Hammer Time

Christie’s presents an auction of exquisite kit from the collection of the late SF society stalwarts Emmy and Dolph Andrews

Photography courtesy of CHRISTIE’S PRESS OFFICE


Emmy and Dolph Andrews Collection

A pair of Louis XV giltwood chaises, circa 1740.


Among the annals of private American collections, few possess such pedigree as the estate of the late Adolphus Andrews Jr. and his wife, the late Emily Taylor Andrews. Blue bloods of the old school, the refined couple lived and entertained amid a bygone era of old-world elegance.

On June 5, Christie’s presents an online auction, Two American Collections: The Estates of Adolphus and Emily Andrews (San Francisco) and Dr. Donald Bruce Wilson (Memphis, TN), which includes more than 200 lots with a focus on 18th- and 19th-century European decorative arts.

For six decades, the Andrewses entertained their Social Register friends in exquisite style in an historic 1800s-era Queen Anne–style mansion in Pacific Heights for which legendary California designers Michael Taylor and Anthony Hail provided guidance on the interior. The couple shared a love of art and history, accenting their home with treasures (including a rare pair of superb marquetry table screens made for Joachim Murat, King of Naples) they acquired on buying trips to London and Paris.


LEFT: Detail of a late Louis XV white painted and parcel-gilt console table, circa 1765–70. RIGHT: Louis XV-style trefoil-shaped marquetry occasional table with cabriole legs, circa second half of the 19th century.


“For more than twenty years, we traveled together to Europe to source antiques. Dolph had a very discerning eye. But so did Emmy,” recalled Dede Wilsey, chair emerita of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, where Mr. Andrews also served as a longtime trustee to the boards of the de Young and Palace of Legion of Honor museums.

“Once we explored a private home in the Cotswolds with wonderful pieces. Off the main floor, I happened to spy an amazing chandelier just sitting on a carpet. Emmy took some photos — this was before smartphones — to show Dolph,” said Wilsey. “It wasn’t wired for electricity, but they fell in love with it. That chandelier hung for decades in their dining room on Vallejo Street. But they never wired it, instead enjoying the romance of candlelight.”


Emmy and Dolph Andrews Collection

English cut-glass chandelier with twelve scroll arms and beaded crystal swags, circa 19th century, reusing 18th-century elements.


On another fall expedition to England — interspersed with shoots at Burghley House and Blenheim Palace, where Mr. Andrews donned his finest Saville Row tweeds — Mrs. Wilsey was wowed by a dining room table and Mrs. Andrews adored a grand piano she thought would make a fine addition to one of her children’s homes. At lunch, Mr. Andrews was circumspect, asking Mrs. Wilsey to describe the instrument in more detail.

“Well, it’s black. It has keys. And it makes music. But Dolph persisted, ‘Is there anything that distinguishes this piano from another?’ Yes, I teased: You don’t own it,” Wilsey said, laughing at the memory. “So I end up FedExing a dining room table home and Emmy FedExed that piano. Dolph joked that we should never again be allowed to shop together.”

According to Mrs. Wilsey, Mr. Andrews was meticulous in his collecting. He never bought right away; instead, he studied the history of a piece and returned later for more inspections and conversations with dealers.


A Louis XVI Tole Peinte Rafraichissoir, circa 1775.


Emmy and Dolph Andrews Collection

Triple-gourd vase decorated overall with dragons, clouds, and peonies, circa late 19th century.


Some of those dealers were often hosted at the Andrews’ home during the renowned San Francisco Fall Show (this year held from October 17 to 20, with an opening-night preview on October 16 benefiting the Fine Arts Museums), to which The Andrews were devoted patrons.

The couple were also instrumental in protecting the environmental standards of Lake Tahoe, where Mrs. Andrews’ Gold Rush–era forebears established a lakeside compound. During his leadership as president and trustee to the League to Save Lake Tahoe, Mr. Andrews was approached in 1969 by Saks Fifth Avenue and storied designer Bill Blass to create a fashion show in support of the league’s efforts.

Long a highlight of the summer social season, now featuring dazzling designs from the house of Oscar de La Renta, the League celebrates its 55th anniversary show this year on August 3.

“Whether it was for their San Francisco residence or Tahoe, Dolph and Emmy loved the hunt and provenance of a piece — even if it was an objet only three inches tall,” Wilsey said. “Theirs is a cherished, very personal collection.”


A pair of late Louis XV white painted and parcel-gilt console tables, circa 1765–70.



Feature image: A late Victorian giltwood console table adorned with a pair of royal Italian ormolu-mounted marquetry panels, circa 1808–1815.


May 31, 2024

Discover more DESIGN news.

Receive Updates

No spam guarantee.

Stay Up To Date

Subscribe to our weekly emails for the hottest openings, latest parties and in-depth interviews with the people putting California Style on the map.