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11 Most Expensive American Furniture Sales in the Last 10 Years

From treasure hunting in colonial mansions to skyrocketing bids for masterpieces, the American Furniture market is more dynamic and exciting than you might expect! Read on to discover more.

american furniture sales
American craftsmen of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries produced a wealth of stunning furniture that continues to be appreciated today

 

American furniture has its origins in the Early Baroque, or William and Mary, style (1620-90), which was born when the craftsmen who traveled across the Atlantic to America happily began to cater to the growing demand for tasteful furniture among the new settlers. America’s abundance of timber facilitated their professions, and the furniture that emerged in this period continues to be highly sought after by collectors, institutions, and enthusiasts alike.

 

The Neo-Classical era, which followed on from the Early Baroque into the 18th century, also continues to make a splash at auction; modern audiences are hungry for the sense of individuality and innovation introduced by craftsmen of this period. Pieces from this movement have undoubtedly taken over the most spectacular furniture sales over the past decade because of their experimental designs and untainted condition. This article unpacks the eleven most expensive auction results in the American Furniture sales of the past decade.

 

Here Are 11 Of The Top American Furniture Sales From 2010 To 2021

 

11. Richard Edwards Pair Of Chippendale Side Chairs, Martin Jugiez, 1770-75

 

Realized Price: USD 118,750

 

chippendale richard edwards
Richard Edwards Pair of Chippendale Carved Mahogany Side Chairs by Martin Jugiez, Philadelphia, via Christie’s
Article continues below advertisement

Estimate: USD 30,000 – USD 50,000
Realized Price: USD 118,750
Venue & Date: Christie’s, 19 January 2018, Lot 139

Known Seller: A descendent of Richard Edwards, an eighteenth-century Quaker merchant

 

About the Work

This exquisitely crafted pair of side chairs represents an important shift from the traditional aesthetic of high-end American furniture from the 1760s. They embody the arising, avant-garde vision, and were carved by Martin Jugiez, whose work is defined by his masterful fluidity in executing atypical legs and knee carvings on late 18th century pieces. A departure from old leaf patterns, the C-scroll is used as a leitmotif across the back, with ancillary leaf-carved ornamentation.

 

The chairs descended directly from Richard Edwards, a Quaker merchant who settled in Lumberton, New Jersey, in the late eighteenth century. They were passed down through Edwards’ direct line until they were at Christie’s in 2018 for $118,750.

 

 

10. Queen Anne Figured Maple Side Chair, William Savery, 1740-1755

 

Realized Price: USD 125,000

queen anne maple side chair
Queen Anne Figured Maple Side Chair by William Savery, ca. 1750, via Christie’s
Article continues below advertisement

Estimate: 80,000 – USD 120,000

Realized Price: USD 125,000
Venue & Date: Christie’s, New York, 20 January 2017, Lot 539

 

About the Work

Characteristic of Queen Anne side chairs, this piece of American furniture holds true to a lighter and more comfortable form than its predecessors. The Queen Anne style predominantly describes decorative styles from the mid-1720s to around 1760. It typically features C-scroll, S-scrolls, and ogee (S-curve) shapes in the structure of the furniture. This is in contrast to the earlier William and Mary style furniture that used straight lines, with only decorative curves.

 

Though not as noteworthy in some collector’s eyes, the probable maker of this chair, William Savery, was a craftsman with great skill while also being one of the first signatories on the Quaker Anti-slavery petition. This simple yet impressive piece sold in 2017 at Christie’s for $125,000. 

 

 

9. Classical Carved Mahogany and Inlaid Satinwood Work Table, Duncan Phyfe, 1810-1815

 

Realized Price: USD 212,500

mahogany satinwood table phyfe
Carved Mahogany and Inlaid Satinwood Table by Duncan Phyfe, via Christie’s
Article continues below advertisement

 

Venue & Date: Christie’s, New York, 24 January 2020, Lot 361

 

About the Work

Previously owned by prominent New York lawyer and philanthropist, Robert W. de Forest, this mahogany and satinwood work table formed part of the collection that introduced American decorative arts to many people for the first time.

 

It is believed to have been made at the beginning of the nineteenth century by Duncan Phyfe, one of America’s leading cabinetmakers. Phyfe’s style was characterized by balance and symmetry and came to have a huge influence on much of the furniture produced in New York at this time. This table embodies his style: its carved, splayed legs are set against the moderate proportions and restrained design of the main piece.

