Orange, CA (PressExposure) June 17, 2011 -- Exquisite antiques, fine furniture and objets d'art from several southern California estates will merge with the final offering of Continental furniture and decorations from the Steven Thomas antiques firm at Don Presley's June 25-26 auction. In addition, the 1,100-lot sale will shine a spotlight on two technological inventions that dramatically impacted American pop culture - the original machines created to produce "canned" laughter and audience applause for Hollywood's booming television industry of the 1950s.
Two talented inventors, Charles Rolland Douglass and Jess Oppenheimer, a CBS sound engineer and developer/producer of I Love Lucy , simultaneously created artificial laughter and applause machines for use with television comedies and game shows in the early 1950s. Douglass filed for the patent on his "Laffbox" before Oppenheimer could file for his on the "Jayo Laugher." In 1954 Douglass's "LaffBox" went on to become the provider of canned audience laughter and applause for more than 20,000 TV shows over several decades.
Examples of both machines will be presented for sale. Each of the trailblazing recording devices is a prototype, developed at around the same time and with a similar purpose in mind: to house a library of sounds - specifically "canned" laughter and audience applause - for use during the taping of television shows.
The sale's principal estate collection comes from a magnificent home in Belmont Heights, an oceanfront enclave in Long Beach, California. Auctioneer Presley explained that the owner has sold his residence and is relocating to his country property - a 500-acre ranch in Santa Barbara where he raises rare Peruvian horses.
Towering over the featured collection is a pair of majestic cast-iron figures, classically formed as a Native-American man and woman holding torches aloft. The imposing torcheres dominated a reception area that also held a Steinway grand piano and what auctioneer Don Presley calls "some of the finest French furniture [he has] ever seen."
But at 92 inches tall and of a weight so substantial it takes four strong men to move even one of them, the statues will not be making the move to the country.
"The consignor's Santa Barbara home is no less spectacular than the one he is leaving, but the décor is very different," Presley said. "It's a ranch house that doesn't really suit these pieces, which belong in a grand setting."
The torcheres stand on Doric pedestals, each bearing a tag inscribed with the manufacturer's name: Fonderies du Val d'Osne, 58 Bd. Voltaire, Paris. Established in 1836 by Jean-Pierre Victor Andre, the Val d'Osne foundry distinguished itself throughout the Victorian Era with its award-winning designs of both functional and ornamental cast iron.
Presley has estimated the torcheres - which will be offered as a single lot - at $40,000-$70,000. Those numbers could prove conservative, however. On May 5, Sotheby's auctioned a comparable pair of Val d'Osne Native-American figures for $86,500. The only differences were in height and base motif - the Sotheby's figures stood 9 ft. tall and had ornately decorated as opposed to understated Doric-style pedestals.
The opulent furnishings from the Belmont Heights estate include two Louis XVI vitrines, one of them crafted from oak and adorned with bronze ormolu; a Louis XVI hand-carved and gilded, marble-topped entry table; and a marble-topped Italian Renaissance Revival wash stand of bird's-eye maple and other exotic woods ($2,000-$5,000). A circa-1880 French intaglio table ($4,000-$6,000) is decorated with carved corner figures, each having a different facial expression.
A 12-piece French walnut dining suite ($12,000-$18,000) comprised of a table, eight cane-back chairs, buffet and two matching hutches is richly carved with a lion-mask motif. "This elegant set will actually fit almost any dining room," Presley noted. "It's not monumental; the tallest items - the hutches - top out at just over seven feet."
From the estate's gentleman's study comes a 4-piece set ($8,000-$12,000) consisting of a 19th-century leather-topped walnut desk carved with images of lions, griffins and ladies' heads; plus three chairs. Other carved-furniture highlights include a superb French entry or library table with griffins hewn into the legs, an 1880s Liege (France) oak Bible cabinet with the carved image of a lamb, and a pair of 1910 Gothic Revival church pews.
An extraordinary artwork to be auctioned is the 69-inch-long whale with calf ($4,000-$7,000) carved from exotic woods and acquired at great cost in Hawaii some 25 years ago. "This is a unique item of utmost quality," said Presley. "Its composition and the way the flippers are highlighted are a testament to the artist's skill."
A pair of 19th-century Sevres gilt-bronze porcelain lidded urns came to Presley's from a home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Westwood. Hallmarked and signed "E. Collot," each of the urns measures 29 inches to the top of the finial.
A Charles Shepard Chapman (American, 1879-1962) oil-on-board autumn landscape with a railroad theme was obtained from a home in Newport Beach, California. Educated at Pratt Institute and William Merritt Chase's New York School of Art, Chapman was an accomplished painter and illustrator whose work shows the influence of Frederic Remington. Measuring 30 x 52 inches, the landscape is estimated at $4,000-$9,000. Another artwork of note is C.H. Chapin's (American, 1864-1904) 30 x 36-inch oil on canvas depicting cattle watering in a cove ($800-$1,200).
Chinese ivory has gained an avid following in Presley's sales. The June 25-26 event includes a set of eight intricately carved ivory Immortals ($12,000-$20,000), as well as a 38-inch-wide tusk fastidiously carved and pierced to create a "bridge" ($8,000-$9,500).
The auction contains many other items of exceptional quality from Santa Monica, Palm Springs, Palm Desert and Beverly Hills residences, including fine clocks, a Steinway & Sons baby grand piano with bench ($12,000-$18,000), a 25-inch-tall Eugene Delaplanche (French, 1836-1891) gilt-detailed bronze on rouge marble base ($8,000-$15,000), and a Maria Szantho (Hungarian, 1898-1984) oil painting of Pan with three nude nymphs.