John Scott Bradstreet, ‘A Rare Jin-di-Sugi "Lotus" Table’, 1903, Sotheby's: Important Design
John Scott Bradstreet, ‘A Rare Jin-di-Sugi "Lotus" Table’, 1903, Sotheby's: Important Design

From the Catalogue:

John Scott Bradstreet arrived in Minneapolis in 1873, just as that city was experiencing an economic boom. The subsequent growth of the upper-middle class created opportunities in the retail market, especially for high-quality, modern furnishings. Bradstreet was able to establish a profitable business selling his own designs alongside antiques acquired from his trips abroad. Over the next forty years, he became the foremost interior designer in the American Northwest, known for combining Moorish, Gothic, Japanese and Scandinavian styles to achieve his own unique aesthetic.

In 1904, Bradstreet opened “Crafthouse,” which served as both showroom and workshop for his successful interior design and custom furniture businesses. Crafthouse was founded with the aim of promoting Arts and Crafts ideals, much in the same vein as William Morris’ “Kelmscott Manor,” but with a decidedly Asian influence. Bradstreet designed traditional Japanese gardens to surround the property and used a tatsu dragon as the workshop logo.

Also in the early years of the 20th century, Bradstreet developed a woodworking technique that combined his Arts and Crafts values with his appreciation of Asian artistic traditions. The process was based on the ancient Japanese jin-di-sugi practice in which cypress was aged and treated to amplify the natural grain. His adapted process, known as sugi, was achieved by repeatedly searing and brushing away the top layers of wood, resulting in a polished, heavily contoured surface that was then carved and stained.

Bradstreet promoted this new style by incorporating sugi furniture and paneling into the main rooms of his own Crafthouse and in his most important commissions, including the William Prindle House and “Glensheen” (residence of the Chester Congdon family) in Duluth, Minnesota.

While he applied this method to a variety of forms, the "Lotus" table is the most celebrated and is considered to be his masterwork in this style. Prior to the recent discovery of the pictured lot, only four Bradstreet "Lotus" tables were known to exist. One is in private hands, while the others are in the collections of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Two Red Roses Foundation, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The present lot is exceptional, as it is the only known example with a square top. Further distinguishing this piece is the carved turtle on the top, evidencing Bradstreet's fondness towards natural motifs, especially those that could be found in his Japanese gardens. One previously known “Lotus” table also features a carved turtle, but on its base.

This piece was originally in the private collection of James Ford Bell, founder of the General Mills Corporation and avid collector of decorative arts, who commissioned the table directly from Bradstreet. It resided in Belford, his home on Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota, until his death in 1961.

—Courtesy of Sotheby's

Signature: with artist's cypher and dated 1903

John S. Bradstreet & Co., advertisement, The Western Architect, August 1903
John S. Bradstreet & Co., advertisement, The Bellman, October 3, 1908 (subsequently published September 7, 1912; November 28, 1914; April 15, 1916; and April 22, 1916)
Michael P. Conforti, ''Orientalism on the Upper Mississippi: The Work of John S. Bradstreet,'' The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin, LXV, 1981-1982, p. 17
Wendy Kaplan, The Art that is Life: The Arts & Crafts Movement in America, 1875-1920, Boston, 1987, p. 14, color pl. 36 (for the ''lotus'' table in the collection of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts)
Janet Kardon, ed., The Ideal Home, 1900-1920: The History of Twentieth-Century American Craft, New York, 1993, p. 220 (for the ''lotus'' table in a private collection)
Michael Conforti, ed., Minnesota 1900: Art and Life on the Upper Mississippi, 1890-1915, Newark, 1994, fig. 9 (for the ''lotus'' table in the collection of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts), pp. 74 (for a period advertisement of the ''lotus'' table in The Western Architect, 1903), 63-91 (for a detailed essay on the history and repertoire of John S. Bradstreet & Co.)

Commissioned directly from the artist by James Ford Bell, Minneapolis
Estate of James Ford Bell, Minneapolis
Acquired from the above by a private collector, circa 1960
Thence by descent to the present owner