 

Despite its less-than-pristine condition, the work table proved a hit when it appeared at auction in 2020, selling for ten times its estimate with a hammer price of $212,500.

 

 

8. Inlaid Maple Salon Table, Herter Brothers, 1878

 


Realized Price: USD 215,000

inlaid maple salon table herter brothers
American Aesthetic Inlaid Maple Salon Table  by Herter Brothers, New York, 1878, via Bonhams
Article continues below advertisement


Venue & Date: Bonhams, 8 December 2015, Lot 1460

Known Sellers: The Hagstrom family

 

About the Work

This ornate salon table was commissioned for the San Francisco residence of Mark Hopkins, the treasurer of the South- Pacific Railroad in the mid-19th century, as part of a full refurbishment of his thirty-four room gothic mansion. The Herter Brothers, whose firm designed this table, usually took on entire refurbishing projects with houses like the Vanderbilt Mansion, under their repertoire.

 

The piece of late 19th-century American furniture was in the Hagstrom family collection until its sale in 2015 when it was sold at Bonhams for $215,000. Lying in relative obscurity in the Hagstrom collection, upon reaching the public eye, it generated considerable interest due to its intricately engraved legs and wonderfully stylistic inlay, which epitomizes the American aesthetic of the time.

 

 

7. Chippendale Carved Mahogany Easy Chair, 1760-80

 

Realized Price: USD 293,000

chippendale mahogany chair
Chippendale Carved Mahogany Easy Chair, ca. 1770, via Christie’s
Article continues below advertisement

Estimate: USD 60,000 – USD 90,000

Realized Price: USD 293,000

Venue & Date: Christie’s, New York, 22 September 2014, Lot 34

Known Seller: The estate of Eric Martin Wunsch

 

About the Work

With almost every side of this mahogany easy chair flaunting a curved line, it stands testament to the supremacy of the Chippendale era, pieces from which continue to command colossal prices at furniture sales. It is markedly different from the New England severe style of upright chairs, with its flowing back, scrolling arms, and arm support. 

 

Initially commissioned by John Brown, a well-known merchant from the 18th century to refurbish his Providence home, this easy chair is one of two other surviving pieces. Considered by many as the pinnacle of Philadelphia’s easy-chair craftsmanship, this piece represents the growing movement that would soon be considered by many to be superior to the New England style. 

 

This historically important chair sold in 2014 at Christie’s for USD 293,000, exceeding its upper estimate by three times!

 

 

6. Scott Family Chippendale Dressing Table, James Reynolds, c1770

 

Realized Price: USD 375,000

chippendale mahogany dressing table thomas affleck
Chippendale Carved and Figured Mahogany Dressing Table by Thomas Affleck and James Reynolds, ca. 1770, via Sotheby’s
Article continues below advertisement

Estimate: USD 500,000 — 800,000
Realized Price: USD 375,000
Venue & Date: Sotheby’s, New York, 17 January 2019, Lot 1434

Known Seller: The sons of Susan Scott Wheeler

 

About the Work

With its naturalistic and delicate carving mostly attributed through a select few pieces to James Reynolds, this is an outstanding example of the masterful style of mid-18th century colonial furniture. 

 

Reynolds was an extraordinary carver of his time and was frequently commissioned by the cabinet-maker Thomas Affleck to work on his pieces. Reynolds used an extremely fine veining tool to carve the flutes with a v-shaped dart in the shell drawer on this table. In addition, finely attenuated flower heads on the knees were also executed, which increased the value of Reynold’s work in any American Furniture sales in which it has since appeared.

 

This dressing table was owned in the 19th century by Colonel Thomas Alexander Scott (1823-1881), Assistant Secretary of War to President Abraham Lincoln. It was passed down solely through three generations of the Scott family, making it one of the most well-preserved pieces from its era. Its immaculate design and impressive pedigree culminated in its sale at Sotheby’s in 2019 for USD 375,000. 

