Christie’s New York European Decorative Arts Sales

In April Christie’s New York will present three sales of European Decorative Arts, which will bring fresh to the market works from the 17th century to the modern day, from several private collections and museums. With a range of price points featured in each sale, collectors will find one-of-a-kind examples of furniture, sculpture, ceramics, tapestries, clocks and decorative works of art varying from the scholarly to the fantastic, and the austere to the ornate.

Important English Furniture, Clocks and Ceramics – April 7
Three estates lead the English Furniture, Clocks and Ceramics sale on April 7 — The Collection of Professor and Mrs. Clifford Ambrose Truesdell, Property from the Estate of Mr. & Mrs. Gordon T. Southam, and The Property of a Private Canadian Collector.

The Collection of Professor and Mrs. Clifford Ambrose Truesdell
Professor and Mrs. Clifford Ambrose Truesdell were a delightfully eccentric couple who shared an appreciation for the classics, music and art. Their diverse collection of Italian, Dutch and Flemish furniture was founded on connoisseurship and their story is one of passion, intellectual stimulation, and a love of beautiful objects. Works from the collection will be offered in the April 7th as well as the April and May sales of European Furniture.

Clifford Ambrose Truesdell III devoted his career to the advancement of rational mechanics, and his professional experience spanned from MIT and the Naval Research Laboratory to Indiana University and Johns Hopkins University. Together with his wife, the Truesdells were a true “Renaissance couple” in every sense of the term. Their artistic interests ranged from Baroque music and fine silver to European paintings and Italian architecture, and these tastes shone through in the impressive works of art they lived with in their Palladian-style Baltimore home, Il Palazzetto.

The Truesdell English Furniture collection is comprised of 30 lots and is highlighted by a George II mahogany and silk damask four-poster bed, circa 1740 (estimate: $200,000-300,000). This magnificent state bed was purchased by the Truesdells in the 1960s, shortly after it was removed from Brympton D’Evercy, the beautiful manor house in Somerset, England where the bed had been since the 18th century. With its damask-covered cornice emblazed with the Fane family crest, the bed is a rare survivor from the early George II period and has been attributed to Giles Grendey, the celebrated London furniture maker.

Other English furniture highlights from the Truesdell collection include a George II giltwood mirror, circa 1735 (estimate: $50,000-80,000); two pairs of George III giltwood open armchairs attributed to John Linnell, circa 1765 (each estimate:
$150,000-250,000); a pair of George II gilt-gesso two-light girandole mirrors, circa 1725 (estimate: $120,000-180,000); and a pair of George II giltwood console tables, circa 1740 (estimate: $100,000-150,000).

Property from the Estate of Mr. & Mrs. Gordon T. Southam, Vancouver, Canada
The marriage of Jean MacMillan to Gordon Southam in 1941 united two of Canada’s top-tier families as well as the forestry and newspaper industries. The Southams enjoyed a life-long romance and an enduring partnership in which they traveled regularly to London and New York on collecting trips.

The Southam Collection is comprised of over 80 works and highlights include a Queen Anne walnut oval stool with floral needlework, whose pair is illustrated in Masterpieces of English Furniture and Clocks, (estimate: $30,000-50,000); a Queen Anne walnut settee, circa 1710 (estimate: $70,000-100,000); and a George I walnut chest-of-drawers, circa 1730 (estimate: $70,000-100,000).

Property of a Private Canadian Collector
A private collection from a Toronto country home consists of 60 works of furniture and paintings, with estimates ranging from $800 to $30,000, and several works offered for no reserve. Top lots include a George IV mahogany secretaire breakfront bookcase, circa 1825 (estimate: $20,000-30,000), and a pair of George III satinwood, rosewood and marquetry commodes (estimate: $80,000-120,000).

Examples of various owner highlights in the April 7th sale are a George III giltwood side table with scagliola top, attributed to Thomas Chippendale, circa 1770 (estimate: $100,000-150,000), and a George III ormolu-mounted Wedgwood, Derby biscuit porcelain and white marble mantel clock by Vulliamy, the royal clockmaker (estimate: $40,000-60,000), and a George III ormolumounted mahogany commode attributed to Wright and Elwick, circa 1765,
supplied to one of Britain’s great country houses, Wentworth Woodhouse (estimate: $30,000-50,000).

European Furniture, Works of Art, Sculpture and Tapestries – April 16
The European Furniture, Works of Art, Sculpture and Tapestries sale on April 16th will feature over 40 works from the Truesdell collection. A leading highlight is a Dutch eglomisé collector’s cabinet on stand (estimate: $40,000-60,000). The eglomisé panels depict scenes from Roman myths and would open to reveal items of curiosity or objects of vertú. Surprises continue to unfold behind the two central doors which open to display the technical virtuosity of the cabinet-maker. Its use of mirrors create the illusion of two complete houses whose inlaid facades slide to reveal further secret drawers for the rarest, or most secret of treasures.

