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Rago's 20th/21st-Century Design Auction

Lita Solis-Cohen | October 26th, 2013


This untitled watercolor by Sadie Irvine (1887-1970), with original frame, was done in New Orleans during the 1920’s. Done on a drawing tablet and signed “S.A.E. Irvine,” the 19" x 13" painting sold for $10,000 (est. $2750/3250) to a collector on the phone, underbid on line and on another phone.


Sara Galner (1894-1982) was one of the Saturday Evening Girls in Boston and made this large (11¾" diameter) four-color bowl decorated in cuerda seca technique with nasturtiums, circa 1910. Signed “SG/ SEG” and with illegible numbers, the bowl sold for $32,500 (est. $4500/6500).


The 1898 glazed stoneware bird tobacco jar by Martin Brothers has the head and base signed “Martin Bros. London + Southall 1-1898.” On a base, the 11" x 6" jar sold for $59,375 (est. $40,000/50,000). It was one of four Martin Brothers bird tobacco jars in the sale, of which two sold. Not shown, the other one that sold went for $27,500 (est. $17,500/22,500).

This exceptional early vase by Harriet C. Joor (1875-1965) was carved with magnolias in New Orleans, Louisiana, 1902. It is marked “NC/ HJ K 96X” and with a museum deaccession number from the Washington University Museum in St. Louis in 1945. The 13¾" tall vase is possibly one of the pieces Harriet Joor exhibited at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904. It sold for $62,500 (est. $27,500/37,500). Not shown, other Newcomb College vases sold within or slightly over estimates for $10,000 and $12,500.


In Boston, Massachusetts, circa 1915, Fannie Levine, Albina Mangini, and Edith Brown of the Saturday Evening Girls created a unique glazed ceramic fireplace surround decorated with the cuerda seca technique depicting a wooded landscape with a river. It was made for a private residence built by Edith Guerrier, near the Paul Revere Pottery works. Signed “FL/ AM/ PAUL REVERE POTTERY” and with Edith Brown’s cipher, the surround sold for $219,750 (est. $100,000/150,000).

Rago Arts and Auction Center, Lambertville, New Jersey

Photos courtesy Rago Arts

Rago Arts and Auction Center in Lambertville, New Jersey, held a two-day three-catalog sale on October 26 and 27, 2013, offering design from the 20th and 21st centuries, a full range of American art pottery and Mission furniture made early in the 20th century, studio ceramics, jewelry, glass, and art furniture from the 1990’s. It included French, English, Austrian, Italian, and Scandinavian design, all illustrated on six pounds of glossy paper. When the last hammer sounded, $6,767,751 (including buyers’ premiums) had been spent on 80% of the 1387 lots offered.

As one might expect of collectors of this type of design, most of the buying was done on the phones and the Internet, though several dozen collectors and a couple of dealers came to the salesroom to watch and to bid and take home their purchases immediately. The statistics show that bidders from around the world were participating, though U.S. bidders were the majority.

Among the highlights on Saturday was a large four-color Saturday Evening Girls bowl, decorated by Sara Galner with cuerda seca nasturtiums, circa 1910, that sold for $32,500 (est. $4500/6500). A Saturday Evening Girls glazed ceramic fireplace surround from a private residence in Boston sold for $219,750 (est. $100,000/150,000).

Although there were some strong prices, there were some weak areas. The market for George Ohr, for example, seemed soft. His folded and pinched vases and pitchers with rich glazes sold on the low side of estimates, for good but not great pieces. There were some strong prices for Newcomb College pottery. A tall vase carved with magnolias by Harriet C. Joor sold for $62,500 (est. $27,500/37,500). But some small pieces of Newcomb sold below estimates or were passed. A rare watercolor by Sadie Irvine of a young woman in a forest of live oaks, in its original frame, sold for $10,000 (est. $2750/3250). Two Martin Brothers bird-shaped lidded tobacco jars sold, and one made $59,375 (est. $40,000/50,000), but two others did not sell. Moorcroft sold over estimates; a large landscape vase in red flambé glaze sold on line for $16,250 (est. $7000/10,000).

There was a small selection of Arts and Crafts furniture that brought reasonable prices for good forms. Finish or minor wear kept the prices down. Rare forms were not overlooked. A Roycroft piano bench sold for $4687.50 (est. $2200/2800).

Studio ceramics, glass, and jewelry were offered from a separate catalog. Glass performed better than ceramics. A Stack pot by Peter Voulkos from his series by that name sold for $27,500 (est. $25,000/35,000). A large, low orange bowl by Gertrud and Otto Natzler brought the same price (est. $10,000/15,000.) A large Dango pot (a 3' tall globular white form with black dots) by Jun Kaneko brought $23,750. (Dango is Japanese for dumpling. Kaneko made a series of these pots as sculptures.)

Porcelain vases by Brother Thomas Bezanson (1929-2007) sold over estimates. An 11½" tall vase with a brown tenmoku glaze (a classic Japanese glaze) sold for $8125 (est. $3000/5000), and a 9¼" tall vase with a purple glaze sold for $5937.50 (est. $2000/3000). On the other hand, stoneware vessels by Robert Turner in forms similar to some by him that had sold well in June 2013 did not sell over modest estimates, and several were passed.

Studio glass performed better than ceramics overall. Auctions for studio glass and ceramics are generally wholesale markets, as the generation of original collectors is downsizing and a new group of collectors with confidence in their taste are building collections. A 27" tall Venetian vase, made by Dale Chihuly in 1990, went for $25,000, and a large (36" diameter) Macchia bowl by Chihuly sold for $17,500.

