Important Americana to be Auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York

On 22 and 23 January, Sotheby’s will begin the sale season with Important Americana, including furniture, folk art, silver, prints, decorative arts and carpets and will be led by The Important Ranlett-Rust Family, Chippendale Figured Mahogany Bombé Slant-Front Desk, Probably by Francis Cook, Marblehead, Massachusetts, circa 1770, An Important American Silver Punch Bowl, Cornelius Kierstede, New York, 1700-1710, and a Fine and Rare Molded Copper Figure of an Indian with Bow and Arrow, Probably Harris & Co., Boston, circa 1880. The two-day sale will begin on Friday 22 January with a 2pm session offering silver, and prints, and conclude on Saturday 23 January with a 10am session of furniture, folk art and carpets. Chinese Export Porcelain from the Private Collection of Elinor Gordon will be offered at 2pm on Saturday 23 January. Works from the sale will be on exhibition at Sotheby’s New York galleries alongside the Private Collection of Elinor Gordon beginning 16 January.

Important Americana: Silver and Prints, 22 Jan, 2pm
Among the highlights of the silver and prints offered in the January sale of Important Americana is An Important American Silver Punch Bowl, Cornelius Kierstede, New York, 1700-1710 (est. $400/800,000), the most massive known piece of early 18th century American silver. The bowl has descended in the family of Commodore Joshua Loring, whose stately home in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, the Loring-Greenough House, has been preserved as an historic site. In March of 1776, Loring and his wife evacuated to London, escaping the Revolutionary War. Loring’s son, Joshua Jr., remained in America and continued to fight with the British army. Soon after, however, Loring Jr. fled to London, taking with him few possessions. Among the pieces taken was the present lot, which had been buried in the family well for safekeeping during the war. Once Loring Jr. was reunited with his family in London, the monumental bowl was stored in a bank vault, where it has remained unused for over 230 years.

The Maxwell Vase: An Important American silver presentation vase, Thomas Fletcher and Sidney Gardiner, Philadelphia, retailed by Baldwin Gardiner, New York, 1829 (est. $250,000-350,000) will also be among the highlights. After the Wall Street Crash of 1825, the overall value of the New York Stock Exchange (then 67 companies) fell by 30%; by 1829 eighteen companies would fail or be shut down. The District Attorney for New York, Hugh Maxwell, instigated a criminal investigation against many of the directors for fraud. In 1829, a group of “New York Merchants” commissioned this 24-inch tall testimonial for Maxwell, one of the most imposing pieces of silver created in early 19th century America. The commission involved its own fraud, though, as the New York retailer Baldwin Gardiner covertly contracted Thomas Fletcher of Philadelphia (his late brother’s partner) to design and make the item – but Gardiner would stamp his own name on it, and the secret was to be kept to avoid backlash in New York! In the collection of the New York Law Institute since Maxwell’s death, the piece was featured in the recent exhibition on Fletcher and Gardiner at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Winterthur, and in Classical Taste in America in Baltimore, Charlotte, and Houston.

Important Americana: Furniture, Folk Art and Carpets, 23 January, 10am
Leading the Saturday morning session of Important Americana comprising Furniture, Folk Art and Carpets is The Important Ranlett-Rust Family Chippendale Figured Mahogany Bombé Slant-Front Desk, Probably by Francis Cook, Marblehead, Massachusetts, circa 1770 (est. $400,000/1 million). The desk is one of the rarest surviving examples of the esteemed bombé form; only twelve additional examples are known. The present example has never before been offered on the market, and is among the most original of all known examples. Extensive research suggests the desk was made north of Boston, in Marblehead, Massachusetts and through careful comparison with extant signed pieces, the desk has been attributed to Francis Cook.

Another highlight is the Captain Samuel Morris Pair of Queen Anne Carved and Figured Walnut Rounded-Stile Compass-Seat Side Chairs, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, circa 1745 (est. $200/500,000). Standing as superior examples of the Philadelphia Queen Anne style, these side chairs display a unified sculptural design, extremely fine construction and high-quality carving rarely matched on other seating furniture in the era. The delicate legs are punctuated by carved claw-and-ball feet, a rare feature among Queen Anne seating furniture.

