Competitive Bidding for Chinese Export Porcelain from the Elinor Gordon Gallery Collection
New Auction Records Were Set for American Paintings
Doyle New York held an auction of American Furniture and Decorative Arts on April 13, 2010. The auction showcased furniture and decorations from the colonial period through the Federal and Classical styles to the mid-19th century. Silver, ceramics, mirrors, Chinese export porcelain, samplers and rugs were also offered, in addition to American paintings and prints.
Revolutionary War Sword
Highlighting the sale was an important and historic American Revolutionary War silver-hilted eagle pommel sword signed by John Bailey. It was an extremely early example executed by George Washington's sword maker, John Bailey, in Verplanck's Point, NY, circa 1777, while he was in exile from New York City during the British Occupation. Some sources state that as few as ten signed Bailey swords exist, and this sword may be the earliest signed American eagle pommel silver hilt, a style that was introduced during the Revolution and grew to immense popularity during the post-war and early Federal Period. Strong interest from bidders sent the sword well over its estimate of $35,000-45,000 to achieve $74,500.
World Auction Records For American Paintings
Two world auction records were set in the fine art section of the sale. A charming bronze sculpture of a Mother and Child by Eleanor Mary Mellon (1894-1979) attracted strong interest during the sale. Estimated at $3,000-5,000, the piece achieved $9,375, an auction record for the artist. Albert Webster Davies’ (1889-1967) Once, Twice, Thrice Gone!, a vibrant 1955 rendering of a country auction estimated at $2,000-4,000, fetched $7,500, a new auction record for the artist.
Other works in the sale included Johann Berthelsen’s (1883-1972) view of Times Square, which was the top fine art lot of the day, selling for $15,000, surpassing its pre-sale estimate of $8,000-12,000. Two nautical paintings by Antonio Nicolo Gasparo Jacobsen (1850-1921) also found favor in the salesroom. A rendering of the The Kentucky dated 1909 and estimated at $6,000-8,000 fetched $12,500, and a 1903 view of The New Jersey estimated at $8,000-12,000 sold for $10,000. An endearing miniature dated 1849 by John Carlin (1813-1891) depicting a Young Child with Spaniel estimated at $800-1,200 sold for $8,750. Henry Pember Smith’s (1854-1907) view of Canoes on the Lake dated 1883 estimated at $800-1,200 achieved a surprisingly strong $6,875.
The Elinor Gordon Gallery Collection
A special section of the sale was devoted to the Elinor Gordon Gallery Collection, comprising the inventory of her famed gallery in Villanova, PA. This remarkable collection showcased over 200 lots of Chinese export porcelain in a variety of patterns, including approximately fifty lots of armorial porcelain. Competitive bidding sent the total of the Collection to $199,938, within the pre-sale estimate of $152,000-227,800.
Affectionately known as the Empress of China, Elinor Gordon purchased her first piece of Chinese Export porcelain in 1944, eventually becoming the world’s leading dealer in these precious and colorful wares. Her booth was a mainstay at New York’s prestigious Winter Antiques Show from its inaugural year in 1955 until 2008, and The Philadelphia Antiques Show from its founding in 1962 until 2009. Pieces from her inventory grace private and public collections worldwide, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Department of State’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms, and Winterthur.
The top lot of the Elinor Gordon Gallery Collection was a pair of lovely Chinese export Famille Rose porcelain covered soup tureens, circa 1770-80, that sold for $8,125, far surpassing the pre-sale estimate of $2,000-3,000. A Famille Rose porcelain tray, circa 1770, estimated at $1,000-1,500 fetched $6,250; and a pair of Famille Rose porcelain vases estimated at $400-600 achieved $2,813.
Elinor Gordon’s signature inventory of Chinese export Fitzhugh pattern porcelain proved popular with bidders at the sale. An orange Fitzhugh porcelain platter, 1800-20, with an estimate of $1,500-2,500 sold for $5,938; a green Fitzhugh porcelain platter, circa 1800 with an estimate of $1,000-1,500 sold for $3,125; and a blue Fitzhugh porcelain Gu-form vase, 1800-20, with an estimate of 1,000-1,500 sold for $2,500.
Armorial porcelain from the Elinor Gordon Gallery Collection was highlighted by a Chinese export blue and gilt decorated service bearing the Chinese characters for the Cunningham family. In the first half of the 18th century, the Cunningham family of Boston were well-known merchants and ship owners trading in Europe, South America, South Africa, the West Indies, and later, in China. This service was probably ordered in the 1830s or 40s, when the family began to import tea from China. A porcelain tureen and underplate from this service sold for $4,375, far surpassing the pre-sale estimate of $1,000-1,500.
Made for the European market was a circa 1765 armorial porcelain platter after a similar Meissen example decorated with a shell cartouche and a motto. The platter sold for $2,500, more than doubling the pre-sale estimate of $800-1,200.