European and American furniture and decorative arts — featuring antiques and collectibles formerly within noted institutional and private collections — come to auction at Bonhams & Butterfields in San Francisco on Monday, June 15, 2009. Strong international interest is expected for nearly 80-lots of deaccessioned property from several leading California museums, offered to support future acquisitions. As well, desirable property from other collections comprises more than 500 lots.
Many sales conducted by the West Coast’s leading fine arts auctioneers include property consigned by institutions, but the summer 2009 sale – opening on exhibit for the public in San Francisco on June 12-15 – is the largest compilation of museum works to be offered in a single sale since the two-day June 2001 American Museums sale. That Butterfields’ auction totaled more than $2-million and raised funds for the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums and other prominent institutions.
On June 15, collectors and curators will vie for an important set of Italian Neoclassical giltwood seat furniture from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Expected to bring as much as $80,000, the six armchairs and settee were formerly owned by Whitney Warren, Jr., son and namesake of the famous New York architect and a major patron of the arts in his adopted city of San Francisco. The suite is seen within a noted portrait of Warren, the gentleman painted while sitting in the drawing room of his Telegraph Hill mansion.
The late 18th century seating displays elaborate carving with floral garlands along each crest, bellflowers along scrolling arms, and legs carved as entwined bearded dragons rising from a band of water reeds. Also formerly owned by Warren is a fine Italian Neoclassical giltwood and polychrome pier mirror. Densely carved with scrolling oak leaf clusters and surmounted by a female mask adorned with an ivy crown and morning glory blossoms, the nearly seven-foot high mirror is expected to bring $18/25,000.
Other lots deaccessioned from the San Francisco museums include: an Italian Renaissance style walnut credenza formerly within the collection of William Randolph Hearst (est. $8/12,000); a fine Louis XVI gilt bronze mounted marquetry commode supporting a rouge royale marble top and bearing three stamps of the noted maker Jean Francois Leleu (est. $25/35,000); and a very fine late 19th century Louis XVI style gilt bronze and marble three-piece clock garniture attributed to Ferdinand Gervais — offered with its pair of six-light candelabra (est. $20/30,000).
Several lots had been exhibited during the San Francisco California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894 — including a pair of 21-inch high Sevres style gilt bronze mounted porcelain urns featuring portraits of Napoleon and Josephine (est. $7/9,000). That well-attended exhibit also featured a Dutch Baroque marquetry and walnut tall case clock made in Amsterdam in the first quarter of the 18th century. The tall case clock could bring $8/12,000. A wonderful pair of Louis XVI gilt bronze mounted marquetry commodes feature gilt eagle mounts and marble tops, expected to bring $20/25,000.
Early works of art from the William Rockhill Nelson Trust and the Nelson Gallery Foundation of Kansas City, MO are offered, including a 13th century French Gothic limestone figure of St Andrew (est. $8/12,000), a wonderful pair of 19th century Venetian marble lions, and several 16th century carved stone or marble armorial plaques, several stemming from the WR Hearst collection, estimates ranging from $5,000 to $15,000.
Property from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art includes several Chippendale mahogany and walnut tables and chests and a fine George III mahogany linen press, 3rd Qtr 18th century. Standing more than seven-feet high and nearly five-feet wide, the clothes press supports a delicately pierce carved cornice, crocketed finials, and finely decorated upper and lower doors opening to drawers and shelves. Scholarly speculation and evidence opines that the offered piece may be one of a pair of Gothic presses made for the Milton Abbey, founded in 933AD. The press could bring $40/60,000. An extensive offering of porcelains from the Los Angeles institution features Crown Derby dinner service (est. $8/12,000) as well as assembled Worcester tea service pieces and Worcester blue and white porcelain. A selection of early textiles should also interest collectors.
