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Sotheby's Auction Represents Final Opportunity To Buy Fine English Furniture from Prestigious Dealer
A George III suite of three tables, circa 1790, attributed to Seddon Son & Shackleton, is another notable lot from this era and is estimated at £30,000–50,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby's London auction on Tuesday 21st April 2009 will offer collectors the final chance to acquire fine English antique furniture from Norman Adams Ltd. following the company’s closure. The sale, expected to raise in excess of £1.3 million, features 235 lots, many bearing the reassuring black and-white Norman Adams label (pictured above) which has come to represent an important seal of approval in the field. Quality, proportion, colour and patina are the leading principles that have distinguished the firm Norman Adams Ltd. for more than eighty-five years. The firm’s dedication to these all-important aspects of English furniture made a visit to their premises a prerequisite for so many private collectors over the years. The legendary Norman Adams label affixed to each piece is a testament to their belief and pride in the furniture sold.

Discussing the sale, Henry House, Head of Sotheby’s English Furniture Department said: “It is, of course, sad to see the closure of one of the great English furniture dealers. This one-off sale represents a final opportunity to acquire items from this iconic trade institution, and there are many pieces on offer displaying the superb colour and patina for which Norman Adams is renowned.”

The history of Norman Adams
The company was founded in 1923 by Norman Adams, the son of a Bristol schoolmaster and antique dealer, with his first premises in Charles Street, Boston, supplying fine furniture to the trade. His success was immediate and the business soon became recognised throughout the United States owing to the quality of his stock. He soon opened a retail outlet in New York where his reputation preceded him, and in 1928 trading began from the now renowned premises at 10 Hans Road, Knightsbridge. The company’s success in these early years stood the firm in good stead to weather the Great Depression. America’s insatiable appetite for English furniture was catered for with shipments of furniture every other month to both Boston and New York until the outbreak of the Second World War. In the post war climate the company focused its attentions on London and the expanded shop at 8-10 Hans Road. Again the business thrived by focusing on quality and its reputation for supplying solely private collectors with some of the finest 18th century English furniture. Norman Adams died in 1979, but not before having instilled his knowledge and philosophy in his successor Stewart Whittington, who has continued along the path so clearly laid by his mentor. Compiled by Christopher Claxton Stevens, in 1983 the firm published the acclaimed catalogue of furniture that the business has handled - 18th Century English Furniture, The Norman Adams Collection - which has gone on to be reprinted six times and is widely considered one of the foremost reference books in the field.

It is with great sadness that Stewart Whittington and Christopher Claxton Stevens have decided to call time on this remarkable legacy. In doing so, they are affording collectors from around the world a final chance to acquire furniture bearing that reassuring little black-and-white label. One can take comfort in the fact that the pieces that will be offered in this sale have been carefully selected, strictly adhering to the guiding principles that have been followed with such success for over eighty-five years.

Sale Highlights
Eighteenth Century

The highlight of the sale is a George III satinwood, gonçalo alves mahogany and marquetry bureau bookcase, estimated at £60,000–90,000. This superb piece was probably made by William Moore of Dublin around 1780. The bookcase is made in neo-classical style, with an elegant and striking pierced swan-neck pediment above an inlaid frieze and a pair of glazed doors enclosing adjustable shelves. The fold-down writing flap is inlaid with an urn flanked by paterae, and garlands of husks add another decorative feature to this superb bureau. Inside this flap are a series of nine drawers, two secret drawers and pigeonholes all sitting on top of four further drawers that are gently graduated.

A further piece from the reign of George III to be included in the sale is a tulipwood and marquetry tambour writing table, circa 1775, estimated at £40,000–60,000. The table is attributed to London furniture makers Ince & Mayhew and is covered by a tambour top that slides away to reveal a luxurious interior fitted with triple-leather inset panels concealing a pair of velvet-lined compartments centred by a hinged, ratchet supported flap. This ornate writing table includes subtle delicate features such as an ivory inlaid marquetry figure leaning on an anchor and floral marquetry at the ends of each panel. The frieze is inlaid with `blind-fluting' on all four sides.

A George III suite of three tables, circa 1790, attributed to Seddon Son & Shackleton, is another notable lot from this era and is estimated at £30,000–50,000. The group consists of a satinwood Pembroke table and a pair of card tables, all of which have been painted with a border of bird’s feathers interspersed with roses and crossbanded in tulipwood. The Pembroke table has a drawer as well as a fake dummy drawer on the other side. The card tables with both have demi-lune tops, all with flower painted friezes, on square tapering legs.

Seventeenth Century
A wall hanging mirror from circa 1680, estimated at £20,000–30,000, is a highlight of the sale’s Charles II pieces. The carved frame contains a number of putti – naked boys with wings - that are interspersed with leaves, berries and birds to create an intriguing and elaborate frame that is topped with coronet cresting beneath which a shield being held aloft by two putti. For many years the piece was in the collection of Henry Stanford Mountain and had hung at Groombridge Place, a 17th century manor house in Kent.

Nineteenth Century
An English mahogany desk from circa 1860 with secret compartments, estimated at £20,000–30,000, is a highlight of the items dating to the nineteenth century. The piece is in George II style after a design by Thomas Chippendale – one of Britain’s leading cabinet makers of the eighteenth century. The desk has two drawers above a cupboard door enclosing folio divisions to one side and three drawers to the other. On one side of the desk the designer has added secret drawers and compartments that are revealed when the folio divisions are slid back.

At the same time as the Norman Adams viewing and auction, Norman Adams Ltd will be presenting at Sotheby’s a selling exhibition of contemporary furniture by Britain’s finest designer makers. They will be offering a range of pieces by both major names and newer talent, many made especially for the show. The Edward Barnsley Workshop and John Makepeace are among the 27 designer makers who will be exhibiting.

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