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The Wandering Eye: The Hunt Slonem Sale at Stair

Rural Intelligence StyleIn 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 across the Hudson.  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 (below right).  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.  Also known as Cordts Mansion, the house was built 1873-1874 by a wealthy brick manufacturer, John H. Cordts, whose factory was located in the Rondout area of Kingston.

Our blogger, interior designer Carey Maloney of M (Group) offers this preview:

OK – I’m flying blind here.  There is a great single-owner auction coming up at Stair Galleries on October 24—The Property of Hunt Slonem.  The bad news: We won’t be upstate between now and then to view it and leave our bids…Aargh! 

I’ve belabored this advice in the past—it is really, really best if you can see/touch/smell before you buy.  But we’ll be in Havana, and I’m bummed. (BTW, in Cuba, if there was anything to buy, which we haven’t found, we couldn’t legally spend the $ anyway.  Freeing on one level—travel without shopping.  But frustrating—what’s travel without shopping?  End the Embargo!!!—so Carey can shop.)

Back to the Stair sale: This is a “Do as I say, Not as I Do” situation.  ‘Cause lot 363, sight unseen, the Larger than Life Size Hermes is MINE.  Make my day—bid against me.  Forewarned:  You’re gonna have stiff competition.
I’ve never met Hunt Slonem but we share friends, and for years, I’ve heard great things about Edgewood Terrace, his amazing house in Kingston.  Huge and chockablock with cool stuff.  A bit ‘lush’ for me—but pretty wonderful. 

The sale has lots of great quality Gothic, Renaissance, and Elizabethan Revival furniture and decorations.  The trick with Gothic revival and that other crazy stuff (frankly, the trick with most styles…) is to look at the trees not the forest.  Too much of anything is Too Much.  And too much Gothic Revival can result in visual and visceral overload. 

But a bit of it?  That works for me.  A bedroom suite, a hall tree, a side chair…I have a chair similar to Lot 70 parked next to a Russel Wright chest of drawers in my bedroom upstate.  Gothic meets Modernist and both survive.  My chairs Gothic peak is the perfect clothes hanger too.

Lot 82 is a more interesting variation on the ballroom chair.

Anglo Indian?  Music to my ears.  Lots 79 and 87 are a PAIR!  I thought I was having an acid flashback as I scrolled along.  Two identical, very large hall mirrors—polish these up, and they will be fantastic, given the right (generous) space.  And both in one hall?  A Madras palace!

Culling through the online catalog, check out the Japanese dragon calling card stand—Lot 406—scary but great. 
Lot 253 is a lovely Tiffany Studios pine needle pattern calendar frame – usually sold as part of a desk set with ink bottle and blotter etc.. So the set was broken up—perfect!  Who needs a blotter?  Everyone needs another picture frame.

There are garden ornaments (Lot 285) and conservatory furniture, Asian art, some antiquities, contemporary art by a slew of Hunt’s friends, and even paintings by Hunt. 
Again, I apologize that I haven’t seen these things in the flesh. My favorites list would change/expand if I get to the viewing.

Stuffed peacocks (Lot 284), birdcages and bird imagery—very Mr. Slonem.  Speaking as someone with lots of taxidermy, condition is KEY.  Tatty is bad.
My first stuffed purchase was a 100 year-old pug dog we named “Frisky.” He was the accessory of choice for weeks and turned some heads in his day.  He fit perfectly in a tote, little head sticking out.  Gleeful children, “Look Mommy, that man has a dog in that bag.” Then the realization that the dog was dead quickly followed—scowls from parents and more glee from the kids. “It’s stuffed?!?!?”  At his picnic in Riverside Park (we were young…), he got many compliments on his perfect behavior—“Your dog has not moved!”  Then the OMG/revulsion moment came.  People are funny about taxidermy in general, domestic pets in particular stoke the PETA fire.  Hey, he was dead 50 years before I was born.  It’s not like he was mine.
There are a few rugs, Rural Intelligence Style including a Chinese pillar rug,  Lot 378. I bring this up, not because I like the rug (left) frankly it’s sort of horrible, but an interesting ‘objet.’  Pillar rugs were used to wrap and warm up a cold stone column in the cold Chinese winter. They have a border top and bottom, nothing down the sides. We used a beauty (right) in this front hall—pale ivory with pale blue dragons.  Very swell.  (When I first saw it at Doris Leslie Blau, I piped up, “Oh, this one will be cheap because it’s been cut down. See no borders on the sides.”  I was quickly (and politely) corrected.  Wrong …And not cheap.

To sum this banquet up, there are over 500 lots.  There will definitely be something of interest.  It’s like a mathematical probability or something.

I was looking for some books on Gothic Revival.  The best one was written by the worst next door neighbors we’ve dealt with professionally in years…They were terrible.  So not gonna mention that one!
Rural Intelligence Style
A recent example of Spanish Gothic in the news:  This is their presidential family with ours.  I regret my yearbook picture, but these two are gonna be sick about this ‘look’ some day! —Carey Maloney

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Posted by Marilyn Bethany on 10/06/09 at 06:53 AM • Permalink