Several of the most significant maps of America were created during the years between the French and Indian War and the Revolution. Bernard Ratzer’s Plan of the City of New York is widely considered a cartographic masterpiece, and this is the finest example known in private ownership. Copies in contemporary colour are exceedingly rare — the only other identified example belonged to George III and now is in the British Library.
The week's top furniture lot is this circa 1755 magnificent Queen Anne carved walnut armchair. A triumph of Philadelphia design, this armchair displays a mastery of curvilinear form. The workmanship required made this chair a costly form — that it was part of a set of at least eight armchairs made it part of an exceedingly luxurious commission. This chair and others from the same original set represent the only known survival of such a suite. This armchair is further distinguished by its old surface and, of the surviving examples, the chair bears the earliest known history. Impressed in the original slip-seat frame are the names of previous owners and dates, which correspond to the death dates of family members from the previous generation.
This rendition of the artist’s Athenaeum portrait of George Washington displays the hallmarks of Gilbert Stuart’s work during his later years in Boston. Painted from life in Philadelphia in 1796, the original unfinished portrait was retained by Stuart and used as the basis for several replicas, of which approximately 85 are known today. The portrait features an exceptional provenance and is being sold to benefit the acquisitions fund of the Saint Louis Art Museum.
Gorham Manufacturing Company in Providence, Rhode Island, made several silver ice bowls; however, this circa 1870 model was the most popular and best-selling. The iconography of this example relates to the 1867 purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million, or about two cents per acre. As a luxury good in the late 19th century, silver ice bowls decorated with motifs of icebergs and polar bears possibly referring to the contemporary nicknames for the Territory of Alaska, reflected its value and prestige.
Among the important examples of Colonial American silver on offer is an impressive selection of tankards. This 1704 tankard features the mark of John Noyes, a founder of Boston’s Battle Street Church, which grew to be one of the most prominent liberal churches in the city and counted numerous silversmiths as members. In 1839, to raise money, the church auctioned off a number of silver works in their possession, including this tankard. Another tankard in the sale features the mark of John Bayly Sr. This circa 1770 example, characterised by a ‘bellied shape,’ openwork thumbpiece, and large foliate engraving, demonstrates the classic form of tankard found in Philadelphia during the third quarter of the 18th century.
This pair of black-painted cast-iron Newfoundland dog garden figures was likely produced by J.W. Fiske & Company,
preeminent American manufacturers of decorative cast iron in the 19th century, who were also known for their hammered copper weathervanes. These Newfoundland dog garden figures will surely add a regal touch to wherever they adorn.
One of the top lots from the Collection of Peter and Barbara Goodman is Samuel Addison Shute’s Woman with Two Canaries, a 19th-century collage on paper. A doctor and freemason of Weare, New Hampshire, Shute painted portraits with his wife Ruth Whittier. However this work appears to be the hand of only Samuel. Virtually unknown until the piece was brought to market in 1977 by a schoolteacher who had purchased it at a church sale for 35 cents, this portrait has many features distinctive of Shute works. The striated wash background and use of mixed media are elements that have become synonymous with the Shutes’ work.
With drilled eyes and an identical shape, including the precise rendition of the horse’s mane, this weathervane follows a model known by four examples stamped by William F. Tuckerman who was among the earliest, if not the earliest, maker of vanes in the Boston area. He began his coppersmith business in the 1830s and was likely making vanes by the next decade.
The Collection of Peter and Barbara Goodman features best-in-kind American Folk Art. Exceptional portraiture and furniture in pristine condition reflect the couple’s eye for beauty, as do unique finds, such as this 19th-century ‘Artists’ Materials’ palette from W.W. Roberts, Farmington, New Hampshire. Depicting two landscapes, the palette is a work of art both in and of itself.
As early as 1859, Albert Bierstadt visited the American West, a famously rugged territory at the time with Colonel Frederick Lander’s U.S. Government Expedition. Traveling along the Platte River to the Wind River Mountains, the artist first witnessed the grandeur and beauty of the unspoiled western landscape. However, it was Bierstadt’s 1863 journey overland to California which provided him the pictorial material used to create some of his most successful works. From the Estate of Patrick Rutherford, Jr., this painting captures Bierstadt’s awe at the wonders of the Cathedral Rocks in Yosemite Valley.
Anna Mary Robertson Moses, known as Grandma Moses, is one of the most recognisable and beloved 20th-century American folk artist. Initially gifted to friends and family and shown at fairs, her works were well received by the art world who saw them as a welcome respite to the reductive Modernist art of the day. Grandma Moses painted the theme of Thanksgiving repeatedly in her work, focusing on rural traditions like catching the turkey, as seen in the present work.
From the India House Club Collection, this portrait depicts Houqua who became the most powerful and wealthy of the Chinese merchants who comprised the Co-Hong in Canton. Many journals of China traders record the lavish entertaining and generous gifts of Houqua, who was apparently as well-liked as he was respected for his business acumen. Portraits of Houqua became treasured acquisitions for leading Western visitors to the China coast in the first decades of the 19th century, and in Western collections became almost iconic images of the China trade.
This year’s Chinese Export Art sale will be led by the fourth tranche of the famed Tibor Collection, including models of porcelain birds and animals as well as a rare pair of European court figures. For those looking to acquire 18th-century animal figures, this rare, porcelain crouching boar from the Qianlong period is a wonderful example that also symbolises courage.