After an international tour and much media fanfare, the auction of the Selected Contents of Vaux Hill: The Collection of Robert & Barbara Safford achieved $3.9 million in sales—more than tripling the auction’s estimate—and set an auction record. Buyers from around the globe packed Freeman’s third floor gallery for a chance to bid on the 274 works spanning two centuries. Decorative arts from royal and continental craftsmen KPM, the Russian Imperial Porcelain Factory, the House of Hanover, and Louis XV were offered in the sale. Freeman’s attracted nearly 400 potential buyers via the phones, online, and in the room. What would have normally been a two and a half hour auction took place over five hours, as the sale drew fierce bidding.

“The fact that every lot in this auction sold is a testament to the Saffords’ ability to find the best examples of European decorative arts. Yesterday was an exciting day for everyone involved,” said Freeman’s Chairman Samuel M. “Beau” Freeman II.

The top lot was a hand-painted Russian urn produced by Nicholas I’s Imperial Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg, estimated at $150,000-200,000. After brisk competition from within the room, on the phones, and the internet, it went to the highest bidder in the room for $494,000. Urns of this size are unique and few have survived as they were extremely difficult to cast and very delicate. This was one of several large continental vases sold yesterday (lots 7, 64, 107, 126 152), which attracted heavy bidding and successful results.

An auction record was set for a rare gilt bronze mounted porcelain tall case clock by the Berlin Konigliche Porzellan Manufaktur (KPM), circa 1895, which brought $242,500. It is believed to be one of only six in existence produced after a design by Alexander Kips, estimated at $80,000-120,000. One of these six clocks is proudly displayed at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight; it was a gift given to Queen Victoria by her grandson Kaiser Wilhelm II. 

 “We were very pleased with the outcome of the auction. It’s interesting to see the shift in the market place. More and more, we’re seeing interest from collectors in Asia and the Middle East for English and continental decorative arts,” said Vice President and Department Head David Walker.

Top Lots from Selected Contents of Vaux Hill: The Collection of Robert & Barbara Safford:

  • $494,000           Lot 131: Important ormolu mounted Russian imperial hand-painted gilt-decorated porcelain urn. Russian Imperial Porcelain Factory, St. Petersburg, Period of Nicholas I, circa 1836.
  • $482,500           Lot 107: Rare pair of Russian hand-painted and gilt decorated blue ground vases, 20th century.
  • $254,500           Lot 1: Very fine gilt metal mounted Meissen porcelain and giltwood secretaire cabinet, circa 1880.           
  • $242,500           Lot 39: Important German gilt bronze mounted gilt decorated and hand-painted KPM porcelain tall clock case clock, circa 1895 (pictured above). AUCTION RECORD­­
  • $158,500           Lot 84: Large and impressive Sevres style porcelain white ground vase.
  • $134,500           Lot 154: Fine Continental Louis XVI style gilt-bronze and rhodonite seven-piece desk.

Selected Contents of Vaux Hill: The Collection of Robert & Barbara Safford is the most recent auction to achieve 100% sell-through at Freeman’s. Other ‘white glove’ auctions include the Historic USS Constitution Colors from the Collection of H. Richard Dietrich, Jr., April 2012; Historic Muhlenberg Property, From a Private Collection including the Grand Division of Color of the 8th Virginia, November 2012; and the Richard Scrushy Collection, May 2011.