The next stop on our auction house preview perambulation was at Sotheby's on the Upper East Side.
Sotheby's has a lot more on display in their showrooms this Antiques Week than Christie's does. In my experience, these two major auction houses trade places every other year or so in bringing in the most Americana to sell during Antiques Week. This year it was clearly Sotheby's turn to shine.
When one enters the exhibition rooms at Sotheby's one is confronted by a monumental Federal-era clock attributed to Simon Willard (1753-1848), as seen in the following photograph. The clock's case is thought to have been carved by none other than the master carver Samuel McIntire (1757-1811). Even though the clock's face appears to be rather over-restored, at least to this writer's eye, it didn't detract from the timepiece's magnificence one bit. A nearly identical one is in the collection of the White House, in Washington, D.C..
|A massive eagle-mounted carved wall clock|
attributed to Simon Willard and Samuel McIntire, ca. 1810
($25,000 to $50,000 estimate)
Please note the Samuel Gragg bentwood armchair, ca. 1810 (estimated $6,000 to $12,000), on the left of the preceding photograph, Dear Reader, and the two klismos chairs in the foreground attributed to the Finlay Brothers of Baltimore, ca. 1810-1815 (estimated $80,000 to $120,000 for each). This is serious stuff, indeed.
|"A View of Mount Vernon with the Washington Family on the Terrace"|
ca. 1796, by Benjamin Henry Latrobe
($500,000 to $700,000 estimate)
I was rather taken with this pencil and wash drawing of Mount Vernon by Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1765-1820). It once hung at Mount Vernon (it was a gift of the artist to George Washington the year before he died) and really should be returned there, I think. I hope the good ladies of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association are feeling flush these days and will find their way to returning the drawing to where it belongs, on the banks of the Potomac River.
There were any number of Audubon prints in the Sotheby's sale, four of which can be seen in the preceding photograph. I'm often amazed at the prices such prints go for, with very rare ones sometimes selling in excess of $100,000.
|Portrait of Henry B. and Mary Jane Soggs, ca. 1830s,|
painted by Ammi Philips
One of the highlights of the Sotheby's sale is this double portrait of a brother and sister painted by the New York itinerant artist Ammi Philips (1788-1865). It is estimated at an aggressive $250,000 to $300,000, which is far more than the $25,000 to $50,000 that a single person's portrait by this artist typically sells for in such sales.
|A collection of decorative mid-19th century Italian gouaches|
I confess that I was more taken by an assembled collection of early 19th-century gouaches of scenes in Italy. I particularly like the pair of paintings in the upper middle of the preceding photograph, depicting the watery interior of Grotto Azzurra in Capri (estimated $5,000 to $10,000 for the pair).
|One of a pair of very fine and rare Federal chairs attributed to|
Thomas and John Seymour of Boston, ca. 1808-1812
($25,000 to $50,000 estimate for each)
The Sotheby's sale includes some outstanding chairs attributed to the Seymours of Boston. The chair shown here is one of a pair, although they are being sold separately.
|One of a pair of very fine Federal chairs|
attributed to Duncan Phyfe
($5,000 to $15,000 estimate for the pair)
Personally, I prefer the much more reasonably estimated chairs in the sale attributed to Duncan Phyfe, which were once owned by Berry Tracy, the former curator of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The chair shown above, also one of a pair, has the very desirable hairy paw feet that pushes prices for Phyfe chairs (and furniture in general) through the roof, and justifiably so—as they are killer. These Phyfe chairs are estimated to sell for a mere $5,000 and $15,000 for the pair (a bargain relative to the Seymour chairs, in my view). Even though Darlington House is packed to the gills these days, I'm sure I could find a place for the Phyfe chairs, at least if I really had to . . .
|The preview is full of rooms loaded with furniture and decorations|
In addition to examples of best-quality furniture made by name-brand cabinetmakers, the Sotheby's sale includes lots of good, hearty, unlabeled, unattributed, and handsome furniture that would make any homeowner proud.
|I'd much rather furnish my house here, instead of at Crate & Barrel|
Much of the furniture on display is estimated to sell for reasonable prices, considering its quality and rarity. And what a value it is in today's markets, where mass-produced mid-20th-century options frequently cost substantially more! These days, antiques are really quite reasonable, indeed.
|A gilt bronze shelf clock depicting George Washington,|
ca. 1800, attributed to Jean-Baptiste Dubuc (1743-1817)
($40,000 to $60,000 estimate)
What one will not find at a bargain basement price, though, is this superb example of a French gilt bronze Washington clock made for the American market, which Reggie would be more than happy to own should he have the extra jack required to cover the hammer price it is expected to go for. I suspect the clock—a trophy piece if there ever is one—will go for well above the estimate when the hammer falls.
|The sale includes numerous examples of superior-quality, |
mid-19th-century Gothic Revival furniture
I was intrigued to see an excellent assortment of American Gothic Revival furniture at the Sotheby's preview. It almost made me want to go out and buy an Alexander Jackson Davis (1803-1892) designed villa along the Hudson River to furnish. I wonder . . . is that my life's next challenge?
|An American two-handled presentation trophy|
made by Dominick & Haff of New York, 1913;
given by the terms of J. P. Morgan's will
to members of the Corsair Dining Club
($15,000 to $25,000 estimate)
The Sotheby's sale has cases and cases of silver holloware, stemware, and presentation pieces. Do you really believe no one wants silver any more? The estimates were sufficiently high, in my view, to indicate that Sotheby's believes there are still serious collectors out there who would like to own it.
|Case after case of silver is on display|
I was interested to see there are a number of lots in the Sotheby's sale consigned by the Brooke Astor estate. Disposing of the mother lode of Mrs. Astor's silver, china, crystal, furniture, jewelry, art, etc., has taken many, many months and any number of auction houses to effect. I wonder, is this the last of it?
|One of 24 cut and giltware wine glasses in a|
95-piece lot of Astor family glassware,
ca. second half 19th century
($4,000 to $6,000 estimate)
I believe these wine glasses may have once graced the table on Vincent Astor's yacht Nourmahal. For but a few thousand dollars they, too, can grace your dining room table.
Next: A Visit to the New York Ceramics Fair
Photographs by Reggie Darling