Bonhams emphasises quality, attracts furniture and decorative arts collectors across categories at New York auction

Fine Furniture and Decorative Arts, Clocks and Silver
24 Sep 2012
New York

NEW YORK — Bonhams auction of Fine Furniture, Decorative Arts, Clocks & Silver, held September 24, drove home the importance of condition and quality in the marketplace. The multifaceted sale saw strong results throughout, as bidders capitalised on the critical mass of excellently preserved and finely detailed pieces. Coupled with irresistibly reasonable estimates, collectors found themselves crossing categories, as highlights from various departments unexpectedly attracted their attention. The sheer volume of interest, particularly over the telephone, resulted in more than 6 hours of competitive bidding at the New York location.

The sale began with an impressive offering of silver, ranging from the 17th to early 20th century. A German parcel-gilt and acid-etched silver beaker circa 1631-1657 was the oldest silver piece on offer, and one of the sale's most notable highlights. With its extremely fine decoration and incredible quality, the piece sold for $25,830, over four times its pre-sale high estimate. An 18th century Canadian Colonial silver oval tobacco box by Michael Arnoldi of Montreal also impressed bidders. The box, delicately engraved for the captain of a Hudson Bay Company ship, appeared on the market for the first time after being passed though the captain's family for generations. Now on its way back to Canada, the box soared above its pre-sale estimate of $1,000-$2,000, eventually selling for an impressive $16,250.

The salesroom was most invigorated during the heavy bidding for a very fine and rare 19th century American Federal inlaid mahogany dwarf clock with alarm which sold for $91,500. The clock section yielded the most remarkable results overall, with particular interest coming from Continental Europe and Russia. Strong prices were realised for a broad range of clocks and chronometers, with the variety of type, range of estimates and consistency of quality appealing to all manner of clock enthusiasts. Intricate and captivating skeleton clocks, which reveal their inner mechanisms by design, were particularly attractive to emerging collectors. An unusual early 19th century French silvered and gilt brass great wheel skeleton timepiece with day, date and lunar calendar was a surprise hit with bidders. Although unsigned, the extraordinary clock capitalised on its potential, exceeding its pre-sale estimate of $6,000-$8,000 to sell for a stunning $35,000. Bonhams is the only international auction house to offer dedicated clock sales, and the excellent selections featured in New York took their cue from Bonhams outstanding successes in London. "Experience and expertise made this a successful sale," said Bonhams Clocks Specialist Jonathan Snellenburg.

As evidenced by the success of the dwarf clock, American furniture and decorative arts made significant gains in the sale. Encouraged by this and other recent results, Bonhams has expanded further into the Americana market, having recently named Madelia Ring as Americana specialist in its New York office. With regards to this sale, Ms. Ring noted, "Pieces with interesting features brought collectors to the preview and generated activity on the phone lines." Some striking quilts were included, with a 19th century pieced and appliquéd "princess feather" quilt making an especially strong impression. The vibrant colours, excellent condition and inherent uniqueness of the piece attracted both domestic and international bidders, resulting in a solid sale price of $2,000.

European furniture and decorative arts also sold well, with especially pleasing prices realised for high-quality, early English furniture. Selling for $18,750, a late 17th century William and Mary pewter inlaid field maple kneehole bureau in the manner of Coxed and Woster is one such example. The gorgeous piece, its surface treated and stained to resemble the tortoiseshell inlay fashionable in France at the time, perfectly illustrates the transition from utility to style evident in furniture of this period. According to Bonhams Furniture and Decorative Arts Director Karl Green, "Early English furniture is what interests discerning collectors now." While that may be the case, Bonhams broke records in this sale with an example of European decorative art: a patinated bronze figure of a skeleton by Carl Kauba. Although a skeleton itself, the finely cast figure holds a skull in hands while standing on a volume by Hippocrates, recalling the famous scene from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Selling for $22,500, the price realised is a world record for this model by the artist.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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