Pair of circa-1920 wrought-iron gates, est. $600-$1,000. Images courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.

Jan. 1-2 New Year’s Sale is highlight of the year for Stephenson’s Auctioneers

Pair of circa-1920 wrought-iron gates, est. $600-$1,000. Images courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.

Pair of circa-1920 wrought-iron gates, est. $600-$1,000. Images courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.

SOUTHAMPTON, Pa. – For nearly half a century, family-owned Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers has served the Philadelphia tri-state area with its popular weekly sales, but the company’s most highly anticipated event of the year is always its New Year’s Sale, this season to be held on Jan. 1 and 2.

The New Year’s Sale, which is sometimes held on a single day and other times over a two-day period, has been a company tradition for the past 20 years. “It’s our biggest auction of the year and generally draws the biggest crowd and best prices of all our sales, so there’s always a lot of anticipation,” said auctioneer and appraiser Cindy Stephenson. Ms. Stephenson assumed the auction-business reins from the company’s founder, her still-active father, Robert L. Stephenson. While low-key in her approach, Cindy continues a legacy of distinction for her work with estates from Philadelphia’s most exclusive suburbs.

The opening session of the Jan. 1-2 sale incorporates estate antiques and fine art from several fine homes in the region, including a residence in West Orange, N.J., whose owner was an avid collector of many categories; and an upper Bucks County (Pa.) home whose owners had enlisted the services of a talented professional decorator. “Some of the newer, better pieces, such as the Baker and Kittinger furniture, came from that particular house,” said Stephenson.

An extensive array of china, glassware, porcelain and pottery awaits bidders on New Year’s Day. Among the highlights are an 11-piece hand-painted fish set featuring a 25-inch platter, a 13-piece Limoges hand-painted porcelain game set, and a set of six Haviland & Co. Limoges oyster plates. A Hazel-Atlas cobalt Royal Lace service for 12, with additional serving pieces, is estimated at $3,000-$5,000. The Asian taste is amply accommodated by a stunning 23-inch Japanese porcelain vase with bronze mounted dragon handles, an Imari vase and rice bowls; a Kutani water pitcher, and several pieces of late-18th-century Chinese export china. Other coveted names represented in the expansive china, glass and porcelain selection include Royal Crown Derby, Fondeville, Wilhelm Sattler & Son, Steuben, Roseville, Orrefors, Waterford and Lalique.

The soft luster of fine silver will also enhance the opening session. Key lots include two Russian silver enameled cases by Nikolai Kulikoff and a 15-inch-tall J. E. Caldwell sterling silver vase (est. $1,000-$1,600). Many other pieces of silver, including flatware and individual decorative and utilitarian items, bear the names of such manufacturers as Gorham, S. Kirk & Son, and Wallace.

The artwork to be auctioned spans hundreds of years and many different styles and media. George Morland’s (English, 1763-1804) oil-on-canvas painting titled Gypsy Encampment is estimated at $3,000-$5,000; while an imposing portrait of a seated gentleman signed Alexander 1819 is expected to make $2,500-$4,000.

Starting the year off right will be a cinch for collectors who have an eye for fine estate jewelry. Stephenson’s dazzling auction assortment includes Victorian and Art Deco gold and diamond rings and earrings, and traverses into the showier mid-century styles that incorporate large stones and unusual motifs. The market’s insatiable interest in Asian jewelry should bring many bidders to the table for a 14K gold and ivory bead necklace with a hand-carved and colored geisha accent. Jade pieces include two bangle bracelets, a hand-carved pendant and a beaded necklace. Small and chic, an Egyptian Revival beetle pin in silver mounting is estimated at $120-$250, while a sterling silver enameled and hand-painted lady’s necessaire (compact) could bring $200-$300.

Changing the mood of a room is often accomplished with the addition of a single striking piece of furniture. A wealth of ideas can be found in Stephenson’s Jan. 1 sale, starting with two Chippendale mahogany chests of drawers, a two oak bent-glass china cabinets with lion heads and paw feet, and a Stickley mahogany Federal-style inlaid sideboard. An American Atelier lounge chair and ottoman exhibit the desirable minimalist style of Charles Eames – just the things to pair up with an Orlando Diaz-Azcuy “Ventana” cocktail table. Kittinger designs include a mahogany tea table, “Old Dominion” Biggs lowboy, a flame-mahogany and inlaid dining table with two leaves and a mahogany breakfront, among many other pieces by this manufacturer.

Details count, and that’s where decorative accessories shine. The New Year’s Day session includes many highlights in this category, including a marked 1940s Carl Hagenauer copper face mask (est. $4,000-$6,000), a pair of circa-1920 wrought-iron gates from a Philadelphia home (est. $600-$1,000), a carved African ivory vase, and three Japanese gourd scrimshaws. Hand-tied Oriental carpets include Sarouk, Kirman, and Chinese-made textiles, among other productions. Another lot not to be missed is the pair of foo dog figurines.

Meriting special attention is a circa-1900 vintage wooden bowling pins game with a baseball theme (est. $1,000-$1,800). The hand-stitched leather ball is covered with silver-plated medallions of baseball stars Big Dan Brouthers (1858-1932) and John Clarkson (1861-1909). A melodious addition is the Hepp & Son Philadelphia mahogany-cased tabletop music box, in working order with cylinder.

Day two of the auction is devoted exclusively to a single-owner collection of antique and vintage dolls, Steiff toys and other older teddy bears. “The owner, a woman from Philadelphia, had thousands of dolls in her collection. The better pieces from the estate will be offered in our sale,” said Cindy Stephenson.

