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At Auction | Americana Week at Christie’s

Posted in Art Market by Editor on January 21, 2013

Press release (20 December 2012) from Christie’s:

Four Sales Feature American Arts, English Pottery, and Chinese Export Art
Christie’s, New York, 24-28 January 2013

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Chippendale carved mahogany block-and-shell bureau table signed by John Townsend (1733-1809), Newport, ca. 1770

Highlights include a newly discovered John Townsend bureau table; an exceptional silver teapot by Paul Revere; a Bartlam teabowl, the earliest porcelain made in Colonial America; and an extremely rare dish from the ‘Lady Martha Washington States China’ tea service.

Christie’s is delighted to announce Americana Week 2013, a series of public viewings and sales devoted to fine and rare examples of American artistry and craftsmanship. Included in the week are sales of Important American Silver (January 24), Important American Furniture, Folk Art and Prints (January 25), English Pottery (January 28) and Chinese Export Art (January 28). The Americana series of sales will offer over 400 lots, including a number of rare survivals from the 18th and 19th centuries and many works never before offered at auction.

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Important American Silver (Sale 2669) January 24, 10am

nyr-2669lChristie’s is pleased to announce the sale of Important American Silver as the first auction in the Americana Week series.  Leading the sale is an extraordinary and rare silver tea pot by patriot and silversmith Paul Revere, Boston, circa 1782 (estimate: $150,000-250,000).  This drum-form teapot is fashioned in a classical style, typical of the early Federal period and one of the examples of Revere’s work after his return from the Revolution. There are only four other known drum-form teapots by Revere, with three in public collections− the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Yale University Art Gallery.

Since its founding in 1837, Tiffany & Co. has set the standard for American silver designs and has been credited with some of the most important innovations in the field. A superb selection of rare and important pieces include an important silver-mounted and stone-set ebony ‘Viking’ bowl, designed by Paulding Farnham, New York, 1902 (estimate: $100,000-150,000); a silver, mixed-metal and hardstone three-piece tea service, New York, circa 1880, which is one of Tiffany & Co.’s most successful creations in the Japanesque style (estimate: $100,000-150,000); and an important silver and stone-set ‘Aztec’ paper knife, designed by Paulding Farnham, New York, circa 1902, which once belonged by Albert C. Burrage, a mining engineer and owner of a the 256-foot steam yacht Aztec (estimate: $60,000-90,000).

Additional highlights include a rare set of three silver casters, mark of Simeon Soumaine, New York, circa 1740, virtually unknown in American colonial silver with only two other complete sets recorded (estimate: $100,000-150,000); and a rare set of six silver cans with heraldic engraving, mark of Daniel Boyer, Boston, circa 1750, which was originally owned by the Kitchen family, one of the most prominent merchant families in the Salem at the turn of the 18th century (estimate: $50,000-80,000).

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Important American Furniture, Folk Art, and Prints (Sale 2670) January 25, 10am

nyr-2670lOne of the lead highlights of the Americana Week sales is an important Chippendale carved mahogany block-and-shell bureau table signed by John Townsend (1733-1809), Newport, circa 1770 (illustrated above, estimate: $700,000-900,000). The iconic four-shell form displays the height of John Townsend’s talents and the renowned block-and-shell design of 18th-century Newport. One of less than ten known to survive, this newly discovered piece is an exceedingly rare example of the form bearing the signature of arguably colonial America’s greatest cabinetmaker. Written with a flourish in the cabinetmaker’s distinctive hand, Townsend’s signature appears on the underside of the top drawer and demonstrates the pride taken by the cabinetmaker in his most exceptional pieces. The rococo brasses are also a rarity as they retain much of their original coating, which was baked onto the plates at the time of their manufacture in England. The table was likely acquired in the 19th century by the prominent Pell family of New York during their sojourns in Newport, the summer destination for elite society of the period. The bureau table is known to have furnished the Pell House in New York State’s Tuxedo Park, the exclusive enclave founded by Pierre Lorillard IV in 1885 and home to prominent New York collecting families as that of Mr. and Mrs. J. Insley Blair. Property of direct descendants of the Pell and Coster families, the bureau table was recently discovered in New York City and has never before been offered at auction. Several comparable bureau tables attributed to Townsend are housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago Winterthur Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

A Queen Anne carved maple armchair attributed to John Gaines III of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1735-1743 ($200,000–300,000), offered by WEA Enterprises,  will also lead Americana week. The chair has been praised extensively by experts in American furniture and was described by legendary dealer Albert Sack in 1950 as “A great masterpiece of pure Colonial design… No price is too great for a chair of this quality.”  One of only two armchairs assuredly attributed to Gaines, this example is extraordinarily well preserved and serves not only as an icon of early American regional design but also as a critical evidence of the practices of the Gaines shop. The chair is distinctive in its large, outsweeping ram’s-horn arms that are beautifully complemented and balanced by an archetypal crest and pronounced Spanish feet. Its closest counterpart housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this “robust and gusty” piece has not appeared on the open market since 1974.

The remarkable painting of Penn’s Treaty by Edward Hicks’ (1780-1849) depicts the iconic American legend of William Penn’s treaty with Delaware tribal chiefs (estimate: $600,000-900,000). A Bucks County Pennsylvania native, Hicks worked as a sign painter and coach maker early in life, later becoming a well renowned Quaker minister and painter, who it is said, taught the gospel with his paintbrush. Penn’s Treaty was incorporated as a staple scene for Hicks’ Peaceable Kingdom series, which is a painted sermon depicting the prophecy of Isaiah preaching the theme of peace that still has meaning for us today. Representing in equal measure the artist’s Quaker conviction and his patriotic fervor, Penn’s Treaty is modeled on John Boudell’s 1775 print image of the painting by Benjamin West. The humble craftsman origins visible in Hicks’ painting style are hallmarks of the American folk vernacular painting style that is at once valued for its aesthetic singularity as well as its narrative richness.

The sale also features a superb group of early American needlework samplers from The Stonington Collection. These needleworks were amassed by Dolf Fuchs, a textiles commodities entrepreneur who was born in Switzerland, immigrated to the United States in 1953 and settled in Stonington, Connecticut where he lived in a late 18th-century home. A textile and early American history enthusiast, Fuchs cherished his collection of 18th- and 19th-century needlework samplers for their beauty, rarity, and unique history. Primarily worked by young women as instructive exercises, early American needleworks such as 25 works being offered illustrate the skills of these young women through their technical mastery and whimsical designs. Highlights include an exquisitely crafted needlework pictorial of a prominent ship worked by Nancy Winsor (1778-1850), Providence, Rhode Island, dated December 4, 1786 (estimate: $80,000-120,000) and a wool and silk needlework pictorial of a courting couple famously part of the “Fishing Lady” pictures, Boston, 1750-1760 (estimate: $30,000-50,000).

One of the rarest works at auction is an American (John Bartlam) soft paste porcelain teabowl, circa 1765-70, (estimate: $30,000-50,000). This tiny teabowl has only recently been identified as an example of the earliest porcelain made in Colonial America. Printed with Chinoiserie vignettes that mysteriously include palmetto trees, it is confirmed through archeological evidence and scientific analysis of the clay to have been made at the factory operated by the Staffordshire potter John Bartlam at Cain Hoy, outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Three other such teabowls are known, two in public collections, the decorations on all four corresponding exactly to sherds found at Cain Hoy in what has now been identified as the kiln site of Bartlam’s short-lived production.

