Christie’s has a tale of auction fever to tell:
An 18th century mahogany bureau table carved by Newport’s most celebrated cabinetmaker sold for a stunning $5.7 million at Christie’s New York on Friday morning, 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 $3 million 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 $5 million. 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.