Auction Details:

Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers will hold its New Year’s Antique & Decorative Arts Auction on Friday, Jan. 1, with a special Saturday, Jan. 2 session exclusively devoted to the single-owner collection of dolls, Steiff and vintage teddy bears. The sale will begin at 10 a.m. on Friday, and 11 a.m. on Saturday. The preview for both auction sessions will be held on Dec. 31 from 1-5 p.m. and Friday, Jan. 1 from 8-10 a.m. Dolls and teddies also may be previewed on the Saturday from 9-11 a.m., prior to the start of the second session.

All forms of bidding will available, including live via the Internet through www.LiveAuctioneers.com. For information on any item in the sale, call 215-322-6182 or e-mail info@stephensonsauction.com. Visit the auction company’s Web site at www.stephensonsauction.com.

View a fully illustrated catalog and sign up to bid absentee or live via the Internet during the sale at www.LiveAuctioneers.com.

Click here to view Stephenson’s Auction’s complete catalog.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


J. E. Caldwell sterling silver vase, 15 inches tall, est. $1,000-$1,600. Images courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.

J. E. Caldwell sterling silver vase, 15 inches tall, est. $1,000-$1,600. Images courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.


Grouping of dolls including examples made of wax, bisque and other materials. At far left is a Shirley Temple doll, and at front and center is a Kewpie. Image courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.

Grouping of dolls including examples made of wax, bisque and other materials. At far left is a Shirley Temple doll, and at front and center is a Kewpie. Image courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.


Circa 1900 wooden bowling pins game with leather-covered, hand-stitched ball with silverplated medallions of Dan Brouthers and John Clarkson, est. $1,000-$1,800. Images courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.

Circa 1900 wooden bowling pins game with leather-covered, hand-stitched ball with silverplated medallions of Dan Brouthers and John Clarkson, est. $1,000-$1,800. Images courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.


Circa-1820 Regency red and gilt tole painted hot water urn and food warmer, est. $1,000-$2,000. Image courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.

Circa-1820 Regency red and gilt tole painted hot water urn and food warmer, est. $1,000-$2,000. Image courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.


George Morland oil-on-canvas painting titled Gypsy Encampment, est. $3,000-$5,000. Images courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.

George Morland oil-on-canvas painting titled Gypsy Encampment, est. $3,000-$5,000. Images courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.


Carl Hagenauer copper mask, three-sided, impressed Hagenauer, Austria and maker's mark WHW (Werkstatte Hagenauer Wein) on bottom, handmade, 1940s, est. $4,000-$6,000. Images courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.

Carl Hagenauer copper mask, three-sided, impressed Hagenauer, Austria and maker’s mark WHW (Werkstatte Hagenauer Wein) on bottom, handmade, 1940s, est. $4,000-$6,000. Images courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.


Set of Hazel-Atlas cobalt “Royal Lace” service for 12, with serving pieces, est. $3,000-$5,000. Image courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.

Set of Hazel-Atlas cobalt “Royal Lace” service for 12, with serving pieces, est. $3,000-$5,000. Image courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.


Egyptian Revival beetle pin in silver mounting, est. $120-$250. Image courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.

Egyptian Revival beetle pin in silver mounting, est. $120-$250. Image courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.


Sterling silver enameled and hand-painted lady’s necessaire, est. $200-$300. Image courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.

Sterling silver enameled and hand-painted lady’s necessaire, est. $200-$300. Image courtesy of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.

The sign above the entrance to Auschwitz was stolen early Friday. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Poland tightens border in hunt for stolen Auschwitz sign

The sign above the entrance to Auschwitz was stolen early Friday. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The sign above the entrance to Auschwitz was stolen early Friday. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

OSWIECIM, Poland (AP) – Polish authorities stepped up security checks at airports and border crossings and searched scrap metal yards Saturday as the search intensified for the infamous Nazi sign stolen from the Auschwitz death camp memorial.

The brazen pre-dawn theft Friday of one of the Holocaust’s most chilling and notorious symbols sparked outrage from around the world, and Polish leaders have declared recovering the 5-meter (16-foot) sign a national priority.

The sign bearing the German words “Arbeit Macht Frei” – “Work Makes You Free” – spanned the main entrance to the Auschwitz death camp, where more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed during World War II.

The grim Nazi slogan was so counter to the actual function of the camp that it has been etched into history. The phrase “Arbeit macht frei” appeared at the entrances of other Nazi camps, including Dachau and Sachsenhausen, but the long curving sign at Auschwitz was the best known.

Police deployed 50 officers, including 20 detectives, and a search dog to the Auschwitz grounds, where barracks, watchtowers and rows of barbed wire stand as testament to the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

Spokeswoman Katarzyna Padlo said police had questioned all security guards at the site and searched local scrap metal businesses, while Dariusz Nowak, a police spokesman in Krakow, said investigators were working around the clock on the case.

The director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial museum, visibly shaken, told The Associated Press he believes professionals carried out the theft.

“I think it was done by specialists,” Piotr Cywinski said. “It was a very well-prepared action.”

British historian Andrew Roberts said the sign would generate huge interest on the burgeoning market for Nazi memorabilia.

Security guards patrol the 940-acre site around the clock, but due to its vast size they only pass by any one area at intervals. Cywinski said that gave thieves between 20 to 30 minutes to remove the sign and carry it off.

