SOUTHBURY, CONN. — Danish Modern dominated the action at Applebrook Auction’s Midcentury Modern sale on June 28, with two examples of Hans Wegner’s Papa Bear chair and ottoman clawing their way to the auction’s “top ten” list. This was Applebrook’s first Midcentury Modern specialty sale and after its strong showing, auctioneer Mitch Borenstein said it will not be the last.
“I was very pleased with the attendance, the interest and the bidding,” he said, explaining that he decided to build this sale after walking into a stone cottage in Ridgefield, Conn., that was filled with midcentury things. “It seems to be the most popular style right now.” Three other estates contributed to this sale, including that of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Theodore H. White.
The Ridgefield cottage could be a story in itself. When going on an inspection there, Mitch said the late owner had hidden choice items everywhere in her house. A Rolex watch was in a kitchen cupboard in a cheap drinking glass, a Picasso tile and charger were found hidden under clothes in a closet along with a silver tea set, and in another closet was a stash of silver quarters and dimes. “We found jewelry everywhere,” he said.
The lawyer for the estate was not familiar with Applebrook and so was a tad reluctant to let Mitch in, unsupervised, as some Georg Jensen silver had been reportedly stolen some years ago from the home. Mitch easily found several pieces of the silver service in a sideboard, but at the end of the day, when the lawyer came back to lock up, Mitch also showed him two shopping bags full of more than 160 pieces of Jensen silver that had been in the home all along.
Leading the sale overall was a brown Papa Bear chair and ottoman, very clean with only minor wear, retaining a “Danish Furniture Makers Control” metal plaque on the chair, that sold for $10,350 to a phone bidder. It came out of the cottage. The chair measures 38¾ inches tall and the ottoman is 16 by 27¼ inches by 16¼ inches. Another Papa Bear chair and ottoman in green upholstery attained $8,050.
Other Hans Wegner pieces in the sale included a “perfect” mint green lounge chair that achieved $6,037, a set of six Hans Wegner/Johannes Hansen teak dining chairs selling at their high estimate for $6,900, and a lounge chair with ottoman that went within estimate for $3,450. Wegner’s Danish Modern teak coffee table brought $1,207.
Other Danish Modern furniture lots popular with bidders were a Finn Juhl lounge chair Model NV-53 Niels Vodder 1953 that fetched $4,600, its high estimate, a signed Illums Bolighus rosewood and leather chair estimated at $200/400 that sold for $4,312, and a Johannes Hansen slatted teak bench that went well above its conservative $600/800 estimate, climbing to $3,335. Mitch said the bench was a nice surprise and its sale result was due to its being a rare, small size that is seldom seen at auction.
And the Georg Jensen silver flatware, allegedly stolen, that was found in time for the auction? The set of 99 pieces in the Scroll pattern, fetched $9,200.
Also performing well were a set of six Sibast-signed rosewood spindle chairs for $1,782, a set of three Danish Modern rosewood stacking/nesting tables also selling at $1,782, a pair of signed Ole Wanscher Danish Modern chairs made $1,207, a signed FDB large bookcase at $1,380, and a three-piece caned parlor set brought $1,265.
Other furniture highlights in the sale included a set of eight outdoor, vintage iron chairs at $1,840 that had been estimated at $300/600, a Midcentury Modern Isamu Noguchi cyclone table at $1,552 and a set of six signed J.L. Moller rosewood chairs for $2,127.
The auction started off with a set of four Georg Jensen Boligmontering stacking tables, with the original metal label, that sold within estimate at $805, as a diverse offering mix of items, mostly jewelry and silver, kicked off the auction until the standout examples of Danish Modern furniture took the block.
Leading the jewelry category was a Piaget two-tone man’s watch with 18K gold that fetched $4,312, while two coral 18K gold cocktail rings and a Tiffany & Co. 18K gold infinity bracelet each fetched $1,150 and a 14K gold cuff bracelet took $1,610. A 14K gold designer retro ring went out at $1,322.
The standout painting in the auction was of a mother and a daughter signed Jean Jansem that went just over high estimate to bring $6,900. Other standouts included a large charcoal drawing signed Raoul Dufy at $2,645, and a monumental oil on canvas by contemporary Russian artist Mikhail Aleksandrov (b 1949), that was a good buy at $2,990. Aleksandrov’s work is informed by mythology and symbolism.
Also crossing the block were a great vintage sculpture of a reclining figure, attributed to Botero, going out at $1,552, and a very large bronze sculpture signed Bob Boomer, 1985, at $1,437.
A surprise was a painting cataloged simply as a large oil on canvas painting (probably Hudson River) that was estimated at $800–$1,200. The work depicted two young girls surrounded by deer at the edge of trees. The painting opened at $400 and bidding was between a phone bidder and a determined woman in the back row who raised her paddle and did not lower it until she had won the painting for $4,025.
The terracotta Picasso Madoura charger, depicting a smiling face, opened midestimate at $2,100 and fetched $3,220 from a phone bidder, while the Picasso Madoura terracotta tile portrait of a gentleman opened at $1,000 and brought $1,667 from an online bidder.
Other decorative arts highlights were a large Samurai Shokai sterling silver Chinese dragon figural coffee pot at $3,105 and a lovely Polia Pillin square art pottery vase showing a woman playing a musical instrument on each side, going out at $1,207.
Two Cartier pieces highlighted the sale: an enamel, crystal, diamond and jade flower, unsigned but with a known Cartier artist’s signature, selling above estimate for $2,300, and a signed Cartier 18K gold and agate crowned tortoise that was a good buy for $5,462.
Rounding out the sale were a Midcentury Modern fiberglass screen, reminiscent of Alexander Calder’s works, that opened at $200 and soared to $1,782, and two Czechoslovakian vintage lamps going above estimate: a fruit basket lamp at $1,092 and a flower basket lamp for $1,035.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
Applebrook’s next auction will be Friday, August 16. For additional information, www.applebrookauctions.com or 203-740-0944.