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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Titans Battle it out at New York's Americana Week Sales

An Important Searls Family Chippendale Highly Inlaid Cherrywood and Mahogany Chest of Drawers, Attributed to Nathan Lombard, Sutton, Massachusetts, circa 1800. Est. $250/700,000; Sold for $872,500. Courtesy Sotheby’s New York, Important Americana, 21 & 22 January 2011, lot 337. An Important Searls Family Chippendale Highly Inlaid Cherrywood and Mahogany Chest of Drawers, Attributed to Nathan Lombard, Sutton, Massachusetts, circa 1800. Est. $250/700,000; Sold for $872,500. Courtesy Sotheby’s New York, Important Americana, 21 & 22 January 2011, lot 337.

NEW YORK CITY – One tipped his pen. The other tilted his chin. With economy of gesture, antiques dealers Todd Prickett and G.W. Samaha faced off for some of the finest American furniture offered during New York’s Americana Week auctions during the third week of January. Competition for the best of the best has not been so heated since the 1920s, when proxies for Henry duPont, Francis Garvan, and Henry Ford waged another such battle of the paddles.
The sparring began at Christie’s on January 21, where 223 lots grossed $12.8 million. The total, more than double low estimate, is the Rockefeller Plaza auction house’s best result in the category since 2007.
Christie’s attributed an iconic Newport form, a mahogany bureau table with a blocked façade and three carved shells (see image), to master craftsman John Goddard. Made around 1765 for his daughter, Catherine Goddard, the bureau table descended in the family before Newport antiques dealer George E. Vernon acquired it and sold it to the Nicholas Browns of Providence.  The bureau table last came up at Sotheby’s in 2005, selling to a collector for $940,000. Underbid by Samaha, it resold this January to C.L. Prickett Antiques of Yardley, Pa., for $5,682,500, a record for the form.
Prickett and Samaha competed again when a delicately inlaid Pembroke table attributed to William Whitehead of New York crossed the block.  Auctioned as the part of the Nicholson collection in 1995, it resold to Pricket for $194,500. A Federal side chair with crisp carvings attributed to carver Samuel McIntire of Salem, Massachusetts (see image), sold to Prickett for $662,500. The shield-back example is from a set of eight chairs made for Elias Hasket Derby (America’s first millionaire) and his wife, Elizabeth Crowninshield Derby of Salem.  The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, owns four chairs from the set. A fifth is at Winterthur.  Also selling to Prickett, for $182,500, was a Pennsylvania spice cabinet with an elaborate bonnet top.
Samaha acquired a joined, carved and painted oak Connecticut “Sunflower” chest of 1675-1710 for $482,500 and a tall clock with English works and carving attributed to James Reynolds of Philadelphia for $290,500. A second carved and painted Massachusetts “Hadley” chest of circa 1700 went to Connecticut collector William Mayer, also for $482,500. Both pieces were part of the WEA Enterprises Corporate Collection formed by Eric Martin Wunsch, as was the Salem side chair.
Altogether, it was a good day for the trade. Conservator Alan Miller won a Philadelphia William and Mary cedar dressing table for $482,500. Philadelphia dealer Elle Shushan bought a rare miniature portrait on copper of Samuel Barrett by John Singleton Copley for $386,500. Delaware dealer James Kilvington purchased a set of six Philadelphia Chippendale side chairs for $170,500.
On January 20, Important American Silver at Christie’s added another $2.7 million, bringing Christie’s two-day total to nearly $15.5 million. The session’s cover lots, a mixed metal gourd-form tray and a mixed metal centerpiece, both designed by Edward C. Moore for Tiffany between 1878 and 1880, sold to an agent bidding for one client for a combined $425,000.
At Sotheby’s on January 21 and 22, sales of Important Americana Including Stoneware Assembled by Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Hochberg reached nearly $8 million. A serpentine-front cherrywood chest of drawers that descended in the Searls family of Connecticut (see image) sailed past estimate to sell to G.W. Samaha for $872,500 with dealers Todd Prickett and Peter Sawyer in the hunt. The chest has the quirky stylistic details and inlays that connoisseurs associate with rural Massachusetts cabinetmaker Nathan Lombard.
Tiffany silver had its shining moments at both houses.  At Sotheby’s, the Ptarmigan Vase (see image) a monumental copper, silver, and gold mokune vessel measuring 25 inches high and dating to around 1900, fetched $662,500 from a Canadian dealer bidding on behalf of a Canadian museum.  The vase descended in the family of Tiffany designer Paulding Farnham, an investor in the Ptarmigan mines in British Colombia. Five signatures discovered on the vase’s base link this exceptional work to master craftsmen who worked for Tiffany.
