In 2001, Hunt Slonem, a New York based painter with a passion for collecting and preserving historic houses, purchased Edgewood Terrace, an imposing Second Empire-style brick mansion that stands at the top of a hill overlooking the city of Kingston in New York’s sprawling Hudson Valley. After restoring his country retreat to its original Victorian grandeur, Mr. Slonem filled the rooms with an eclectic combination of 19th-century furniture and decorations, modern art and his own exotic, vibrantly colored, neo-expressionist paintings. On Saturday, October 24, Stair Galleries will host an auction of the Hunt Slonem collection from Edgewood Terrace. The sale will feature an extensive selection of 19th-century furniture, decorative arts and fine arts as well as a number of 20th-century paintings, prints and photographs.
According to Mr. Slonem, “The collection represents nine years of gathering.” The impressive array of 19th-century furnishings, spanning the years from 1830 to 1900 and encompassing all the major styles of the Victorian era, is heavily focused on the Gothic Revival. Throughout the house are chairs, center tables, dressing bureaux, secretaries, gilt-bronze mantel clocks, glass vases, porcelain teawares and ironstone toilet sets embellished with tracery, pointed arches, steep gables, pinnacles and cusping. Balancing the medieval-inspired pieces are furniture and decorations in other revival styles including Rococo, Renaissance, Louis XVI and Neo-Grec. Modern works of art, hung on brightly painted walls inspired by the colors in Mr. Slonem’s paintings, serve as a foil to the Victorian furnishings.
Edgewood Terrace provides a magnificent setting for this comprehensive collection of 19th-century furniture and decorative arts. Also known as Cordts Mansion, the house was built 1873-1874 by a wealthy brick manufacturer named John H. Cordts, whose factory was located in the Rondout area of Kingston. By 1900, his firm was the largest brick manufactory in the United States, shipping bricks down the Hudson River to supply the building boom in New York City. When completed in 1874, Cordts’s twenty-eight room house with mansard roof and five-story tower, built on a hill overlooking the confluence of the Hudson River and Rondout Creek, was considered to be the largest private residence in Kingston. The house and its furnishings have been featured in a number of magazines, including Elle Décor, New York Magazine, Victorian Homes and Hudson Valley.
The sale of the Kingston residence and collection is prompted by Mr. Slonem’s desire to focus his attentions on his two plantation houses in Batchelor, Pointe Coupee Parish, and Jeanerette, St. Mary Parish, Louisiana. Each house contains a fine collection of 19th-century furniture and decorative arts. Mr. Slonem is also shifting his collecting interests toward New Orleans furniture, acquiring items such as “tester beds by Prudent Mallard.”
Among the important examples of Gothic Revival furniture are a mahogany marble-top polygonal center table with arcaded apron, possibly by J. & J.W. Meeks, New York, a mahogany fold-top card table, also possibly J. & J.W. Meeks, a mahogany dressing bureau, probably Philadelphia, a rosewood dressing bureau attributed to Mitchell and Rammelsberg, Cincinnati, an ebonized marble-top table after a design by A.W.N. Pugin, a Charles X mahogany marble-top cabinet with tracery panels and a number of rosewood and mahogany armchairs, probably New York.
Complementing the Gothic Revival furniture is a large selection of Gothic-style accessories including Charles X and Louis-Philippe gilt-bronze mantel clocks, inkstands, potpourris and covered boxes, Bohemian overlay glass, American pressed glass, English stoneware ‘Apostle’ pitchers, Paris porcelain teawares, Day’s patent gilt-brass telescopic face screens, a pair of gilt-brass, marble and cut glass ‘Bigelow Chapel’ girandoles by W.S. Shaw, Boston, as well as a substantial collection of cut glass scent bottles in Gothic Revival gilt-metal mounts.
Other highlights of the sale are a pair of monumental Anglo-Indian Rococo-style carved hardwood hall mirrors with marble-top consoles, a Rococo Revival rosewood cabinet, possibly by Mitchell and Rammelsberg, a Renaissance Revival carved walnut four-piece parlor suite with raised and pierced tulipwood panels, possibly by Thomas H. Godey, Baltimore, a Renaissance Revival gilt-incised ash, walnut and maple bedstead, purportedly made for the Astor family, an English Neo-Grec part-ebonized and burlwood cabinet, a large oak library table by Gillows of Lancaster, a French Moorish-style mother-of-pearl inlaid rosewood and marquetry library table and matching pair of side chairs, an Art Nouveau giltwood three-piece parlor suite by S. Karpen and Brothers, Chicago, and a pair of silk damask window curtains made in the 1850’s for Andalusia, Nicholas Biddle’s estate along the Delaware River outside Philadelphia.
Also a large selection of pottery and porcelain jardinières, plant stands, majolica pedestals and Victorian cast-iron fountains and terrariums that filled the conservatory of Edgewood Terrace, plus a number of Victorian cast-iron garden urns and pedestals removed from the grounds of the estate.
The heterogeneous collection of art ranges from the sublime delicacy of a bird photographed by Adam Fuss to the charming goofiness of Andy Warhol wearing a clown’s nose in a photograph by Christopher Makos. An erotic theme, overt or implied, weaves through many pieces – from a 19th-century oil of a nude fille de joie beckoning clients to her boudoir with a rosebud, to the dispassionate Belloq photographs of the girls of Storyville and the theatrically staged vivid color photographs by Aaron Cobbett.
There are prints by important 20th-century masters including Andy Warhol, Francesco Clemente and Alex Katz’s wonderful seragraphic portraits of Ada. Mr. Slonem’s southern roots are represented by the photographs of William Greiner, Richard Sexton and the prints of Howard Finster. Serious 19th-century oil portraits and marble sculptures, which helped to anchor the public rooms of Edgewood Terrace, are also included in the sale.
The auction is scheduled for Saturday, October 24, starting at 11 AM. A fully illustrated online catalogue will be available two weeks prior to the sale.