Warner Bros. Studios Collection of Herter Brothers Furniture on View at Bonhams & Butterfields

A collection of very important and desirable circa 1870s Herter Brothers commissions – elaborately carved tables, chests, cabinets and other works – will be on exhibit at Bonhams & Butterfields in San Francisco beginning on October 24th-27th, presented to the international contingent of collectors, dealers and museum curators arriving in the Bay Area for the annual Fall Antiques Show here.

The Herter Brothers property, offered from the collection of Warner Bros. Studios where it has resided for the past 65-years, will be offered during Americana week at Bonhams’ auction rooms in New York City on January 26, 2009. The exhibit in the auctioneer’s San Francisco gallery will share the spotlight with the European and American furniture and decorative arts to be offered to bidders on Monday, October 27.

In 1865 Butterfield & Butterfield Auctioneers began selling antiques and art in San Francisco. That same year, the firm Herter Brothers formed to design and build incredible home furnishings, quickly establishing itself as the foremost interior designers for America’s most powerful families and their extraordinary residences, including the Vanderbilts, Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford, Milton Latham and Darius Odgen Mills. To collectors and institutions, Herter Brothers pieces are highly desirable. Since 1970, several highly recognized exhibitions have featured Herter Brothers works, as have multiple books on antiques and the Aesthetic Movement.

In Bonhams’ sales conducted in San Francisco over the last two decades, world records had been established for extraordinary Herter pieces, including a carved oak console made for the William H. Vanderbilt residence which sold for $288,500 in 1995 – (then) the highest price achieved at auction for a Herter piece of furniture. Six years earlier, $280,500 had been paid for a Herter ebonized cherrywood center table created for the Mark Hopkins residence; this example now resides in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.

Butterfields, in 1942, was selected as the auctioneer for disposition of the furnishings from Thurlow Lodge (in Menlo Park), a Herter Brothers project and the 1870s home of Milton Latham, a former California Governor and US Senator. That property had been acquired completely furnished by Mrs. Mark Hopkins in 1883, but Herter Brothers’ most notable and extensive commission on the West Coast was completed in 1878 for the Nob Hill residence of Mark Hopkins. On display at Bonhams in San Francisco October 24-27 will be 15 pieces valued at more than one million dollars, including a pair of Herter Brothers marquetry cabinets, one estimated at $100,000/150,000, the examples decorated with masks of goddesses and beasts.

This is the largest collection of Herter Brothers property to be offered since the 1940s and a rare opportunity for collectors and institutions desiring objects with an extraordinary provenance, exceptional craftsmanship, and a colorful history. A pair of Aesthetic Movement ebonized and marquetry-inlaid mirrored dressers will be offered, each expected to bring $125,000 to $150,000. A handsome Herter Brothers Aesthetic Movement marquetry-inlaid onyx top center table cold bring $125,000, while an inlaid rosewood writing table is estimated at $60,000 to $80,000. An important and massive Aesthetic Movement ebonized and marquetry bedstead, among seven pieces from the master bedroom of Thurlow Lodge, is estimated at $300,000 to $500,000. Warner Bros. Studios used these glamorous pieces in some of their most celebrated films.

Over the past 20 years, Dominick Bruno, Director, Production Support Services at Warner Bros. Studio Facilities, has paid great attention to the proper storage and care of the furniture, which was originally purchased in the 1940s when George James Hopkins, an Academy Award-winning set decorator, was at the helm of the Studio’s property department.

“Warner Bros. Studios has enormous appreciation for these treasured furniture pieces—a number of which were featured in films throughout the years,” said Bruno. “While we have long valued these pieces and their incredible histories, we are also aware that their worth as rare and important antiques far exceeds the ability for the Studio to use them in its core businesses. As such, we will be offering these amazing items to those who will continue to appreciate their uniqueness, extraordinary craftsmanship and history.”

Bonhams’ Director of its American Furniture and Decorative Arts Department Brooke Sivo has expressed, “We’re honored to be able to exhibit these significant pieces returning to San Francisco where they originated; and are excited to offer them (again after six decades) to the collecting community in our New York sale early next year.”

In addition to showing these highlights of the New York sale, Bonhams’ preview of furniture and decorative arts to be offered in New York City includes an early 19th century Federal carved mahogany settee attributed to Duncan Phyfe or one of his contemporaries, estimated at $80/120,0000. As well, on offer in January will be a wonderful late 19th century molded copper standing figure of a stag by the W.H. Mullins Co (est. $80/120,000). Property offered at Bonhams’ auctions is illustrated and described online in the weeks preceding sales, accessible at www.bonhams.com/us. Previews in San Francisco will be open daily from 10am-5pm and from Noon –5pm on Sunday. For more information on the Furniture & Decorative Arts Dept., please visit: www.bonhams.com/usfurniture.

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