Bonhams’ two-session sale opens on June 15 with more than 500-lots of desirable antiques and decorative arts including Americana, English, French and Continental works, and garden decorations. Carved and painted carousel figures include two jeweled carousel horses attributed to Gustav & William Dentzel, a rooster by the English carver C.J. Spooner and an early 20th century horse by Marcus Illions. Expected to bring as much as $60,000 is a fine molded copper standing stag by W.H. Mullins Co. of Salem, Ohio. The six-foot high stag is similar to those commissioned for the John Deere factory as roof adornments, this example coming from a Santa Barbara estate. A nice pair of oil on canvas portraits (est. $7/9,000) was completed by Ammi Philips, the self-taught New England portrait painter. One of Philips’ works was selected in 1998 as the imagery for a US postage stamp.
A fine American Aesthetic walnut library table on offer was commissioned by an Alameda, CA family from Herter Brothers, it could bring as much as $30,000 and stems from the California Academy of Sciences. Property formerly owned by Kathy and Rick Hilton may intrigue bidders, as will a Victorian walnut and bird’s eye maple desk (est. $4/6,000) which was formerly owned by British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, acquired for his collection after he and his wife purchased Hughenden Manor in 1847. Property from the noted James H. Inglis Collection includes early ceramics and 18th and 19th century cupboards and cabinets, tables and desks, including an interesting English Aesthetic paint-decorated mahogany library cabinet with columns centering painted panels depicting owls and drawers and doors carved with masks representing the four seasons (could bring as much as $12,000).
Additional representations of the Four Seasons can be found within the selection of garden statuary and ornaments. Included are a set of four 20th century Baroque style cast stone figures (est. $15/20,000) and a very fine 18th century set of French Neoclassical limestone figures (est. $30/50,000). Also of interest are two pairs of 18th century Aix-en-Provence stone finials, a superb set of four French 17th century marble and limestone Corinthian columns, and many good Italian and Continental urns, fountains and ornaments.
The auction is filled with intriguing lots boasting illustrious provenance. Several architectural elements stem from Falcon Lair, Rudolph Valentino’s sprawling home in Bel Air, CA, an estate later owned for 50-years by tobacco heiress Doris Duke. The structures there were razed circa 2004. A pair of wall torcheres that flanked the front door during Valentino’s residency is being offered, as are several pairs of Venetian 18th century doors, Italian door surrounds, a pair of Tony Duquette coral bead and glass chandeliers and a partial Louis XVI boiserie room installed by Tony Duquette for Doris Duke.
Also with a connection to Hollywood’s “Golden Age,” as many as 40-lots of European furniture from the Warner Brothers Studio Collection should interest bidders. Seating, tables and cabinets may have been backdrops to cinematic masterpieces, used on various sound stages to dress scenes. A Continental Baroque style tortoiseshell and bone inlaid ebonized cabinet on stand, 3rd Qtr, 19th century, could bring $20/30,000. Also offered will be two Regency cellarettes, 19th century Venetian commodes, Napoleon III furniture, and a 19th century Louis XVI commode a vantaux after Reisener.
The French furniture and decorative arts include Louis XV and XVI commodes, chairs and armoires, as well as a pair of Louis XVI gilt brass bouillotte lamps, two large pairs of Bagues style rock crystal and iron wall lights, and a large collection of 19th century bronze sculptures. The breadth and diversity of the Italian, Spanish and Continental sections ranges from 16th century credenze and cassoni, to early majolica, to an important Russian neoclassical gilt bronze chandelier, a fine Baltic Neoclassical dressing desk (est. $15/20,000), and an unusual Romanesque influenced gilt bronze and alabaster fire fender with tools from the Estate of Irina Belotelkin.
“The June sale is one of our most diverse – rich in Italian, French and English furniture, garden decorations in marble and stone, and bringing a wonderful collection of decorative bronzes to market,” said Jeffrey Smith, VP and Director of Bonhams & Butterfields’ Furniture & Decorative Arts Dept. “Our efforts on behalf of two leading institutions in Los Angeles and San Francisco should interest collectors and members of the trade, supporting acquisition programs at both museums.”
The illustrated auction catalog for the June sale is online at