Museum spokesman Pawel Sawicki said the sign is made of hollow steel pipes and is believed to weigh only around 65 to 90 pounds.

“A single person could lift it,” Sawicki said.

Sawicki said the entire Auschwitz staff was deeply shaken by the theft. He defended security at the camp but said no one could have ever imagined thieves seizing the gate’s sign.

“Thieves are also able to robs banks and museums. Clearly this was well planned. It’s a blow to our human heritage,” Sawicki said.

An exact replica of the sign, produced when the original underwent restoration work years ago, was quickly hung in its place Friday.

Michael Pick, 47, a history teacher from Brisbane, Australia, was glad the museum had put up a replica.

“The irony of the saying is something that we talk about in the classroom,” he said, standing amid snow and below-freezing temperatures. “It would be better if it (the sign) were authentic but I would be incredibly disappointed if I showed up today and there was nothing there.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights group, urged Poland to intensify its investigation and bring the thieves to justice.

“The fact is that the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign has become the defining symbol of the Holocaust, because everyone knew that this was not a place where work makes you free, but it was the place where millions of men, women, and children were brought for one purpose only – to be murdered,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center’s founder and dean.

After occupying Poland in 1939, the Nazis established the Auschwitz I camp in the southern Polish city of Oswiecim, which initially housed German political prisoners and non-Jewish Polish prisoners. The sign was made in 1940. Two years later, hundreds of thousands of Jews began arriving by cattle trains to the wooden barracks of nearby Birkenau, also called Auschwitz II, where most were killed in gas chambers.

Most of the camp’s victims were Jews but they also included Gypsies, Poles, homosexuals and political prisoners.

The Soviet army liberated the camp Jan. 27, 1945. Polish officials plan to mark the 65th anniversary of that liberation next month with somber ceremonies at the site.

_____

Scislowska reported from Warsaw.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP-ES-12-19-09 1331EST

Holt-Howard made this punch cup in the 1960s as part of a set that included a bowl, ladle and eight mugs. The complete set sells for about $150-$200, but this mug alone costs only $7. Photo by Cloe Eiber.

Kovels – Antiques & Collecting: Week of Dec. 21, 2009

Holt-Howard made this punch cup in the 1960s as part of a set that included a bowl, ladle and eight mugs. The complete set sells for about $150-$200, but this mug alone costs only $7. Photo by Cloe Eiber.

Holt-Howard made this punch cup in the 1960s as part of a set that included a bowl, ladle and eight mugs. The complete set sells for about $150-$200, but this mug alone costs only $7. Photo by Cloe Eiber.

Christmas for manufacturers to sell special holiday items. In 1949 John and Robert Howard and Grant Holt finished college and started Holt-Howard, a New York City business that sold Christmas items. Their first success was a revolving brass candelabrum called “Angel Abra.” The heat from burning candles makes a round metal propeller rotate to spin cutouts of angels. The idea dates back to the Middle Ages in Europe and similar candle carousels are still being made. At first Holt-Howard focused on Christmas items — candle holders, punch sets, dishes, planters, candy dishes and other ceramics featuring angels, pixies and Santa. The company moved to Connecticut in 1955 and started making kitchen-related items like condiment dishes, cheese jars and salt and pepper sets. Holt-Howard is credited with making the coffee mug a common household item; in the 1950s it made many different styles of mugs instead of traditional cups and saucers. The company’s ceramics were all made in the U.S.A. until the late 1950s, when manufacturing was transferred abroad and Holt-Howard became an importer. Collectors like the playful look of Holt-Howard designs and also the fact that each piece is marked with the company’s name and the date of manufacture.

Q: My father was once on board the USS Williamsburg presidential yacht. I still have the souvenir he received that day, a Ballantine Burton Ale bottle with a “Christmas Greeting” paper label that says “Brewed especially for Harry S. Truman on May 12, 1934. Bottled December 1949.” Would this be worth anything?

A: If the bottle is still full, it’s worth more than if it’s empty. Ballantine Burton Ale was a very special ale brewed and aged at one of Ballantine’s plants in Newark, N.J. It was never sold. Bottles were given as Christmas gifts to Ballantine distributors and VIPs, including President Truman. The USS Williamsburg had been used as a naval gunboat during World War II, but served as the presidential yacht from 1945 to 1954 so it was used by both President Truman and President Dwight Eisenhower. Full Ballantine Burton Ale bottles with the Truman label sell for more than $100. An empty bottle sells for less.

Q: Recently I bought an old Barbie doll at a house sale. Her face doesn’t look like the face on the doll I had as a child. Has Barbie had a facelift?

A: Barbie has had dozens of faces through the years. Different molds have been used. Molds have names like Christie, Lea, Mackie, Steffie, Summer, SuperStar and Teresa. Later variations included fringe lashes, open-close eyes, open mouth, pouty mouth and lips that move. In recent years, Barbie dolls have been made to represent Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, model Heidi Klum and other celebrities. The first Barbie had painted and molded eyelashes and a closed mouth. A reproduction of the original Barbie was released in 1994 to celebrate Barbie’s 35th birthday. Barbie celebrated her 50th birthday in 2009 with another new face. The model is Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif.

Q: I was given a copy of a fabric book titled “The Night Before Christmas.” It was a Christmas gift to my uncle in 1906, when he was a child. The book is intact but quite faded.