Among the other highlights in the European Furniture offered in the Truesdell collection is an Italian silvered wood console, Rome, late 17th/ early 18th century. It appears to grow almost organically from a lushly carved foliate spray and is an early precursor to the natural forms that inspired the Rococo (estimate: $30,000-50,000). A pair of North Italian giltwood torcheres, circa 1750 (estimate: $20,000-40,000), with their bold scrolling forms illustrate the asymmetry emblematic of this style.

In addition to the Truesdell collection, The European Furniture, Works of Art, Sculpture and Tapestries sale on April 16th offers unique objects such as collector’s cabinets, vivid tapestries, extravagant giltwood from the 18th century, as well as 19th and 20th century examples inspired by many stylistic eras. This diverse array assures there is something for every taste and budget.

The sale features a dozen tapestries, dating from the mid 16th century to the 18th century, which encompass many genres — armorial, mille fleurs, historical and mythological. A Franco-Flemish millefleurs tapestry (estimate: $40,000-60,000) whose stylized, large scale flowers would be equally at home in both traditional and modern homes while a Flemish mythological game park tapestry, late 16th/ early 17th century, sold to benefit the acquisition funds of Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, depicts the god of Music, Orpheus sleeping amongst vividly woven exotic animals (estimate: $30,000-50,000).

Works by the famed French design atelier Jansen and other furniture commissioned by interior decorators are also included in the auction. Among the group is an elegant pair of French ormolu-mounted black lacquer two-tier etageres by Jansen (estimate: $6,000-9,000). An impressive pair of marble-veneered and ebonized wood bookcases designed by Renzo Mongiardino, circa 1987, were part of the spectacular custom furnishings made for the library in the Park Avenue apartment of the New York financier and philanthropist Peter Jay Sharp (estimate: $25,000-40,000). They are certain to make an equally strong impact with collectors of this highly sought after, legendary designer.

19th Century Furniture, Sculpture, Works of Art and Ceramics – April 21
The 19th Century Furniture, Sculpture, Works of Art and Ceramics sale on April 21st opens with a choice selection of European ceramics and glass, highlighted by a unique pair of Mintons pâte-sur-pâte vases by the master craftsman Louis Solon. The pair titled ‘The Key to Hearts’ depicts maidens toying with putti enclosed within heart-shaped cages, (estimate: $150,000-200,000) and relates directly to a similar pair which achieved over $200,000 on the 21st of October 2008. The Continental porcelain selection features a number of massive vases in both the Sevres and Vienna styles. A monumental Sevres style ivory-ground centerbowl stands over 137.8 cm. high (estimate $100,000 – 150,000); and three pairs of Vienna style vases in the $20,000-50,000 range feature finely painted classical and mythological vignettes. This group is rounded out by 24 Vienna style sumptuous portrait plates depicting King Ludwig’s gallery of Bavarian beauties from the Twinight Collection (estimate: $30,000-50,000).

Two charming studies of hounds on Berlin (K.P.M.) porcelain, dated 1888, immortalize the Prince and Princess of Battenberg’s favorite dogs named Wat and Basco (estimate: $5,000-7,000). The Princess was Queen Victoria’s beloved youngest daughter Beatrice and by tradition, these plaques were passed by descent to the present owner from a member of the family in service at Windsor Castle. Other unusual works in the majolica and palissy ware section include: a Mintons fish-form teapot and cover (estimate: $8,000-12,000) and a George Jones cobalt-blue ground garden seat (estimate: $6,000-8,000).

Recently deaccessioned from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and sold to benefit the Acquisition Fund, a magnificent ormolu-mounted black and gilt-lacquered commode (estimate: $70,000-100,000) and its companion sécretaire (estimate: $50,000-70,000) are among the highlights of the afternoon session of Furniture, Sculpture and Works of Art. These faithful reproductions are after the models by J.H. Riesener commissioned in 1783 by Marie Antoinette for her cabinet intérieur at Saint-Cloud. The originals, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are considered to be the jewel in the crown of Riesener’s oeuvre. Although the maker of these excellent copies remains a mystery, the quality of craftsmanship, while undoubtedly 19th century, is an homage to Riesener’s mastery in the 18th century.

A group of European carved ivory works of art from the estate of J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller, are led by two grand scale German carved ivory tankards ornately carved with mythological figures (estimate: $30,000-50,000 each). Three dozen lots from a Mid-Atlantic private collection are offered at no reserve, and include a rare group of four Continental ‘jewelled’ ivory figures, each with a mechanical accoutrement, that exhibit exceptional ingenuity in their decoration and craftsmanship (estimate: $6,000-8,000 each).