When Christie’s (26/21/15% buyer’s premium) New York sold paintings, furniture and decorative works of art from the collection of Ann and Gordon Getty in a series of live and online sales last October (see ATG No 2567) it realised a total of over $150m.
But there was more to come. Last month the second instalment of works from the Gettys’ collection went under the hammer with a three-auction series from Temple of Wings, the couple’s home in Berkeley, California.
Built in the Greco-Roman style as the house and dance studio of Florence Treadwell Boynton, Temple of Wings was acquired by the Gettys in 1994 and furnished with an eclectic mix of European and American paintings and decorative arts from the late 19th and early 20th century embracing the Arts & Crafts movement, the Gothic Revival and the Aesthetic Movement.
The mix encompassed furniture, textiles and works of art by a wide variety of makers including many famous British names such as William Morris and Phillip Webb, Charles Robert Ashbee and William de Morgan.
American glass by Tiffany and French art glass by Gallé and Daum rubbed shoulders with a series of Victorian paintings by artists such as Frederic Leighton, Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Albert Moore.
As with the October series, the proceeds of the June auctions were to benefit charities designated by the Gettys. All three were sell-out events.
The 122-lot live auction held on June 14 generated a premium-inclusive total of just over $19m while the two online sales, Aesthetic Decoration and Early Modern Design, from May 31-June 15, raised $985,194 and $1,941,156. This brought the tally for all the Ann and Gordon Getty sales to over $170m.
Two seven-figure prices achieved in this latest series were both paid for paintings by Victorian masters.
Topping the bill at $5.8m (£4.56m) against an estimate of $2.5m-3.5m was Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s (1836-1912) painting A Coign of Vantage.
This oil on panel from 1895, measuring 2ft 1in x 17½in (64 x 45cm), is a Mediterranean scene viewed from a high vantage point and shows three women in classical robes leaning over a parapet with a garlanded model sphinx in the background and is signed and inscribed L. Alma-Tadema/op. CCCXXXIII on the plinth of the sphinx. The animal has been identified as a copy of the Egyptian sphinx from the Villa San Michele on Capri.
The painting, which has provenance back to the London dealer Arthur Tooth and Sons, which probably acquired it direct from the artist, made an early transatlantic crossing into a US collection.
It was sold in 1896 by New York dealer Knoedler & Co to Lillia Babbit Hyde, whose fortune was founded on soap production. This work was an early entry in the Gettys’ collection, acquired from M Newman in London in 1977.
‘Palace of art’
The second-highest price of the series was the $1.3m (£1.02m) paid for Frederic, Lord Leighton’s (1830-96) small and narrow oil The Bath of Psyche, another classical subject and a work that has close links with Alma-Tadema.
When Alma-Tadema bought the artist James Tissot’s former London residence at 17 Grove End Road, St John’s Wood, in 1886, he set about transforming it from a conventional artist’s studio into a classically inspired ‘Palace of Art’. His conception included an atrium to display the work of his contemporaries. Eventually 45 artists donated a panel measuring 2ft 8in (81cm) high with some variation in width.
The Strand magazine for December 1902 records an account of a dinner party at which Leighton, seated opposite Alma-Tadema, held up his narrow-bladed dessert knife and asked: “My dear Tadema, what sort of subject do you expect me to paint on this?”
This small 2ft 8in x 6½in (81 x 16.5cm) view of Psyche disrobing for her bath was Leighton’s solution. The Gettys acquired the work from an auction at Sotheby’s in London in June 1996. The price paid last month was well over the $300,000-500,000 estimate and the most expensive of several works by Leighton included in this sale series.
A group of six of these panels had been consigned to Bonhams’ 19th Century and British Impressionist Art sale in London on March 29 (see Art Market, ATG No 2593). They had been acquired by Jim Fitzpatrick, owner of The Irish News, and had hung in the newspaper’s offices since he acquired them in the early 2000s from London dealer The Fine Art Society.
The top-seller on that occasion, by some distance, was a view of Alma-Tadema’s studio in Townshend House, his former home near Regent’s Park. Painted by Tadema’s sister-in-law Emily Epps Williams (fl.1869-90), it made a £50,000 hammer price.
Back at the Getty auctions, plenty of examples of Tiffany lamps and other glassware by the famous American firm were offered in all three sales and several of these filled the other top price slots.
Selling for $750,000 (£590,550) was a Tiffany Studios Wisteria table lamp from 1903 measuring 2ft 2½in (67cm) high, its leaded glass shade decorated with a cascade of the blue pendant flowers. A slightly earlier c.1900 Butterfly lamp in leaded and cypriote favrile glass on a bronze pepper base was also in high demand at $610,000 (£480,515). Both were acquired by the Gettys at a Sotheby’s New York sale in March 1996.
A 6ft 5½in x 6ft 5in (1.97 x 1.96m) leaded glass landscape window, Cypress and Azalea, was made c.1908 for Carmore, the Woodbury Falls, New York residence of Charles E and Jeanette Carpenter Rushmore. It was another top-priced Tiffany Studios lot at $720,000 (£566,930).
The scene depicts the mountainscape view from the Rushmores’ home. And in the Modern Design online auction it was a Tiffany Studios turtle-back geometric tile patterned chandelier of 1905 that achieved the highest price when it sold for $130,000 (£102,360), a multiple of its $20,000-30,000 estimate.
Not any old andirons
From the furniture and works of art one particularly strong result in the live auction was provided by a pair of 3ft 10in (86cm) high Sunflower brass and wrought iron andirons designed by the architect Thomas Jeckyll (1827-81) and made by Barnard Bishop and Barnards of Norwich.
The sunflower was the symbol of the Aesthetic movement, inspired by Japanese art and famously promoted by the James Whistler among others.
Whistler and Jeckyll designed The Peacock Room, a famous Aesthetic interior, for the shipping magnate Frederick Richards Leyland, which included a pair of Sunflower andirons produced by Barnard Bishop and Barnards c.1876. The Sunflower design proved popular and was shown at several international exhibitions and is now probably Jeckyll’s best-known design.
The andirons, which were acquired by the Gettys from Margot Johnson New York in 1996, dated to c.1878-84. They are the only known examples to feature polished brass heads with patinated wrought-iron bases. They sold for $135,000 (£106,300), over three times the $30,000-50,000 guide.
Temple of Wings selection
Pictured here is a selection of these top prices and other lots from across the three sales to give a flavour of the variety of pieces that furnished the Temple of Wings.
£1 = $1.27