A: At one time, Saalfield Publishing Co. created a group of children’s books made of muslin. They could be washed and were hard to tear. The company, founded by Alfred J. Saalfield in Akron, Ohio, in 1899, was the country’s largest publisher of children’s books. Saalfield published coloring books, paper dolls, storybooks, educational toys and games. The company closed in 1977 and its library and archives were bought by Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, for its special collection of children’s books. The university lists the publication date of your book as 1912, so your book is not quite as old as you thought. The poem we know as “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863) was published in a newspaper in 1823 under the title “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.” The author’s name was not listed, but in 1844 it was included in a book of Moore’s poems. There is some controversy today about his authorship because evidence suggests the original poem was written by Henry Livingston Jr. (1748-1828). Your book is faded, so the value is only about $15. Books in excellent condition sell for $100.

Q: Can you tell me anything about the plastic Santa bank my father left me? It’s a bust of Santa wearing a black top hat. The coin slot is in the top of the hat, and the bottom of the bank is marked “Knox Hats, New York.”

A: Knox Hats dates back to 1838, when Charles Knox (circa 1818-1895), an Irish immigrant, opened a tiny hat shop on Fulton Street in New York City. The business grew during the second half of the 19th century, and Knox opened a bigger store on Fifth Avenue and a factory in Brooklyn. The company was sold in 1913, but the brand name lived on until the 1950s. Because your bank is plastic, it probably wasn’t made until after World War II. That’s when plastics become widely used. It’s likely the bank was an advertising premium or a Christmas gift given to loyal customers.

Tip: Plastic bubble wrap can ruin the glaze on old ceramics. If the wrap touches a piece for a long time in a hot storage area, it may discolor the glaze or adhere to the surface in an almost permanent glob.

Terry Kovel answers as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or e-mail addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, Auction Central News, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

Need more information about collectibles? Find it at Kovels.com, our website for collectors. Check prices there, too. More than 700,000 are listed and viewing them is free. You can also sign up to read our weekly Kovels Komments. It includes the latest news, tips and questions and is delivered by email, free, if you register. Kovels.com offers extra collector’s information and lists of publications, clubs, appraisers, auction houses, people who sell parts or repair antiques and much more. You can subscribe to Kovels on Antiques and Collectibles, our monthly newsletter filled with prices, facts and color photos. Kovels.com adds to the information in our newspaper column and helps you find useful sources needed by collectors.

CURRENT PRICES

Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

  • Better Homes & Gardens Christmas Ideas for 1962 book, articles on food, gifts to make, tree ornaments, 9 x 12 inches, $15.
  • Snoopy Christmas tree ornament, Snoopy carrying tree, United Features, 1958, 3 x 2 1/2 inches, $25.
  • Weather Bird Shoes advertising clicker, image of bird on weather vane, yellow ground, black bird, red letters, 1940s, 1 x 1 1/2 inches, $30.
  • Aluminum Christmas cookie cutters, 6-inch gingerbread man, 4-inch Christmas tree, 3 1/2-inch Santa with bulging sack on back, cut-in handles, 1950s, $40.
  • Lefton Christmas candy dish, girl in sled wearing red bonnet, holding muff, 1950s, 6 x 8 inches, $90.
  • Pez Santa Claus candy dispenser, full body, red outfit, black boots, white beard, 1950s, 4 inches, $110.
  • Mastercrafters mantel clock and motion lamp, forest, moving waterfall, river scene, 3-D redwood base with pine trees, 1950s, 10 1/2 inches, $115.
  • Baby, It’s Cold Outside sheet music, from the film Neptune’s Daughter, starring Esther Williams and Red Skelton, 1948, 9 x 12 inches, $10.
  • Historical blue Staffordshire toddy plate, “Christmas Eve,” impressed maker’s mark, 6 3/4 inches, $170.
  • Steiff Santa teddy bear, “Friends of Christmas,” Santa bear in redwood sleigh, reindeer, wrapped packages, 1989, 9 x 17 inches, $225.

Just published. The new full-color Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide, 2010, 42nd edition, is your most accurate source for current prices. This large-size paperback has more than 2,500 color photographs and 47,000 up-to-date prices for more than 700 categories of antiques and collectibles. You’ll also find hundreds of factory histories and marks and a report on the record prices of the year, plus helpful sidebars and tips about buying, selling, collecting and preserving your treasures. Available at your bookstore; online at Kovels.com; by phone at 800-571-1555; or send $27.95 plus $4.95 postage to Price Book, Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.

© 2009 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

Books in Review: Chairs by Judith Miller

Judith Miller began collecting antiques in the 1960s while a student at Edinburgh University. Since then, she’s become one of the world’s leading experts on antiques. In 1979 she co-founded the international bestseller titled Miller’s Antiques Price Guide, and has since written more than 100 books on antiques-related topics. Judith appears regularly on radio and television, most notably as an appraiser on Britain’s Antiques Roadshow. In the United States she’s appeared on CNN and the Martha Stewart Show, most recently to promote her beautiful new coffee table book about the history of chairs. Keeping it short and sweet, and definitely to the point, the book is called “Chairs.”

Recently Auction Central News had the pleasure of meeting with Judith in Philadelphia. Rather than simply reviewing the book, we decided we’d launch our new Books section by sharing the transcript of our conversation with Judith, as it lends great insight to the subject of chairs and Judith’s approach to writing the book. You may never look at the chairs in your own home quite the same way after you read Judith’s comments about their noble history and importance to design overall.

