It was 12:45 a.m., early in the morning of May 11, when dealer James Kilvington of Dover, Delaware, bought a Berks County, Pennsylvania, Black Unicorn Artist chest for $300,000 (est. $40,000/80,000) at Christie’s sale of the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller. “I did not sit in the salesroom until five lots before the chest came up,” said Kilvington the morning after the sales.
The Americana sale began at 12:30 a.m. Auctioneer John Hays mounted the podium and said, “Good morning.”
Hays opened the bidding on the chest at $30,000 and announced that his commission bidder was out at $60,000. Bidding continued with a phone bidder and Kilvington in the room until Hays knocked the chest down for $240,000; with buyer’s premium Kilvington paid $300,000.
Kilvington said he bought it for a young collector—“under forty-five.”
Photo courtesy Christie's
Kilvington was the underbidder at Pook & Pook when another dower chest by the Black Unicorn Artist sold on April 28 for $280,600 to dealer Taylor Thistlethwaite, who said he was bidding for a young client, under 50.
“The chest at Pook is undoubtedly the finest of all Black Unicorn chests,” said Kilvington, “but the Rockefeller chest is in better condition. We will probably not touch it. I like its history—Abby Aldrich Rockefeller bought it for Williamsburg, which did not find it suitable, so it went to her son.”