NEWPORT, R.I. — An old-fashioned Newport auction filled every seat and some beneath an oversized white tent in the gardens of Stonor Lodge, the summer residence of Noreen Stonor Drexel, who died last fall. Collections from the house drew a standing-room-only crowd to the lush gardens of the Bellevue Avenue summer house, the site of many fabled parties. The August 28 sale by Michael R. Corcoran of Gustave J.S. White included material from Stonor Lodge and from Stonor Park in Henley-on-Thames, England, where Drexel spent her youth.
Still in her teens, Drexel arrived in Newport from England on the eve of World War II with her mother, Lady Camoys, the former Mildred Sherman of Newport. They summered at Sherman’s girlhood home, the grand 1875 shingle-style cottage by H.H. Richardson on Bellevue Avenue. Magnificent houses in Newport are called cottages. Over the course of her 90 years, Drexel was an engaged and much admired philanthropist and humanitarian. Her taste was excellent and bidders were eager to own a piece of her history.
In his presale commentary, auctioneer Corcoran reminded bidders to turn off their cell phones and drew attention to the neckties that all male staff wore for the occasion. He also explained Newport linguistics. South of Narragansett Avenue a vase is a “vahse” while north of the same street it is a vase and would be so for the duration of the sale. Not one to hide his opinions, Corcoran exclaimed as he hammered down a celluloid dressing set to a local woman for $120, “Celluloid! One of the great names in junk.”
Corcoran opened with an English marble top commode that was reasonable at $1,200 to “Nick,” a dealer from Dallas who had traveled to Rhode Island just for the sale. Nick was a reliable buyer throughout the sale, taking back to Texas a pair of Georgian side chairs in green silk damask upholstery for which he paid $3,000. Nick also took home a pair of covered green jars with chrysanthemum decoration for $4,800.
The sale attracted friends and family, the trade and the curious. Bidders were rewarded with clean, noticeably dust-free objects of high quality, fine taste and interesting provenance and they bought accordingly. The quantity was impressive, but Corcoran and his staff bundled material into table lots.
One of the stars sold early. A dazzling vintage Cartier gold evening bag went to a local woman for $6,000.
A Regency mahogany dovetailed étagère brought $5,400 from a buyer who paid $1,680 for four gilt waterfall wall brackets and another $1,320 for a pair of hurricane shades that were etched elaborately with scenes of a castle. A rosewood hall chest was $2,520 and two matching stands brought $1,080.
Four large hall lanterns went for $1,800, while a single hall lamp realized $1,320. A japanned cupboard in red lacquer went to the trade for $4,200.
A two-piece corner cupboard with a demilune bottom with caryatids sold for $2,280, and a rosewood hall chest drew $2,520. A walnut fall-front desk with a gray and white marble top drew $600, and a matching pair of rosewood stands fetched $1,080. A bowfront mahogany chest with two drawers over three and brass drawer pulls realized $2,160. A four-drawer fruitwood chest with acanthus and scroll carving had been stripped and sold for $960.
The top table was a mahogany dining table seating 12–14 that brought $3,900. Other tables included a pair of mahogany drop leaf tables that sold for $1,800, and a pair of demilune console tables fetched $1,200, while a Carlton House desk was $2,280 and a mahogany sofa table went for $1,440. A pair of mahogany bookcases with galleries sold for $1,440, and a mahogany stand from the front hall was $840. A small mahogany stand was also $840, while a small stand with a chinoiserie top fetched $960.
A salon set of two chairs and a sofa in pale blue upholstery brought $1,800, while two easy chairs from another set that was upholstered in cheerful orange, pink and green fabric sold for $1,080. A bamboo tête-à-tête attracted $720, while a bamboo chest drew $960. A pair of shield back chairs sold for $1,080, and a pair of japanned side chairs with central floral medallions went for $720.
Card tables were plentiful: One example with elaborate marquetry brought $840, while a pair sold for $840. A small marble top example sold for $480, and another with acanthus carving and paw feet brought $600.
One family member pursued a pair of barley twist floor lamps until she prevailed at $1,080.
John R. Drexel Jr, the father-in-law of Noreen Stonor Drexel, was a pugilism aficionado, having sponsored Arnold Cream, aka Jersey Joe Walcott. An English pugilist oil on canvas scene of one of the two fist fights in 1807 and 1808 between Joe Gully and Bob Gregson sold for $1,920, and a rare set of 12 framed English prints of pugilists sold for $600.
Two gilt framed pictures of English seaside activity were $1,080 and are headed to Texas, while an oval ivory frame brought $720. A framed watercolor of William Watts Sherman’s carriage elicited $360, and a lot of six botanic prints fetched $960.
Several Venetian mirrors sold, one for $1,200 and another to an absentee bidder also for $1,200.
Two small George III silver tureens found stashed on a high shelf brought $1,200 from an area silver dealer, while two silver trays went for $5,400 the same way. A sterling easel back picture frame was $1,800, and a large group of silver plate trays brought $2,400, while a pair of silver sauce boats was $840.
A bidder paid $1,440 for a sarcophagus-form tortoiseshell tea caddy, while a mechanical singing finch in a gilded cage went elsewhere for $960. A mantel clock beneath a glass dome was $1,800.
Glassware included a table lot of about 150 semi-cut goblets that brought $7,800 from a bidder who was far-sighted enough to bring along her own helper, who began packing up the lot as soon as it was hammered down. Other highlights included Steuben glass. A footed bowl sold for $1,080, a boxed set of ten Steuben stems sold for $840, and two Steuben dolphin figures brought $360. A set of four Steuben candlesticks went for $2,280. A tray lot of red glass stems went to Boston dealers for $600, and three lead crystal covered bowls sold for $1,080
An entire Gaudy Dutch dinner service filled a large table and realized $2,280. A pair of Delft compotes brought $600.
A porcelain plaque decorated with an image of the 1854 Newport Reading Room sold for $960, but a porcelain dog was appealing and sold for $1,200. A pair of porcelain owls was $600. A Herend porcelain centerpiece in the Chinese Bouquet green pattern realized $600, while a bunny tureen went for $360. A porcelain group of bottles along with two coolers sold to the Boston trade for $2,880.
Chinese Export was plentiful and met with good results as an export vase was $1,800 and a pair of Chinese Export lamps went to the Boston trade for $2,160. A Chinese Export tea service that sold for $1,440 is headed to Texas. Three Chinese Export table lamps sold for $1,440, and a Chinese Export bowl and undertray realized $600.
Blue Canton ware filled several tables and shelves. One table of blue Canton ware included teapots, tureens and other serving pieces and sold for $1,560. Another table of blue and white porcelain sold for $1,800, and another blue and white porcelain lot comprising a pair of lamps and a bowl sold for $1,800. A Canton blue umbrella stand had a crack on the bottom but still realized $840, while the group of parasols it contained was $360.
One table lot of prints and watercolors sold to the trade for $2,640, and a painting of a gentleman in a red jacket brought $2,520.
Bed and table linens from the Drexel and Stonor families included a 21-foot table cloth that sold for $780, and three wool blankets with the Stonor crest that brought $360. The box lot of family motoring emblems sold for $720.
All prices quoted reflect the buyer’s premium. For information, 508-841-5780.