This massive Teco vase by Fritz Albert, 22½" high and decorated with irises, was made in Terra Cotta (Crystal Lake), Illinois, circa 1905, and is stamped “Teco” twice. It sold for $212,500 (est. $35,000/45,000).
Rare seven-handled Grueby vase, Boston, circa 1900, 10¾" high x 8½" wide, marked with circular Grueby stamp, $37,500 (est. $17,500/22,500).
Rago called this George Ohr bisque-fired vase of manipulated scroddled clay “exceptional.” Made in Biloxi, Mississippi, 1898-1910, 5" x 6", it sold for $20,000 (est. $4500/6500).
This small bulbous pinched pitcher with a black glaze, melt fissures, and an amber interior, 1897-1900, stamped “G.E. OHR, Biloxi, Miss.,” 3¾" x 3½", published in Ellison’s George Ohr, Art Potter, sold for $11,250 (est. $1500/2000).
Rare circa 1900 Yeddo plant stand with 10" Grueby tile, Eastwood, New York, 24" high x top 15" square, unmarked, sold on the phone for $18,750 (est. $6500/9500).
Martin Brothers bird-shaped tobacco jar made in England in 1892, salt-glazed stoneware on a wooden base, the head and base signed “Martin Bros London & Southall 7-1892,” 11" tall, sold for $93,750 on the phone. At Sotheby’s in January 2001 at the Harriman Judd sale, it sold for $23,750. It was one of seven birds from a New York collection at the Rago sale that sold for a total of $312,500. Prices included $20,000 for one 12" tall bird that sold at Christie’s in 1994 for $11,270. The others sold for $56,250, $50,000, $36,250, $30,000, and $26,250.
Tiffany Studios, New York, unmarked pair of large turtleback glass patinated bronze single-socket wall sconces, 16½" x 11" x 8", circa 1900, from the John Graham residence in Springfield, Pennsylvania, sold for $38,750 (est. $5000/7000).
Cherry sideboard by Wharton Esherick (1887-1970), 36" x 139" x 21¾", carved signature “W.E. 1960,” sold with a copy of the original drawing for $118,750.
Paul Evans, Directional, deep relief cabinet, 1960’s, welded and polychrome steel, patinated bronze, cleft slate, polychrome wood, 31" x 96" x 21½", unmarked, sold for $56,250 (est. $18,000/24,000).
Lambertville, New Jersey
Photos courtesy Rago Arts
Rago Arts and Auction Center’s March sales in Lambertville, New Jersey, of early 20th-century design, Arts and Crafts, and studio ceramics on March 2 and 20th- and 21st-century design and studio glass on March 3, produced solid results. The sold total landed midway between high and low estimates on both days—$2,555,719 (includes buyers’ premiums) on Saturday and $2,827,250 on Sunday—for a grand total of $5,382,969. Each day’s offerings were 85% sold by lot.
Now that the firm holds regular unreserved sales (having changed the name from discovery or estate sales to describe what these general sales are—i.e., unreserved), David Rago, his wife, Suzanne Perrault, and partner Jerry Cohen are able to curate their triannual 20th-century weekend sales more carefully.
Most of the lots were sold to phone and on-line bidders. There were 309 phone bidders overall, 568 on-line bidders on Saturday, and 996 on-line bidders on Sunday. Rago said 11% of the on-line bidders on Sunday were bidding outside the U.S. from Canada, Europe, South America, Asia, Australia, and South Africa. On-line bidders paid a 26% buyer’s premium on the first $75,000, instead of the usual 25%, and 20% on any amount over $75,000 up to $1.5 million. After the sale Rago sent out a press release saying that LiveAuctioneers had raised its fees, and from now on on-line buyers will pay 28%. Rago invites all bidders to arrange phone or absentee bids or, best of all, come to the sale. Some of the 116 who came to the sale and signed up for bidding paddles during the weekend were successful buyers, and some of the 172 who left absentee bids got what they were after. There was good competition for the 1124 lots offered. Only 165 lots failed to sell. They were then offered on line priced at the reserve plus buyer’s premium; several dozen sold.
Rago seemed pleased with results. He called the sale “solid.” The high-end market never went away, but the middle market that stalled in 2009 is coming back solidly. There was real enthusiasm for ceramics, partly because Rago’s passion for it is contagious.
Jerry Cohen, the Rago partner in charge of Arts and Crafts furniture, said, “Anyone who collects ceramics found this a very exciting sale with really strong prices, and those who buy Arts and Crafts furniture left with big smiles on their faces because they got some very good buys.”
A massive Teco vase decorated with irises designed by Fritz Albert sold for $212,500. It is rare. Rago thinks these vases may have been used as umbrella stands and got broken, or Teco may not have made many; they were expensive. “I have seen only one other, and I sold it twenty years ago,” Rago said.
Seven Martin Brothers jars stood on a shelf together like a reunion of old fraternity brothers. They brought a total $312,500, boosted by a whopping $93,750 paid for one of them, an 11" high fellow with feathers tinged with blue and an amused smirk. At the Harriman Judd sale at Sotheby’s in January 2001, it sold for $23,750.
