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Bidding War Pushes 18th-Century Goddard Mahogany Bureau Table to World Record

by WorthPoint Staff (01/26/11).

The Catherine Goddard Chippendale block-and-shell carved and figured mahogany bureau table, attributed to John Goddard (1724-1785), Newport, circa 1765, sold for a world-record price of nearly $5.7 million Jan. 21 at Christie’s in New York.

NEW YORK – An 18th-century mahogany bureau table carved by Newport, Rhode Island’s most celebrated cabinetmaker sold for a stunning $5.7 million at Christie’s New York on Jan. 2, placing it among the highest auction prices ever realized for an item of American furniture.

Expected to sell for between $700,000 and $900,000, the table was pursued by multiple bidders, who rapidly drove the price to the $3-million 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, R.I., 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 around 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 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.

“This desk bears all the unique characteristics and quality of construction that make Newport furniture of this era so highly prized among collectors,” said Hays, deputy chairman of Christie’s Americas and lead specialist in American Furniture. “The quality of the mahogany in particular is stunning in this piece and shows that Goddard had his pick of the wood coming into the port during that era. We are honored to have established such a strong price today for this table, which represents a new world auction record for the knee-hole desk form.”

For more information about the item visit the Christie’s Web page for the bureau table (lot 92).

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