 

 

5. Queen Anne Carved Walnut Side Chair, Samuel Harding or Nicholas Bernard, c. 1750

 

Realized Price: USD 579,750

 

queen anne walnut compass side chair samuel harding
Queen Anne Carved Walnut Compass-seat Side Chair by Samuel Harding or Nicolas Bernard, ca. 1750, via Christie’s
Article continues below advertisement

 

Estimate: USD 200,000 – USD 300,000
Realized Price: USD 579,750
Venue & Date: Christie’s, New York, 25 September 2013, Lot 7
Known Seller: The estate of Eric Martin Wunsch

 

About the Work

 

Chairs of this model, now known as the ‘Reifsnyder’ chair, have become an icon of American furniture craftsmanship and have been on the radar of every collector at important furniture sales since 1929. 

 

This is largely due to the exceptionally ornate design of each of its components. From double-volute and shell-carved crests, egg-and-dart carved shoes, compass seats with incurvated and shell-carved front rails, leaf-carved knees and claw-and-ball feet, the only parts on this chair that don’t have the most extravagant treatment are the flattened stiles. 

 

It may have been crafted by either Samuel Harding, who is responsible for the interior architecture of the immaculate Pennsylvania State House or Nicolas Bernard, both of whom are icons of American Furniture. After being housed in various prestigious private collections, this chair was sold in 2013 at Christie’s for USD 579,750. 

 

 

4. Mahogany Bombé Slant-Front Desk, Francis Cook, c. 1770 

 

Realized Price: USD 698,500 

bombe slant front desk francis cook
Ranlett-Rust Family Chippendale Figured Mahogany Bombé Slant-Front Desk by Francis Cook, 1770, via Sotheby’s
Article continues below advertisement

           

Estimate: USD 400,000 — 1,000,000 

Realized Price: USD 698,500

Venue & Date: Sotheby’s, New York, 22 January 2010, Lot 505

 


About the Work

With Sotheby’s ‘Important Americana’ sale total amassing $13m in 2010, the lot that stole everyone’s attention was this elusive Mahogany Bombé front desk. The craftsmanship and condition, in this case, was just the precursor to the interest it generated, as collectors and other experts soon understood that only twelve other examples of this piece existed, out of which four were in museums.  

 

The Bombe form is attributed to either Boston or Salem, but this piece expresses qualities that lead to the understanding that it originated in Marblehead, Massachusetts. It was conceived by Francis Cook around 1770, a craftsman with an acute sense of fine design, and belonged to the Ranlett-Rust family over 4 generations. 

 

The curvature of the desk sides extends through the second drawer of the main case, eliminating the “pot-bellied” appearance of earlier work and this lends it a far greater aesthetic presence. This historic piece of American Furniture sold in 2010 for USD 698,500. 

 

 

3. Oak And Pine “Hadley” Chest-with-drawers, c1715

 

Price realized: USD 1,025,000

 

hadley chest oak pine polychrome
Joined Oak and Pine Polychrome “Hadley” Chest-with-drawers, ca. 1715, via Christie’s

 

Estimate: USD 500,000 – USD 800,000

Realized Price: USD 1,025,000

Venue & Date: Christie’s, New York, 22 January 2016, Lot 56

 

About the Work

One of the most vibrant pieces of early-eighteenth-century craftsmanship that has seen the light of day in recent years, this pine chest demonstrates a markedly different approach to design than its predecessors. It exhibits critical confluence of old and new in the Hadley chest tradition, with motif traditions that flourished in the upper Connecticut River Valley from the late 17th century, coupled with an all-around decorative scheme typical of more urban, veneered designs. 

 

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, the Pulitzer-winning historian, noted its “flamboyance, its unabashed claim for attention” and was sure of the high price it would fetch at any furniture sale. She was proven correct when it sold at Christie’s in 2016 for the huge sum of $1,025,000.

 

2. Chippendale Document Cabinet, John Townsend, 1755-65

 

Realized Price: USD 3,442,500

chippendale mahogany document cabinet
Chippendale Carved Mahogany Diminutive Block-and-Shell Document Cabinet by John Townsend, ca. 1760, via Christie’s

 

Estimate: USD 1,500,000 – USD 3,500,000

Realized Price: USD 3,442,500

Venue & Date: Christie’s, New York, 20 January 2012, Lot 113

Known Seller: Chipstone Foundation

 

About the Work

Made by the renowned cabinet-maker John Townsend from Newport, this tri-partite cabinet is identified as his earliest-known work. This piece does not have a date of origin inscribed on it as traditional but is one out of six block and shell pieces. Comparing it against his other designs, it clearly displays some of the hallmark characteristics of the titan of American Furniture:

 

The ‘Fleur-de-lis’ patterns carved on the interior also point to a widely celebrated design by Townsend that have been found on 5 other signed works. The cabinet shows that as his earliest work, it is safe to assume that Townsend had mastered his craft fairly early on. With exquisite dovetails, fine mahogany drawer linings, and a careful selection of the grain of wood, this masterpiece reflects a craftsman who even in his beginnings had a meticulous eye for detail. 

