NEW YORK – A 19th century rosewood cabinet, inlaid with scenes from the novel Don Quixote, was the protagonist in Bonhams Fine American & European Furniture, Silver, Folk and Decorative Arts & Clocks sale on January 23. Rendered in a Hispano Flemish Baroque style with gilt parcel, etched bone and faux tortoiseshell elements, the cabinet sold for $149,000 – nearly 10 times its presale estimate – after a fierce phone bidding war.
"The cabinet manages to be both a window into the Renaissance cultural and literary mind, and a highly decorative element that is almost contemporary in its aspect," explained Karl Green, Director of Furniture and Decorative Arts for Bonhams in New York. "We are seeing the market respond to unique pieces that capture this era's aspirations."
An elaborately carved custom hall clock from Tiffany & Co. provided further evidence of the trend. The Asian-inspired clock, replete with splendid ivory, brass and copper details, was created for the Seligman mansion in New York at the turn of the 20th century. Each room in the opulent home had a theme, as was fashionable among the period's aristocracy. The clock belonged to the Japanese-style smoking room, and more than doubled its pre-sale estimate to sell for $100,000. From the same time period, an iconic Americana carved and polychromed wing-spread eagle with flag and shield attributed to George Stapf fetched $23,750.
Additional highlights with literary connections included a serene white marble sculpture of "Highland Mary" by Benjamin Edward Spence (1822-1866) that transported bidders to 19th century Britain. A neo-classical depiction of Scottish national poet Robert Burns' lost love Mary Campbell, the serene beauty realised $37,500, nearly 10 times its pre-sale estimate.
Among the sale's many outstanding Silver highlights was a William IV ivory-mounted sterling silver two-handled oval footed tray made in London in 1836 by Robert Garrard II, which sold for $40,000. Property of a noble family, the tray was made in honour of the marriage of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879) to his cousin Charlotte von Rothschild (1819-1884) that same year.
Chinese Export silver also proved popular, in particular with the sale's numerous Chinese bidders, including an oval two-handled tray by Luen Hing from early 20th century Shanghai. Featuring pagodas, animals, birds and insects amid an aquatic garden, the finely chased tray fetched $31,250, more than five times its pre-sale estimate. By the same token, collectors of Russian antiques responded to a Russian 84 standard silver figural writing-stand made in Moscow, circa 1899-1908, which brought $35,000.
Victoria Ayers, Bonhams Senior Specialist in Silver, noted, "Silver is timeless and truly international. Quality items that retain close to their original crisp decoration and speak to rich cultural traditions are sure to resonate with sophisticated connoisseurs worldwide."
Bonhams next sale of Furniture, Silver and Decorative Arts will take place on April 29.
For more information please visit www.bonhams.com
NOTES FOR EDITORS
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 www.bonhams.com