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Rago Brings in $5.6 Million

Lita Solis-Cohen | March 1st, 2014

University City porcelain gourd vase, exterior glaze in green, University City, Missouri, 1912, signed “UC 12,” 9¾" x 3". It sold for $26,250 (est. $10,000/ 15,000). Lillian Hoffman had bought it from Martin Eidelberg in 1976.

Martin Brothers stoneware frog tobacco jar, England, 1895, base signed “Martin Bros.” and head signed “Martin Bros. London + Southall 12-1895,” 10½" x 6½". Purchased by Lillian Hoffman (d. 2013) from Ed Pascoe in 1980, it sold for $87,500 (est. $15,000/20,000).

Martin Brothers stoneware triple-bird tobacco jar, head and base signed “R.W. Martin and Bro. London + Southall 29.1.1914,” 7¼" x 7" x 2¾". Purchased by Lillian Hoffman from Ed Pascoe in 1980, it sold for $111,750 (est. $30,000/40,000).

Martin Brothers stoneware bird tobacco jar, England, 1899, base and head signed “Martin Bros. London + Southall 3-1899,” 13¾" x 7". Bought from Ed Pascoe in 1980 by Lillian Hoffman, it sold for $87,500 (est. $25,000/30,000).

Martin Brothers stoneware bird tobacco jar, England, head and base signed “R.W. Martin, So. London + Southall 5. 1886,” 12" x 7", bought by Lillian Hoffman from Ed Pascoe in 1980, sold for $87,500 (est. $30,000/40,000).

George Ohr vessel with body twist and dimples in glazes of mahogany, gunmetal, and ocher. The 1897-1900 pot is signed “G.E. Ohr, Biloxi, Miss.” and is 5" x 4". It sold for $6875 (est. $2000/3000). It was the highest price paid for a pot by Ohr at the sale. A dozen small Ohr pots, offered one by one, sold in the $1500 to $5000 range.

Tiffany Studios 21" x 10" blue Favrile glass jack-in-the-pulpit vase, New York, 1915, etched “L.C. Tiffany Favrile, 2066J.” With a Lillian Nassau provenance in 1975, the vase sold for $62,500 (est. $50,000/70,000).

Rago Arts and Auction Center, Lambertville, New Jersey

Photos courtesy Rago Arts

Rago Arts’ sales on March 1 and 2 in Lambertville, New Jersey, of early 20th-century furniture, art pottery, glass, and modern design coincided with the opening on March 1 of the stunning exhibition of the work of Paul Evans at the James A. Michener Art Museum in nearby Doylestown, Pennsylvania. David Rago was one of the underwriters of Paul Evans: Crossing Boundaries and Crafting Modernism. The exhibition, its catalog, and an excellent talk at Rago’s on the Thursday before the sale by Dorsey Reading (who was shop manager for Evans and who made many of the pieces) seemed to have little influence on prices of works by Evans, which have been solid at recent sales.

This diverse two-day sale was well received and racked up a total of $5,634,344—right on target as calculated by the high-estimates total. Of the 1149 lots offered, 82% sold by lot for prices characterized by the trade as “high wholesale, low retail.” There were a few surprising high prices and some bargains, which is why the trade, collectors, and furnishers check out Rago sales at the presale exhibitions and on line. Moreover, there is something for every taste.

With a great degree of transparency Rago releases statistics. For these sales the auction house reported that 111 bidders signed up for paddles to bid in person in the salesroom over the two days; 303 were on the phones; 155 left absentee bids with the auctioneer; and 487 were on line on Saturday; and 513 were on line on Sunday for Modern Design, when a snowstorm threatened. On Sunday, on-line bidders were on tapping their computers in Canada, Mexico, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Greece, Austria, Ireland, the U.K., the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, United Arab Emirates, Philippines, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. On Saturday bidders from Hungary, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Egypt, India, and Brazil were bidding in addition to those in Canada, Mexico, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

David Rago said it was probably their strongest March sale, and he was pleased to see high prices paid for Martin Brothers stoneware pots made in London in the last years of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th century and also good prices for some American art pottery. A Martin Brothers triple-bird tobacco jar sold for $111,750 (est. $30,000/40,000), and a Martin Brothers frog tobacco jar went for $87,500 (est. $15,000/20,000). Both were from the estate of New York collector Lillian C. Hoffman and were offered from a separate catalog.

From the various-owners catalog a Newcomb College oil lamp with a leaded-glass shade, made by Mary Sheerer, who was assistant director of Newcomb Pottery, sold for $93,750 (est. $45,000/65,000).

David Rago and his wife, Suzanne Perrault, have worked hard to establish the secondary market for studio ceramics and glass. They were pleased indeed to sell a rare and much exhibited Lady Godiva charger, designed by Viktor Schreckengost, for $93,750 to a private collector, well over the $12,500/17,500 estimate.

On Sunday some strong prices were paid for furniture from the Nakashima workshop. Case pieces and tables with free edges brought higher prices than those with straight edges. A cabinet for hanging on a wall sold for $50,000 (est. $19,000/25,000). A straight-edge rosewood double- pedestal desk sold for $36,250 (est. $25,000/35,000). A lidded wastebasket, made en suite with the desk, sold for $5313 (est. $2000/3000). Find another.

