Nye & Company unearths treasures from Gilded Age mansion

The top lot of the auction was this Asian bento box grouping consisting of a cinnabar box, a cloisonné teapot and dish, which sold for $23,750. Nye & Company Auctioneers image

BLOOMFIELD, N.J. – It didn’t come with a sushi roll, ginger salad and miso soup, but a  cinnabar bento box, offered together with a cloisonné teapot and dish, gaveled for $23,750 to take top lot honors at a two-day weekday auction held July 25 and 26 by Nye & Company Auctioneers. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.

Headlining the auction were items from the estate home in Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, known as Wawapek, the Queen Anne-style residence of the de Forests, a family so deeply rooted in New York history it dates back 300 years to the days of the early Huguenot settlers in Manhattan. The cinnabar bento box grouping (above) turned out to be the centerpiece lot of the estate.

“The de Forest collection brought out A-list members of the trade and huge numbers of people for the preview,” said John Nye of Nye & Company Auctioneers. “The galleries were set up like museum showrooms. There was spirited international bidding, record numbers of online bidders and solid in-room attendance.” By the time it was over, the sale had grossed more than $500,000.

All prices quoted here include the buyer’s premium.

A mid-century modern black leather crescent rocker (below) designed by Wendell Castle (1932-2018), an American furniture artist credited with being the father of the art furniture movement, brought $17,500.

Crescent rocker designed by Wendell Castle (1932-2018). Price realized: $17,500. Nye & Company Auctioneers image

A whimsical and colorful Empire painted bedstead, crafted in New England circa 1820-1840, finished at $12,500.

Empire bedstead, crafted in New England circa 1820-1840. Price realized: $12,500. Nye & Company Auctioneers image

Native American objects were a hit with collectors. A Mexican faience jar (Puebla, circa 1700), in a bold blue conventional color with a bird decoration in the Spanish manner, 10½ inches tall, coasted to $20,000.

Mexican faience jar, 10½in tall. Price realized: $20,000. Nye & Company Auctioneers image

A Southwest Indian small-neck coil basket, made circa 1900 with a faded geometric design and a tight weave, plus an old attribution note inside, realized $15,000.

Southwest Indian coil basket around the turn of the 20th century. Price realized: $15,000. Nye & Company Auctioneers image

A handsome Chinese zitan painter’s table, 33 inches tall by 66 inches long, was a star lot of the Asian category, selling for $8,125. Also, two Chinese carved stone figural sculptures depicting women and foo dogs, circa 18th or 19th century, each 29½ inches tall, sold as one lot for $5,000.

An American Queen Anne turned gumwood rush seat daybed, made in the first half of the 18th century, breezed to $10,000. Also, a gorgeous 19th century Henry Gautschi & Son music box on a stand, including nine bells with butterfly strikes and nine musical cylinders, finished at $8,125.

Henry Gautschi & Son music box on a stand, including nine bells with butterfly strikes and with nine musical cylinders. Price realized: $8,125. Nye & Company Auctioneers image

A pen and ink wash figural rendering of heavenly humans, putti and a winged horse, signed by Giulio Romano (Italian, 1499-1546), measuring 8¾ inches by 7 inches and matted in a nice frame, knocked down for $9,375. Also, a stately George III mahogany dual barometer-thermometer, beautifully crafted in the late 18th century and housed in a 44-inch-tall wood case, hit $5,000.

Wawapek is a Gilded Age mansion built in 1897 and occupied by the de Forest family up until this year. Most items in the auction were from the attic and cellar, including yachting trophies, Native American pots and baskets, American glass, and European and Mexican pottery (some of it exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Robert de Forest had served as president).

“Much of the de Forests’ collection was stashed away in Wawapek and showed condition that was commensurate with being forgotten in the attic,” John Nye said, “but regardless, these items were a trove rich in family lore and New York’s past. Robert de Forest, who built the home, was a major philanthropist and civic leader in New York City. Bidders were literally buying history.”