Purchase Story

Americana Revisited

Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Chicago, Illinois

Photos courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers

A sale of furniture, decorative arts, and silver held April 18 and 19 at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers may forever be known as the sale with “the chest.”

The Americana highlight of the sale was this circa 1770 Chippendale mahogany chest-on-chest estimated at $100,000/200,000 that brought $62,500.

To be exact, we refer to a circa 1770 Boston or Salem, Massachusetts, Chippendale mahogany chest-on-chest, 87¾" tall x 41" wide x 22½" deep, that came to Leslie Hindman Auctioneers from a midwestern estate. In January 2005 the piece had sold at Sotheby’s in New York City for $430,000 to a midwestern collector/dealer. More on the chest later.

A section of 157 lots of Russian silver from a Pennsylvania collector included many cigarette cases. The highest sellers were marked enameled cases, some by Fabergé. This silver, yellow gold, and guilloché enamel cigarette case sold for $6000 and has the marks of Fabergé and the workmaster Henrik Wigström (1862-1923).

The sale offered several high points. Consignments included property from the Detroit Institute of Arts and the San Diego Museum of Art. Add to that a startling array of Russian silver, mostly remarkable 19th- and 20th-century cigarette cases. In all, 180 lots of Russian and other fine silver were from the collection of James Lee Soffer of Pittsburgh. Part one of Soffer’s vast collection had sold at Hindman in 2016. For each part of the Soffer collection, the sale total was a tad above $300,000.

Head of sale Corbin Horn told us that the bulk of Russian silver sold to Russian and European buyers bidding online via LiveAuctioneers. Platforms also used were Hindman’s LH Live and Bidsquare.com.

With almost 1000 lots, the April sale realized $1.9 million including buyers’ premiums. There was staggering variety, including an 8'9" x 8'2" Aubusson tapestry ($5250), Beauvais tapestries ($4750 and $12,500), lapidary desktop obelisks, Continental garnitures that brought between $1125 and $87,500, and a pair of 19th-/20th-century Chinese carved armchairs that sold for $1750. Also sold were Flemish tapestries, assorted fauteuils, a harpsichord, African masks, Steinway and Bosendorfer grand pianos, King George in all numbers English furniture, and a pair of coyote fur pillows that brought $875. The collections sold came from varied points in the U.S. plus Italy and Versailles, France, plus institutions already mentioned. After the sale Horn declared himself “totally pleased” and added, “we got very good results across the board.”

Did we tell you this was an eclectic sale? The Egyptian composition sarcophagus is actually a 20th-century curiosity with shelves behind a hinged front. Perhaps intended as a bar, the novelty, 74½" high, sold for $875 (est. $400/600). Arnet photo.

In the group of African figures consigned by the Detroit Institute of Arts, one stood out. Note the Fang guardian figure on the left, with brass eyes and remarkable patina. He is most likely why the lot brought $87,500 (est. $1500/2000).

From a grouping of African works of art consigned by the Detroit Institute of Arts, the 27½" high late 19th-century Hemba wood figure from the Congo had an estimate of $200/400. It sold for $20,000 largely because of remarkable patina, according to specialist Corbin Horn.

Sixty-two African works of art consigned by the Detroit Institute of Arts to benefit the acquisition fund drew “a lot of interest” from collectors, who clearly knew their stuff. A group of three 19th-/20th-century wooden figures, one with brass eyes and an older surface, brought $87,500. Another highlight was a Hemba wood figure from the Congo that sold for $20,000.

A pair of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ 15th-/16th-century walnut choir stalls failed to soar. One went for $2125 and the other for $2750. Perhaps it was their size at 92" x 90¾" and 84¼" x 94". Maybe it was because of the addition of later elements noted in the catalog, or perhaps it was the names scratched on the armrests by (we assume) generations of schoolchildren on field trips.

This late 19th-century Meissen porcelain pâte-sur-pâte four-piece clock garniture tied for top lot in the sale at $87,500 (est. $100,000/125,000). The height of the clock with the stand is 19 7/8".

The top lot at $87,500 was a tie between two lots. One was a stunning late 19th-century Meissen pâte-sur-pâte four-piece clock garniture consigned by a private collector in Illinois. “Rare Meissen is not affected by the market,” Horn commented. The set went to a European trade buyer.

Horn added that he saw a definite uptick of designers with clients in tow during the preview and the auction. After a fallow period, it seems that business looks promising again for designers. Our theory is that paradigms in collecting are changing. One major swing is to what Rago Arts, in a recent sale, aptly dubbed “remix.” The idea is to mix antiques with all periods of liked items. No more rooms or whole houses done in one era of style. The point is not to create a jumble but to work with individual tastes, inserting interesting and distinctive objects for a “pop.” Imagine a Memphis late 20th-century lamp in a room along with George II wing chairs, contemporary prints, and a smallish 17th-century Spanish trestle table as a side piece. If there’s space, slip in a 15th-century choir stall, or is that too much?

