An antique and silver dealer outbid the State Department at Christie's auction house Saturday, paying $240,000 for one of two extant American silver plateaus. The other one is in the White House.
Berry Tracy, a New York dealer and former curator of American decorative arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, outbid State in a heated battle for the plateau that lasted almost five minutes. Tracy says he intends to loan the plateau to the Metropolitan, where it has been displayed in the American wing. The White House has the only other extant American silver plateau, a form used as a centerpiece on elegant tables.
Clement Conger, the curator of the Diplomatic Reception Room at the State Department, was somewhat upset about the sale's outcome when reached at his home in Alexandria. "We just didn't have the money to match the final bid," he said. "We rely entirely on funds raised by the Fine Arts Committee. The plateau would have been a fitting addition to the Madison-Monroe Room. The Great Seal is housed there and the plateau is decorated with six sterling eagles around the sides."
Sale of the five-foot reflective tray, known as the De Witt Clinton plateau because it was presented to New York's Gov. De Witt Clinton on the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825--set an auction record for American silver. (The previous record was $110,000 posted in January at Sotheby's for a bowl by Benjamin Wynkoop.)
The plateau fetched the third highest price in a sale of several hundred examples of Americana at Christie's Park Avenue salesroom. The top lot was a Chippendale mahogany block-front and shell-carved kneehole-bureau, which brought $350,000, almost matching the record price for Americana--$360,000.