By: Sheila Gibson Stoodley
Christie’s and Sotheby’s will welcome the New Year in New York with Americana week, a series of sales that take place before and during the Winter Antiques Show. Sotheby’s has scheduled its important Americana auction in two sessions on Jan. 22 and Jan. 23, while Christie’s will hold its important American furniture and folk art sale on Jan. 22 along with three other relevant sales: important silver on Jan. 21, Chinese export porcelain on Jan. 25 and the collection of Benjamin F. Edwards III on Jan. 26. Sotheby’s will also have a separate Chinese export porcelain auction on Jan. 23, and a notable one at that—a single-owner sale of the private collection of the late dealer Elinor Gordon (see “All in the Family,” page 52).
Bidders who attend the houses’ main sales can expect spectacular material. The star furniture lot at Sotheby’s will be a Chippendale figured mahogany bombé slant-front desk, made in Marblehead, Mass., circa 1770 (est. $400,000–1 million). “Bombé desks, by their nature, are scarce,” says Erik Gronning, vice president and senior specialist in Sotheby’s American furniture and decorative arts department. “It’s remarkable that it’s retained its original finish and hardware, and the feet are all intact.” Christie’s will have a Chippendale mahogany tilt-top tea table with carving attributed to Philadelphia artisan Richard Butts and dating to around 1775 (est. $150,000–250,000). “These tea tables are the kind of specialized objects that collectors want, and the form, carving and the extent of the carving determines the price point,” says Margot Rosenberg, vice president and head of American decorative arts at Christie’s.
Rosenberg is also excited about an Ammi Phillips portrait of two Connecticut children, Theron Simpson Ludington and Virginia Ludington, painted circa 1855 (est. $300,000–500,000), still on its original stretcher, and consigned by the great-great-grandson of Theron. Phillips only painted five or seven full-length double portraits in his entire career,” says Rosenberg. “A full-length portrait is a very lavish expenditure for the family.” Sotheby’s will offer a pair of late 18th-century portraits by J. Brown that portray another set of Connecticut sitters, Caleb Humiston Turner and his wife, Anna Hopkins Turner (est. $30,000–60,000). Nancy Druckman, senior vice president and director of the American folk art department at Sotheby’s, says the paintings are “an elegant depiction, with a central-casting sense of Yankee New England colonial character.”