 

Thanks to its portability, the cabinet had been transferred to England, where it would be found in 1950 in the collection of Frederick Howard Reed, Esq. in Berkeley House, Piccadilly, London. It then changed hands, passing between a few collectors, until it was sold at Christie’s in 2012, fetching the monumental sum of USD 3,442,500. 

 

 

1. Chippendale Block-and-Shell Mahogany Bureau Table, John Goddard, c1765 


Realized Price: USD 5,682,500

catherine goddard chippendale mahogany bureau
The Catherine Goddard Chippendale Block-and-Shell Carved and Figured Mahogany Bureau Table by John Goddard, ca. 1765, via Christie’s 

 

Estimate: USD 700,000 – USD 900,000
Realized Price: USD 5,682,500
Venue & Date: Christie’s, New York, 21 January 2011, Lot 92

 

About the Work

An example of Newport’s block and shell furniture, this bureau table was crafted by John Goddard, one of America’s most celebrated cabinet-makers. Goddard designed this table for his daughter Catherine, who was also the owner of a spectacular tea-table, which now resides in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

This table was passed down over various generations, and even laterally through different relatives until it reached Mary Briggs Case, the great-great-granddaughter of Goddard who sold it to George Vernon & Company, an antique firm in Newport. An employee in charge of noting down its specification was quick to ascribe to it “the solid and dignified touch that is so admired in Mr. Goddard’s work.” 

 

In 2011, the spectacular bureau sold at Christie’s for USD 5,682,500, making it one of the most expensive furniture sales in recent history. 

 

More On American Furniture Sales 

These 11 examples represent some of the most important and expensive American furniture sales in the past 10 years. They also embody the innovation and creativity of American craftsmanship during the time. For more impressive auction results, click here: American Art, Modern Art, and Old Master Paintings.

Article continues below advertisement

american furniture sales
American craftsmen of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries produced a wealth of stunning furniture that continues to be appreciated today

 

American furniture has its origins in the Early Baroque, or William and Mary, style (1620-90), which was born when the craftsmen who traveled across the Atlantic to America happily began to cater to the growing demand for tasteful furniture among the new settlers. America’s abundance of timber facilitated their professions, and the furniture that emerged in this period continues to be highly sought after by collectors, institutions, and enthusiasts alike.

 

The Neo-Classical era, which followed on from the Early Baroque into the 18th century, also continues to make a splash at auction; modern audiences are hungry for the sense of individuality and innovation introduced by craftsmen of this period. Pieces from this movement have undoubtedly taken over the most spectacular furniture sales over the past decade because of their experimental designs and untainted condition. This article unpacks the eleven most expensive auction results in the American Furniture sales of the past decade.

 

Here Are 11 Of The Top American Furniture Sales From 2010 To 2021

 

11. Richard Edwards Pair Of Chippendale Side Chairs, Martin Jugiez, 1770-75

 

Realized Price: USD 118,750

 

chippendale richard edwards
Richard Edwards Pair of Chippendale Carved Mahogany Side Chairs by Martin Jugiez, Philadelphia, via Christie’s
Article continues below advertisement

Estimate: USD 30,000 – USD 50,000
Realized Price: USD 118,750
Venue & Date: Christie’s, 19 January 2018, Lot 139

Known Seller: A descendent of Richard Edwards, an eighteenth-century Quaker merchant

 

About the Work

This exquisitely crafted pair of side chairs represents an important shift from the traditional aesthetic of high-end American furniture from the 1760s. They embody the arising, avant-garde vision, and were carved by Martin Jugiez, whose work is defined by his masterful fluidity in executing atypical legs and knee carvings on late 18th century pieces. A departure from old leaf patterns, the C-scroll is used as a leitmotif across the back, with ancillary leaf-carved ornamentation.

 

The chairs descended directly from Richard Edwards, a Quaker merchant who settled in Lumberton, New Jersey, in the late eighteenth century. They were passed down through Edwards’ direct line until they were at Christie’s in 2018 for $118,750.

