Friday, April 23, 2010

Reggie Out & About: The Mrs. Charles Wrightsman Preview at Sotheby's

This morning as I was tying my tie and preparing to go to the Investment Bank where I work, Boy asked me if I would like to join him beforehand at Sotheby's opening preview of the contents of the London residence of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman.  I responded, "You bet I would!"  So I emailed my office on my BlackBerry that I had an "appointment" in the morning and would be in around eleven.  Little did they know that my so-called appointment was to attend the Wrightsman preview . . .

We arrived just as the preview opened (its first day) and were joined by Boy's charming and lovely assistant, Clarissa Montgomery.  We were delighted to have the exhibition rooms largely to ourselves.  Sotheby's has done a marvelous job of displaying the contents of Mrs. Wrightsman's London residence, which occupy the better part of the tenth floor, the floor reserved for the very best they have to offer.  To say the collection on display was gorgeous is a paltry understatement--better yet, it's jaw-dropping.  Almost every piece is exquisite, sublime, and sumptuous--and the perfect realization of the uber-refined taste of one of the greatest of the lady tastemakers of the twentieth century (and one of the last of them still living).

Sotheby's has organized the exhibition by rooms, and they have mounted huge photographs of the actual interiors, beginning with the drawing room, followed by the dining room, library, sitting room, and various bedrooms.  The above photograph is of the drawing room, the first "room" one sees upon entering the preview.

Of course we brought Pompey with us to the preview, since he is--as I have written previously--the mascot of Boy's office and travels with him everywhere.  Above is a photograph of Pompey on the lap of Clarissa, who is sitting in a chair from Mrs. Wrightsman's library.  I am not sure which of the two of them is happier in such surroundings!

One of the lots that we were looking forward to seeing at the preview was of a pair of diminutive Louis XV giltwood dog kennels forming tabourets, circa 1765, lot number 121.  They sat in Mrs. Wrightsman's drawing room and carry a breathtaking estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.

Not surprisingly, Pompey made a beeline for the kennels.  Here he is, staking out his claim on one of them.  He's no fool, that little pug.

Of course he had to give it a test drive.  However, upon reflection, we all agreed that--even at a mere fourteen pounds or so--Pompey is a bit large for the kennel, which is more appropriately sized for a smaller lapdog, such as a tiny poodle or Yorkshire terrier.

So--much to my relief, given the estimate--we decided to "pass" on the kennels. 

All I can say is, "Whew!"

I enthusiastically encourage my readers to view the Sotheby's preview of the London Residence of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, either in person or on Sotheby's website.  The quality of the offerings and their provenance elevate it into the tastemaker auction sales pantheon of the Windsors, Jacqueline Onassis, Bill Blass, Givenchy, Charles de Beistegui, the Whitneys, and the more recent Safra sale.

Property from the Collection of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman
The London Residence
Sotheby's New York
1334 York Avenue
New York, NY 10021
Exhibition: Friday 23 April to Tuesday 27 April
Sale: Wednesday 28 April

All photos by Boy Fenwick, by BlackBerry and otherwise


  1. We visited the preview today at Sotheby's. Treasures! Stunning items with what one would believe to be affordable estimates...wait and see what happens. We are sure it will be a repeat of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis auction...prices are going up, up, up! Beautiful items and very well displayed.

  2. Well- lucky that the kennel was a tad snug for Pompey- the pair bought $86,500 (with buyer's premium) against a high estimate of $35,000. Pompey may not be crying, but I am- a Blue John urn that I dearly wanted brought almost 15 times its high estimate. Despite the financial upheaval of the last few years, someone seems to still have oodles of dough. Do you think that Goldman Sachs partners have suddenly decided to corner the French furniture and Blue John markets?

  3. I looked at the catalog last night! I still have never tried my paddle at auctioning, but would love to soon!

  4. Ah, Magnus...who would figure such lunacy at auction? 15 time high estimate, my I shudder!

  5. I must say that YOU are quite right, the dog kennel was too small for your 'Boy'. I though, had the opportunity to bring my little boy in AFTER the "MOVIE" ended, and lo and behold HE fit! Yes, a Phalene Papillon will do, and though I was the underbidder, I am still sad to say my little boy is 'homeless' amongst Blue John and other little tidbits.

  6. Dear Anon 1:20: How lovely that you also took your little darling in for a trial run in the Wrightsman kennel. What fun was that? Needless to say, one can acquire such Louis XV period kennels from reputable antiques dealers at a far more reasonable price than was paid when the gavel fell at this sale. Did you succeed at some of the Blue John? Some went astronomically, and some appeared--to this reader at least--to go rather (more) reasonably...

  7. Please let me know which dealers sell a LXV kennel on the "FAIR" side...once sales achieve prices as these, ALL the dealers take note and raise their little sales tags upwards.

    Yes, Zipper looked so at home behind the curtain and yes, I did get a wonderful Blue John piece, the one that is photographed on the page with history of Blue John - center image.

    But really, the condition of the kennels - MINT! The Blue John- MINT, and the other porcelain and furniture I lured to the West Coast...MINT.

    I suppose Zipper now shares a common bond of Love of 18thC France with his cousin Pompey.

  8. Dear Anon 11:24: I am sure your decorator knows of or can locate such dealers, more likely in France than here. As far as raising prices post such a sale, I suspect that it is but temporary. For such prices are illusury and cannot be sustained once the flush and exhuberance of a provenance sale subsides, and rationality returns. Case in point: several years ago I witnessed a pair of etagere sell at auction that had previously sold at the Windsor sale at Sotheby's. They were pretty painted ones from the 1950s, likely supplied by Jansen. While they were hammered down at $50,000+ at Sotheby's they could fetch no more than $15,000 at the sale I attended.

  9. This was Mrs. Wrightsman's "junk sale" from a secondary residence. Hardly the "treasures" that they have been portrayed as. Anyone who truly knows anything about the decorative arts will be saving up their pennies for the New York sale.


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