).
"I thought the market showed strength and an upward trend," said an optimistic Andrew Holter, who heads Christie's Americana department. "We are heading in the right direction." For example, Holter mentioned that the price ($92,500) of the blockfront and block- and slant-lid desk with a rich old surface that sold to a private collector was well up from another blockfront and block- and slant-lid desk that sold at Christie's in January 2010 for $47,500. Holter pointed out that a blockfront chest of drawers in a desirable size of 31" high x 35½" wide had sold at Sotheby's in October 1993 for $51,750, and 19 years later at this sale it sold for $104,500.
There were some bargains. A serpentine chest of drawers attributed to Elijah Sanderson (1752-1825), Salem, Massachusetts, 1770-90, sold for $25,000 (est. $30,000/50,000) to St. Louis collector/dealer Dick Lammert. When it was the cover lot at Sotheby Parke Bernet's June 1980 sale of Americana from the estate of Mabel Brady Garvan, it sold for $36,000 (est. $8000/12,000), and at Christie's sale of the Britton collection in January 1999, it brought $43,700.
Christie's had enough American furniture to attract good competition, and the sale showed some enthusiasm for Americana. Three lots of Victorian rosewood furniture were withdrawn from the sale because Brazilian rosewood is an endangered species, and the rosewood may have come from Brazil. Andrew Holter said that Christie's did not want to take the chance that the furniture could be seized. It could not be proved that the furniture had been owned by the consignor before 1993 even though the furniture was made in the middle of the 19th century. Works of endangered ivory and rosewood are not welcome in the salesroom these days.
For more information, contact Christie's at (212) 636-2000 or on line (www.christies.com).
Carved mahogany tassel-back side chair, Philadelphia, 1765-80, 39¼" high, sold for $218,500 (est. $60,000/90,000) to advisor Seth Thayer of Maine in the salesroom, underbid by a collector in the salesroom. This was the chair's third appearance at auction. It was sold at the Reginald Lewis sale at Parke-Bernet Galleries in March 1961; then it was owned by Joseph Kindig & Son, York, Pennsylvania. At the May and Howard Joynt sale at Christie's in January 1990, it sold for $121,000 to Israel Sack, Inc. Sack sold it to Martin Wunsch, whose Wunsch Americana Foundation was the consignor. This chair, as is a closely related pair of chairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is the product of a known pattern of construction used in several shops in Philadelphia in the second half of the 18th century.
Carved cherrywood side chair, Philadelphia, 1770-90, seat rail and original slip seat frame marked "II," 39½" high, sold on one bid for $25,000 (est. $20,000/30,000) to New Oxford, Pennsylvania, dealer Kelly Kinzle. It was deaccessioned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art to raise funds for the acquisition of "The Fox and Grapes" high dressing table. The cherrywood was a less expensive option compared to imported mahogany, which was used in the Wunsch Americana Foundation chairs.
Mahogany dressing table attributed to the "Spike" carver, Philadelphia, 1760-80, 31½" high x 36½" wide x 21" deep. At Sotheby's Deyerle sale in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1995 it sold for $107,000. It sold again at Sotheby's in January 2000 for $178,500. American furniture advisor Alan Miller of Quakertown, Pennsylvania, was the buyer that time, acting for clients. This time it was estimated at $100,000/200,000, and it sold for $116,500 ($95,000 hammer, the same hammer price in 1995.) The exuberant carving can be seen on the Lawrence-Palmer high chest and a matching dressing table at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Wistar-Sharples desk-and-bookcase at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
|Four blown decanters, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, labeled "F. Brandy," "F. Brandy," "H. Gin," and "O. Rye," the tallest 8½" high, from the Wunsch Americana Foundation, sold for $4000 (est. $1000/1500) on the phone.|
This green-painted fan-back Windsor side chair made in Massachusetts in the last quarter of the 18th century, 35" high, sold for $10,625 (est. $6000/9000). In November 1977 at Sotheby Parke Bernet, it sold for $2100 (est. $750/1000). Charles Santore illustrated it in The Windsor Style in America (1981).