  1. Judith, you’ve written about every antiques topic under the sun, it seems, but this book is quite a grand effort to be devoting to the single topic of chairs. What inspired you to write this 336-page book about chairs? Chairs are the epitome of the style. They are the most important thing in showing how a style has developed. I’m a single-chair addict myself, and have bought a considerable number of them. When I leave the house to go shopping, my husband says, ‘Now repeat after me – we do not need one more single chair.’
  2. The chairs in your book are organized chronologically, and quite logically, starting with the Egyptians, around 2680 B.C. What can you tell us about how the use of chairs began? Chairs were a tremendous status symbol in Ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece. Until medieval times in England, there would be only one chair in a room, and that would be for the person of highest status – the chairman – hence the origin of the word. Even into the 19th century, chairs were for the wealthy. Everyone else would sit on benches or tree trunks, or the floor.
  3. The Egyptian chair that starts off the chronology in your book is quite the production – it’s a fantastic gold chair from King Tut’s Tomb. What were some of the other early civilizations or cultures that used chairs? There are wall paintings, drawings and engravings that show the Chinese had very elaborate chairs. The Japanese did, as well.
  4. Based on the photographs in the timeline presented in your book – and I must say, the photography is quite stunning – it would seem that aesthetics have long been part an important aspect of chair design. Would you agree with that – that functionality and visual appeal have always gone hand in hand in the design of chairs? I think they have. If you were Thomas Chippendale or Sheraton or Hepplewhite, you were in the business of producing commercial products for very wealthy clients who demanded that the chairs be sturdy but also beautiful. For instance, to satisfy his clients, Chippendale would import Italian Damascene silk for the seat covering, which is very expensive.
  5. Who were the important craftsmen who produced chairs in England prior to American Colonial times? We don’t know a tremendous amount about furniture craftsmen in England prior to the 17th century, before the arrival of French Huguenot craftsmen who came to England through Holland. They were silk weavers and carvers, and were very influential.
  6. The chairs of Colonial America were largely crafted by cabinetmakers or other woodworkers who brought their skills across the Atlantic from England or the Continent. How is it that in a geographical area as relatively small as New England that so may disparate styles developed – by that I mean, you could look at an 18th-century Philadelphia chair or a Newport chair or a Portsmouth, New Hampshire chair and identify their region and sometimes their maker. What were the differences in the way chairs were constructed in various cities of the American colonies? This is something I’m fascinated about. I actually did a program at Colonial Williamsburg in which I talked about the many varieties. Craftsmen came to America from Germany, England, Scotland and Scandinavia. They had access to different timbers depending on where they lived and worked. That would affect the style. Also, whom they were making the chairs for was very important. If they were making chairs for someone of German descent, they would take their inspiration from German designs.
  7. Your book includes this insightful quote from Mies van der Rohe – in 1930 he said “A chair is a very difficult object. Everyone who has tried to make one knows that. There are endless possibilities and many problems. The chair has to be light, it has to be strong, it has to be comfortable. It is almost easier to build a skyscraper than a chair. That is why Chippendale is famous.” What is it about Chippendale chairs that puts them in a league of their own? Mies van der Rohe would know which was more difficult, since he did both – he designed a chair and a skyscraper. Every designer wants to make a perfect chair. They’re so much a part of what we do every day. To be known as someone who designed the best chair is something they want to do but which is very difficult to get right. At one time it was even questioned whether we need four legs on a chair. I find the 20th century to be an exciting time for chairs. Being a Scot, I love Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s chairs, but if I were sitting in a tea room on one of his chairs, I wouldn’t stay for long. I would love to have one, though – maybe more as a piece of sculpture than a chair. But regarding Chippendale, I don’t thing he was particularly innovative, but he was brilliant at assimilating ideas – whether Chinese or French Rococo – and making them incredibly elegant. When you see a Chippendale chair from his workshop, they have an elegance and simplicity that makes you gasp.
  8. I laughed at your husband John Wainwright’s comment that your own household could do without another single chair. Do you have a particular obsession for chairs in your home? I mix them up and put them to use in different ways. In the front room there’s a Philippe Starck Lord Yo chair in one corner and an English walnut George I chair in the other corner. I have them around beds as bedside tables, and in the dining room I have eight different chairs around the table. All are from the period 1780-90 but each has a completely different back. Friends who come to dinner have favorite chairs – it encourages them to talk about chairs. I think we can get too interested in sets of everything.
  9. LiveAuctioneers is a wonderful source for buying chairs through auction houses like Millea Bros., Treadway, Rago Arts or the Chicago auction house Wright, to name but a few. We all know that investment should never be the primary or sole reason for purchasing antiques or contemporary art of any type, but there’s no denying that the work of some contemporary artists is more likely to appreciate in value than others. I’ll give you a few names, and please comment on them:
  10. Ron Arad – He’s someone who was way before his time in reusing objects and giving them a second life. Ron Arad is a visionary.

    Julia Krantz – I had never heard of her before I saw one of her amazing chairs in a shop on Franklin Street in New York. She stack-laminates wood, smoothes it, and lets the lines flow. She’s an incredible designer.

    Marc Newson – Marc Newson is an amazing designer, so inspired. He sees design in everything and has designed things as simple as a napkin holder and as major as the insides of an aircraft. Finding a Marc Newson chair to feature in the book was very difficult. They sell for an enormous amount of money.

    Philippe Starck – People have tried to denounce Philippe Starck for being commercial, and he says, ‘Of course I’m commercial.’ He’s very clear about where his inspiration comes from. His designs are in hotels all over the world. Whoever said designers should not be commercial?

