• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2009

    Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design

    13 June 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 109



    Price Realised  


    A Leaded Glass Window, circa 1910
    59 x 64 in. (149.8 x 162.5 cm.)

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    According to tradition, this window was part of the decoration of the John Gottlieb Wendel (1839-1914) house in New York. Wendel's grandfather was a business partner of John Jacob Astor and made millions in the fur trade. Similar to Astor, Wendel bought real estate and amassed some of the largest land holdings in the city, and like Astor, he was famous for never selling any of his properties. Upon Wendel's death in 1914, his fortune passed to his six sisters, whom he had instructed not to marry so as to avoid dispersing the family fortune. Most of the sisters lived as recluses at the family home on Fifth Avenue at 39th Street, leaving only to go to their homes in Irvington and Quogue. The Wendel saga was replete with tabloid drama--one sister defied her brother's strictures and ran away from the family's Irvington home, only to be tracked down and locked up in Bellevue; the recluse sisters kept a succession of poodles all named 'Tobey'--the dog's need for a playground was cited as the reason they did not want to sell the million dollar empty lot adjacent to the Fifth Avenue house. As each sister died in the 1920s and 1930s, the Wendel fortune transferred to the sisters who remained, until the last sister, Ella, inherited more than $100 million, a truly monumental sum in Depression-era America. When Ella Wendel died in 1931 with no direct heirs--except for Tobey, the poodle, who remained in the house--a firestorm erupted, with more than 2300 people claiming a share in the Wendel fortune. After numerous legal proceedings, the estate was dispersed. On July 27, 1933, an auction of the furnishings of the Wendel house was held, and eventually the house was torn down to make way for the S. H. Kress & Co. department store.

    This window and other furnishings from the Wendel house were moved to a home in Connecticut, where they have remained since the 1930s.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property of a Connecticut Private Collector