 

 

10. Queen Anne Figured Maple Side Chair, William Savery, 1740-1755

 

Realized Price: USD 125,000

queen anne maple side chair
Queen Anne Figured Maple Side Chair by William Savery, ca. 1750, via Christie’s
Article continues below advertisement

Estimate: 80,000 – USD 120,000

Realized Price: USD 125,000
Venue & Date: Christie’s, New York, 20 January 2017, Lot 539

 

About the Work

Characteristic of Queen Anne side chairs, this piece of American furniture holds true to a lighter and more comfortable form than its predecessors. The Queen Anne style predominantly describes decorative styles from the mid-1720s to around 1760. It typically features C-scroll, S-scrolls, and ogee (S-curve) shapes in the structure of the furniture. This is in contrast to the earlier William and Mary style furniture that used straight lines, with only decorative curves.

 

Though not as noteworthy in some collector’s eyes, the probable maker of this chair, William Savery, was a craftsman with great skill while also being one of the first signatories on the Quaker Anti-slavery petition. This simple yet impressive piece sold in 2017 at Christie’s for $125,000. 

 

 

9. Classical Carved Mahogany and Inlaid Satinwood Work Table, Duncan Phyfe, 1810-1815

 

Realized Price: USD 212,500

mahogany satinwood table phyfe
Carved Mahogany and Inlaid Satinwood Table by Duncan Phyfe, via Christie’s
Article continues below advertisement

 

Venue & Date: Christie’s, New York, 24 January 2020, Lot 361

 

About the Work

Previously owned by prominent New York lawyer and philanthropist, Robert W. de Forest, this mahogany and satinwood work table formed part of the collection that introduced American decorative arts to many people for the first time.

 

It is believed to have been made at the beginning of the nineteenth century by Duncan Phyfe, one of America’s leading cabinetmakers. Phyfe’s style was characterized by balance and symmetry and came to have a huge influence on much of the furniture produced in New York at this time. This table embodies his style: its carved, splayed legs are set against the moderate proportions and restrained design of the main piece.

 

Despite its less-than-pristine condition, the work table proved a hit when it appeared at auction in 2020, selling for ten times its estimate with a hammer price of $212,500.

 

 

8. Inlaid Maple Salon Table, Herter Brothers, 1878

 


Realized Price: USD 215,000

inlaid maple salon table herter brothers
American Aesthetic Inlaid Maple Salon Table  by Herter Brothers, New York, 1878, via Bonhams
Article continues below advertisement


Venue & Date: Bonhams, 8 December 2015, Lot 1460

Known Sellers: The Hagstrom family

 

About the Work

This ornate salon table was commissioned for the San Francisco residence of Mark Hopkins, the treasurer of the South- Pacific Railroad in the mid-19th century, as part of a full refurbishment of his thirty-four room gothic mansion. The Herter Brothers, whose firm designed this table, usually took on entire refurbishing projects with houses like the Vanderbilt Mansion, under their repertoire.

 

The piece of late 19th-century American furniture was in the Hagstrom family collection until its sale in 2015 when it was sold at Bonhams for $215,000. Lying in relative obscurity in the Hagstrom collection, upon reaching the public eye, it generated considerable interest due to its intricately engraved legs and wonderfully stylistic inlay, which epitomizes the American aesthetic of the time.

 

 

7. Chippendale Carved Mahogany Easy Chair, 1760-80

 

Realized Price: USD 293,000

chippendale mahogany chair
Chippendale Carved Mahogany Easy Chair, ca. 1770, via Christie’s
Article continues below advertisement

Estimate: USD 60,000 – USD 90,000

Realized Price: USD 293,000

Venue & Date: Christie’s, New York, 22 September 2014, Lot 34

Known Seller: The estate of Eric Martin Wunsch

 

About the Work

With almost every side of this mahogany easy chair flaunting a curved line, it stands testament to the supremacy of the Chippendale era, pieces from which continue to command colossal prices at furniture sales. It is markedly different from the New England severe style of upright chairs, with its flowing back, scrolling arms, and arm support. 

 

Initially commissioned by John Brown, a well-known merchant from the 18th century to refurbish his Providence home, this easy chair is one of two other surviving pieces. Considered by many as the pinnacle of Philadelphia’s easy-chair craftsmanship, this piece represents the growing movement that would soon be considered by many to be superior to the New England style. 