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English Pottery (Sale 2671) January 28, 10am

ecatOn January 28, Christie’s will offer over 50 lots of English Pottery, including a selection of early English saltglazed stoneware, redware and creamware formed by William Burton Goodwin. Collected mainly in the 1920s and 30s, these rare works were on loan to the Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine from 1983 to 2012. Highlights include a Staffordshire saltglazed seated camel teapot and cover, circa 1750 (estimate: $5,000-7,000); and a wonderfully amusing comparison of a Staffordshire glazed redware teapot and cover, circa 1745 (estimate: $6,000-8,000). A rare survival is a Staffordshire saltglazed stoneware enameled ‘Littler’s’ blue puzzle-jug, circa 1755-1760 (estimate: $10,000-15,000). This ‘Littler’s’ blue puzzle-jug is the only example of this form and type extant. Marked with an ‘L’, it is also potentially documentary.

Other highlights include a unique London delft polychrome dish, circa 1660, which is painted with the story of Abraham and Isaac (estimate: $50,000-70,000); and a pair of English delft dated models of shoes dated 1727, London or Bristol (estimate: $15,000-20,000). These two shoes are molded with a left and right buckle indicating that they were intended as a true pair. As shoes were considered symbols of good luck and often given as a token of affection, the initials and date inscribed on the soles of the present pair indicate that it may have been commissioned as a betrothal or wedding gift.

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Chinese Export Art (Sale 2671) — January 28, 2pm

ecatAs the grand finale of Americana Week, the sale of Chinese Export Art on January 28 will feature 110 works, a striking selection of Chinese porcelain and works of art made to order for American and European traders in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. A particularly strong group of American market pieces is led by a very rare Chinese export ‘Lady Washington States China’ dish, circa 1795 (estimate: $20,000-40,000), which was presented to Martha Washington by Andreas van Braam Houckgeest in 1796. Van Braam (1739-1801), was a successful director of the Dutch East India Company, and designed the ‘States China’ himself, as an appropriate introductory gift for the First Lady.

The sale also features a rare Chinese export ‘Philadelphia’ punchbowl, circa 1815 (estimate: $20,000-30,000). This apparently unique and unrecorded punchbowl has strong Philadelphia associations and must have been commissioned by a member of one of the leading China Trade families of that city. The finely painted bowl depicts Centre Square, Philadelphia and the sides showing two views of the War of 1812 engagement between the U.S.S. Constitution (‘Old Ironsides’) and the HMS Guerriere. The interior has three delicately rendered grisaille fish, exact duplicates of those on the famed Schuylkill Fishing Company bowl.

Additional highlights include a Chinese export ‘orange Fitzhugh’ armorial dinner service, circa 1805-1810 (estimate: $70,000-100,000); a very rare Chinese export blue and white ‘Mr. No-body’, late 17th-century, inspired by the woodcut frontispiece of the 1606 popular play by Thomas Heywood, No-body and Some-body, (estimate: $40,000-60,000); a rare pair of Chinese export famille rose ‘porcelain production’ fishbowls, mid-18th-century, which displays very rare decoration of highly romanticized views of different stages of manufacturing Chinese porcelain (estimate: $100,000-150,000).

At Auction | Portrait Bust by Houdon at Sotheby’s

Posted in Art Market by Editor on January 21, 2013

Press release from Sotheby’s:

Sotheby’s: Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture, N08952
New York, 31 January and 1 February 2013

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Sotheby’s Sale N08952, Lot 397. Jean-Antoine Houdon, Portrait of Jacques-Antoine-Hippolyte, the Comte de Guibert, 1791
Estimate: 800,000 – 1,200,000 USD

Important sculpture and works of art will be up for offer on 1 February 2013 during the second day of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings and Sculpture sale in New York and will be highlighted by a commanding French marble bust of one of France’s foremost military tacticians Jacques-Antoine-Hippolyte, the Comte de Guibert. The bust was commissioned on 2 November 1791 from Houdon, the preeminent portrait sculptor of his time, by the sitter’s widow (est. $800/1.2 million). Guibert was a general, a writer and a friend to many of the Enlightenment’s leading intellectuals, and his Essai général de tactique had an enormous impact on the science of military strategy and was admired by George Washington, Frederick the Great, and the young Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1776, the year he was promoted to colonel, he was raised to the nobility as a count of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1781 he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general, and in 1778 he was promoted to the rank of marechal de camp. The work, which exemplifies Houdon’s mastery of the material and his fondness for both naturalistic detail and psychological realism, conveys the sitter’s strength, intelligence and virility. This marble bust remained in the Guibert family through 1918.

