An 18th century mahogany bureau table carved by Newport's most celebrated cabinetmaker sold for a stunning $5.7m at Christie's New York on Friday January 21, placing it among the highest auction prices ever realized for an item of American furniture.
Offered at $700,000-900,000, the table was pursued by multiple bidders, who rapidly drove the price to the $3m dollar threshold. From there on two dedicated bidders in the saleroom battled back and forth for the handsomely carved table before a hushed audience of clients and onlookers, until auctioneer John Hays dropped the gavel at $5m.
With premium, the final price realized was $5,682,500.
The table, known as the Catherine Goddard Chippendale Block-and-Shell Carved and Figured Mahogany Bureau Table, is attributed to the Newport, Rhode Island cabinetmaker John Goddard (1724-1785).
Masterfully designed and crafted, the table is an outstanding example of the celebrated Newport style of block-and-shell carving. Goddard was widely recognized as one of early America's most talented cabinet-makers and his creations were sought-after by the port city's most well-to-do merchants.
A handwritten label in the top drawer of the table indicates that Goddard made the knee-hole bureau circa 1765 expressly for his daughter, Catherine Goddard, and may have given it to her as a wedding present.
The table remained within his daughter's family through several generations of descendants until it was sold by the cabinetmaker's great-great granddaughter Mary Briggs (Weaver) Case in the early 1900s. The table last sold at auction in January 2005 for $940,000.
"This desk bears all the unique characteristics and quality of construction that make Newport furniture of this era so highly prized among collectors.
The quality of the mahogany in particular is stunning in this piece and shows that Goddard had his pick of the wood coming into the port during that era," said Hays, deputy chairman of Christie's Americas and lead specialist in American Furniture.
"We are honored to have established such a strong price today for this table, which represents a new world auction record for the knee-hole desk form."
Collectors interested in investment-grade antique furniture will want to take a look at this important George III period mahogany and satinwood cabinet which was designed by John Linnell and currently available.
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