    Wendell Castle – I’m beside myself with admiration for Wendell Castle. Some designers get into a set way of designing a chair, but he’ll put wood with leather, or use plastics or stainless steel. Every one of his chairs is different.

  11. This takes us to your ‘desert island’ chair. Let’s suppose Judith Miller is marooned on a desert island. Which chair does she take with her? That’s so, so unfair. It’s like choosing between your children. I might be tempted to choose a great design like Wendell Castle’s Nirvana chair, but I think it would probably have to be my George I walnut chair because to me it has so many fantastic associations. My chairs are scrapbooks of my life, and that chair has been with me through happy and sad times.

The author is Judith Miller, and the book is called Chairs, published by Conran/Octopus Books USA. Retail price: $65. Click here to purchase it through amazon.com.

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Click here to purchase Chairs.


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Author Judith Miller.

Author Judith Miller.







French tech upstart challenges Google for right to digitize culture

PARIS (AP) – France’s efforts to digitize its culture, from Marcel Proust’s manuscripts to the first films of the legendary Lumiere brothers, long have been bogged down by the country’s reluctance to rely on help from American internet giant Google Inc.

A new startup launched Thursday says it may be the answer.

The consortium of French technology companies and government-backed IT research labs says it can provide the know-how needed by Europe’s libraries, universities, publishers and others to scan, catalog and deliver to end users the contents of their archives – better than Google can.

The consortium’s partners have studied the results of Google Books’ scanning efforts, “and we know that we can do better,” said Alain Pierrot, one of the project’s leaders.

“We also know we have a ways to go, in productivity, in quality, in profitability. And we set up the consortium to do exactly that,” Pierrot said at a news conference to present the project.

The all-French challenger calls itself  “an alternative to Google,” despite a yawning gulf between them in terms of size.

The French project goes by the name “Polinum,” a French acronym that stands for “Operating Platform for Digital Books.”

It is led by Jean-Pierre Gerault, the chief executive of a French company that makes optical scanning machines used to rapidly and automatically scan thousands of book pages an hour. He said it has attracted euro4 million ($5.7 million) in financing from the European Union and local authorities in France’s Aquitaine region where it is based. It aims to have its technology operational in three years.

Google’s Google Books project meanwhile has already scanned and cataloged more than 10 million books as of last month. France’s version, the Gallica project run by the French national library, has less than a million items in its database, including books and other documents.

The consortium has a mere euro4 million ($5.7 million) in financing, collected from the European Union and local authorities in France’s Aquitaine region. Its goal is to have its technology and service operational within three years.

Pierrot says the consortium can improve on Google’s book scanning efforts with scanners that give better quality images, more advanced optical character recognition, and a more powerful search system to make finding valuable data in the mass of digitized content easier.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made catching up on France’s digital delay one of the national priorities by earmarking euro750 million of a euro35 billion ($51 billion) spending plan announced earlier this week for digitizing France’s libraries, film and music archives and other repositories of the nation’s recorded heritage. These funds will mainly go to French libraries, universities and museums, who will use them to develop their own plans for digitizing their holdings.

The consortium, meanwhile, intends to be the technological choice for those institutions, Gerault said. He declined to estimate what part of the euro750 million the consortium thinks it can capture.

France’s culture ministry has been in difficult negotiations with Google, which would like to help digitize France’s archives but has met resistance in France over fears of giving the internet search giant too much control over the nation’s cultural heritage, as well as over how it would protect the interests of authors and other copyright holders.

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterand said last month that while he would like to find common ground with Google, “there are also certainly in Europe people capable of taking on all or part of the challenge.”

A progress report released this week by the culture ministry called France’s digitization efforts “slow and insufficient,” and said that the National Library’s Gallica program and a similar European-wide venture called Europeana “are not perceived as satisfactory alternatives” to Google.

Google declined to comment.

The consortium is made up of eight members, including i2S. Other members are Exalead, a French search engine, Isako, a software and electronic publishing company, and Labri, a Bordeaux-based information technology research laboratory.

Gerault rejected a suggestion that the project was a case of too little, too late.

“France is not further behind other countries, even the United States” in terms of digitizing its cultural heritage, said Gerault. “It’s not too late, the digital book revolution has just begun.”

___

On the Net: http://www.polinum.net.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Ford woody pedal car, est. $1,500-$2,500. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

‘Scoop’ up the best of private collections at Kimball Sterling, Jan. 1

Ford woody pedal car, est. $1,500-$2,500. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

Ford woody pedal car, est. $1,500-$2,500. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Kimball M. Sterling’s New Year’s Day auctions have a well-earned reputation for being a fun and festive way to start off a new calendar year. The popular Tennessee auctioneer has been hosting his Jan. 1 sales for the past 20 years, and the 2010 edition looks like another barn-burner.

Expect to see a huge variety of antiques and collectibles in the upcoming sale, which will feature Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers.com. Much of the inventory comes from quality estates and collections, with two of the featured highlight sections being the Barger collection of pedal cars and ice cream dippers, also known as “scoops.”

The Barger collections are well known throughout the United States. The ice cream dippers will be offered together with a selection of desirable peanut butter pails. In all, the grouping comprises 100 lots.