A further highlight is a beautifully carved pietra serena frieze by Francesco di Simone Ferrucci (1437-1493), a talented disciple of Verrocchio, which most likely adorned the lintel of a fireplace in the palazzo of a noble Florentine family circa 1460-1470 (est. $500/700,000). The present relief is centered by the coat of arms of the Tuscan counts, Guidi di Bagno, who were one of the largest and most powerful noble families in central Italy in the Middle Ages. The majority of pieces by Ferrucci are preserved in museum collections or in their original church installations, including a similar pietra serena frieze in the Museo Bardini, Florence and another in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. The outstanding clarity of form and detail in this frieze is underscored by the material from which it was carved. Pietra serena is a hard and fine-grained stone from Fiesole which was employed by Tuscan sculptors throughout the Renaissance. Here, Ferrucci was able to achieve a sense of depth, with very shallow relief, using of a variety of finely chiseled textures and contours. This impressive pietra serena frieze comes from the Collection of an Italian noble family.

A poignant South German limewood figure of the grieving Saint John from the workshop of Tilman Riemenschneider circa 1490 is estimated at $250/350,000. Riemenschneider was arguably the preeminent medieval German sculptor and this figure was probably carved for an altar. Few sculptures by Riemenschneider and his workshop remain in private hands.

Also included in the sale are nine rare terracotta anatomical sculptor’s models (est. $200/300,000) formerly in Paul von Praun’s famed collection in Nuremberg and attributed to accomplished sculptor Johann Gregor van der Schardt. Dating to the late 16th or early 17th century, the models have been consigned by and will benefit the Museum of Vancouver. Six of the nine models on offer are recognizable as studies after anatomical elements seen in famous monuments sculpted by Michelangelo. These terracottas are rare examples of study-models of Michelangelo’s work by this talented younger artist working within the master’s lifetime or shortly after his death. For decades, the unsigned terracottas were attributed to Michelangelo; however, extensive research and stylistic comparisons led scholars to determine that these Renaissance models were executed by Northern sculptor Johann Gregor van der Schardt who worked extensively in terracotta and was a follower of Michelangelo. Von Praun acquired the contents of van der Schardt’s studio after the artist’s death circa 1580, and these models were most likely among the contents purchased. Only one signed work by van der Schardt survives: a bronze statuette of Mercury probably presented to the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian II in Vienna circa 1569. The collection of Paul von Praun, a wealthy Nuremberg silk merchant, was one of the most extensive of its time, comprised of works by Leonardo, Raphael and Titian, and it was one of the first to include a comprehensive, international group of contemporary sculpture. He also owned a pair of terracottas of Dawn and Night, after Michelangelo’s marbles for the Medici Chapel at San Lorenzo in Florence, which are now on exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. After von Praun’s death in 1616 the collection was kept together by his heirs and displayed in Nuremberg, later known as Praunsche Kabinett. Among its visitors were Goethe and Marie Antoinette before its sale in 1801.

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Viewing Schedule in New York

Friday, 25 Jan | 10:00-5:00
Saturday, 26 Jan | 10:00-5:00
Sunday, 27 Jan | 1:00-5:00
Monday, 28 Jan | 10:00-5:00
Tuesday, 29 Jan | 10:00-5:00
Wednesday, 30 Jan | 10:00-5:00
Thursday, 31 Jan | 10:00-5:00, sculpture only
Friday, 1 Feb | 10:00-12:00, sculpture only