Sotheby’s New York Sale of Important Americana

NEW YORK – On September 26, Sotheby’s will hold its fall sale Important Americana comprising seventy-five lots of furniture, folk art, and silver. The sale is expected to bring $2.3/4.8 million and will be offered alongside Property of Rear Admiral Edward P. Moore and Barbara Bingham Moore. Both collections will be on view in Sotheby’s New York galleries beginning September 20.

The centerpiece of the sale is The Van Pelt-Robb Family Important Chippendale Carved and Figured Mahogany Dressing Table, Attributed to Henry Clifton and Thomas Carteret, Carving by Nicholas Bernard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, circa 1760, estimated at $800,000/2 million. The piece is the quintessential Philadelphia dressing table and represents the Rococo aesthetic associated with 18th century craftsmen from that area. The table is heralded for its intricate carving throughout the cabriole legs and the case, in addition to beautifully executed shell details to the front. Unlike most Philadelphia case pieces, the Van Pelt-Robb Dressing Table can be attributed to a specific carver and cabinet shop; the table was carved by Nicholas Bernard, who was contracted by Quaker cabinetmakers Henry Clifton and Thomas Carteret. It appears to have been carved in Bernard’s mature style with extraordinary care and skillful attention to detail, notably in the shell drawer. It is an untouched masterwork, with its original finish and hardware, and boasts an equally pristine provenance; the dressing table comes from the celebrated Robb collection, assembled by Mrs. Walter B. Robb of Buffalo, New York, who purchased the table privately from the Van Pelt family. After 190 years in the Van Pelt collection and over 50 years in the Robb collection, this fall marks the first-ever appearance of this iconic piece on the auction market and a rare opportunity
for collectors to acquire such a superb Philadelphia dressing table.

From the Federal period, the sale will include an Important Federal Inlaid and Figured Mahogany, Rosewood and Satinwood Gentleman’s Secretary, Attributed to Nehemiah Adams, Salem, Massachusetts, circa 1798 (est. $150/300,000). The piece is a superb example of late 18th century Salem, Massachusetts craftsmanship, with beautiful wood grains and intricate inlays throughout, the pattern of which is an exact match to a labeled piece in the collection of the Winterthur Museum. With this close relationship to the Winterthur’s labeled Nehemiah Adams work, experts are able to definitively attribute the piece to the Salem cabinetmaker. The secretary is also enhanced by its strong provenance; it was sold in the landmark 1938 Parke Bernet sale of William Randolph Hearst’s collection and has remained in private hands since that time.

The sale will also include an Important Federal Eagle-Inlaid and Figured Mahogany Musical Tall Case Clock, circa 1805, from the collection of the Hammond-Harwood House Museum in Annapolis, Maryland (est. $60/120,000). The clock is in a superb Baltimore case that exemplifies the Federal style with two oval eagle inlays and houses musical works by George Long of Hanover, Pennsylvania, that play eight separate tunes.

Also on offer is the Important Hussey Family Very Fine and Rare Carved and Highly Figured Mahogany Desk-and-Bookcase, Probably Newburyport, Massachusetts, circa 1770, with fabulously figured wood which was carefully chosen by the craftsman. With its graceful proportions, impressive presence, and careful balance between straight and curved elements, the desk is a superb example of the high-style Massachusetts furniture popular just prior to the American Revolution. The graduated drawers, fluted pilasters and scrolling pediment draw the eye of the viewer upward, enhancing the impression of height and grandeur preferred by collectors of the high style. The desk retains its original rare pierced-form finial as well as its apparent original surface and brass hardware and is estimated to fetch
$150/300,000.

Another highlight is a Very Fine and Rare Chippendale Carved and Figured Mahogany Library Bookcase, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, circa 1770, estimated at $100/200,000, which is almost an exact representation of Thomas Chippendale’s “Library Bookcase” design from his 1754 book published in London, The Gentleman & Cabinet-Maker’s Director. The bookcase demonstrates the popularity of London fashion in the colonial town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and is an exceedingly rare form – very few examples of this piece from Pre-Revolutionary times survive, and only three are known to exist from Portsmouth.

Featured among the seating furniture offerings is an Important Pair of Classical Carved and Figured Mahogany Harp-Back Klismos Side Chairs, Attributed to Duncan Phyfe, New York, circa 1815, estimated at $40/80,000. The chairs represent the height of seating furniture design during the Neo-Classical period in New York and feature the harp-back, which at the time was one of the most expensive options a cabinetmaker could offer. In addition, the chairs offered here are strung with brass and incorporate front legs carved with paw feet and hair.

Highlighting the Folk Art offerings is an Extremely Fine, Rare and Important Engraved Scrimshaw Sperm Whales Tooth, circa 1837, engraved by William A. Gilpin, a scrimshaw artisan previously dubbed “Ceres A” for the vessel, Ceres, on which he sailed. Historically, few scrimshaw whales’ teeth were signed and thus attribution has been difficult. With the landmark discovery of the signed Gilpin tooth and the confirmation of its relationship to the body of work previously attributed to “Ceres A”, scholars have been able to affirmatively name Gilpin as one of four identified master engravers from the golden age of whaling. The Gilpin tooth is estimated at $40/60,000 and will be offered alongside a Fine Carved and Painted Pine Cigarstore Indian, Probably Thomas V. Brooks, estimated at $100/150,000.

Featured in the silver section of the sale will be a Wine Cooler from the Hopkins-Searles Service, Tiffany & Co., New York, the Design Attributed to Charles Grosjean, 1886 (est. $25/35,000) and A Monumental “Native American” Silver-Plated Centerpiece, by Meriden Britannia Company for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 (est. $30/50,000), where they won first place for silver-plated wares.

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