Alongside the collection of pedal cars – which exhibit great variety and are in top condition – are some highly sought-after bicycles. The centerpiece of the collection is a rare restored Gene Autry boy’s bicycle with its holster and gun. This particular model holds great appeal with both bicycle enthusiasts and collectors of Western film memorabilia. The auction estimate on the Autry bike is $2,000-$3,000. Another prized entry is a Schwinn Black Phantom that sure to stir nostalgic memories for many of the boomer generation.

The auction will also feature a group of watches, including a minute repeater and other interesting timepieces from a San Francisco estate.

Native-American items include Navajo rugs and some jewelry.

In the art category there are four original Native-American illustrations by Edwin Deming.

Approximately one-fourth of the sale is devoted to a collection of outsider and folk art, with major works by carver Linville Barker, including the largest of his known cat designs. Additionally, there will be Tennessee primitives and a potpourri of other fine items.

For information on any item in the auction, contact Kimball Sterling at 423-928-1471.

Visit the fully illustrated catalog and sign up to bid absentee or live via the Internet at www.LiveAuctioneers.com.

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Click here to view Kimball M. Sterling Inc.’s complete catalog.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


Gene Autry bicycle, est. $2,000-$3,000. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

Gene Autry bicycle, est. $2,000-$3,000. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

Largest known size cat carved by Linville Barker, est. $3,000-$5,000. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

Largest known size cat carved by Linville Barker, est. $3,000-$5,000. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

Edwin Dunning Native-American painting, est. $700-$1,200. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

Edwin Dunning Native-American painting, est. $700-$1,200. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

J. B. Hudson 14K gold minute repeater watch, est. $1,500-$2,500. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

J. B. Hudson 14K gold minute repeater watch, est. $1,500-$2,500. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

Navajo transitional rug, est. $1,000-$1,500. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

Navajo transitional rug, est. $1,000-$1,500. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

Brunswick billiard rack, est. $1,000-$1,500. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

Brunswick billiard rack, est. $1,000-$1,500. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

Liechtenstein royal cancels major UK art exhibit


LONDON (AP) – The prince of Liechtenstein has canceled a major London art exhibition because British officials have held up the export of a Renaissance painting he bought in 2006, officials said Wednesday.

Prince Hans-Adam II pulled the plug on the exhibition, planned for autumn of next year, because of a criminal investigation into whether the permission to export the painting was properly obtained, according to museum officials in London and Vienna.

Johann Kraeftner, director of the Collections of the Prince of Liechtenstein and the Vienna Liechtenstein Museum, stressed that neither the prince nor the museum was involved in the probe surrounding The Infante Don Diego, by 16th century Spanish painter Sanchez Coello.

He said that the British government’s failure to tell them what was going on during the more than two-year investigation meant that his institution could not trust it with its art.

“We are not going to entrust our great treasures to a state that treats us badly,” Kraeftner said, adding he tried to find an “amicable solution” with the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where highlights from the prince’s 500-year-old collection were due to go on display.

The exhibition had been due to include Italian and German Renaissance paintings as well as other work – although The Infante Don Diego was not due to go on display, the academy said.

It added that it was disappointed by the prince’s move and was working on finding an alternative to the show.

The British investigation was first made public in 2007, when Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs announced the arrest of an unnamed art dealer on suspicion of manipulating the documents needed to export The Infante and other works, including a 17th century Dutch masterpiece by Michiel van Musscher titled Portrait Of An Artist.

The agency declined comment when asked for an update on the investigation Wednesday, but confirmed that The Infante was still being kept in the U.K.

Kraeftner said his museum would be willing to reconsider a show in London once the matter was resolved.

“We just want legal certainty,” he said.

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Associated Press Writer Veronika Oleksyn in Vienna contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-ES-12-16-09 1403EST


Received Id 1260540362 on Dec 16 2009 14:03

This rare 18th-century Chinese famille rose 'abstinence plaque,' a kind of Chinese chastity belt worn by ladies of the court, fetched £6,500 ($10,500) at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury in November.

London Eye: December 2009

This rare 18th-century Chinese famille rose 'abstinence plaque,' a kind of Chinese chastity belt worn by ladies of the court, fetched £6,500 ($10,500) at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury in November.

This rare 18th-century Chinese famille rose ‘abstinence plaque,’ a kind of Chinese chastity belt worn by ladies of the court, fetched £6,500 ($10,500) at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury in November.

While the recession has had a negative impact on the top of the art market, with the bigger fine art auction houses suffering significantly reduced consignments to their blue-chip sales, elsewhere it seems to have had a positive effect. British provincial auction houses have been busy emphasizing their green credentials, promoting local auction sales as recycling opportunities that offer an attractive alternative to buying new.

Another strategy adopted by provincial firms has been to prioritize specialist sales over general dispersals. Salisbury auctioneers Woolley & Wallis are among a small number of UK provincial auction houses who have formed a series of specialist departments with sound expertise in each. As a result they operate more like local versions of Sotheby’s or Christie’s than general auctioneers. This may be the reason why their Asian art offerings, for example, continue to turn up fine and rare objects such as the Yuan dynasty double-gourd vase that made a record hammer price of £2.6 million ($4.6m) at their July 2005 sale.

Their latest Asian art offering on Nov. 11 didn’t quite scale those vertiginous heights, but it did feature a most unusual small 18th-century Chinese famille rose “abstinence plaque.”

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Craigslist lawyer surprised by eBay action

GEORGETOWN, Del. (AP) – Craigslist officials were caught off guard when told in 2007 that their minority shareholder, eBay, was going to compete directly with them in the online classifieds business in the U.S., an attorney for Craigslist said Wednesday. Ed Wes said he was equally troubled by eBay’s defiance in the face of Craigslist’s subsequent request that eBay divest or sell its 28 percent minority stake because Craigslist was no longer comfortable having the online auction giant as a shareholder.

