GENESEO, N.Y. – Two rediscovered marble busts by the 18th century French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon (French, Versailles 1741-1828 Paris) sold for a combined $1.475 million at the Fine Art & Antiques Auction held March 23 by Cottone Auctions, online and in the firm’s gallery. The busts were the top achievers in an auction that featured just over 300 lots, totaling over $3 million in sales.
Both busts were recorded in the Frick Art Reference Library in New York in 1932 and had been passed down through the descendants of the Honorable Irwin Boyle Laughlin (1871-1941), an American diplomat serving in the State Department from 1903-1932 who acquired them in 1926 from the Paris dealer Paul Gouvert.
They were rediscovered, remarkably, at an estate in Geneseo, where Cottone is based. The busts had been previously overlooked in a 2000 estate appraisal by an auction house in New York.
“The Houdon busts both sold to a single European buyer, bidding by phone” said Matt Cottone of Cottone Auctions.
“All of the major Old Masters dealers at TEFAF Maastricht were on the phones. Clients did fly in from Europe and there was strong interest well into the six figures. We heard rumors the busts are going into an institution’s collection, but nothing’s been confirmed.”
The busts, reductions in Serevezza marble, represent Jean-Jacques Rousseau (which gaveled for $778,800) and Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (which brought $696,200). They stood 11 and 11 1/2 inches tall, respectively, including the socle. Each was signed and dated (one 1788, the other 1789) and both are recorded as having been exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1789.
Laughlin formed an extensive collection of French eighteenth century drawings while ambassador to Spain, with help from Agnews Gallery, London. The collection was of outstanding quality, and included over three hundred drawings by Fragonard alone. Laughlin built his home in Washington, The Meridian House, by John Russell Pope, in the Louis XVI style, and assisted in the planning of the West Building of the National Gallery of Art.
The auction overall featured fine art, Tiffany lamps, 20th century art and design (which was sold on behalf of the David Anderson Grandchildren’s Trust in Buffalo, New York), as well as fine decorative arts, furniture and Asian objects. For those unable to attend the sale in person, online bidding was offered by LiveAuctioneers.com, Invaluable.com and CottoneAuctions.com.
Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.
One other lot reached six figures. It was a set of nine Chinese blue and white Eight Immortals bowls, each one 2 inches tall and 4 1/4 inches in diameter and carrying the 6-character Daoguang character reign mark (1821-1850). The bowls were decorated with the eight immortals in clouds over swirling waves, with the center interior depicting the three star gods ($118,000).
Several Tiffany Studios (N.Y.) lamps illuminated the room before finding new buyers. They included a Bamboo table lamp ($85,500); a leaded glass and patinated bronze Arrowroot table lamp with a 14-inch shade ($62,500); and a Turtleback table lamp ($44,800).
Other outstanding Tiffany Studios creations also came up for bid, like the fine and rare decorated Cypriote vase, manufactured circa 1899, 9 inches tall, with the rough surface textures resembling the decomposed surfaces of Roman glass buried for centuries ($36,600); and the circa-1910 side table, with a brownish-green patina and made from quarter-sawn oak ($31,800).
Also sold were a Steinway Model B piano with ebony veneer, ($35,500); a late 19th century Serapi rug measuring 12 feet by 10 feet ($17,100); and a rare Steuben Aurene & Millefiori decorated vase, 14 inches tall, decorated with leaf and vines and a ruffled top and signed “Aurene Haviland.”
The vase hammered for $6,500.
For more information about Cottone Auctions visit www.cottoneauctions.com or call 585-243-1000.
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