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Sotheby’s 20th-Century Design

Lita Solis-Cohen | June 12th, 2013


This circa 1905 Tiffany Studios Poppy table lamp, leaded glass and patinated bronze, sold in the salesroom to McClelland + Rachen, New York City, for $209,000 (est. $80,000/120,000). The 20½" diameter shade is impressed “TIFFANY STUDIOS NEW YORK 1531-17.” The base is impressed “TIFFANY STUDIOS/NEW YORK/366” and is
25 7/8" high. On June 13 Christie’s sold a Poppy lamp for $135,750 ($70,000/90,000). The shade on the Christie’s lamp doesn’t have purple/blue, and there was less competition in the salesroom.

 

Paul Lobel silver-plated metal tea or coffee service, with pot, sugar, creamer, and tray, circa 1934, manufactured by Wilcox Silver Plate Company for International Silver Company, Meriden, Connecticut, sold on the phone to a collector for $449,000 (est. $75,000/100,000). The sugar, creamer, and pot are impressed WILCOX S.P. CO./ INTERNATIONAL S.P. CO./ EPWM/ N5873and incised 407949, and the tray is impressed International/ Giftware,” and each piece bears a monogram. The pot is 5 7/8" high; the tray is 1 1/8" x 18 1/8" x 8¼".

In 1934, Paul Lobel exhibited two groundbreaking Modernist prototypes, a tea service and a cocktail shaker, in the Contemporary American Industrial Art exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The location of the prototype from the 1934 exhibition is unknown, and there are only four known extant examples of the Wilcox production. A complete service is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of the Art, a second complete service is a promised gift from the collection of John C. Waddell to the Yale University Art gallery, and a third partial set is in the collection of Carole Stupell. Sotheby’s sold an individual pot in December 2011. The production examples vary from the prototype in materials as the later ones were executed in silver-plated metal, rather than sterling silver, and the handle design was changed from Catalin to plated silver with a wooden insulating disk.

New York City

Photos courtesy Sotheby’s

On the morning of June 12 Sotheby’s ended its 2012-13 fall-to-spring season with a $4.7 million sale of 20th-century design. There were some strong prices and some bumpy patches.

A Paul Lobel silver-plated tea or coffee service sold on the phone to a collector for $449,000 (includes buyer’s premium), more than four times its high estimate of $100,000. A prototype of this set was included in the Contemporary American Industrial Art exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1934. Its whereabouts is not known. Following the 1934 exhibition, the Wilcox Silver Plate Company, a division of International Silver, introduced a production coffee service made of silver-plated metal rather than the sterling silver of the prototype. When the handle design was changed from Catalin to plated silver, a wooden insulating disk was inserted. Several of these production coffee services have survived; one is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, another is a promised gift from John C. Waddell to the Yale University Art Gallery, and a third partial set is in the collection of Carole Stupell, a home décor company that may have retailed it. Sotheby’s sold an individual pot in December 2011 for $104,500.

This machine-age design has a long publication history. The most complete discussion is in John Stuart Gordon’s A Modern World: American Design from the Yale University Art Gallery, 1920-1950 (2011). Gordon points out that Lobel reduced his design to basic geometric shapes, and the “only ornament is the play of reflections on the curved and flat surfaces.” The complete service that sold at Sotheby’s in June was a wedding gift in 1938 to Frances Alice Davidson and William Charles Sonnhalter of Cleveland, Ohio, and it remained in the same family until the sale.

This spring there was a lot of Tiffany on the market, with somewhat mixed results. The Tiffany market had held up well in the general downturn, with interest here and abroad. Condition and the choice of glass as well as rarity and quality of the design determine price.

A rare table lamp with a Dragonfly and Water Flowers shade, paired with a mosaic glass Arrowhead base made about five years later, sold to a collector on the phone for $257,000 (est. $150,000/200,000). Condition kept the price down for this lamp with a shade of historical importance that was paired with a base in the last decades of the 20th century. The shade, with dragonflies hovering over water flowers, was designed by Clara Driscoll in late 1898 or early 1899 and was likely the precursor of the firm’s lamp shades of various sizes incorporating dragonflies. One of these  Dragonfly and Water Flowers models was included in the famous exhibit of Tiffany’s works organized by Siegfried Bing at Grafton Galleries in London in 1899. One example with its original base is now at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York. The design was still being made in 1906 and is on the firm’s price list of that year ($90). According to the catalog, this shade is likely an experimental precursor of the model.

A Hanging Head Dragonfly table lamp, circa 1910, with a telescopic base, from another consignor, sold on the phone to an Asian collector for $221,000 (est. $100,000/150,000), and still another Dragonfly table lamp, circa 1905, that descended in a western Pennsylvania family sold for $161,000 (est. $100,000/150,000).

Tiffany floor lamps often bring a premium. A Peony Border floor lamp with a pigtail finial sold for $221,000 (est. $150,000/200,000) to an Asian collector. A Poppy lamp sold for $209,000 (est. $80,000/120,000) to art advisors McClelland + Rachen, New York City. It was acquired from a household employee of the Mellon-Scaife family of Pittsburgh in 1966 and had never been offered for sale before.

