ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Instead of “cutting to the chase,” Brunk Auctions’ September 12-13 sale is expected to begin with a chase. Lots 1 through 34 are rare Oriental carpets deaccessioned from North Carolina’s famous Tryon Palace after 30 years in storage. They have generated enormous interest among antique rug collectors and within the textile trade. There’s sure to be aggressive competition for these fresh-to-the-market rarities. Internet live bidding will be provided by LiveAuctioneers.com.
Purchased in the 1950s and ’60s from textile experts such as Vojtech Blau, French & Company, and others of equal reputation, many of the carpets were installed in the reconstructed North Carolina Capitol building when it opened in 1959. They were removed from exhibition after it was learned that no carpets of any type were part of Tryon Palace’s 18th-century décor. The 34 carpets, some dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, have been in storage ever since.
Even among rarities, two carpets stand out. A 30′ 10″ by 11′ 11″ Indo-Persian carpet dates from the Safavid period (16th to 17th centuries) in Persia. Tryon Palace purchased it in 1958 from French & Company, New York City. It has a presale estimate of $40,000 to $80,000. Also purchased from French & Company is a 21′ 7″ by 11′ 6″ Ottoman carpet, probably from 17th-century Cairo. Its presale estimate is $30,000 to $60,000. Both carpets were produced for the royal court.
Presale estimates on the remaining 32 Tryon Palace carpets range from $400 to $800 for a late 20th-century Mahal (10′ 9″ by 13′ 8″) to $15,000-$25,000 for a late 19th-century pictorial Motasham Kashan (10′ 6″ by 13′ 6″).
Two other North Carolina museums joined Tryon Palace in consigning deaccessioned items to this sale.
The Hickory Museum of Art is the second-oldest art museum in North Carolina. Its focus is 19th- and 20th-century art. Since 2000, the museum has deaccessioned many of its European and Asian holdings to focus the collection on American art. The 112 objects in this sale – British, German, Italian, Mexican, French and Spanish paintings and Asian art and ceramics – represent a continuation of that effort.
Among the 16 portraits consigned by the Hickory Museum, two by Sir Thomas Lawrence (British, 1769-1830) are clear standouts. The auction history for the 1811 portrait of Mrs. Thomas Babington includes a 1901 sale at Christie’s and a 1973 sale at Parke-Bernet, Los Angeles. On verso is an inscription giving information of the portrait’s date, subject and artist. The oil on canvas portrait measures 30-1/8″ by 25-3/8″ and is in a Maratta frame favored by Lawrence. The measurements for the oil on canvas half-portrait of James Hamilton, Marquess of Abercorn, are nearly identical to Mrs. Babington (30-1/8″ by 25″). Each portrait is estimated at $20,000 to $30,000.
Although the Hamilton portrait is unsigned, there is photograph of it in London’s National Portrait Gallery and it is mentioned in the complete catalog of Lawrence’s work. Brunk Auctions Fine Art Specialist Laura Crockett compared the crackle pattern of the Hickory Museum portrait with the London photo and they matched. “It was a neat find,” said Crockett.
Founded in 1965, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) features architecture, furniture, ceramics, metalwork, needlework, paintings, prints and other decorative arts made and used by the early settlers of Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Among the 167 articles consigned are domestic tools such as a yarn reel, flax breaker and bobbin winder. Most of what MESDA consigned is Southern furniture.
Possibly the most unusual MESDA furniture lot is a circa 1770 Virginia Chippendale spice chest. Its figured walnut door opens to reveal 10 interior drawers, five of which extend the entire width of the chest (17¼ inches). The skirt and bracket feet are original; hinges and locks are replaced. Its pre-sale estimate is $4,000-$6,000.
From Piedmont, N.C., MESDA consigned a 1760-1780 yellow pine Chippendale chest of drawers with eight graduated drawers. Sides are single boards; its dovetailed bracket feet are original. There are traces of early red and black paint throughout. Like the spice chest, its estimate is $4,000-$6,000.
“It is hard to narrow this sale down to a few key lots,” said Principal Auctioneer Bob Brunk. Look for multiple phone bids from across the country on a 1760-1780 Boston Chippendale game table (est. $30,000-$50,000), six 17th- or 18th-century Flemish Old Master panels (est. $30,000 – $50,000), “The Brook,” an oil on canvas by Walter Emerson Baum (est. 15,000-$25,000), and a pair of 1771-1772 George III candle vases by Matthew Boulton (est. $25,000-$35,000).
For more information on the Sept. 12-13 sale, call 828-254-6846. View the fully illustrated catalog and sign up to bid absentee or live via the Internet through www.LiveAuctioneers.com.
ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE