Robert Denning's Manhattan apartment
Robert Denning's Manhattan apartment
Denning and Fourcade's Paris apartment
Denning and Fourcade's Bridgehampton House
On Wednesday, May 17, 2006, Doyle New York held an auction of property from the estate of interior designer Robert Denning, co-founder of the legendary decorating firm of Denning & Fourcade. The Robert Denning Collection comprised over 200 lots of elegant furniture, decorations and paintings. Each extraordinary object reflected Mr. Denning’s discerning eye for quality, luxury and style. With a standing-room crowd in the salesroom competing against numerous telephone and absentee bidders, the sale total of $759,360 more than doubled the median pre-sale estimate ($294,350-447,750) with a remarkable 99% sold by lot and 100% sold by value.
DENNING & FOURCADE
In 1960, Robert Denning established Denning & Fourcade with his partner Vincent Fourcade, and for the next forty years, the firm became synonymous with opulent interiors and luxurious furnishings. Their signature style was recognizable for its extravagant and confident use of rich colors, exotic patterns, silk-shaded lamps, and lavish passementerie. Among Denning & Fourcade’s devoted clients numbered many of the world’s social and corporate elite, including Carolyne Roehm and Henry Kravis, Oscar de la Renta, Mrs. Antenor Patino, Suzanna Agnelli, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Kissinger, Jean Vanderbilt, and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman.
THE ROBERT DENNING COLLECTION
Highlighting the sale was an extraordinary set of four Louis XVI style gilt-bronze three-light sconces that exemplified Mr. Denning’s passion for the opulence of “Le Style Rothschild.” These oversized sconces attracted a great deal of attention during the exhibition, and heavy bidding at the auction sent the lot well over the pre-sale estimate of $15,000-25,000 to achieve $39,000. Also a favorite at the sale was an unusual Middle Eastern polished brass astrolabe measuring 5 1/2 inches in diameter that had been a gift to Mr. Denning from Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman. This navigational instrument for celestial observation was engraved in Arabic throughout and captured the attention of collectors at the auction who sent the price skyward to a strong $33,000.
The top lot among the elegant furniture from the Denning Collection was an elaborate Regency specimen marble top ebonized and parcel gilt side table. Estimated at $12,000-18,000, this exquisite table attracted strong competition and sold for $24,000. Also achieving $24,000 was a handsome, large-scale Louis XVI style brass mounted mahogany bookcase with wire doors, well over the pre-sale estimate of $7,000-9,000. A luxurious sofa covered with sumptuous pillows in orange cut velvet pillows that was designed by Robert Denning stirred the interest of several bidders who drove the price to $14,400 against an estimate of $1,500-2,500.
The Denning Collection offered a rich assortment of Classical-inspired bronzes that were a favorite among the bidders in the salesroom. Lot after lot soared past the pre-sale estimate to achieve ever stronger prices. Highlighting the bronzes was a circa 1800 French bronze figure of a youth seated on a tree trunk with his hound at his side that sold for $33,000, against an estimate of $2,500-3,500. A circa 1700 Italian bronze group of the Laocoon achieved $20,400, well over the estimate of $5,000-7,000, and a Northern European bronze figure of Hercules wrestling a lion sailed past the estimate of $4,000-6,000 to sell for $18,000.
The rich decorations that formerly graced Mr. Denning’s home included several examples of colorful Majolica highlighted by a whimsical Copeland Majolica figural group of Sloth and Mischief depicted as a turtle surmounted by a monkey estimated at $2,500-3,500 and sold for $14,400. Other examples of Majolica included two Minton Majolica Secessionist garden seats that each sold for $7,800 -- one with an estimate of $3,000-5,000 and the other $800-1,200.
Also noteworthy among the decorations were a pair of French Classically styled bronze vases and covers estimated at $2,500-3,500 that sold for $22,800, and a graceful Baltic Neoclassical style gilt-bronze and cut glass five-light chandelier achieved $13,200, well over its estimate of $3,000-5,000.
Fine art in the Denning Collection featured an exotic and sensual Continental School painting depicting a “Balinese Bath” that sold for $9,600 against a pre-sale estimate of $4,000-6,000, and a view of “Rue du Rome” in Paris attributed to Mario Tozzi that sold well over its estimate of $1,000-1,500 to reach $8,400.