For fans of Americana, the interiors at historical locales such as Colonial Williamsburg have long been a source of aesthetic inspiration. Now, Brunk Auctions is giving fans of early American design the chance to not only admire the Chippendale furniture, but perhaps own a piece of that history themselves.
On March 25 and 26, the Asheville, North Carolina–based auction house will host its Premier Auction of Important and Historic Americana, letting collectors bid on a wide array of furniture and paintings dating from the late 17th into the 20th centuries. The nearly 800 lots up for sale aren’t culled from your average private collection either: Lots include deaccessioned items from Colonial Williamsburg, the American Folk Art Museum, the Birmingham Museum of Art, and the University of Georgia Foundation, as well as items pulled from notable private collections.
The upcoming auction is sure to offer a barometer for the state of American collecting. “Some very important and rare Americana is being offered in this auction, across all collecting categories,” says Nan Zander, Brunk Auctions’ general manager specializing in American Fine Art, Photography, and Native American items, adding that the auction’s “early Founding Father images, Revolutionary War period fine and decorative arts, as well as 19th- and early 20th-century works make for a very full plate of important Americana.”
Fans of Chippendale furniture are in for a particular treat. The Brunk auction will feature examples of this 18th-century style–often lauded for its exquisitely carved legs–in the form of mahogany chairs, tables, and chests. Perhaps chief among them is a mahogany “Garvan Carver” Chippendale high chest, which showcases remarkable scroll work that exemplifies the late-baroque style of the 1760s and 1770s. Brunk estimates a sale price between $50,000 and $70,000. Highlights from the Colonial Williamsburg collection include a Fine Massachusetts Chippendale Block Front chest and a Fine Chippendale Carved Walnut Tassel Back side chair.
Elsewhere, an American Pilgrim Century chair, with its charming turned finials and woven rush seat, is among the oldest pieces in the auction. It’s estimated to have been crafted in the late 17th century, as was the Rare Pilgrim Century Turned and Joined Oak table. A veritable menagerie of animal-themed weathervanes from the 19th century are featured in the sale, with their proceeds benefiting the American Folk Art Museum.
These furnishings only scratch the surface of what this auction has to offer, though. It will also showcase art pertaining to historical American figures, including portraits of Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Theodore Roosevelt, and others. Among the most notable is a Charles Willson Peale portrait miniature of George Washington dating to circa 1785. Though naturally a bit smaller than Peale’s portrait of Washington that fetched a record $21 million at a 2006 Christie’s auction, this watercolor miniature is worth an estimated $300,000 to $500,000. Another Washington portrait, attributed to William Winstanley, is also expected to rake in six figures.
In addition to offering the chance to own a piece of Americana, winning bidders will be supporting the various institutions that contributed deaccessioned items for the auction. In other words, hold those paddles high for the Chippendales.