NEW YORK CITY — For the first time in recent memory, Sotheby’s limited its important Americana auctions to Friday and Saturday, January 25 and 26, giving buyers a welcome chance to return to the shows or catch up with friends and colleagues on Sunday.
Packed into two days were just under $10 million in sales. The various owners’ sessions garnered $8,681,885 on 339 lots sold, while property consigned by Dr Larry McCallister, offered in its own catalog on January 26, added another $1,294,944 to the bottom line.
Calling their 551-page book, Connecticut Valley Furniture: Eliphalet Chapin and His Contemporaries, 1750–1800, written with conservator Robert Lionetti, “a model of regional furniture studies,” Patricia E. Kane, Friends of American Art Curator, Yale University Art Gallery, acknowledged that it was the West Hartford, Conn., scholars and collectors Thomas P. and Alice K. Kugelman who inspired her to undertake her Rhode Island furniture archive, a similarly rigorous project that has resulted in an ever-expanding database.
The Kugelmans’ scholarly reputation contributed to the robust reception of 27 lots from their collection, which together exceeded estimates to achieve $1,738,188. Topping the consignment was an opulent cherry woodblock and shell-carved bonnet top desk and bookcase with fluted pilaster capped and Corinthian capitals and ball and claw feet. Against heated competition, it sold to Leigh Keno on behalf of a client for $1,082,500. The New York dealer and auctioneer said that the cabinetmaker’s use of poplar as a secondary wood, the piece’s long descent in the family of Hartford merchant Samuel Talcott Sr and extensive technical analysis undertaken by the Kugelmans and Lionetti provided convincing proof of the piece’s Connecticut origins.
“When a piece of this quality, rarity, condition and provenance comes up, it’s going to set a record,” said Keno.
Two Chippendale cherry wood side chairs with shell-carved crests, pierced splats and ball and claw feet by East Windsor, Conn., furniture maker Eliphalet Chapin (1741–1807) were also well received. A 1781 example originally owned by Alexander and Abigail King of East Windsor, Conn., went to Woodbury, Conn., dealers David Schorsch and Eileen Smiles for $170,500, well surpassing its $20/30,000 estimate. The second side chair fetched $43,750 from an absentee bidder.
A bonnet top cherry wood Queen Anne high chest of drawers by Daniel Willard of Wethersfield, Conn., sold to a collector for $170,500; a Queen Anne cherry wood flattop high chest of drawers, probably from Middletown, Conn., sold to New Hampshire dealer Peter Sawyer for $74,500; a Chippendale cherry woodblock and shell-carved chest of drawers, probably from Chatham, Conn., circa 1789–90, went to the phone for $98,500; and a William and Mary cherry wood gate leg table, probably from New London County, fetched $40,625 from an absentee bidder.
A professional appraiser, Alice Kugelman also trains rescue dogs. Evidence of her passion was supplied by two cast iron Newfoundland dog ornaments. The first probably by J.W. Fiske of New York City or Wood and Perot of Philadelphia, and the second by Janes, Kirtland & Company of New York, they fetched $15,000 and $10,625, respectively.
To help underwrite its recent acquisition of “The Fox and The Grapes” dressing table, the Philadelphia Museum of Art consigned nine pieces of furniture, which together totaled $1,166,875, surpassing its low estimate by $739,000.
The various owners’ sale’s cover lot, a green painted and decorated Mahantongo Valley, Penn., four-drawer chest, 1829, a 1994 gift to the museum from the heirs of Mae Bourne Strassburger and Ralph B. Strassburger, sold to Stonington, Conn., dealer Roberto Freitas for $218,500.
The circa 1755–65 Smith-Caldwell family Chippendale mahogany bonnet top high chest of drawers, attributed to Henry Clifton and Thomas Carteret, with carving by Nicholas Bernard, went to a collector for $182,500.
Downingtown, Penn., dealer Philip Bradley claimed a Philadelphia Chippendale mahogany dressing table that descended in the Scott family for $182,500 and a Philadelphia William and Mary gate leg table with box stretchers, circa 1715, for $74,500.
Also of note were a Philadelphia Chippendale mahogany turret top games table; a Philadelphia mahogany piecrust tea table, circa 1965; and the Thomas Wharton Jr pair of Philadelphia Chippendale mahogany side chairs. The three lots deaccessioned from the Philadelphia Museum crossed the block at $146,500 each.
Influenced by Betty Ring, whose collection Sotheby’s auctioned a year ago at this time, Mary Jaene Edmonds of Long Beach, Calif., put together a sizeable collection, exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and documented by an accompanying publication. Of the more than 60 pieces auctioned on January 26, items of regional interest attracted the most notice.
Crossing the block at $68,500 was a Clark County, Ohio, pictorial sampler worked in 1824 by schoolmistress Martha Mulford. “I’ve always thought it was the best of Mary Jaene’s samplers,” said Philadelphia dealer Amy Finkel, who bid on behalf of the Bayou Bend Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.
The Ohio needlework was followed immediately by a lot of three samplers, $86,500, the most important of which was dated 1828 and worked at the Cherokee Mission in Dwight, Ark., by a Native American girl whose anglicized name was Nancy Graves. The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts also owns rare Cherokee Mission samplers, which document the westward migration of the American population in the Nineteenth Century.
Finkel was also successful in her bids for several samplers not in the Edmonds consignment. One was a charming Philadelphia sampler embellished with an outsized eagle by Maria Bolen, 1816, $86,500. Another was a 1745 Charleston, S.C., sampler by Mary Chicken. Finkel acquired the latter on behalf of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for $68,500.
Museums were active as buyers and sellers. Perhaps the most satisfying sale of the day was to Mount Vernon Ladies Association, which acquired a watercolor, pen and ink drawing that architect and engineer Benjamin Latrobe gave to George Washington as a thank-you token for a recent stay at Mount Vernon. Picturing the family taking tea on the terrace, the detailed watercolor was reclaimed by the institution for $602,500.
Concluding the week was the single-owner cataloged session of property from the collection of Dr Larry McCallister. The top lot was a mahogany bonnet top blockfront chest-on-chest attributed to Benjamin Frothingham of Charlestown, Mass., $194,500. A stylish red-painted Pennsylvania Windsor knuckle armchair, ex Israel Sack, went to Massachusetts dealers Elliott and Grace Snyder for $92,500.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, 212-606-7000 or www.sothebys.com.