An Important Chippendale Carved Mahogany Bedstead, Attributed to John Townsend, Newport, Rhode Island, circa 1770 (est. $40/100,000) is one of only six known bedsteads with claw-and-ball feet to have been produced in Rhode Island.

Also featured is An Important Federal Carved and Figured Mahogany Marble-Top Pier Table, attributed to Thomas Seymour with John Seymour, carving attributed to Thomas Wightman, circa 1805 (Est. $100/200,000). The table is among the most sophisticated, ambitious and elaborate pieces of American Furniture made in the Federal period. Only three other tables of similarly ambitious design are known. The present table retains its original finish and imported marble top and has remained in a private Pennsylvania collection since the 1960s.

Two Federal Paint-Decorated Klismos Side Chairs Attributed to John and Hugh Finlay, Baltimore, Maryland, circa 1809 (est. $35/75,000 each) represent the apex of Federal style, which emulated Greek and Roman design forms.

The sale will also include a collection of rare eighteenth and nineteenth century American glass from the collection of the Rear Admiral Edward P. Moore and Barbara Bingham Moore. The collection includes examples of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and New England free blown, pattern molded and lacy glass. Just a few of the highlights include a Cobalt Blue Diamond-molded Covered Sugar Bowl, an Aquamarine Large Lily Pad Sugar Bowl, numerous pairs of New England Colored glass Vases and Fluid Lamps and a rare pillar-molded white and amethyst bar bottle from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Among the folk art highlights offered is a Fine and Rare Molded Copper Figure of an Indian with Bow and Arrow, Probably Harris & Co., Boston, circa 1880 (est. $100/200,000). The work was formerly in the esteemed collection of Dione Guffrey Kenzer, one of New York City’s most prominent collectors from the 1950s to the 1970s, from whom it was inherited by the present owner. As the first Art Editor for the prominent advertising firm J. Walter Thompson, Dione had a keen eye, and together with her husband Myron Kenzer, amassed an intelligent and important personal art collection with the help of their close friend and fellow collector, Andy Warhol.

An Important and Rare Molded Sheet Copper Figure of a Knight on Horseback from the Gingerbread Castle in Sussex County, New Jersey, created by Joseph Urban in 1928 will also be featured (est. $40/100,000). The monumental figure – measuring almost eight feet tall – once topped the Hansel-and-Gretel-inspired Fairy Tale House, one of America’s first amusement parks, located on the grounds of Wheatsworth Mills, which later became Nabisco. The park and buildings were commissioned by F.H. Bennett, a wealthy entrepreneur, after he saw Urban’s elaborate stage designs for Humperdink’s famous opera, Hansel and Gretel, and was in operation from 1929 until the mid-1970s.

Far less common than the often-used figurehead, a Fine and Rare Carved Pine Sternboard with Portrait Bust of Daniel Webster made for the Whaling Ship Daniel Webster of Sag Harbor, New York circa 1847 is another highlight of the sale (est. $25/75,000). A refined Pair of Portraits by J. Brown of Anna Hopkins Turner and Caleb Humiston Turner will also be featured (est. $30/60,000). J. Brown was among a small group of skillful painters who worked in the Connecticut River valley in the early 19th century. A Rare and Large Hand-Painted and Stenciled Tin Fancy Goods and Toys Wagon, circa 1870, complete with a driver and team of chestnut horses is also featured (est. $10/30,000). Far fewer of this large size of toy survive than the more common small versions.

On the afternoon of January 23 Sotheby’s will offer over 280 lots of Chinese export porcelain and China Trade paintings from the private collection of esteemed longtime dealer Elinor Gordon. A fixture at the Winter Antiques Show since its inception in 1955, Gordon is largely credited with elevating Chinese Export Porcelain to an independent collecting category. Indeed, she herself began as an avid collector before entering the trade in 1953. Over several decades, Gordon and her husband Horace quietly amassed a comprehensive collection of works made for both the European and American markets – a collection many knew through her book, Collecting Chinese Export Porcelain, published in 1977, but which few knew had survived more or less intact.