Published: December 27, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Abell Auction Co
LOS ANGELES – During his lifetime, Larry Flynt (1942-2021) made headlines for many things, not least for his provocative pornographic magazine, Hustler. But headlines of another kind were made on December 13, when furnishings from his company’s Beverly Hills office were sold at Abell Auction Co, a selection of more than 250 lots of furniture, fine and decorative arts. All 263 lots traded successfully, earning the sale “white glove” status, and it achieved a total of $636,875, according to Abell’s vice president, Todd Schireson.
“It greatly exceeded my expectations for the sale, Schireson said in a phone interview after the auction. “What was really interesting – there was not a lot of targeted memorabilia – it was all things from his office and the response was incredible. We had about 1,100 bidders on LiveAuctioneers and another five or six hundred on [our in-house platform]; a total of about 12,000 registered pre-bidders, a large percentage of that was from the West Coast, with additional interest both nationally and internationally. The sale got a lot of interest and engaged new bidders. It really helped that we had taken photos of things in his office, we shot things in situ, which give things a bit more validity.”
Many lots greatly exceeded presale expectations, including the top lot of the day, a 21¾-inch-tall Turn-Teplitz, Bohemia, circa 1900 Amphora vase modeled as a dragon spitting molded venom “coins” and entwining the lavender-ground stylized forest tapering body with molded tree trunks and roots, which bidders chased to $40,625 from an estimate of $1/1,500. The impressive piece had impressed crown marks, “Amphora” and “Austria” and “Imperial Amphora / Turn” mold number “669,” and further impressed “B” and “41.” Schireson noted it was “an exquisite, one-of-a-kind piece” that was purchased by a buyer in the United States.
Asian-inspired decorative arts may have been few in number – only 19 lots could be characterized as such – but those that were there attracted considerable interest, most notably the sale’s second highest result. Standing 59 inches tall and described as monumental were a pair of Chinese carved green jade cranes on stepped carved wood bases, that sold to an online buyer from Pasadena, Calif., for $34,375, flying far from the pair’s $3/5,000 prediction. Schireson said the buyer of the cranes was a dominant force in the sale, buying a dozen lots for about $100,000.
Other Chinese works that brought large sums included a pair of Chinese green jade plaques on stands that depicted landscapes with trees, pagodas and figures housed within lattice-style stands with foliate, which topped off at $18,750, and a pair of Chinese gilt enamel and sterling silver boats on carved wooden bases, one in the form of a lion, the other a peacock, which sailed to $15,000, five times the high estimate. Another Chinese carved stone depicted a mythological scene on a removeable base and finished at $7,500, an improvement over its $3/5,000 estimate.
Given the nature of Flynt’s media interests, the female form was expected, and the auction did not disappoint, with numerous lots in nearly every medium imaginable. Bringing $22,500, a result high enough to warrant it a third place finish, was a group of two Italian Carrara marble figures signed “A. Piazza Carrara.” Depicting two nude females in contrapposto with classical drapery and putti attendants on their circular bases, the two sold to a local collector who spent a total of $60,000 at the sale.
A bidder from the Southern United States splashed out $13,750 for “Nymph at the Fountain” by Saul Fanfani (Italian, 1856-1919), a 33-inch-tall marble with gilt bronze wreath. Other notable lots include a smaller carved marble female torso that got the sale off to a strong start with a $2,000 result, quadrupling expectations, while two Pierre Le Faguays (French, 1892-1962) Art Deco Serenite table lamps, each featuring female figures that were offered consecutively, attracted interest to $2,000 and $1,875, respectively.
Flynt’s offices demonstrated a largely Continental aesthetic, with both fine and decorative art objects attracting interest. A pair of French Baroque polished bronze seven-light torchieres with figural bases lit up to $10,625 and a French Boulle inlaid tall case clock timed out at $9,375. Napoleon III-style marble top side cabinets, a pair, went out at $4,688, the same price earned by both a pair of 29½-inch-tall Longwy porcelain vases and a pair of large French silver urns.
More than 40 lots of paintings were in the sale, led at $3,750 by both a Twentieth Century Venetian landscape in oil on canvas, and an 1890 oil on canvas London street scene with carriage by John Charles Maggs (British, 1819-1896).
Not to be outdone, there were also some strong results for the category of American decorative arts, which was headlined by 15 lots of Tiffany – or Tiffany style – lamps. Making the most of the group at $15,000 was a Tiffany Studios art glass table lamp with a “Tiffany Studios” marked shade and unmarked tree-trunk-form bronze base. According to Schireson, it sold to a collector in the American South, who prevailed against competition and won ten lots, spending about $30,000 in the sale. Bringing $6,250 was a Tiffany Dragonfly lamp, the shade labeled “Tiffany Studios” and the base signed “Tiffany Studios,” which was followed at $5,313 by a pair of Tiffany style floral table lamps with waterfall art glass shades and tree-form bronze bases.
Furniture prices were surprisingly strong, headed at $7,500 for a Renaissance Revival parlor cabinet attributed to Herter Brothers, a European Art Deco burl-walnut, metal mounted and marble top buffet at $6,250, and $4,375 for a pair of Neoclassical-style parcel-gilt and marble top consoles.
The auction included suites of furniture, a selling strategy that appealed to bidders. Bidders paid $4,063 for both an Empire-style Salon suite comprised of a settee, two armchairs, two circular side tales and a cocktail table and one in the Louis XVI style that featured four armchairs, a settee and a coffee table.
“Furniture was very strong,” Schireson said. “We were really happy with the results of the furnishings and the salon suites.”
Schireson went on to note that Abell Auction Co plans to sell a second group of items from the estate of Larry Flynt in the first quarter of 2023.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For additional information, 323-724-8102 or www.abell.com.
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