A former managing director at Credit Suisse First Boston who died aged 82 in June last year, Johnson had acquired some prize pieces of furniture and silver which included this Irish mid-18th century carved mahogany side table.
Estimated at $30,000-50,000 at Brunk Auctions in Asheville on February 12, no fewer than 10 bidders from the US, Canada and the UK competed online and on the phone before it was knocked down at $130,000 (£94,205) to a US private collector. With buyer’s premium added, the price was $159,900 (£115,870).
Measuring 4ft 11in (1.5m) long, the side table from c.1760 had some impressive leaf and scroll work as well as a carved winged mask of Venus issuing from a scallop shell.
Part of a group of side tables and card tables with similar features which were seemingly made by the same Dublin cabinet-maker, it was very much a ‘known’ piece having sold at Sotheby’s New York in 1992 and then subsequently exhibited at dealer Mallet (from whom Johnson acquired a number of pieces).
It was also illustrated in The Knight of Glin and James Peill’s book Irish Furniture in 2007 which mentions how the ‘deeply carved aprons and bold masks’ were among the exuberant features that marked out this style of furniture as distinctively Irish at a time when its English equivalent was much more restrained.
Despite some scattered pest damage, wear to the carving and minor chips at the nose of the Venus mask, Brunk described this example as being in ‘fine original condition overall’.
The Johnson collection also included an Irish games table from c.1740 that made $70,000 (estimate $30,000-50,000), a pair of Irish armchairs from c.1750 that fetched $46,000 ($12,000-18,000) and a pair of China Trade painted mirrors c.1800-03 that were knocked down at $100,000 ($15,000-25,000).
Overall, the collection raised $1.19m (£861,775) including premium.