The exhibition of work by Paul Evans did not seem to have much influence on prices, though most Evans lots sold, and several exceeded estimates. Most of the pieces were from the Directional line made after 1971 at Evans’s factory in Plumsteadville, Pennsylvania. A Directional Deep Relief cabinet sold for $53,125 (est. $25,000/35,000), and another similar cabinet sold for $33,750 (est. $20,000/30,000). An Evans steel patchwork sculpture went for $43,750 (est. $25,000/30,000).

As more people visit the Evans exhibition and read the informative, well-illustrated catalog by Michener Museum curator Constance Kimmerle, there may be a bigger impact on the market for Evans. The catalog includes essays by Gregory Witt-kopp, director of the Cranbrook Art Museum; Edward S. Cooke Jr., professor of art history at Yale University; Robert Slifkin, professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU; Glenn Adamson, director of the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan; and Helen Drutt English, who established one of the first galleries to champion the American craft movement. The book discusses Evans’s inspiration and methods of manufacture and places his work in the history of furniture. (Glenn Adamson sees Evans’s work as a link to postmodernism.) This book should be an addition to any up-to-date decorative arts library. See p. 13-B for a review.

For more information, contact Rago at (609) 397-9374 or check the Web (

This 15" x 9" desk lamp with Turtleback shade and blown- out base, New York, 1900s, patinated bronze and Favrile glass, single socket, stamped “Tiffany Studios New York 266,” sold for $26,250 (est. $11,000/15,000).

Viktor Schreckengost (1906-2008) hand painted in glazes this ceramic charger called Lady Godiva in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1936. Signed “Viktor Schreckengost,” the 15" diameter charger sold with a copy of the 1936 Cleveland May Show entry form and photographs of it at the show. On the back are various exhibition labels, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cincinnati Museum of Art, Philadelphia Art Alliance, Cleveland Craftsmen exhibit, and National Art Week in Washington, D.C. It sold for $93,750 (est. $12,500/17,500) to a collector on the phone.

Newcomb Pottery oil lamp with leaded-glass shade by Mary Sheerer (1865-1954), Newcomb College, New Orleans, 1907. The glazed ceramic base is inscribed “Live and Love till Life and Love Are One” and signed “NC JM Q BQ13 M.S.” with a paper label. The shade is 18" x 14"; base, 8½" x 8". The lamp sold for $93,750 (est. $45,000/65,000). Mary Sheerer, who signed the base, was hired by Newcomb College in 1894 and promoted to assistant director. In 1901 she installed the Newcomb Pottery exhibit at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, and while there she was probably inspired by having seen the exhibit of Tiffany Studios lamps, windows, and mosaics. When she returned to New Orleans, she and a small group of Newcomb workers made lampshades of leaded-glass beads and pierced brass. This lamp descended through the family of the original owners, and Rago believes the shade and base have always been together.

Edwin Scheier (1910-2008) and Mary Scheier (1909-2007) signed and dated their 12" x 13½" ceramic vessel with figures. When they made it in 1985 they lived in Green Valley, Arizona. It sold for $5313 (est. $2000/3000).

Rudolf Feldmann (German, 1878-1958) was a silversmith from Bielefeld, Germany, who exhibited in Dresden in the 1930s and died in Bielefeld in 1958. This tea set, bowl, and candlestick are all stamped “Feldmann Bielefeld” with silver marks and touchmarks; the candlestick is engraved “Thomas Kirk Robinson zum 4 Mai 1958 patenonkel Peter Feldmann.” The coffeepot is 10" high. The lot sold for $13,750 (est. $2500/3500).

Albert Paley (b. 1944) dining table, Rochester, New York, forged and fabricated steel, glass. Stamped “Paley 1979,” the 30" high x 47½" diameter table was created for the Art in Use exhibition at the 1980 Winter Olympics, Lake Placid, New York. It sold for $59,375 (est. $20,000/30,000).

Vladimir Kagan (b. 1927) Kagan-Dreyfuss mosaic Trisymmetric dining table, New York, 1950s, sculpted walnut, bronze, glass tesserae, unmarked, 30½" high x 44¼" diameter, sold for $28,750 (est. $8000/10,000).

George Nakashima walnut and pandanus cloth hanging cabinet, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1961, signed on the back with the client’s name. The 18¼" x 104" x 17¾" cabinet sold for $50,000 (est. $19,000/25,000).

Paul Evans designed this Deep Relief cabinet for Directional in 1968. The 29¼" x 96" x 21¾" cabinet is welded and polychrome steel, patinated bronze, cleft slate, and polychrome wood and sold for $53,125 (est. $25,000/35,000).

Cloud sofas are in demand. This Vladimir Kagan sofa for Directional, High Point, North Carolina, 1990s, sculpted wool acrylic, with manufacturer’s label, 28" x 98" x 32", sold for $25,000 (est. $4000/6000).

Sam Maloof (1916-2009), sculpted walnut armchair, Alta Loma, California, 1980. The 31" x 22½" x 22½" chair was signed, numbered, and dated with a dedication and sold for $15,000 (est. $3000/5000).

Originally published in the June 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

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