A rare, tall-case alarm clock made in East Hampton in 1798 by the Dominy family was sold at auction at Sotheby’s in New York on Saturday to an unidentified bidder. With a buyer’s premium — the surcharge an auction house attaches to sales — the final price was $110,500. The clock’s pre-sale estimate was $50,000 to $100,000.
The interior clockwork was made by Nathaniel Dominy IV, its 85.5-inch-tall case by his son Nathaniel Dominy V. Four generations of Dominys made clocks, furniture, windmills, and utilitarian objects in East Hampton from the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s.
Glenn Purcell, a collector of Dominy furniture who was in the room during the sale, saidhe had not bought the clock and did not know who had. On Monday, Sotheby’s would only disclose that a dealer in American furniture had purchased it. The winning bid was $90,000, before the surcharge.
The mood in the room during the early part of the sale appeared to be subdued. A few paintings that sold before the clock well exceeded their highest estimates, while one of the featured items in the sale, a rare goose tureen up for bid after the clock, failed to sell. Another very important piece, a Queen Anne high chest of drawers made in 1756 by John Townsend of Newport, R.I., one of the most sought-after cabinetmakers in colonial America, sold for just over its high estimate, for $3.6 million with the buyer’s premium. The piece was even more significant for being sold by a direct descendant of its original owner, Lt. Colonel Oliver Arnold of East Greenwich, R.I.
Other clocks in the morning sale were not estimated as high as the Dominy clock. One, a rare Queen Anne tall-case clock by Anthony Ward of New York from 1730 with an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000, failed to sell. A clock from Philadelphia with works by Solomon Parke with restorations sold at its high estimate of $8,000, with a final cost of $10,000 with the buyer’s premium.
The sale picked up some steam toward the end and later lots fared much better with many items of interest well exceeding their estimates.