The work of Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne is in demand. An extensive silver-plated and stainless steel flatware service, 162 pieces in all, designed by Claude Lalanne, circa 1966, from the estate of David C. Copley of La Jolla, California, sold for $185,000 (est. $70,000/90,000), and a Mouton by François-Xavier Lalanne, of patinated bronze and wool, acquired from the artist in 1986, sold for $341,000 on the phone to a private collector. (Andy Williams’s flock of two sheep and four ottomans sold for $987,750 at Christie’s the following day. On November 15, 2012, Christie’s sold a flock of 24, consisting of eight sheep, one black, and 16 headless grazing sheep from the collection of Adelaide de Menil and Edmund Carpenter for $5,682,500.)

There were 14 lots of Arts and Crafts from the estate of Stephen Gray, one of the pioneering collectors and connoisseurs in the field. Most of the works offered were exhibited at the Wadsworth Atheneum in 2011 in an exhibition called At Home with Gustav Stickley: American Arts and Crafts from the Stephen Gray Collection. Gray gave a significant portion of the collection to the museum in Hartford. At Sotheby’s, all but one of the Gray lots sold, and one lot of pottery was withdrawn. A circa 1902 two-door bookcase, model no. 542, by Stickley sold on the phone for $16,250, and a Dirk Van Erp table lamp sold to another phone bidder for $23,750. Woodblock prints and pottery sold within estimates.

Two other lots of Arts and Crafts from other consignors sold over presale estimates. A Roycroft no. 80 magazine pedestal, circa 1906, marked on both sides with the firm’s orb and cross cipher, sold for $18,750 (est. $10,000/15,000). A 1903-05 Greene and Greene lantern sold on the phone for $53,125. It is not known for which commission it was originally made. It was moved to another Greene and Greene residence, the Van Rossem-Neil house in Pasadena, California, and was photographed there by Yasuhiro Ishimoto (1921-2012).

 French Art Nouveau pottery made at Sèvres and some French art glass, including Lalique, sold within hefty estimates. French Art Deco furniture struggled and accounted for most of the passed lots. Five lots of Harry Bertoia sculptures all found buyers. Of the 161 lots offered, 113 sold for $4,738,940.

For more information, go to (www.sothebys.com).

Tiffany Studios Dragonfly table lamp with a rare Bird Skeleton base, leaded glass and patinated bronze, circa 1905, sold on the phone to an American collector for $161,000 (est. $100,000/150,000). The shade is impressed “TIFFANY STUDIOS NEW YORK 1495,” and the base is impressed “442/TIFFANY STUDIOS/NEW YORK.” It is 27¾" high with a 20 3/8" diameter shade.

Circa 1910 Tiffany Studios floor lamp with a scroll design floor base and pigtail finial on the leaded glass and patinated bronze Peony Border shade, 77½" high with a 24 5/8" diameter shade, sold on the phone to an Asian private collector for $221,000 (est. $150,000/200,000). The shade is impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS NEW YORK 1574,” and the base is impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS/NEW YORK/D/936 with the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company monogram.

This Tiffany Studios table lamp, 17¼" high, comprises an 1898-99 Dragonfly and Water Flowers leaded glass and Favrile mosaic glass shade, 16¼" diameter, and a circa 1905 patinated bronze Arrowhead base. It sold to an American collector on the phone for $257,000 (est. $150,000/200,000). The oil canister is impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS NEW YORK/145, and the base is impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS/NEWYORK/145.The design is a variant of the production model of the Dragonfly and Water Flowers lamp shade.

Circa 1910 Tiffany Studios Hanging Head Dragonfly table lamp with a telescopic base, leaded glass and patinated bronze, sold for $221,000 (est. $100,000/150,000) on the phone to the same Asian private collector who bought the Peony Border floor lamp. The shade is impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS/NEW YORK/1507,” and the base is impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS/NEW YORK/397 (partially obscured). It is 29 3/8" high as shown with a 22¾" diameter shade.

Claude Lalanne silver-plated metal and stainless steel flatware service, circa 1966. Among the 162 pieces are 20 dinner forks, 19 dinner knives, 20 luncheon forks, 20 luncheon knives, 12 dinner spoons, 12 fish forks, 12 fish knives, ten soup spoons, 11 teaspoons, 12 demitasse spoons, four serving spoons, and two serving knives, impressed CL LALANNE. The set sold on the phone for $185,000 (est. $70,000/90,000).

Painted wood Rood-blauwe Stoel by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, 34 1/8" x 23½" x 31 7/8", circa 1970, was produced by Gerard van de Groenekan, De Bilt, the Netherlands, and marked with the firm’s brand. It sold on the phone for $43,750 (est. $15,000/20,000). It was acquired directly from the producer by art critic, curator, and museum director James Johnson Sweeney, thence by descent to the consignor.


Originally published in the October 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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