I am not sure I have ever seen Freeman’s auction so packed with furniture. Today’s American Furniture, Silver, Decorative & Folk Arts auction in Philadelphia featured an array in styles and quality, providing insights into market strengths.
The highlight for me was an architect’s desk once owned by Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll. Irish in origin, this item stood out in a sea of mahogany, walnut and maple. The provenance only enhanced the innovative design.
According to Freeman’s desk was owned by Charles Carroll (1737-1832) of Carrolltown, Maryland, the last surviving Signer of the Declaration of Independence. It was purchased from Carroll descendants at Doughoregan Manor, Carroll’s country home in Howard County, in the early 20th century and thence to the present owners.
The desk was included in the exhibition, “Anywhere So Long as There Be Freedom, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, His Family & His Maryland,” at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1975. With an estimate topping out at $25,000, the hammer price was more than double at $57,500.
In general the exceptional pieces of furniture sold at the high-end of estimates or beyond while simply nice pieces lacking some aspect of being exceptional languished. Late Federal (Empire) furniture stayed within or below estimates despite having known makers like Joseph Barry.
Small and special seemed to do well, including a Chippendale mahogany kneehole desk from Eastern Massachussets which exceeded the top estimate of $25,000 to bring $26,000.
One print depicting the interior of the Joseph Shoemaker Whale Oil and Lamp Store in Philadelphia brought nearly $20,000, far exceeding the estimate of $2,500 to $3,500.
Some of the export porcelain also did well. An assortment of Armorial porcelain with a high estimate of $1500 brought $2,800.