Gavel to come down on Cloisters antiques Proceeds to aid children's museum

March 15, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

The international art world will cast a glance at Baltimore County next week as the remaining fine and decorative-art antiques from the vast Cloisters Collection go on the auction block at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

The March 25 sale of items from the eclectic collection of the late Sumner A. and G. Dudrea Parker will be the fourth held locally this year.

The couple amassed the Continental and American antiques, which date from the 17th to the 19th centuries, during their annual European trips.

The city is auctioning off the collection because the cost of maintaining the estate has strained the city's ability to operate the Children's Museum there, said Claude E. Hitchcock, an attorney hired by the city.

The museum will be moving to the Brokerage downtown within the next two years, but no decision has been made on the future of the Cloisters property itself.

Richard Opfer, the auctioneer, said he expects the sale to bring in $500,000 to $700,000. But he noted that antiques auctions are always a gamble and said, "We'll find out if some of these pieces are really important."

More than 100 paintings are among the 629 lots. They range from a pair of tiny, 4-by-4-inch Flemish landscapes to the 8-by-10-foot "Garden of Neptune," dating from 17th century Italy.

Early Continental carved altar pieces and other figures, some possibly from the 17th century, should fetch good prices, said Gene Canton, a Lutherville antiques dealer and consultant on the sale.

"The emphasis in this collection was always on early art and artifacts, particularly in the Christian tradition," he said.

In 1930, the Parkers built the Cloisters, an eclectic Byzantine-Gothic-Tudor-Renaissance hilltop "castle" on Falls Road in Brooklandville, as the setting for their antiques.

When Mrs. Parker died in 1972, she left the estate to the city, which has operated it as a Children's Museum since 1977. Most of the antiques have been stored in a warehouse in Baltimore, Mr. Opfer said.


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Inquiries about the sale, which was advertised in the European antique-trade press, have been received from throughout the country and as far away as South Africa and Greece, Mr. Canton said.

"Many of the items in this sale are not frequently on the market," said Mr. Canton.

Actually, many of the collection's best objects already have been sold at the New York branch of Christie's, the London auction house, said Betsy Gorman, who represents Christie's in Baltimore.

Even so, the Timonium sale will offer "a number of unusual items," particularly the religious carvings, she said. "This is a very unusual sale for Baltimore."

Among the "stars" will be an 8-by-10-foot tapestry, "possibly Gobelins" according to the catalog, from the late 17th or early 18th century. It

has a pre-sale estimate of $7,000 to $9,000.

One of the best pieces of furniture is an Italian cassone, or coffer, of intricately carved and gilded walnut. The pre-sale estimate is $1,000 to $1,500. For those who want to travel in style, a leather-covered, gilt-mounted sedan chair also will be on sale. Its estimated price is $2,000 to $3,000.

The first sale, Jan. 14, consisted of the "damaged and rough things" from the collection, Mr. Canton said. Prints and other paper items were sold two weeks later, followed by medium-quality furniture and pictures on Feb. 4. Mr. Opfer said the three sales brought about $150,000.

Judge Thomas E. Noel of the Baltimore Circuit Court approved the auction late last year. He reviewed the issue because stipulations in the Parkers' wills allow the sale of estate property only to maintain the Cloisters museum.

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