Marion Antique Auctions

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Ancient to Modern Sale II

November 26th 2022 @10AM


We will be offering an incredible 18th century Neapolitan Creche set, an important painting by Eric Sloan, a collection of fancy American sterling silver, jewelry, watches, important painting by Eric Sloane, Gustav Stickley furniture, Rookwood pottery, Frank Benson etchings, scrimshaw, ship models, advertising signs, a 1963 Buick Skylark convertible, a 1963 Ford Ranchero, Studebaker pickup truck and so much more including a large portion of the rarest American Wicker collection ever assembled.

Marion Antique Auctions will be offering Mary Jean McLaughlin’s extraordinary wicker collection in our next several auctions. Mary Jean’s collecting journey began with enthusiasm in the early 1970s when she decided to decorate her porch and one bedroom of her home in Guilford, Connecticut. It would eventually evolve into a serious study of the History of Wicker Furniture. She only collected the absolute rarest and best pieces to come to market, and after pursuing this passion for over 40 years, she has managed to assemble the greatest and most important collection of wicker in America. Her pieces have been featured in numerous books on wicker by Richard Saunders, as well as the book American Wicker Furniture by Jeremy Adamson, published by Rizzoli in 1993. This book accompanied a landmark exhibition Adamson curated on American wicker in April of that year at the National Museum of American Art, Renwick Gallery, part of the Smithsonian Institution.

Almost as exciting as Mary Jean’s collection is the history of wicker itself. After the Civil War, handwoven wicker furniture became very popular in the United States. The wicker industry in Massachusetts began via the efforts of Cyrus Wakefield of Wakefield, MA and Levi Heywood of Gardner, MA around 1860-70. Cyrus Wakefield, in a spark of American ingenuity, used discarded rattan he found on the wharves in Boston. The ships of the China Trade had used bundles of rattan as dunnage in the holds, which prevented the fragile cargo from shifting around at sea. Cyrus Wakefield was originally a chair maker by trade, and he began cutting and wrapping the rattan around the chairs he was making, and thus the American wicker furniture industry was born.

Due to the whimsical appeal of the furniture, as well as its lightweight nature, it was immediately and fervently embraced by the public, and the industry quickly grew. The designs became increasingly intricate and ornate, and some were even inspired by East Asian designs that influenced the Aesthetic movement of the 1870s and 1880s. By 1900, the Arts and Crafts movement called for more reserved styles which reflected a rustic simplicity in what would later be referred to as the “Bar Harbor Style”. Later, in the 1920s, during the Art Deco period, much of the wicker was made on looms out of a man-made fibrous material introduced by Marshall Lloyd, a furniture maker from Michigan who invented a loom to weave the wicker into large sheets. This would eliminate the need for much of the previously specialized weaving artisan labor force and would change the industry forever.

In the 1930s, wicker began to lose its popularity and in many cases was discarded or relegated to attics and basements. In the late 1970s, however, a revival of antique wicker began when it was thrust into the spotlight after being featured in many decorating magazines like House Beautiful, Country Living, Connoisseur, and more. Shops and galleries specializing in antique wicker sprung up in affluent high-end locations, such as Madison Avenue in New York, Nantucket, Beverly Hills, Palm Beach, and Cape Cod. The values of the better surviving pieces therefore skyrocketed.

Due to the sheer volume and rarity of Mary Jean’s collection, the pieces will be staggered over a series of auctions. The first part will take place on November 26, and the catalog will be available to view online as well, with internet bidding through LiveAuctioneers and Invaluable. Phone and left bids, as well as in-person bidding, will also be offered.

Frank McNamee, Manager, C. David Glynn, Auctioneer, MA lic#583,
tel. 508-748-3606 or 508-498-7136.