Property from the Estate of Television and Business Pioneer Maria Helen Smith for Bonhams & Butterfields Auction

Bonhams & Butterfields announce the November 16, 2010 auction of the Estate of Maria Helen Smith, San Diego, California. Assembled over the course of a lifetime, the Collection features a diverse group of 19th century works with a focus on the European and Asian aesthetic.

The 300-lot Los Angeles-based sale will feature a discerning selection of rare pieces by renowned makers such as Francois Linke, Paul Sormani and Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener, as well as beautiful examples of gilt bronze, chandeliers, silver and porcelain from across Europe.

Maria Helen Smith was born July 4, 1921, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was a pioneer in the arenas of broadcasting, business and real estate. Over the course of her career, Smith paved the way for women in television, radio and corporate ventures. She was one of the first women in the United States to own a television station as well as one of the first female inductees to the Oklahoma Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Smith began her career in the early 1940s as an office assistant at a radio station in Tulsa. An opportunity appeared shortly thereafter, when a newscaster did not report to the station for a broadcast. Smith stepped in and volunteered to read the news. While working for the radio station, she began to educate herself in the field of television through research and correspondence courses. By the latter part of the decade, she was part owner and President of one of Tulsa’s first television stations.

Smith moved to San Diego in the early 1950s after she had come to know the area during her research on television stations. In 1953, she was a partner in the venture that purchased San Diego’s KFMB-TV, several radio stations and went on to finance and build the Disneyland Hotel in 1955.

Throughout her lifetime, Smith was active in several prestigious clubs, organizations and associations in the San Diego area including the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, the Republican State Central Committee of California and Charter 100, a professional women’s organization. She was also a Board Member of the Scripps Foundation and a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1964. In the 1980s, Smith acquired Imperial Airlines, a small Southern California commuter airline.

Smith lived in San Diego for more than 40 years before settling in at the magnificent Villa Laura, in the community of Rancho Santa Fe, California. A timeless masterpiece, the world-class estate was built to resemble an Italian villa and reflect the finest craftsmanship, inside and out. Smith furnished her home with an astute eye for detail, similar to her acumen for business. She filled the estate with the finest European and Asian works from the 19th centuries. Smith personally selected many of the items during her trips abroad.

According to Andrew Jones, Los Angeles Director of European Furniture and Decorative Arts at Bonhams & Butterfields: “The Estate of Maria Helen Smith represents a passionate dedication to collecting. Smith’s distinct style and appreciation of 19th century Europe is clearly reflected within the offering.”

The marquee lot of the November 16, 2010 auction is a handsome Louis XV style gilt bronze mounted kingwood bureau plat and cartonnier (est. $80,000-120,000). Created by two of the leading cabinetmakers from the Belle Époque period, Francois Linke and Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener, the unusual asymmetrical bureau plat is surmounted by the cartonnier with fitted leather drawers and impressive figural mounts.

Additional items of note by Linke and Zwiener within the sale include a Louis XV style gilt bronze mounted marquetry kingwood desk by Linke (est. $40,000-60,000); a gilt bronze mounted kingwood and walnut Erard grand piano by Zwiener (est. $30,000-50,000); and a Louis XV style gilt bronze mounted parquetry inlaid kingwood étagère with detachable glass tray by Linke (est. $12,000-15,000) and a Louis XV style bronze mounted marquetry inlaid walnut side cupboard by Zwiener (est. $20,000-30,000) as well as works by many of the leading French cabinet makers of the late 19th Century.

Other highlights on offer from the Estate of Maria Helen Smith will include an imposing gilt bronze mounted marquetry walnut commode by Paul Sormani (est. $70,000-100,000); an impressive Napoleon III gilt bronze, porcelain and onyx center table with panels signed by A. Maglin (est. $30,000-50,000); a Louis XV style gilt bronze mounted parquetry commode stamped B. Baadman (est. $15,000-20,000) and a French gilt bronze mounted rouge marble urn stamped H. Picard (est. $8,000-12,000); as well a selection of European paintings, ceramics and decorative arts.

Property from the Estate of Maria Helen Smith will also be featured during the monthly Sunset Estate Auction on November 14-15, 2010. “The Couture of a Queen” section of the two-day sale will include a robust selection of vintage and designer handbags, ties, luxury goods and jewelry once owned by Smith. The couture items will be offered together with the remaining furniture and decorative arts from the Smith estate in the San Diego community of Rancho Santa Fe, California. (Please see separate press release.)

Previews: November 12-15, Los Angeles (all Property from the Estate of Maria Helen Smith)

Sunset Estate Auction featuring “The Couture of a Queen”: November 14-15, Los Angeles

Single-Owner Auction: November 16, 2010, Los Angeles

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