This two-part George III mahogany breakfront bookcase, late 18th century, 85¾" x 72¼" x 15¼", sold for $13,750 (est. $8000/12,000).

This New England federal satinwood Pembroke table, estimated at $20,000/40,000, sold for $12,500. Ex-Israel Sack, it had sold at Sotheby’s in January 2005 for $27,600, cataloged as property of Marshall Field V, Chicago, Illinois.

This handsome Federal carved, inlaid, and veneered mahogany bowfront settee was followed for decades by a determined buyer. Only 39" high x 48" wide, it is unmarked but thought by some to be by Massachusetts carver Samuel McIntire (1757-1811). The hunter brought it to ground at Hindman for $20,000 (est. $20,000/40,000). It had last sold at Sotheby’s in January 2004 for $60,000.

Now back to “the chest,” which ended up going to Sharon, Massachusetts, dealer Gary Sullivan for $62,500. “It’s terrific. It’s as good as I remember,” said Sullivan, who bought the chest sight unseen, referring to his own catalog notes from 2005.

According to auction house CEO Leslie Hindman, the result “all boils down to condition, condition, condition.” Anyone seeing the chest during previews—and they were legion—could spot swipes of a lighter finish on drawer fronts plus caked furniture or silver polish inside keyholes and under brasses. Having polished enough furniture to know better, we immediately diagnosed a case of misguided maintenance. Clearly, someone failed to follow cautionary advice on “improving” finishes, as so often stressed on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow. How this crime against furniture spools out is as yet unknown. We’re banking on a redemptive ending after a finish do-over.

Marketplace, Tangiers, an oil on canvas by Edwin Lord Weeks (1849-1903), 16⅜" x 30¼", is signed and dated 1879-80. Estimated at $10,000/15,000 and vetted by an expert, it sold to a Chicago buyer for $30,000 despite having the canvas glued to masonite.

For more information, contact Leslie Hindman Auctioneers at (312) 280-1212 or check the website (www.lesliehindman.com).

Jason Meyer of Rogers Park in Chicago came to the preview looking for chairs for a George II breakfast area. Here he tries one from a pair of 18th-/19th-century Queen Anne walnut side chairs from a Chicago estate that sold for $2750 (est. $600/800). Arnet photo.

A.H. Schlick of Chicago was interested in this Eric Herz harpsichord estimated at $400/600. He found that it “needs voicing” and is “out of tune,” yet it sold for $3750. Arnet photo.

Hindman’s set-up crew has a sense of whimsy. Seen against the wall is Girl with a Harp by William John Whittemore (1860-1955), 63¼" x 27", dated 1907; it sold for $5500 (est. $500/700). In front of it, someone placed the Continental painted and parcel-gilt harp that sold well above the $1000/2000 estimate at $8125. The German Gothic Revival tall-case clock brought $1875 (est. $800/1200), the 28¼" French six-light bronze and rock crystal girandole (one of a pair) fetched $1063, and the Regency rosewood sofa table (partially shown) sold for $1250 (est. $2000/3000). Arnet photo.

This must be the intersection of obelisk city and stone junction. From left: a set of three graduated rock crystal and boulle marquetry obelisks, $3000 (est. $2500/3000); a pair of Grand Tour style marble specimen obelisks, $875 (est. $800/1200); and four gilt metal and rock crystal candlesticks, $3750 (est. $2000/3000). All were atop an Empire-style marble-mounted (note the top) mahogany table that did not sell. Arnet photo.

You never know whom you’ll encounter at a Hindman preview. The 20th-century carved Continental granite bust, cataloged as Julius Caesar, that sold for $2250 is perfectly matched to the painted and parcel-gilt pedestal, one from a pair that sold for $531. Arnet photo.

This pair of circa 1760 George III parcel-gilt mirrors, 72" high, sold below the low estimate at $50,000. Their provenance is, as Horn put it, “glittering.” Traceable from the original owner, Nicholas Brown (1729-1791) of Providence, Rhode Island, until the pair sold at Sotheby’s in New York City in 2005, they came to Hindman from the same estate as the circa 1770 chest-on-chest. The mirrors sold to a private Chicago buyer for an East Coast summer house. The 2005 result had been $180,000 from a midwestern collector/dealer.

An English sailboat model that sold for $594 (est. $600/800) is shown atop a Louis XV-style gilt-bronze-mounted mahogany bureau plat that brought $4000 (est. $2000/4000). From a North Shore Chicago home, the beautifully  upholstered early 19th-century Regency rosewood settee in the background did not sell. Arnet photo.

Originally published in the July 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest

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