New York



New York – Christie’s is delighted to announce the sale of Important American Furniture, Outsider and Folk Art, which will take place on Monday, September 22.  With over 160 lots, the auction includes property from several prominent private collections, such as the Rosebrook Collection, as well as those of Ralph E. Carpenter, Jr., Edgar M. Bronfman, Paul Mellon, and Eric Martin Wunsch.  The sale also features a fantastic selection of Outsider and Maritime Art, and early American surveying equipment. 


Among the highlights of the sale is a Chippendale carved mahogany side chair (illustrated right; estimate: $100,000-150,000), made in Newport circa 1760-1780 and attributed to John Townsend (1733-1809).   Surviving with its original surface and expertly crafted by one of colonial America’s most celebrated cabinetmakers, this side chair is a powerful expression of the Newport aesthetic during the Chippendale era. This chair was originally part of a set of at least ten and, having resided in the renowned collection of Ralph E. Carpenter, Jr. since 1955, this is the first time the masterwork will be offered at auction.


In addition, the sale features a pair of Chippendale mahogany block-front chests-of-drawers from the Honorable William Bartlet (1746/7-1841) (one of two chests illustrated left; full set illustrated on page 5; estimate: $150,000 – 200,000).  Bartlet trained as a shoemaker but later became one of the region’s most prosperous merchants and Newburyport’s wealthiest citizen. He owned a fleet of vessels, conducting trade with England, Holland, Russia and the East and West Indies and, at the foot of Federal Street, built large warehouses near Bartlet’s wharf to house his supplies of sugar, molasses, coffee and hemp.  Presumed to have descended directly in the family, the chests were made en suite – an exceedingly rare occurrence in America on forms in the Chippendale style.  Offering a rare collecting opportunity, these two chests are the only known pair of American block-front chests from the 18th century showing the influence of the style centers of Boston and Portsmouth. The giant dovetail, a hallmark of Boston cabinetmaking, may suggest their production in the city.


Combining pristine condition and cabinetry indicative of the work of a Marblehead, Massachusetts shop, this Chippendale mahogany bombé chest-of-drawers (illustrated right; estimate: $300,000 – 600,000), executed circa 1770, is both a rare and historically important survival of the bombé form in America.  The chest is exceptionally well-preserved and points to the respectful care of its previous owners.  One of approximately eleven examples, the chest is of the form that were most likely made in the same shop or perhaps two shops in close contact with each other.  According to information passed down to the consignor, this chest was owned by the Crowninshield family, one of the most powerful families in 18th century Salem, until 1910.


The Major Martin Fearing federal mahogany-veneered dwarf tall-case clock included in the sale (illustrated left; estimate: $60,000 – 90,000) hails from the renowned collection of Eric Martin Wunsch.  Popular in Southeastern Massachusetts during the early 19th century, this clock is a triumph of American design and craftsmanship and is one of only twenty examples known by Hingham clockmaker Joshua Wilder (1786-1860) exhibiting a fretwork-top and French feet.  The dial features a basket of fruit painted primarily in red and green, and was made for Major Martin Fearing, a prominent merchant in Hingham, Massachusetts, who descended from the town’s earliest settlers.  Not only masterful in design and condition, the clock survives with its clockmaker, cabinetmaker, first owner and year of manufacture identified and is one of the most important examples of the form.


Also from the Estate of Eric Martin Wunsch is the John Brown Chippendale carved mahogany diminutive drop-leaf table (illustrated right; estimate: $30,000-50,000).  A documented masterpiece, this diminutive drop-leaf table displays the exceptional talents of renowned Newport cabinetmaker John Goddard (1724-1785) and provides a rare window into the commission and execution of high-style American furniture during the 18th  century.  With its history of descent from Providence merchant John Brown (1736-1803), this table is one of “2 Do [Mahogany]: Square Leaf & Claw Feet Tables” priced at £70 each in a 1760 bill of sale from the cabinetmaker to Brown, one of his most important clients; a corner chair from the same bill, considered by many as one of the greatest forms of the 18th century, has recently been loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.   The foot carving on this table is particularly masterful. Vigorously carved with expertly modeled talons, raised tendons and attenuated claws, the feet have survived in remarkably good condition.


A fantastic selection of weathervanes will also be featured in the sale, including an exceptional cast-bronze and zinc example from the collection of the distinguished humanitarian Edgar M. Bronfman, which dates to the late 19th/early 20th century.  With its numerous individual cast bronze parts and impressive size, this steam fire engine vane (illustrated right; estimate: $20,000-40,000) was likely a custom order for one of the many firehouses and fire insurance companies that were a vital part of the quickly expanding cities in the 19th century.

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