Chinese Export black lacquer and parcel gilt six-panel screen, $25,000 (£19,700) at Stair.

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Finding antiques with the wow factor was Ann Getty’s forte and she did it with great dedication, some good advice and an outstanding bank balance.

When Stair Galleries (23% buyer’s premium) sold more lots from the remarkable Ann and Gordon Getty collection in upstate New York on January 23-25 it meant more of the sumptuous English and European furnishings that made the $200m-plus series of sales at Christie’s in New York such memorable events.

Colin Stair had known Ann and Gordon Getty personally, having worked with them during his time at Sotheby’s and Stair Restoration.

“Ann Getty was patience and taste personified,” he said. “She was, without a doubt, one of America’s greatest self-taught decorators.”


Provincial Italian rococo-style painted chest of drawers, $7000 (£5500) at Stair.

Three properties

The 726 lots titled A Lifetime of Connoisseurship, Curiosity and Collecting brought together items from three California properties that were furnished in the ‘layered maximalism’ style: an Italianate manse in Pacific Heights; her childhood home outside Sacramento known as Wheatland and Temple of Wings; the Greco-Roman style estate in Berkeley Hills.

Many items included provenances to Sotheby’s and Christie’s auctions in London and New York, bought from the late Seventies into the Noughties. However, the difference between this and previous sales were the distinctly affordable estimates. Most entries were guided under $2000 and few had reserves.


Donegal Arts & Crafts carpet designed by Gavin Morton and GK Robertson, $20,000 (£15,750) at Stair.

Two quite different carpets led the first day of selling, at $20,000 (£15,750) each.

Estimated at $4000-6000, was a late 19th century Bessarabian carpet of the type produced under late Ottoman rule in the area corresponding to modern Bulgaria and Romania. This example, a substantial 9ft 5in x 9ft 7in had been bought from London specialist dealer C John in 1993.

Bringing the same sum against a modest guide of $1500-3000 was an Arts & Crafts rug of a similar date. Made at the Donegal workshop established by Scottish industrialist, Alexander Morton in the 1890s, the design is probably one made by family member Gavin Morton in collaboration with colleague GK Robertson.

A number of similar carpets formed part of Christie’s sale of selected contents from Temple of Wings, which was furnished from the late 19th and early 20th century embracing the Arts & Crafts movement, the Gothic Revival and the Aesthetic Movement.

English furniture


George IV gilt-metal and scagliola top centre table from Cally House in Kirkcudbrightshire, $14,000 (£10,250) at Stair.

The English furniture from the Getty sales has been particularly good. It is no surprise to learn that the market is not where it once was, but in terms of quality and quantity it amounts to the finest dispersal of its type for a generation.

Among the more academic pieces in this sale was a George IV gilt-metal and scagliola top centre table. The choice of materials was unusual and reflected its history: probably made for the Scottish Whig MP and collector Alexander Murray (d.1845) who lived at Cally House in the town of Gatehouse, Kirkcudbrightshire. This table was made in a similar way to steel fenders and probably produced by a metalworker rather than a cabinetmaker, harnessing the local expertise available in an industrial centre once known as ‘the Glasgow of the South’.

It is thought to have been part of the contents auction at Cally House in 1846, more recently selling at Christie’s in 2003 for £9500. At Stair, it hammered for $14,000 (£11,000) against an estimate of $3000-5000.


Napoleon III-style 4ft 6in settee upholstered in brocade, $12,000 (£9500) at Stair.

This sale comprised fewer period objects and more 19th and 20th century revivalist pieces. Its strength was the ‘just so’ objects such as a Napoleon III-style 4ft 6in (1.37m) settee upholstered in brocade ($12,000/£9500) and a provincial Italian rococo-style chest of drawers in dusty aquamarine and yellow paint ($7000/£5500).

Another country house favourite was a Chinese Export six-panel screen decorated in black lacquer and parcel gilt. It had been sold as 18th century when offered by Christie’s in London in June 1986 as part of the property of the Victorian industrialist Viscount Leverhulme. Here undated, it was guided at $2500-5000 and hammered for $25,000 (£19,700).

Dramatic dining

Dining at Ann and Gordon Getty’s Californian residences can seldom have been dull. Guests were treated to a sense of the theatrical with the choice of countless Tiffany and Limoges porcelain dinner services, flatware from Christofle electroplate to Delarboulas stainless steel and pink acrylic and seating styles from William Kent to Craig Nutt.


Black Forest painted wood and antler single-light chandelier in the form of a mermaid, $13,000 (£10,250) at Stair.

The dinner party conversation piece par excellence was an early 20th century painted wood and antler chandelier in the form of a mermaid.

Made in the Swiss region of Brienz known for its wood carving shops (traditionally called Black Forest furniture), it measured an impressive 4ft 1in (1.24m) across. Bought by Ann Getty from the San Francisco dealership Gaylord Antiques in 1996, it took $13,000 (£10,250) against a $700-900 guide.

Similarly estimated was a pair of c.1930 painted metal, shell and faux coral wall sconces by uber-fashionable French designer-decorator Bolette Natanson (d.1936). Typical of her love of under the sea fauna and Surrealism, these went to a LiveAuctioneers bidder at $14,000 (£11,000).


Tipp & Co clockwork Christmas roadster, c.1928, $11,000 (£8650) at Stair.

Even Santa Claus made a belated appearance on the final day, arriving behind the wheel of a rare Tipp & Co clockwork roadster. Dated c.1928, this Nuremburg lithographed tin toy profusely decorated with images of toys, teddies and colorful balloons carries a revolving Christmas feather tree on its trunk.

Given another (in better condition) had sold for $25,000 at Bertoia Auctions in September 2012, it was perhaps no great shock to see this one sail over estimate and bring $11,000 (£8650).


Craig Nutt vegetable-themed cabinet, $6000 (£4700) at Stair.

Final Getty auction

A final Getty sale at Stair titled A Confluence of 19th and 20th Century Design is scheduled for February 29. The proceeds of all the auctions will benefit the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts.