A record price paid at auction for any piece of American art pottery was established on June 6, as a rare piece of Rookwood pottery sold for more than $350,000 at Cincinnati Art Galleries.
The piece was one of more than 1,400 pieces of pottery offered during the three-day sale with examples coming from several coveted collections including Vance Jordan, Truett Lawson and the collection of John Hunter and Allen Weisberger.
The record setting Rookwood piece measured 141/2 inches and was a black iris glazed vase decorated with electroplated copper and silver overlay of lotus blossoms by Kataro Shirayamadani and executed in 1900. The rare vase was decorated with flying cranes that were depicted moving through black clouds on the surface of the vase. This particular vase is believed to have been exhibited in the Paris Exposition of 1900 and was also exhibited in 1991-92 at The Cincinnati Art Museum’s exhibition “Rookwood Pottery: The Great Gamble.” The vase was one of approximately ten pieces of Rookwood consigned from the collection of Truett Lawson.
The phone bidder then hammered away with another bidder to the $300,000 mark with a final bid of $305,000 coming from the phone, resulting in a selling price of $350,750, including premium. The successful buyer was described as a “local collector who decided to stay home and bid by phone.”
“We felt the vase would break the existing record for American art pottery but were somewhat surprised by the outcome,” stated Humler after the auction. “This is certainly the finest Rookwood vase we have ever had the privilege of selling in our 15 years of auctions and we are extremely pleased that the vase has come home to Cincinnati, at least for the foreseeable future.” The previous record for a Rookwood vase was also established by Cincinnati Art Galleries in 1991 when they sold a Shirayamadani vase from the Glover Collection for $198,000.
Other top lots in the auction included a Rookwood pillow vase with Indian portrait decoration by Grace Young that realized the highest amount Cincinnati has ever gotten for an Indian portrait vase, $51,750.
Another of the Shirayamadani vases to do well was a 14-inch tall red vase with dragon decoration that sold for $29,900 despite a hairline at the rim. A large porcelain vase by Rookwood’s president John Dee Wareham, which had descended in the family of one of Rookwood’s last owners, did well selling at $17,250.
A large Rookwood vase with an Oriental flair by Arthur Conan with crisp decoration did well at $10,925, a vellum glazed vase by Lenore Asbury $13,225, a pair of Rookwood penguin bookends $2,875 and a set of three tiles decorated with a landscape went reasonably at $7,475.
Other pieces of pottery sold during the three-day auction included an unusual piece of Weller with architectural form selling at $4,140; a Loetz vase by Josef Hoffmann in brilliant green with black decoration, $9,200; a Galle mold-blown vase in purple cut-back to yellow, $7,475; and a Daum lamp in the Winter pattern realized $10,350.
A Teco piece, atypical of their pots in that it did not have an architectural form and was decorated with a free-form nude attached to the rim, attracted quite a bit of competition with it selling at $24,150 despite a repair.