Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Unbeknownst to many of its patrons, who gawk at the rich interior of San Antonio’s oldest theater as they take in a performance at the Majestic Theatre, sitting atop the historic structure is a three-story, 3,500-square-foot penthouse apartment that for years was occupied by a wealthy tenant who threw extravagant parties attended by the city’s elite.
That man, whose identity is to remain concealed under the terms of the auction, moved out in recent years, leaving behind a collection of vintage furnishings and Spanish and Mexican art that drew a crowd of hundreds to Vogt Auction on Saturday as art and antique collectors bid for a piece of the opulent penthouse estate.
All told, more than 260 lots of art, furniture, and accents were up for grabs Saturday in an auction that featured items such as a nearly 5-foot-tall brass peacock by Mexican sculptor Sergio Bustamante that ultimately sold for $4,500. The peacock is a prominent symbol featured throughout Majestic Theatre.
The penthouse apartment, appraised at $3.2 million this year by the Bexar Appraisal District, was built in 1929 along with the theater. Original furniture, lighting, serving pieces, silverware, and religious artifacts featured during the opening of the theater 90 years ago were featured in the auction.
“It’s one of the finest collections we’ve ever offered,” said Rob Vogt, the auction house’s director of operations. “You don’t often see pieces of this high quality at open auction. All of them are from one gentleman who lived in the penthouse for nine years. He decorated the penthouse in the Spanish Renaissance style of the building.”
The 261 auction items, or lots, garnered bids ranging from $125 for a pair of Spanish-style wall sconces to $15,000 for a set of silver-plated candelabra epergnes, or ornamental centerpieces. Nearly 30 bids were placed on a carved stone fish sculpture, which received the most bids on the day. It sold for $1,000 higher than its estimated value.
The estate’s connection to one of the state’s longest-serving theaters was part of the allure of the auction, which Vogt officials said was one of its highest-profile bids in recent years. But perhaps even more attractive to attendees was the mystique behind the wealthy estate owner who amassed the holdings.
“It’s not intentionally shrouded in mystery, but it definitely has kind of this hidden effect that I think makes it really alluring,” marketing manager Jillian Carson said.
About 500 watched the auction online, and 200 attended in person at the auction gallery on Blanco Road. Auction houses typically take a higher cut of the transaction for online bids than in-person ones, which is in part what drew Jorge and Miriam Maldonado, 59 and 57, respectively, to make the 150-mile trek from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Jorge, who described the auction experience as a bit strange for him, said his wife is an avid antique collector who was looking to place bids on lamps, mirrors, and bronze sculptures.
For John Hogg, 60, a San Antonio physician, a pair of Italian baroque mirrors spoke to him. He had a few bids pending online and was set to watch as bids rolled in on the items. Art collecting runs in his family, and the style of the Majestic cache was one that appealed to his sensibilities, he said. Although he doesn’t get to come out to auctions often, he said it was important to get an up-close glimpse at the stock.
“You really have to see the items for scale,” Hogg said. “Pictures – it doesn’t matter if they measure in scale – it’s really important to see something in person.”
The kinds of items in the estate aren’t often seen in Texas auctions, said David Garza, 56, Hogg’s husband. For antiques in this genre, Hogg and Garza usually have to travel to Atlanta or New York City. But the Majestic penthouse items harked back to a golden era of American style, Hogg said.
“It’s that Old Hollywood glamour mystique,” he said. “It’s like somebody from the Rock Hudson era or earlier had selected. This is the sort of thing you’d see from the real glamorous [1940s].”