 

This historically important chair sold in 2014 at Christie’s for USD 293,000, exceeding its upper estimate by three times!

 

 

6. Scott Family Chippendale Dressing Table, James Reynolds, c1770

 

Realized Price: USD 375,000

chippendale mahogany dressing table thomas affleck
Chippendale Carved and Figured Mahogany Dressing Table by Thomas Affleck and James Reynolds, ca. 1770, via Sotheby’s
Article continues below advertisement

Estimate: USD 500,000 — 800,000
Realized Price: USD 375,000
Venue & Date: Sotheby’s, New York, 17 January 2019, Lot 1434

Known Seller: The sons of Susan Scott Wheeler

 

About the Work

With its naturalistic and delicate carving mostly attributed through a select few pieces to James Reynolds, this is an outstanding example of the masterful style of mid-18th century colonial furniture. 

 

Reynolds was an extraordinary carver of his time and was frequently commissioned by the cabinet-maker Thomas Affleck to work on his pieces. Reynolds used an extremely fine veining tool to carve the flutes with a v-shaped dart in the shell drawer on this table. In addition, finely attenuated flower heads on the knees were also executed, which increased the value of Reynold’s work in any American Furniture sales in which it has since appeared.

 

This dressing table was owned in the 19th century by Colonel Thomas Alexander Scott (1823-1881), Assistant Secretary of War to President Abraham Lincoln. It was passed down solely through three generations of the Scott family, making it one of the most well-preserved pieces from its era. Its immaculate design and impressive pedigree culminated in its sale at Sotheby’s in 2019 for USD 375,000. 

 

 

5. Queen Anne Carved Walnut Side Chair, Samuel Harding or Nicholas Bernard, c. 1750

 

Realized Price: USD 579,750

 

queen anne walnut compass side chair samuel harding
Queen Anne Carved Walnut Compass-seat Side Chair by Samuel Harding or Nicolas Bernard, ca. 1750, via Christie’s
Article continues below advertisement

 

Estimate: USD 200,000 – USD 300,000
Realized Price: USD 579,750
Venue & Date: Christie’s, New York, 25 September 2013, Lot 7
Known Seller: The estate of Eric Martin Wunsch

 

About the Work

 

Chairs of this model, now known as the ‘Reifsnyder’ chair, have become an icon of American furniture craftsmanship and have been on the radar of every collector at important furniture sales since 1929. 

 

This is largely due to the exceptionally ornate design of each of its components. From double-volute and shell-carved crests, egg-and-dart carved shoes, compass seats with incurvated and shell-carved front rails, leaf-carved knees and claw-and-ball feet, the only parts on this chair that don’t have the most extravagant treatment are the flattened stiles. 

 

It may have been crafted by either Samuel Harding, who is responsible for the interior architecture of the immaculate Pennsylvania State House or Nicolas Bernard, both of whom are icons of American Furniture. After being housed in various prestigious private collections, this chair was sold in 2013 at Christie’s for USD 579,750. 

 

 

4. Mahogany Bombé Slant-Front Desk, Francis Cook, c. 1770 

 

Realized Price: USD 698,500 

bombe slant front desk francis cook
Ranlett-Rust Family Chippendale Figured Mahogany Bombé Slant-Front Desk by Francis Cook, 1770, via Sotheby’s
Article continues below advertisement

           

Estimate: USD 400,000 — 1,000,000 

Realized Price: USD 698,500

Venue & Date: Sotheby’s, New York, 22 January 2010, Lot 505

 


About the Work

With Sotheby’s ‘Important Americana’ sale total amassing $13m in 2010, the lot that stole everyone’s attention was this elusive Mahogany Bombé front desk. The craftsmanship and condition, in this case, was just the precursor to the interest it generated, as collectors and other experts soon understood that only twelve other examples of this piece existed, out of which four were in museums.  

 

The Bombe form is attributed to either Boston or Salem, but this piece expresses qualities that lead to the understanding that it originated in Marblehead, Massachusetts. It was conceived by Francis Cook around 1770, a craftsman with an acute sense of fine design, and belonged to the Ranlett-Rust family over 4 generations. 

 

The curvature of the desk sides extends through the second drawer of the main case, eliminating the “pot-bellied” appearance of earlier work and this lends it a far greater aesthetic presence. This historic piece of American Furniture sold in 2010 for USD 698,500. 