An enameled gold Order of the Cincinnati made for General Nathanael Greene from a design by Major Pierre L’Enfant by Duval & Francastel of Paris in 1784 sold near low estimate, for $242,500. Greene, a Rhode Island native, played an important role in George Washington’s surprise attack on Trenton in 1776.
Purchased by a collector for $290,500, Ammi Phillips’ “Portrait of a Rosy Cheeked Girl in a Pink Dress” found a new home in Canada.
A brilliantly stitched Boston canvaswork picture of a shepherdess and piper sold for $122,500; it was underbid by needlework specialist Carol Huber from her booth at the Winter Antiques Show. It is one of the earliest schoolgirl embroideries of its kind. 
Buyers snubbed Sotheby’s single owner sale of Important Americana from a Private Collection. Heavily bought in, the sale totaled $944,945 but made only 38% of estimate. Sotheby’s will likely negotiate privately on some of the pieces in this collection. New York dealer Leigh Keno offered to buy a star lot, a Boston Queen Anne veneered dressing table with a trompe l’oeil painted shell, for a client for $110,000 the moment that the gavel dropped.
Sotheby’s concluded with the Hascoe Family Collection on January 23, adding another $5.4 million to its coffers and bringing the house’s three-day total to $14.4 million. A pair of silver wine cups (see image) made by Paul Revere, Jr., of  Boston in 1792 brought $752,500. Moses Michael Hays, who founded The Massachusetts Bank in 1784, commissioned the cups.  The Hascoes’ collection of Czech art will be auctioned in London.
Copley Fine Art Auctions
Copley Fine Arts kicked off the Americana Week action on Monday, January 17, with a sale at Wallace Hall on Park Avenue. This was the first New York outing for the Boston-based specialist in sporting art and decoys.
“We will be back here next year,” said company chairman Stephen O’Brien, Jr., who grossed $1.6 million including premium on 430 lots, surpassing his low estimate.
Buyers flocked to blue-chip carvings by Cape Cod master A. Elmer Crowell. A pair of goldeneye decoys from a rig ordered by John Ware Willard, a descendant of clockmaker Simon Willard, made $109,250. A circa 1915 Hudsonian curlew with Crowell’s oval brand fetched $74,740. A golden plover mantle carving of about 1915 garnered $48,875 and a running black-bellied plover of about 1910 crossed the block at $37,375.
Topping sales was a hollow, feeding stick-up Canada goose decoy made around 1917 by John Tax of Minnesota (see image). It sold to a phone bidder for $115,000.
Other decoy highlights included a mallard drake by Joseph W. Lincoln of Accord, Mass., $86,250; and a circa 1890 canvasback drake made by Lee Dudley of Knott’s Island, N.C. It sold to a Tennessee collector for $80,500.
“I was disappointed that our cover lot, Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait’s oil on canvas painting ‘Guarding the Catch’ of 1850, was bought in but we think we have it sold privately,” said O’Brien, who was nearing agreement with a private buyer one day after the auction. Paintings by highly regarded sporting artists Benson, Sloane, Ripley, Pleissner, Rousseau, and Foster also failed to meet reserve.
Keno Auctions
Dealer turned auctioneer Leigh Keno hosted his first New York sale this January 18 at Wallace Hall, in space that he shared with Copley Fine Arts.  Keno’s eclectic selection of American fine and decorative arts came in mid- estimate, achieving $2.6 million including premium on nearly 400 lots.
A rare William and Mary high chest of drawers with boldly figured maple and walnut veneers (see image) drew interest from curators and collectors. Made in Boston between 1705 and 1725, the casepiece, which closely resembles examples at Winterthur and Bayou Bend museums, surfaced fifteen years ago in Hawaii. Connecticut dealer Eileen Smiles underbid the lot that is on its way to a private collection for $317,200.
Looking to expand its stake in the fine arts, Keno Auctions featured Winslow Homer’s “Five Boys at the Shore, Gloucester.” The Massachusetts shore scene descended in the family of Mrs. Henry Lee, who purchased the charming watercolor on paper in 1880 for $50 from the Doll and Richards Gallery in Boston. The work resold for $414,800.
A house call in Maine yielded an early sketchbook by the late artist Andrew Wyeth. Son Jamie and wife Betsy Wyeth previewed the drawings at Wallace Hall. A portrait of Betsy dating to 1940 sold for $7,320. What is perhaps Wyeth’s earliest rendering of the Olson farm, immortalized in “Christina’s World,” made $41,480. What could be a preliminary drawing for “The Coot Hunter” of 1941 fetched $20,740. Altogether, the twelve drawings garnered $137,128.
Christie’s continued on Monday, January 24, with Syd Levethan’s Longridge Collection of early English pottery and on Tuesday, January 25, with Chinese export porcelain. Christie’s sale of Native American Art grossed $1.1 million on January 18.

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