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Rare and important Isamu Noguchi chess table made for Herman Miller in the 1940s sells for $109,250
A rare and important chess table designed by Isamu Noguchi for Herman Miller in the 1940s and discovered by a contractor renovating a home outside Newark, sold for $109,250 at a multi-estate sale held Oct. 22 by S&S Auction, Inc., in Repaupo, N.J.
“The contractor found the table, in sections,” said Glenn Sweeney of S&S Auction, Inc. “Someone suggested he bring it to our auction, which he did, along with four other modern pieces. He had no idea of the table's importance until he saw it featured on the home page of our website. In the end, a buyer in Los Angeles purchased it for $95,000, plus the buyer's premium.”
The original design for the table was made in 1944 for the Imagery of Chess exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York City. There, it was lauded as “the most beautiful piece in the show.” In 1947, designer George Nelson convinced Herman Miller to commercially produce the table, but in limited quantities. Only about eight of this particular table are known to exist.
The table was by far the top lot in a two-session auction that featured uncataloged items in the daytime and cataloged lots in the evening. The table sold in the evening session, along with 232 other lots, most of which were fresh-to-the-
In addition, more than 250 people registered to bid online, through LiveAuctioneers.com, and phone and absentee bids were brisk both sessions. Most lots were sold via the phone and the Internet. “The table helped make a good sale a great sale,” Sweeney remarked, “with healthy prices realized for many of the better items proving the upper end of the market remains strong.”
Following are additional highlights of the auction. All prices quoted include a 17.5 percent buyer’s premium.
Artwork featured an original, unsigned study of a New Year’s baby for a 1938 cover of The Saturday Evening Post by J.C. Leyendecker, 24 inches by 16 inches ($6,463); a 44-inch-tall stone carving of an African woman, unsigned, in very good condition ($3,819); and a 19th century oil painting of cyclists, framed, with remnants of an artist’s signature visible ($3,231).
Ivory pieces included a carved African elephant tusk with elephants, 39 ¼ inches long, in good condition except for a small break in the carving ($2,233); an Asian carved ivory and wood figure with mother of pearl inlaid robe, 24 ½ inches tall, in very good condition ($2,644); and a pair of Chinese carved ivory vases, 11 ¾ inches tall, one missing a small figural head ($1,763).
Sterling silver included a 55-piece Gorham Vermeil flatware set with heads on handles, monogrammed “Lois” on the back and in very good condition ($4,700); and three lots of Tiffany & Company silverware in the Audubon pattern (10 7-inch tablespoons, 16.9 troy ounces, $1,410; 10 7-inch forks, 16.8 troy ounces, $1,175; and 12 7-inch knives, 13.29 troy ounces, $1,998).
Clocks proved popular with crowd, with examples including a carved Black Forest wall clock in very good condition but with a damaged pendulum, 39 inches tall ($2,938); a 19th century John Moore Clerkenwell (London) mahogany key and pendulum clock, signed on the movement ($1,410); and a French Empire bronze and marble clock in cornucopia form ($1,763).
The furniture category was headlined by a 19th century continental marble inlaid vitrine in good condition except for some minor marble damage, 78 inches tall ($2,350); an antique French carved Aubusson sofa with a finely carved frame, 35 inches tall by 60 ½ inches wide ($2,233); and a pair of Italian-style Cerule stools with distressed paint in very good condition ($1,998).
Decorative accessories included an unsigned French bronze console bowl in very good condition, 7 ½ inches tall by 21 ½ inches wide ($2,644); a 10-foot antique iron reproduction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, 45 ¾ inches square and in good condition ($2,233); and a large German porcelain figural grouping with some minor damages to the lace porcelain ($1,565).
Some other top lots from the auction included a pair of late 20th century French-style gilt mirrors in very good condition, each one 81 inches by 44 inches ($1,565); a 19th century Adams-style American over-the-mantel mirror in good condition but with damage to the gesso ($1,293); and a Victorian brass and crystal chandelier with some missing prisms, 40 inches tall ($1,880).
The uncataloged session of the auction, held earlier in the day, also did well, especially 20th century design pieces. Star lots included a pair of Dunbar tile top side tables ($3,400); a Paul McCobb console ($1,700); a Paul McCobb “Mr. and Mrs” chest ($1,400); and a pair of Dunbar nesting tables ($1,350). “All in all, it was a successful auction, all day long,” Mr. Sweeney said.
S&S Auction, Inc., has another two-session, cataloged/uncataloged auction planned, for Monday, Dec. 3. The uncataloged session will begin at 8 a.m. and the cataloged session will start at 6 p.m. Featured will be bronzes, sconces, furniture, artwork, decorative accessories and more. The firm holds bi-weekly sales every other Monday and typically two cataloged sales per year.
Established in 1972, S&S Auction, Inc., is conveniently located in southern New Jersey, at exit 14 off Interstate 295, minutes from the New Jersey Turnpike, Philadelphia bridges and the Philadelphia airport. Each auction features over 6,000 pieces of furniture, chandeliers, glassware, art, 18th /19th /20th century American, continental and Victorian furniture and modern design.
S&S Auction, Inc., is always accepting quality consignments for future auctions. To consign an item, an estate or a collection, you may call them at (856) 467-3778, or you can e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please log on to www.ssauction.com.