Marblehead pottery has a loyal following. A green glazed large squat bulbous vase, wider than tall, decorated with stylized roses, sold for $43,750. It was designed by Arthur Hennessy and decorated by Sarah Tutt and incised “HT.” A tall, elaborately decorated Roseville Della Robbia vase sold for $43,750. A Grueby seven-handled vase brought $37,500, and a large George Ohr vessel with a folded rim and long dimples in the body sold for $37,500. It was part of a large consignment of Ohr from the collector and author Robert A. Ellison Jr., and all of them were illustrated in his book George Ohr, Art Potter: The Apostle of Individuality (2006). The bulk of Ellison’s collection is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The market for Ohr was strong for small pieces, and some larger ones seemed like bargains. A baluster vase, 7¼" high, with a body twist, pinched handles, and sponged- on raspberry, jade, and emerald glaze, 1895-96, stamped “G.E. Ohr, Biloxi Miss.,” sold for $26,250. Another vase about the same size with a gunmetal mottled glaze sold for $31,250. A large Ohr teapot fetched $10,000, its high estimate. Some tiny folded vessels sold for big prices. One, 3¾" high, sold for $11,250; another pinched pitcher with a cutout handle, 3½" high, went for $10,625. A squat vase, 4¾" high, with a deep body twist, lobed rim, and green/brown amber speckled glaze fetched $15,000. Four “burned babies,” small folded vases that survived the fire in the Ohr workshop in 1894 and are covered with ashes, sold over estimates for $938, $1250, $1375, and $2500.
The top ten lots on Saturday were pottery or glass. Furniture had to be very special to sell over estimates. A Gustav Stickley experimental circa 1900 Yeddo plant stand, with a 10" Grueby tile in its top, inspired by Orientalism, was contested, and it sold on the phone for $18,750. It was the top lot of Arts and Crafts furniture.
“The market has changed for Arts and Crafts furniture,” said Jerry Cohen. “Ten years ago collectors wanted furniture in untouched original condition. They looked past problems and wanted to buy furniture just as it came out of the house. Original surfaces brought a premium. Now it seems that wear and tear of a hundred years of use is not as appealing; the new collectors want to buy the table and chairs, sideboards, and bookcases ready to use. The auction house is not in the furniture restoration business, so some lots are in good condition and bring a premium, and others with minor flaws that need a couple of hundred dollars’ worth of restoration are very good buys.”
Even furniture in good condition is bringing less than it did a decade ago. For example, a nine-drawer dresser with a black decal sold for $6250. In the good old days it might have sold for $7000/9000. A Limbert double-oval table that has lost its paper label sold for $6250. An iconic design, it had been refinished. In original finish these tables have sold for $8000/16,000 according to Cohen. There were two L. & J. G. Stickley triple-door bookcases: one branded with a dark finish sold for $11,250 (est. $6000/8000), and the other, unmarked, sold for $8750 (est. $8000/10,000). A rare Gustav Stickley work cabinet with a $22,000/28,000 estimate failed to sell.
Handmade and manufactured modern furniture found plenty of buyers willing to pay higher prices. A Wharton Esherick cherrywood sideboard sold for $118,750. A rare Phil Powell and Paul Evans cabinet, 1950’s, sold for $68,750. In anticipation of next year’s Paul Evans exhibition at the James A. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Evans furniture was strong. A Directional 1960’s deep relief cabinet sold for $56,250, and an Evans Studio deep relief hanging cabinet sold for $26,250.
Some solid prices were paid for Nakashima, perhaps because Rago did not offer as much as usual. Six Conoid dining chairs by George and Mira Nakashima sold for $26,250, and a Minguren I dining table by Mira Nakashima of maple burl, walnut, and laurel wood, made in June 2000, sold for $23,750. A walnut double dresser by George Nakashima, 1959, went for $18,750 (est. $6000/8000), and another similar dresser sold for $20,000 (est. $7500/9500). Two four-drawer chests sold for $7500 each (est. $3500/5500), and a pair of bedside tables with drawers made before 1954 sold for $12,500 (est. $5000/7000).
Lighting continues to be in demand. A pair of Tiffany turtleback wall sconces sold for $38,750, and a large, early Tiffany electrolier, unmarked, consigned by a church, sold for $38,750. A pair of large bronze wall sconces with linen shades by Felix Agostini, made in France in the 1960’s, sold for $26,250. Three pairs of 1950’s lamps, two by Jacques Adnet and one by Carl Aubock, sold for $11,250, $10,000, and $9375 respectively.
Studio ceramics and glass are still struggling to find a price level at auction. Works by the first generation of studio artists sold well. A massive bowl by Otto and Gertrud Natzler sold for $32,500, and another large folded vase by the Natzlers sold for $21,250. A large Hans Coper vase went for $15,000. His work has sold for a lot more. Half a dozen pottery vessels by living artists sold for $5000; most brought less but they sold.
For more information, check the Web site (www.ragoarts.com) or call (609) 397-9374.
Phil Powell and Paul Evans collaborated on this cabinet in the 1950’s. The unmarked sculpted walnut, welded bronze, patinated steel, and slate cabinet, 22" x 110" x 22", sold for $68,750 (est. $12,000/18,000).
Joost Schmidt and Josef Hartwig, Dessau, Germany, 1930’s, Bauhaus chess set in original box, 3" high x 5¼" square, blonde and ebonized wood, stained beech, stamped signature, sold for $17,500 (est. $5000/7000).
The market for Vladimir Kagan seems strong. This adjustable lounge chair and ottoman, New York, 1950’s, sculpted walnut, recycled leather, lounge 34" x 37" x 41" as pictured, ottoman 17½" x 20" x 21", unmarked, sold for $16,250 (est. $7000/9000).
Originally published in the June 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest