May 31 auction features antiques from Philadelphia nuns’ residence

Motherhouse where Mother Katharine Drexel, posthumously St. Katharine Drexel; and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament resided and worked. Image provided by Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament

BENSALEM, Pa. – On Friday, May 31, Stephenson’s Auctioneers will conduct a sale of contents of the former Motherhouse of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. In 2016, the revered order of nuns founded by St. Katharine Drexel sold the idyllic 44-acre parcel of real estate in Bensalem Township on which the motherhouse was built.

“Now that the nuns are retiring and the order’s historical archives are in the good hands of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, it’s time for the building’s furniture, art and architectural antiques to be auctioned for the sisters’ benefit,” said Cindy Stephenson, owner of Stephenson’s Auctions.

Philadelphia order of nuns was founded by ‘The Holy Heiress,’ St. Katharine Drexel

Known as “The Holy Heiress,” St. Katharine Drexel (1858-1955) was beloved and admired by Philadelphia’s Catholic community for her selfless philanthropy and the establishment of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. The second-born child of a fabulously wealthy investment banker, Francis A. Drexel, Katharine gave up her life of privilege and used her inheritance – the equivalent of $133 million in today’s money – to fund schools and churches for Native-American and African-American children in the western and southwestern United States. In 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized Mother Katharine Drexel, making her the second American-born person ever to achieve sainthood.

Pair of stained-glass windows, circa 1900, each 34 x 18in. Estimate $300-$600

“The order was founded in 1891, and many of the furnishings and artworks in the motherhouse date back to that time period,” Stephenson said. There are numerous antique bookcases, standard and corner cabinets; dining, library and other tables; pedestals, umbrella, plant and bookstands; and chairs of all types. All are solid, high-quality pieces that were made to last. Some have ornate carving. A Steinway & Sons Model B grand piano with bench, which is already attracting bidder enquiries, is expected to make $6,000-$12,000.

Steinway & Sons Model B grand piano with bench. Estimate $6,000-$12,000

Religious art includes a Continental school oil-on-canvas painting of The Madonna and Child. Its framed size is 45 by 31 inches, and it is estimated at $200-$400. A remarkable sand painting depicting a Southwestern landscape with figures and animals was created by E. George de Ville. Signed at lower right and measuring 23 by 27 inches (framed), it is modestly estimated at $60-$150.

Madonna and Child, oil-on-canvas painting, Continental school, framed size 45 x 31in. Estimate $200-$400

A beautiful pair of circa-1900 stained glass windows will be offered as a pair with a pre-sale estimate of $300-$600. Each measures 34 by 18 inches. Antique metalwork includes three fire hose reels and wrought-iron gates. Additionally, there are seven painted-iron and wood park benches, each estimated at $100-$200.

Oak tall chest with eight short draws above pullout tray, over eight long drawers. Estimate $500-$1,000

A reflection of the nuns’ mission work with Native peoples, the motherhouse also contained many pieces of Native American and tribal art, including pottery, carvings, basketry, wall hangings, Indian dolls, photographs, South Dakota beadwork, and other objects. There are also several very attractive Navajo rugs, with estimates starting at $50.

Navajo woven rug, 4ft 3in x 3ft 5in. Estimate $200-$400

The Friday, May 31, 2019 onsite auction will begin at 11 a.m. Eastern time. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.com. For additional information on any item in the sale, call Cindy Stephenson at 215-322-6182 or e-mail info@stephensonsauction.com.