"Tulip Ware and Hornor's Blue Book documented furniture by means of local Philadelphia lineage," Pook writes, "but the majority of reference books of the period were long on pictures and conspicuously short on scholarship."
Over the next 70 years, Shelley (along with his wife, whom he met in the 1930s at Columbia University Teachers College) pursued an academic career focusing on the origins of Pennsylvania decorative arts that took him to posts far and wide, notably a 24-year stint at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Michigan, and finally in Oley Valley. He died last year.
The more than 800 lots in the auction also reflect a pioneering spirit, beginning with an assortment of William and Mary items from the early 18th century that conventional Pennsylvania collectors once tended to overlook in favor of the more delicate pieces that Philadelphia craftsmen began to make in abundance about 1750.
A William and Mary walnut wainscot armchair made in Southeastern Pennsylvania about 1720 was acquired by Shelley from influential antiques dealer Israel Sack back in 1961, according to the provenance listed in the catalog. The chair is expected to sell for $50,000 to $70,000 early on in the opening session, which will start at 6 p.m. April 20.
A William and Mary mahogany secretary desk dating to 1720 is expected to sell for $60,000 to $90,000 at the second session, beginning at 10 a.m. April 21. And a mahogany dressing table, also made about 1720 and described in the catalog as "representing the highest achievement of Philadelphia William and Mary furniture," is expected to sell for $100,000 to $150,000.
To be sure, Shelley had his share of the later cabinetry. The second session will feature several Queen Anne pieces, as well as a Philadelphia maple armchair with a five-slat back made about 1750 and attributed to the workshop of William Savery or Solomon Fussell (presale estimate: $50,000 to $70,000).
Shelley also had an early eye for furniture from rural Pennsylvania, particularly Pennsylvania German pieces, now much in demand. A Lancaster County walnut schrank (armoire) is expected to sell for $175,000 to $225,000 at the second session. An early 19th-century Centre Country painted dower chest is expected to sell for $70,000 to $90,000.
Smaller decorative pieces, including pewter, tinware, quilts, and wood carvings, probably will go for more affordable prices. A carved and polychrome decorated pine standing eagle with spread wings by the 19th-century Pennsylvania artisan Wilhelm Schimmel is expected to sell for $30,000 to $40,000.
But a Pennsylvania glazed redware pitcher made in 1938, a 19th-century two-gallon stoneware jug, and a 19th-century dry straw beeskep each are expected to sell for $300 to $500 at the April 20 session. The pewter, too, is expected to sell for mostly three-figure prices at the April 21 session. The exception: a rare flagon inscribed "Georg-Kirchen 1763" and attributed to the 18th-century Philadelphian Johann Phillip Alberti; the presale estimate is $40,000 to $60,000.
Previews are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through next Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 16 to 18; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 19; 9 a.m. to sale time April 20; and 8 a.m. to sale time April 21 at the gallery, 463 E. Lancaster Ave.
For more information, call 610-269-4040 or go to www.pookandpook.com.
Contact David Iams at firstname.lastname@example.org.