A group of mid 18th century Anglo-Chinese seat furniture made from the prized huanghuali hardwood proved to be the highlight of a mixed owners’ sale held by Nye & Company (23% buyer’s premium).
The chairs were part of a consignment of around 50 lots of English and Irish furniture and carpets offered in Bloomfield, New Jersey, on January 20-21 from the estate of Robert K Johnson of Maine and South Carolina.
Other material from this same source was sold a few weeks later by Brunk Auctions in South Carolina (including the table featured as Pick of the Week, ATG No 2482).
The best-selling chairs at Nye & Co’s auction were offered as three lots each estimated at $30,000-50,000: a single armchair; a pair of side chairs with needlepoint upholstered seats and a second pair of side chairs with caned seats and similarly embroidered seat cushions.
Made in China for export to England in the then current style of English seat furniture, all three lots feature boldly carved details including lion masks to the cabriole legs and ball and claw feet.
The single armchair (pictured top) sold for $95,000 (£69,345); the pair of side chairs with cane seats made $130,000 (£94,890) and the other pair of side chairs realised $180,000 (£131,385) – the top sale price.
The cane-seated chairs went to a buyer in the US, and the other two lots will head to the UK.
The auction house drew attention to the similarity of these pieces to a set that features in a painting of Sir Henry Gough, a merchant who traded with India and China, and his family by Wiliam Verelst, dated 1741. A group of Huanghuali chairs of this model has been identified. In November 2013 Bonhams, London, sold a very similar single armchair and a pair of side chairs for £43,750 and £56,250 including premium.
All bar two of the lots from the Johnson consignment at Nye & Co found buyers “with strong participation from both sides of the pond”, said the auction house.
Among the other pieces of English furniture in the property making notable prices were a late 18th century, 3ft 8in high (1.1m) fall fronted mahogany secretaire with ormolu mounts which sold for $18,000 (£13,140) and a 3ft (91cm) George III mahogany architect’s desk. The latter, with a racheted adjustable top and retractable writing surface set over drawers, realised $9000 (£6570).
The large 650 plus lot sale held by Quinn’s Auction Galleries (27% buyer’s premium) in Virginia on January 30 featured a wide variety of different categories and included consignments from a number of designated vendors.
Pieces of both American and international interest made sums which far outstripped what often looked like very conservative guidelines in categories ranging from Chinese artefacts, paintings and European porcelain to Art Nouveau.
The highest prices were paid for paintings and Chinese works of art.
Topping the list was an unsigned portrait whose subject was identified as Isabella Stuart Gardner (1840-1924), the famous art collector, patron and founder of the Gardner Museum in Boston.
The large 4ft x 2ft 3in (1.2m x 68cm) canvas, dated to the late 19th century, was part of a consignment of lots from the estate of a private collector in Potomac Maryland. Its $1000-2000 estimate was overturned when it ended up selling for $55,000 (£40,145).
From the same source came a 3ft 11in x 3ft 6in (1.2 x 1m) canvas by Alphonse Mucha, the Czech artist who is also famous for his Art Nouveau poster designs.
The portrait, which was signed and dated 1917 lower right, depicts a seated woman dressed in dark clothes and has a small circular glazed painting in the background showing a young girl. It came with a letter from the consultant Wolfgang T Swatek dating it to the period when Mucha lived at Zbiroh Castle near Prague from 1910-28 while he was completing his Slav Epic series of 20 canvases.
The hammer on this work fell at $42,500 (£31,020), well over the $4000-6000 guide.
Many higher than predicted prices emerged across many categories in the Quinn’s sale, including an Art Nouveau hardstone box measuring 8½ x 14¼ x 9¼in (21.5 x 36 x 23.5cm). Another piece from the Catherine Spencer Eddy Beveridge estate, it sold for $10,500 (£7665).
The metal mounts have the typical curvilinear foliate motifs of the Art Nouveau movement as does the ivory faced female head with entwined flowing locks beneath the keyhole. These details and the final price suggest the work of a quality craftsman or firm.
Two Buddhist sculptures of seated bodhisattvas were the Asian best-sellers in the sale.
One in gilt bronze, measuring 2ft 8in (81cm) high overall, depicted the deity seated in the double lotus position on a separate lotus throne on stand and was dated by the auction house to the late Ming early mid Qing dynasty. It realised $45,000 (£32,845). The other, 21in (53cm) high in gilded and lacquered carved wood, shown with one leg crossed, lotus flowers beneath the feet and dated to the Ming dynasty, took $50,000 (£36,495).
Porcelain from the Meissen, Sèvres and other Continental factories was a notable feature of a large property consigned from the estate of Chicago socialite and philanthropist Catherine Spencer Eddy Beveridge (1881-1970) and by descent in her family.
Several of these lots were in demand, especially some of the Sèvres. This included a lot containing three plates with botanical decoration of roses and garden flowers measuring 7in, 8in and 9½in (18, 20 and 24cm) in diameter.
These had a very brief catalogue description as a group of three Sèvres cabinet plates with green and gilt borders and central floral design. Marked on the base, they had been given a very modest $200-400 estimate.
However, the auction house had included several images of the marks on the reverse, including one with the date 1809 placing them in the Napoleonic era.
More than one interested party evidently recognised these as desirable pieces as they ended up selling for $25,000 (£18,250). According to one source, the attraction of the plates was that they came from two known and documented French dessert services.
One was a 88-piece dessert service delivered to the Empress Josephine on March 9, 1810, which featured decoration of roses and garden flowers thought to be inspired by the botanical engravings of Pierre Joseph Redouté, who was employed by the empress.
The other was a larger service painted with virtually identical botanical specimens which was presented to the Duke of Kent, father of Queen Victoria, by Louis XVIII in 1816.
Various other pieces from these services have appeared at auction which gives some context for the price at Quinn’s.
They include a plate from the Empress Josephine service sold at Christie’s in London in 2009 for £9735 (inc premium); a plate from the Duke of Kent service that made £3840 (inc premium) at Bonhams, London in 2008 and an elaborate ice pail from the Empress Josephine Service which sold for $32,500 (inc premium) in 2019 at Christie’s New York.
Other Sèvres lots that also easily outstripped their modest estimates included another lot containing three plates painted with floral reserves to the centre and to the green and gold borders which realised $4000 (£2920) against a guide of $100-200, and a lot of seven plates that realised $17,000 (£12,410) against a guide of just $200-400.
This comprised five identical examples with floral sprigs to the centre and border and two others, one painted with an elaborate basket of garden flowers shown on a marble ledge.
The Meissen in the Beveridge property included a lot containing two bird groups, one 11½in (29cm) high featuring a pair of crossbills on a conifer branch after the 19th century model by A Ringler and the other a 6in (15cm) high group of two smaller birds with a bee. These realised $6500 (£4745) against a $300-500 guide.
£1 = $1.37