MASTERFULLY CARVED TABLE BY NEWPORT’S MOST CELEBRATED CABINETMAKER SETS A NEW WORLD AUCTION RECORD FOR THE FORM.
An 18th century mahogany bureau table carved by Newport’s most celebrated cabinetmaker sold for a stunning $5.7 million at Christie’s New York on Friday, January 21, placing it among the highest auction prices ever realized for an item of American furniture. Offered at $700,000-900,000, the table was pursued by multiple bidders, who rapidly drove the price to the $3 million dollar threshold. From there on two dedicated bidders in the saleroom battled back and forth for the handsomely carved table before a hushed audience of clients and onlookers, until auctioneer John Hays dropped the gavel at $5 million. With premium, the final price realized was $5,682,500.
The table, known as the Catherine Goddard Chippendale Block-and-Shell Carved and Figured Mahogany Bureau Table, is attributed to the Newport, Rhode Island cabinetmaker John Goddard (1724-1785). Masterfully designed and crafted, the table is an outstanding example of the celebrated Newport style of block-and-shell carving. Goddard was widely recognized as one of early America’s most talented cabinet-makers and his creations were sought-after by the port city’s most well-to-do merchants.
A handwritten label in the top drawer of the table indicates that Goddard made the knee-hole bureau circa 1765 expressly for his daughter, Catherine Goddard, and may have given it to her as a wedding present. The table remained within his daughter’s family through several generations of descendants until it was sold by the cabinetmaker’s great-great granddaughter Mary Briggs (Weaver) Case in the early 1900s. The table last sold at auction in January 2005 for $940,000.
“This desk bears all the unique characteristics and quality of construction that make Newport furniture of this era so highly prized among collectors. The quality of the mahogany in particular is stunning in this piece and shows that Goddard had his pick of the wood coming into the port during that era,” said Hays, deputy chairman of Christie’s Americas and lead specialist in American Furniture. “We are honored to have established such a strong price today for this table, which represents a new world auction record for the knee-hole desk form.”
Complete results of Christie’s auction of Important American Furniture and Folk Art – a highlight of Christie’s annual Americana Week 2011 – will be issued separately at the sale’s conclusion. The complete catalogue note for the bureau table (lot 92) is available online at www.christies.com/eCatalogues/index.aspx?id=5E68219AC6842E1C852577A4007B6C73
Christie’s, the world's leading art business had global auction and private sales in 2009 that totaled £2.1 billion/$3.3 billion. For the first half of 2010, art sales totaled £1.7 billion/$2.57 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise, as well as international glamour. Founded in 1766 by James Christie, Christie's conducted the greatest auctions of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, and today remains a popular showcase for the unique and the beautiful. Christie’s offers over 450 sales annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie’s has 53 offices in 32 countries and 10 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai and Hong Kong. More recently, Christie’s has led the market with expanded initiatives in emerging and new markets such as Russia, China, India and the United Arab Emirates, with successful sales and exhibitions in Beijing, Mumbai and Dubai.
*Estimates do not include buyer's premium