 

 

3. Oak And Pine “Hadley” Chest-with-drawers, c1715

 

Price realized: USD 1,025,000

 

hadley chest oak pine polychrome
Joined Oak and Pine Polychrome “Hadley” Chest-with-drawers, ca. 1715, via Christie’s

 

Estimate: USD 500,000 – USD 800,000

Realized Price: USD 1,025,000

Venue & Date: Christie’s, New York, 22 January 2016, Lot 56

 

About the Work

One of the most vibrant pieces of early-eighteenth-century craftsmanship that has seen the light of day in recent years, this pine chest demonstrates a markedly different approach to design than its predecessors. It exhibits critical confluence of old and new in the Hadley chest tradition, with motif traditions that flourished in the upper Connecticut River Valley from the late 17th century, coupled with an all-around decorative scheme typical of more urban, veneered designs. 

 

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, the Pulitzer-winning historian, noted its “flamboyance, its unabashed claim for attention” and was sure of the high price it would fetch at any furniture sale. She was proven correct when it sold at Christie’s in 2016 for the huge sum of $1,025,000.

 

2. Chippendale Document Cabinet, John Townsend, 1755-65

 

Realized Price: USD 3,442,500

chippendale mahogany document cabinet
Chippendale Carved Mahogany Diminutive Block-and-Shell Document Cabinet by John Townsend, ca. 1760, via Christie’s

 

Estimate: USD 1,500,000 – USD 3,500,000

Realized Price: USD 3,442,500

Venue & Date: Christie’s, New York, 20 January 2012, Lot 113

Known Seller: Chipstone Foundation

 

About the Work

Made by the renowned cabinet-maker John Townsend from Newport, this tri-partite cabinet is identified as his earliest-known work. This piece does not have a date of origin inscribed on it as traditional but is one out of six block and shell pieces. Comparing it against his other designs, it clearly displays some of the hallmark characteristics of the titan of American Furniture:

 

The ‘Fleur-de-lis’ patterns carved on the interior also point to a widely celebrated design by Townsend that have been found on 5 other signed works. The cabinet shows that as his earliest work, it is safe to assume that Townsend had mastered his craft fairly early on. With exquisite dovetails, fine mahogany drawer linings, and a careful selection of the grain of wood, this masterpiece reflects a craftsman who even in his beginnings had a meticulous eye for detail. 

 

Thanks to its portability, the cabinet had been transferred to England, where it would be found in 1950 in the collection of Frederick Howard Reed, Esq. in Berkeley House, Piccadilly, London. It then changed hands, passing between a few collectors, until it was sold at Christie’s in 2012, fetching the monumental sum of USD 3,442,500. 

 

 

1. Chippendale Block-and-Shell Mahogany Bureau Table, John Goddard, c1765 


Realized Price: USD 5,682,500

catherine goddard chippendale mahogany bureau
The Catherine Goddard Chippendale Block-and-Shell Carved and Figured Mahogany Bureau Table by John Goddard, ca. 1765, via Christie’s 

 

Estimate: USD 700,000 – USD 900,000
Realized Price: USD 5,682,500
Venue & Date: Christie’s, New York, 21 January 2011, Lot 92

 

About the Work

An example of Newport’s block and shell furniture, this bureau table was crafted by John Goddard, one of America’s most celebrated cabinet-makers. Goddard designed this table for his daughter Catherine, who was also the owner of a spectacular tea-table, which now resides in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

This table was passed down over various generations, and even laterally through different relatives until it reached Mary Briggs Case, the great-great-granddaughter of Goddard who sold it to George Vernon & Company, an antique firm in Newport. An employee in charge of noting down its specification was quick to ascribe to it “the solid and dignified touch that is so admired in Mr. Goddard’s work.” 

 

In 2011, the spectacular bureau sold at Christie’s for USD 5,682,500, making it one of the most expensive furniture sales in recent history. 

 

More On American Furniture Sales 

These 11 examples represent some of the most important and expensive American furniture sales in the past 10 years. They also embody the innovation and creativity of American craftsmanship during the time. For more impressive auction results, click here: American Art, Modern Art, and Old Master Paintings.

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Mia Forbes
Mia Forbes
Mia is a contributing writer from London, with a passion for literature and history. She holds a BA in Classics from the University of Cambridge. Both at work and at home, Mia is surrounded by books, and enjoys writing about great works of fiction and poetry. Her first translation is due to be published next year.

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