Wes said eBay attorney Brian Levey warned him in a telephone call after Craigslist asked for divestiture that eBay CEO Meg Whitman’s response might be to tell Craigslist to go “pound sand.”

“It was as if he knew what the response would be even before Meg responded, even before she saw the e-mail,” Wes said. “It was a stunning moment for me.”

Wes was testifying in a lawsuit in which eBay is challenging antitakeover measures adopted by Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and CEO James Buckmaster in response to eBay’s launch of its Kijiji classifieds site and refusal to sell or divest its shares.

Craigslist contends that eBay was out to control Craigslist despite assurances that it was satisfied with a minority stake, and that it reneged on promises that Craigslist would be eBay’s exclusive vehicle in the online classifieds market in the U.S., and that eBay would help Craigslist expand internationally. Craigslist also claims that eBay misused confidential financial information provided by Craigslist to help develop Kijiji.

Wes testified that Buckmaster began expressing concerns about potential conflicts involving eBay as early as October 2004, two months after eBay bought its minority interest in Craigslist from a disgruntled shareholder. Shortly after closing the deal with Craigslist, eBay began acquiring several online classifieds sites overseas.

“I think Jim was just concerned about eBay having divided interests,” Wes said.

Despite eBay’s acquisition of the overseas sites and its launch overseas of Kijiji in 2005, Wes said Craigslist officials were nonetheless surprised when given 10 days notice of Kijiji’s impending U.S. launch in 2007.

“It was clear to me knowing the way eBay operated that this must have been in the works for some time, and I was surprised that eBay would not have disclosed this earlier,” he said.

Wes said eBay’s announcement that it would compete head-to-head with a company in which it held both a sizable stake and a board seat, combined with eBay’s assertion that its eventual acquisition of Craigslist was “inevitable,” caused Craigslist officials to re-evaluate the relationship and take steps to protect itself.

During the five months that it considered those protective measures, Craigslist did not inform eBay what it was doing, Wes said.

“We didn’t trust eBay, and we felt it was in the best interest of Craigslist not to provide that notice,” he said.

In his cross-examination, eBay attorney William Lafferty asked why Craigslist acted secretly to adopt the protective measures, even though there was no imminent threat of an eBay takeover.

“You never know when the takeover threat may occur,” Wes replied.

Asked why Craigslist never complained about competition until 2007, Wes said eBay had assured Craigslist officials that the overseas acquisitions and Kijiji operations would be contributed by eBay to an international partnership with Craigslist.

Efforts to develop that partnership failed however, due partly to antitrust concerns stemming from an investigation of eBay by the New York attorney general.

Lafferty said that when negotiating the deal with eBay, Wes knew eBay already had acquired a classified site in Germany, and that eBay had no contractual obligation not to compete with Craigslist, only what Wes considered a “moral commitment.”

“Not enforceable in a court of law, is it Mr. Wes?” Lafferty said.

“I don’t know if that’s the case,” replied Wes.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-CS-12-16-09 1835EST

Bank accuses high-profile auctioneer of loan misdeeds

AUBURN, Ind. – A Kansas bank has asked a judge to hold auto auctioneer Dean Kruse in contempt of court, alleging he violated terms of a loan on which he still owes $6.5 million.

Hillcrest Bank of Overland Park, Kan., says Kruse did not own three Nazi command vehicles when he used them as collateral for the loan, which is now in default.

The lawsuit, which is scheduled for a hearing Monday in DeKalb County, caps a trouble-filled year for Kruse and Kruse International. After months of complaints, the Auburn-based auction house now has the lowest possible Better Business Bureau rating.

A message seeking comment on the suit was left Thursday with Kruse’s Auburn office.

The auctioneer told The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne in August that the recession has hurt his sales and caused him to fall behind on some payments.

The pending challenges facing Kruse and his companies include a federal judge’s move last month to order the seizure of Kruse’s 1985 Cessna jet after Kruse defaulted on the loan.

And in June, Kruse, whose primary residence is in Auburn, lost to foreclosure a Phoenix home on which he owed nearly $3.2 million, according to documents filed with the Maricopa County, Ariz., recorder’s office.

Kruse International also owes more than $52,000 in back taxes to the state of Arizona and nearly $37,000 to the city of Phoenix, according to documents from that state and city.

Arizona officials have also suspended Kruse’s license to operate in that state, where the company has held auctions for more than 30 years, following complaints from sellers.

Hillcrest Bank’s lawsuit was filed in August against Kruse, his wife, his auction company and several limited-liability companies he owns. It claims he defaulted on a 2007 loan originally for $13.6 million.

In addition to the Nazi command cars — three 1939 Mercedes-Benzes that Kruse failed to sell during a Labor Day auction — that loan’s collateral includes American Heritage Village, a site adjoining Kruse Auction Park that Kruse has hoped for years to develop.

Hillcrest asked last month that Kruse be held in contempt because an Arizona man, Tim Hurst, claims in an Internet advertisement that he owns the three Nazi command vehicles.

Kruse has argued in court documents that he still owns the vehicles.

Hurst’s attorney, E.J. Peskind, told The Journal Gazette that Hurst received a bill of sale for the vehicles in 2006 before the date when Kruse took out the loan from Hillcrest Bank in exchange for property in Arizona.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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