Published: September 22, 2020
Review by Rick Russack, Photos Courtesy Fontaine’s Auction Gallery
PITTSFIELD, MASS. – It was one of John Fontaine’s signature sales on September 12. There were a number of Tiffany lamps, including an Oriental poppy chandelier with six favrile glass lily shades; Pairpoint, Handel and other lamps; glass by Tiffany, Gallé and others; KPM porcelain plaques; bronzes; paintings; porcelains; furniture and more. To accommodate online bidders, each item was accurately described and photographed. Before the sale, Fontaine said they had taken about 6,500 photographs – an average of 15 per lot – and as many as 40 photos where needed. More than 450 items sold for five-figure prices. The sale grossed $2,412,180. Bidding was available on three platforms, with more than 6,000 registering to bid, as well absentee and phone bidding.
Not surprisingly, leading the day was a signed 26-inch-diameter Tiffany chandelier with colorful red-orange poppy flowers and six serpentine arms holding favrile glass lily shades, which brought $665,500. Three other Tiffany lamps rounded out the top four grossing items, including a 22-inch octagonal Elizabethan example with red, green, amber, and blue jewels set in yellow-green arabesques. Signed on both shade and base, it realized $90,750. The other two top selling Tiffany lamps were a curtain border floor lamp with a 24-inch shade, signed on both base and shade, which finished at $63,525, and another chandelier, this one with a 19-inch turtleback shade, which more than doubled its estimate, bringing $43,560.
It wasn’t only Tiffany lamps that were popular with bidders. They especially liked two Duffner and Kimberly table lamps. Reaching $33,275 was a colorful hexagonal Louis XIII table lamp with a 20-inch shade on an elaborate base. Bidders also liked another table lamp by the same maker, this one with red poppy flowers with a border of leaves and stems. With a 22-inch shade, it finished at $19,965. Duffner and Kimberly was in business only a short time, being founded in 1905 and declaring bankruptcy in 1911. Bidders also hotly contested numerous other lamps of the period, including examples by Handel, Fulper, Pairpoint and others.
Featured throughout the sale was a variety of art glass from Tiffany, Steuben and French cameo glass from Gallé and Daum Nancy. Topping the category was a Tiffany Studios agate vase, which tripled its estimate. Just under 7 inches tall, the vase had two oval-shaped areas with swirl designs and strong colors of purple, blue and amber, set against a primarily blue background. Signed on the underside, it reached $9,680. Also doing well was a 4-inch-tall Tiffany Studios red hooked feather vase, which went out at $4,538. A 5-inch-tall Steuben flambe baluster shaped vase, shape number 6500, sold for $6,353. Two Steuben blue aurene vases each sold for $424, and a peacock feather vase ended up at $2,057. Two large pieces of French cameo glass each sold for $5,445. One was a signed Gallé vase, just under 22 inches tall, with carved blueberries set among leaves and vines. The other was a Daum Nancy vase, 19 inches tall, carved with parrot tulips and leaves. It would be easy to continue this list, as several other pieces of art glass performed well.
One of the most unusual pieces of furniture in the sale was a large Moore “Insurance” patent desk that when opened would accommodate both a “clerk” and an “executive.” Of walnut, with numerous drawers and shelves in both sections, burl walnut drawer fronts, carved gallery tops and carved spire posts, the unusual desk sold for $13,310. The desk was patented in 1882, and similar examples were owned by US President Ulysses Grant, John D. Rockefeller and Joseph Pulitzer. It was a good buy, as the only similar example online is priced at just under $30,000. When originally produced, these desks sold between $110 and $185. One of the surprises of the sale, fetching more than eight times its estimate, was a 40-inch Egyptian Revival pedestal made by the Pottier and Stymus Co. It had an ebonized surface and was paint-decorated with flowers, leaves, fan palms and more. Expected to bring no more than $3,000, it finished up at $24,200. In 1872, the New York City firm employed more than 700 workmen, and clients included President Grant, Leland Stanford and Henry Flagler.
The sale included a number of stained and leaded glass windows. A pair of leaded glass windows, about 87 inches tall, each panel depicting a colorful angel in heavy, drapery glass, sold for $42,350. Another, attributed to Tiffany Studios, a 25-inch floral window with white ripple glass flowers, ripple glass leaves against a blue-sky background earned $21,175.
Fontaine’s is primarily a family enterprise, and reasonable, expedited shipping is one of the benefits. Shipping costs for lots purchased through online bidding at many auction houses using third-party shippers are often unpredictable. It’s less so at Fontaine’s. Mia Fontaine, John’s daughter, has for the last nine years, run her own shipping company, sharing space in the same building in which the auctions are conducted. She started at the age of 17 and the business grew out of a small antiques shop she was operating at the time. Ninety percent of the items needing shipping will go through her company, regardless of the size of the item or its ultimate destination. “We can handle international shipping, and we’ll also arrange delivery of larger items if that’s what our customer wants. We’ll deliver some items locally. I really enjoy handling the items I’m packing and learning about them as I do.” When asked how much it might cost to ship a small, fragile item that would fit into a medium-size Priority Mail box, she said, “probably about $28.”
A few days after the sale, John Fontaine said he was pleased to see the strength in the Tiffany market. “We had nearly 100 Tiffany pieces in the sale, and many exceeded the high estimates and many sold at about that figure. That strength carries over to lamps by other makers and glass by other makers, etc. Another thing that really caught my attention was the number of new bidders we had. Close to 200 people we’ve never done business with before signed up for this sale. We had 445 lots and 220 successful bidders. That says a lot of people were able to get what they wanted. I also saw strength in the Handel market, which has shown some softness lately, and our Arts and Crafts items did well. It’s apparent that the online sales are a great way to reach new customers and the market is strong now. We’re planning on doing a sale a month, which is more than we’ve done in the past, at least for the next six months. We’re getting plenty of good merchandise and we’ve been doing it long enough that we’re pretty well organized to handle the additional workload.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For more information, 413-448-8922 or www.fontainesauction.com.
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