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Way went on to expand his interests into Dutch and English Old Master paintings and works of art. Museums and institutions have since acquired pieces from his collection but this still left enough to offer 296 lots at a Massachusetts auction on July 20.

They made up just under half of the European Furniture and Decorative Arts sale held by Skinner (25/20/12% buyer’s premium).

Way’s estate provided the event with a mix of early oak and other vernacular furniture and Old Master paintings.

They ranged from a grand oak tester bed and substantial court cupboard and sets of high back chairs to smaller boxes, along with numerous 17th century and 17th century-style portraits depicting unidentified men and women as well as known subjects, landscapes and genre scenes.

Skinner had given the lots modest estimates, many pitched in the three- rather than four-figure bracket. Because prices on larger pieces of oak furniture have been falling, the auction house explained, it hoped to draw more interest by pitching things conservatively.

The strategy seemed to work for very little was unsold in this auction, although not everything made a substantial price. Buying interest was a good mix of trade and private, said Skinner, with many from the US and the UK.

The trade were well represented but “we had many private buyers as both successful bidders and strong under-bidders which was really nice to see”, added Skinner’s specialist Stephanie Opolski.

Portraits impress

The highest prices from the collection were not for pieces of Way’s oak furniture but for two of the portraits, pieces that leap-frogged their modest three-figure estimates to sell for several thousands of dollars.

An oil on cradled panel depicting a man in a lace ruff catalogued as Dutch school, 17th century, had been estimated at $300-500 but ended up selling to a trade purchaser for $32,500 (£25,000). Conditionwise, the 22½ x 17¼in (57.5 x 43.5cm) painting had several vertical hairline panel cracks, one with paint loss in the right side of the sitter’s beard and lines of retouching along the cracks.

Similarly much more demand than predicted emerged for an oil on panel portrait of a woman, identified via a latin inscription to the top edge as Queen Mary, Henry VIII’s daughter.

The 21 x 15½in (53 x 39.5cm) panel, mended with linen tape to the reverse, had been catalogued as European School, 16th century style, possibly after Anthonis Mor (Spanish 1519-77) with a guide of just $200-400. It ended up making $17,000 (£13,075), going to a private buyer.

Topping the oak furniture from Way’s estate was the above-mentioned substantial oak tester bed, measuring approximately 8ft 6in (2.6m) high x 7ft 6in (2.2m) deep x 5ft 8in (1.7m) wide.

It had an elaborately carved headboard featuring the arms of Edward VI to the centre panel along with other motifs such as caryatids, lion’s head and pilasters and Corinthian-capitalled column and cup and cover end posts.

Skinner dated this to the late 16th/early 17th century with some later additions and there was some restoration and replaced elements.

The final $16,000 (£12,310) hammer price represented a substantial increase on the $3000-5000 estimate.

Settle up

Other sought-after pieces of oak included a settle measuring 7ft (2.1m) in width carved to the three-panel back with geometric and foliate motifs and featuring a seat that lifts to serve as a storage compartment, which sold for $4000 (£3075) against an estimate of $800-1200.


Oak settle with storage compartment to the seat – $4000 (£3075) at Skinner’s sale of the George Way collection.

A 3ft 2in (96cm) wide chest of four long graduated drawers decorated with geometric panels to the front, set on bun feet, realised $2500 (£1925).

Among the smaller items, keen demand merged for a folding book stand measuring 13½in (34cm) when closed. This was ascribed to England or Holland and inscribed with a name and the date 1667 but catalogued as 18th century. It sold for $5500 (£4230), again well over the $300-500 guide.

Plenty of opportunities were available to secure pieces from the collection at much lower prices.

One, a 4ft (1.2m) wide carved oak chest/coffer panel top with long drawer to the base and stylised flowers carved to the three-panel front and frieze, bore the inscription MM1701.

Another, a 12½ x 10in (32 x 26cm) framed unsigned oil on panel of card players in a tavern, was catalogued as school of David Teniers II (Flemish 1610-90).

The chest sold at $750 (£575) and the painting for $650 (£500), both mid-estimate prices.


As well as items from the George Way collection Skinner’s July 20 sale included silver, furniture, paintings and works of art from other sources. The sale’s top seller was this 10¼in (cm) 18.7 troy oz high sterling silver and enamel coffee pot made by Tiffany & Co mounted with lapis lazuli and etched with arabesques. It was one of eight ‘after dinner’ coffee pots exhibited at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and sold at Skinner for $55,000 (£42,310) against an estimate of $15,000-25,000.

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