Published: January 28, 2020
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy Fontaine’s Auction Gallery
PITTSFIELD, MASS. – On January 18, John Fontaine’s Auction Gallery conducted a successful sale of Art Nouveau lighting, art glass, Golden Age bronzes and paintings and more. The dozens of lighting examples included lamps and chandeliers by a variety of makers: Tiffany, Pairpoint, Galle, Duffner & Kimball, Steuben, Wilkinson, Unique and others. Art glass included examples by Tiffany, Steuben, Galle, Walter Nancy, Burgun & Schverer and others.
Was it a strong sale? Of the first 15 lots, 12 sold for more than $10,000 each, and strong prices continued throughout the 400-lot sale, which grossed $1,106,053. Only 21 lots were passed, resulting in about 95 percent being sold. High estimates were frequently exceeded, including the $48,400 achieved for a hand illuminated bible that was estimated at $3/5,000. Three internet platforms were in use, as many as six phone lines were in use for some lots, there were numerous absentee bids, and bidders in the room took many lots. Negative weather forecasts may have affected the size of the crowd in the room.
The highest price of the day was realized by a Tiffany Studios “Peony Border” floor lamp, which finished at $151,250, selling to a phone bidder. Both the shade and the base were signed. The shade had a band of pink and red peonies surrounded by mottled green, red and amber leaves and stems. The bronze base had multiple coiled decorations that curled at the ends, and the round platform bottom was ribbed and on three ball feet. Phone and internet bidders can be comfortable with Fontaine’s cataloging. There were more than 30 photographs online for this lamp, and the imperfections were noted in detail. The defects were pictured, the shade was pictured from all sides, the bronze base was shown – bidders could see exactly what they were bidding on. Six phone bidders competed.
In general, Tiffany lamps, did well. A Tiffany Studios green to amber dichroic geometric table lamp, signed on shade and base, realized $26,200, while a Tiffany Studios iridescent chunk turtleback table lamp, with five rows in the border and seven in the top, signed both on shade and base, finished at $14,520.
Other Art Nouveau lighting also did well. The first lot of the day, a puffy Pairpoint owl table lamp with a rare grey and white owl shade over an owl base was estimated at $40,000 but sold to a phone bidder for $78,650. The buyer said that he had an example with a brown owl and “had always wanted a white one.” Fontaine said this coloring is “extremely rare” and only a few are known.
Another Pairpoint puffy table lamp, this one in the “Orange Tree” pattern, sold for $33,800, also well over the estimate. The signed reverse painted blown out shade featured butterflies, leaves, oranges and orange blossoms against a background of green leaves and branches. One other Pairpoint puffy lamp brought more than $10,000. It was an “Appletree” pattern shade with butterflies and bumblebees against a background of apples and apple blossoms. It was on a signed Pairpoint tree trunk base and finished at $14,520.
Other lamps that did well included a Duffner and Kimberly #519 quatrefoil example with a shade of amber and green on a signed bronze base. It realized $18,150. A green Quezal lamp with a matching glass shade and base, both with leaves, vines and flowers, brought $6,655 even though the base had a long crack. A Daum Nancy cameo glass lamp decorated with yellow-orange maple leaves and maple “helicopters” on a matching base sold for $3,933.
Art glass included examples by several makers. Bringing the highest price of the selection was an unsigned set of 12 intaglio cut amber glass goblets that sold for $6,655. A purple Tiffany Studios decanter with a gold iridescent pulled feather design around the shoulder reached $6,050, and a Tiffany Studios Favrile glass floriform vase with an inverted saucer foot reached $3,630. An interesting set of 15 Tiffany Studios Favrile glass tiles, each with unique designs and colors, sold for $3,025. One was marked, “Pat. Appl’d For” but nothing more was known. There were several Steuben Cluthra pieces, some sold in lots. One such lot of six vases, each 7 inches tall, in a variety of colors, brought $2,299. French cameo glass was represented by Galle and other makers. A blue Le Verre Francais cameo glass boudoir lamp brought $2,178, and a three-color Galle floral cameo glass vase, 9 inches tall, earned $1,089. An enamel decorated Galle perfume bottle with transparent amber glass decorated with floral patterns signed on the underside “E. Galle/depose” reached $2,299. A colorful Galle pottery ewer with enameled decoration earned $1,150.
One of the particularly interesting items in the sale was an early illuminated manuscript book cataloged as “Armenian bible with a repousse silver cover with Jesus on the cross, above a skull and crossbones. Mary and Joseph standing on either side of him; the back has the Nativity scene depicting the infant Jesus surrounded by Mary, Joseph, shepherds, sheep and angels. The spine is silver beaded mesh. The pages are beautifully hand painted and done in Armenian manuscript.”
The catalog did not attempt to date it, but an early catalog from the English bookseller Bernard Quaritich offered a perhaps related example. That description mentions the elaborate repousse silver work as probably dating to the late Sixteenth Century with the book itself perhaps 50 years older. That description stated that it had been done for an Armenian monastery in Cappadocia, at that time part of the Ottoman Empire. They described theirs as being on bombycine paper, (an early Greek paper), and noted that the decoration included birds and grotesque figures, as did Fontaine’s example, which while certainly intended for religious use, may not have been a bible. Fontaine said that there were more than a dozen requests for condition reports, one of which requested microscopic examination of the paper. Fontaine’s estimate was $3/5,000, and a phone bidder paid $48,400, which would indicate that interested buyers are carefully scanning all auction online listings, and that treasures continue to be unearthed.
John Fontaine commented that this sale reflected the current trends of the marketplace. “There were more lamps and smalls this time and less furniture. Furniture is soft right now, so it doesn’t make sense to try to sell material the market is soft on.” After the sale, Fontaine said he was pleased with the results. “Obviously, we were pleasantly surprised by the bible, but buyers find what they’re interested in. I was glad to see that the better Pairpoint lamps did well as there’s been some softness in that market. The Pairpoint and Tiffany lamps, overall, did well, as did the art glass. We’ll have an exceptional Tiffany Oriental Poppy chandelier with six additional lily pad shades coming up in our May 2 sale. That could be a half million-dollar piece. And this sale finished at more than $1 million – can’t be unhappy with that number.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, www.fontainesauction.com or 413-448-8922.
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