Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rare Tiffany Furniture on the Block at Ivey-Selkirk

Louis C. Tiffany and Samuel Colman carved and micromosaic inlaid side chair.    Image via Ivey-Selkirk
Hello dear readers.  A dedicated follower tipped me off to this exciting Tiffany consignment that has emerged at St. Louis regional auction house Ivey-Selkirk.
Louis C. Tiffany and Samuel Colman set of four carved and micro mosaic inlaid primavera wood side  chairs    Image via Ivey Selkirk
Louis C. Tiffany and Samuel Colman micro mosaic inlaid carved primavera wood side table   Image via Ivey-Selkirk
The table is being offered on its own at $70,000-100,000 and the chairs are being offered as a set of four at $30,000-40,000.  While it is not in their description, the primary wood is tropical primavera which is a blonde timber with a fine grain not unlike mahogany.  The pieces are further embellished with fine wood and brass micro mosaic bands and small square panels.  The catalogue does correctly note that this group of furniture relates to the suite Tiffany and Colman created for the music room of sugar baron H. O. Havemeyer's Manhattan mansion.  A settee from that commission surfaced at Doyle New York in February of 2012 achieving a staggering $422,500.  You can read the details in my previous post.
Louis C. Tiffany and Samuel Colman carved wood settee offered at Doyle's New York    Image via Doyle's New York
Music room of the H. O. Havemeyer house, New York, circa 1891   Image via Flickr
While the works are very similar in their exotic influence, carving and overall details, the Ivey-Selkirk group is actually a dead ringer for a pair of Tiffany/Colman armchairs in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Louis C. Tiffany and Samuel Colman  carved and micro mosaic inlaid primavera wood armchair, circa 1891    Image via Metmuseum.org
If I were a gambling man I would guess that they all were from the same original commission.  The table and chairs at Ivey-Selkirk have no listed provenance and the armchairs at the Metropolitan Museum merely list their 1964 donation by Mr. and Mrs. George E. Seligman.  While we do not know their origins they are all made of the same materials and match in the fine details.
Tiffany/Colman table at Ivey-Selkirk    Image via Ivey-Selkirk
Tiffany/Colman chairs at Ivey-Selkirk   Image via Ivey-Selkirk
Tiffany/Colman armchairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art    Image via Metmuseum.org
The lush flowers are the same from their shallowly carved roots up to their overlapping leaves and blooms.  The array of fine micro mosaic inlays are exact as well.
Micro mosaic detail from the Tiffany/Colman table at Ivey-Selkirk    Image via Ivey-Selkirk
Micro mosaic detail from the Tiffany/Colman chairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art   Image via Metmuseum.org
Micro mosaic detail from the Tiffany/Colman table at Ivey-Selkirk  Image via Ivey-Selkirk
Micro mosaic detail from the Tiffany/Colman chairs at Ivey-Selkirk   Image via Ivey-Selkirk
Micro mosaic detail from the Tiffany/Colman armchairs at the Metropolitan Museum   Image via Metmuseum.org
And while the table is now lacking its glass ball feet, there is evidence that it had them as the side chairs and the armchairs at the Met do.  Note the same reeded round tapered legs as well.
Leg detail from the Tiffany/Colman table at Ivey-Selkirk  Image via Ivey-Selkirk
Leg and caster detail from the Tiffany/Colman chairs at Ivey-Selkirk   Image via Ivey-Selkirk
Leg and caster detail from the Tiffany/Colman armchairs at the Metropolitan Museum   Image via Metmuseum.org
The table and side chairs are in "estate condition" meaning that it appears they have been untouched which is what serious collectors dream about.  It is much easer to improve fine chips, scratches and a darkened original finish than to attempt to reverse an aggressive restoration.  The Tiffany group at Ivey-Selkirk truly ticks all the boxes and I expect them fly at these conservative estimates.  Expect results well into the six figures for each lot.  I am positive all the requisite advisors, dealers and important collectors are circling as we speak.  Items like these do not come to light every season so this is a big deal in the Tiffany world.  I do hope that Metropolitan Museum has a donor step-in to buy the group as it would be a perfect ending to have this mystery Tiffany commission reunited at long last.  Until March 16th we wait.--A.R.
Tabletop detail of Tiffany/Coleman table at Ivey-Selkirk   Image via Ivey-Selkirk
UPDATE:
I have been in touch with the specialists at Ivey-Selkirk and have gotten a bit more information.  It appears that their Tiffany group of furniture was acquired by the family of the present owners in Washington, D.C. in 1968-69 from a house sale or other trade source.  As is often the case the trail has run cold.  In the course of my research (according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art) I read that Louis C. Tiffany displayed furniture with these Indian inspired inlays at the 1893 World's Colombian Exposition in Chicago.  Tiffany described the micro mosaic as "patterns . . . made of thousands of squares of natural wood, one sixteenth-of-an-inch in size, of different colors, and each individual square surrounded by a minute line of metal."  To my knowledge there is no known image of the works displayed bearing this technique, so alas I cannot say with certainty that the Ivey-Selkirk group along with the Met Museum armchairs were at the World's fair.  But, it cannot be ruled out either.  They do not appear in the known images of the Havemeyer Mansion and precious little is known regarding other private commissions of that period.  Unusual Tiffany pieces have surfaced before achieving wild results with absolutely no provenance so I wouldn't rule out the present group or the World Fair connection.  We have a week to go and I for one am on pins and needles.  Until next time--AR.
Tabletop detail of Tiffany/Coleman table at Ivey-Selkirk   Image via Ivey-Selkirk
UPDATE:
Well dear readers...the sale is still ongoing as I am writing this but I can confirm that both lots have sold.  The table achieved a hammer price of $60,000 ($72,600 with premium) and the chairs sold for $45,000 ($54,450 with premium).  I was a bit surprised that they stayed comfortably within their estimates.  Perhaps it was their condition or the lack of deeper provenance information.  I am sure we will see these pieces again maybe at the Met Museum, an antique show or a larger auction in New York.  Until next time--AR.

4 comments:

  1. The quality of these pieces reminds me of some Herter Brothers work, the Aesthetic Herter finishes perhaps a little more reserved.

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  2. Thanks so much for this. I really never knew about the furniture. I admit that I like the details more than the over-all design. It will be interesting to see that they go for.

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  3. Given that Tiffany was treading in Herter Brothers territory when he started out (he originally set himself up in what we would now call the "interior design" business), it wouldn't surprised me if his carvers and woodworkers weren't poached from Herter or from shops who did contract work for them.

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