A small selection of studio jewelry crossed the block, and most of it sold to bidders on the phone or on line. A brooch by Margaret de Patta of sterling silver, one pearl, and three smooth beach pebbles sold for $8750 (est. $5000/7000). A Roy Lichtenstein Multiples Inc. brooch called Modern Head sold for $4687.50. Just eight of 30 lots of jewelry failed to sell.

The modern furniture and design session began with a stunning Josef Hoffmann design for Wiener Werkstätte. A six-light candelabrum in chased sterling silver sold for $43,750 (est. $25,000/35,000). The selection of good, not great, Paul Evans furniture sold within estimates, and most of it sold, as did the Nakashima furniture from an offering of very good, but not spectacular, offerings.

Italian lighting always sells over estimates. For instance, an articulated floor lamp by Franco Buzzi hammered for twice its high estimate at $8750. A neon wall lamp designed by Michelangelo Pistoletto for Meta Memphis sold for $7500 (est. $1800/2400).

The sale was arranged geographically, American followed by Italian, then French, Scandinavian, and then back to American studio furniture with Esherick, more Nakashima, followed by Wendell Castle and other American studio furniture made in the 1990’s. Most of it sold within estimates, with a few lots provoking keen competitive bidding. A bench called Folding Fish by John Cederquist from his “Conservation” series sold for $16,250 (est. $5000/7000).

Several lots illustrated here went on the phone to paddle number 1099. Rago identified the buyer as the Modernism Museum Mount Dora in Florida, which opened recently to good reviews with a show of furniture called Wharton to Wendell (Wharton Esherick to Wendell Castle). The museum acquired items by Esherick and by Castle at this sale. The museum board of trustees includes David Rago, Suzanne Perrault, John Sollo, Robert Aibel, and Paul Eisenhauer.

The Sunday sale accounted for more than half the sale total ($4,080,313). Of the 695 lots offered, 78% sold, and a good many passed lots sold immediately after the sale.

For more information, contact Rago Arts at (609) 397-9374; Web site (www.ragoarts.com).

Archibald Knox (1864-1933) designed this Liberty & Co. Cymric carriage clock, England, circa 1904. The sterling silver, turquoise, abalone, and enamel clock is stamped “L & Co Cymric” with hallmarks. The works are stamped “FRENCH MADE.” The 4¼" x 3" x 1¾" carriage clock sold for $12,500 (est. $5000/7000).

Rene Chambellan (1893-1955) created this decorative bronze gate in New York, circa 1928. The unmarked 63½" x 38¼" x 1" gate was made for the Chanin Building on East 42nd Street. (The artist also modeled the heroic Atlas holding up the world at Rockefeller Plaza.) It sold for $68,750 (est. $2500/3500).

In Boston, Massachusetts, in 2005, Dan Dailey (b. 1947) made this pair of sculptural sconces called Birds with Diamonds of blown glass, pâte de verre, nickel- and gold-plated bronze, and crystal. Each is 24" x 26" x 12" and has a single socket. Unmarked, with provenance from Leo Kaplan Modern, New York (copy of original receipt available), they sold for $59,375 (est. $25,000/35,000).

By Gustav Baumann (1881-1971), this color woodblock print, Singing Trees, has aluminum leaf and subtle colors on laid paper. Created in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1928, the framed and matted 12½" x 12½" image with his chop mark,  signed, titled, and numbered 35/120, sold for $20,000 (est. $7500/10,000).

Harvey Littleton (b. 1922), an iconic studio glass artist, created Implied Movement in 1987. Each of the six parts is signed, and five are dated “HKL 1-1987-6.” The tallest is 37¾" x 6". It sold for $32,500 (est. $10,000/15,000).

 

Bob Trotman (b. 1947) created this figural console in North Carolina of carved and painted wood. The unmarked 24" x 31" x 19" table sold for $10,000 (est. $1000/1500).

Tage Frid (1916-2004) designed the faceted and turned cherry bench in the 1960’s. The signed 17¾" x 64" x 12¼" bench sold on line for $11,875 (est. $1000/1500), underbid on the phone. Danish-born Frid came to the U.S. in 1948 to teach at the School of American Craftsmen in Alfred, New York, and then taught woodworking at Rochester Institute of Technology and at RISD. He authored books on woodworking and was a contributing editor of Fine Woodworking magazine.

This Tiffany Studios rare scarab inkwell, 2½" x 3½", from the early 1900’s, of patinated bronze with Favrile glass and clear glass, stamped “TIFFANY STUDIOS NEW YORK 1501,” sold for $25,000 (est. $5000/7000).

Otto Natzler (1908-2007) and Gertrud Natzler (1908-1971) worked in tandem in Los Angeles, California. Gertrud threw the thin forms, and Otto glazed them in remarkable variety. This 2¾" high x 13" diameter bowl with orange uranium glaze is from 1957, signed “Natzler,” and has a paper label “H 387.” The bowl sold for $27,500 (est. $10,000/15,000) and was the top Natzler lot of this sale. An early large bowl (not shown), 5" high x 10" diameter, sold for $16,250, but other smaller Natzler vessels sold for well under $5000.

Ercole Barovier (1889-1974) for Barovier & Toso, Oriente vase, Murano, possibly executed in 1960 (designed in 1940). The blown glass with silver leaf is unmarked, 11" x 6½", and sold for $20,000 (est. $4000/6000).

From the estate of Priscilla H. Barnum, who purchased directly from artists, this sculpture by Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) called Devon Dunes was made in 1958 of patinated and gilt bronze. The 49½" x 27½" x 8½" sculpture sold in the salesroom for $159,750 (est. $50,000/75,000) to James Elkind of Lost City Arts, New York City, a major dealer in Bertoia. He had competition from an absentee bidder and a phone bidder.


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

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