Published: October 21, 2003
David Rago, Jerry Cohen and Suzanne Perrault hosted an outstanding two-day auction on September 20-21 at Craftsman’s Auctions. The depth of this sale was impressive, as it offered exceptional examples of furniture, pottery, lighting and artist-signed tiles in 1,043 lots. With 140 absentee bids, 106 phone bidder and a large in-house audience, the auction was primed to succeed, and succeed it did – to the tune of $1.6 million.
The top lot of the day was a pre-1915 large and early Dirk Van Erp table lamp with a hammered copper milk can base topped by a four-panel copper and mica shade that came from the estate of the original owner. An astounding price of $176,250 was achieved for this desirable piece that was estimated at $50/70,000.
Rago auctions are indicative of high-quality rdf_Descriptions that appeal to the most discriminating collectors and enjoy a prestigious reputation far and wide. Architectural Digest magazine was present at the sale and had been on the premises for two days photographing and gathering material for a feature article on Rago Arts that will appear in the December issue.
This particular auction was distinguished by a world-class collection of tiles offered by Suzanne Perrault. Staggering prices were realized for 83 tiles that sold in the first session for more than $225,000. A wealth of information was given for each tile, along with estimates, which proved invaluable for those newly venturing into this up-and-coming market. Perrault characterized tiles as the next obvious interest for serious collectors. Perrault, a knowledgeable and well-respected tile authority, stated that several of the tiles were so rare that she had only seen them in books. She speculated that several records were no doubt set for various pieces but that she had not yet researched it. The greater majority of the tiles came into the auction house individually and not as part of a comprehensive collection.
The first tile lot, a Hartford faience mosaic tile titled “Eventide,” designed by Francis G. Plant and depicting a maiden in Raphaelite style holding a bouquet of red flowers, more than doubled its high estimate by commanding a price of $17,625. The second lot achieved a price of $18,800 for an outstanding 1922 Newcomb College plaque depicting Spanish moss dripping above a cottage under a full moon. And the third lot, which was described as “phenomenal” by Perrault, sold for an equally phenomenal price of $22,325.
Another remarkable Grueby tile, decorated in cuenca and cuerda seca and depicting Saint George slaying a dragon, sold for $24,675 against a high estimate of $15,000. A group of Franklin tiles was also offered, and leading this category was a large and rare vertical panel excised with a Northern scene of a moose and Canadian geese in purple silhouette on a yellow crystalline ground. This appealing tile realized $7,050.
Three Rookwood scenic vellum plaques of special note included “Hurley’s Hidden Mountain Pool” by E.T. Hurley, 1946, that yielded $21,150; “Evening,” by Fred Rothenbush with a landscape of trees in front of a green sky that brought $11,750; and “Mirror Lake,” painted by Ed Diers, 1919, showing tall trees reflected in a mountain lake, which sold for $9,400. Another rdf_Description that attracted wide bidder interest was a Catalina table with six tiles forming a panel with two bright red parrots. Although in crude condition, this piece realized a handsome price of $6,463.
There was much to be said for the depth of the sale in general, and it was a pleasure to see Arts and Crafts furniture return to the landmark auction house where Rago once again auctioned it under the watchful eye of the large photo of Gustav Stickley that hangs above the gallery. With the acquisition of additional warehouse space, Arts and Crafts furniture and an old tradition have returned to the Lambertville auction house. Rago and Cohen, partners in Craftsman Auctions, shared the podium at the outset of the auction. Rago later stated that he was greatly pleased to have his partner with him.
Key furniture rdf_Descriptions included a Gustav Stickley two-drawer vanity (no. 914) with overhanging top and a lamp table (no. 436) with legs mortised through the top and cross stretchers topped with a finial. Both were in original and good condition except that there were what appeared to be chew marks to the finial on the table.
A photo of the two rdf_Descriptions as they stood in the home “Utopia,” built by Dr Ferdinand Valentine in the early 1900s in Long Island, N.Y., appeared in the catalog next to the two rdf_Descriptions. A daschund sleeping under a table in the photo was fingered as the probable finial-chewing culprit. The lamp table (chewed finial notwithstanding) sold for $9,400 and the vanity brought $2,468.
Another furniture rdf_Description of interest was an Arts and Crafts custom-designed oak mantel centrally carved with a tree of life that was flanked by stylized floral stained glass cupboard doors, which sold for $4,113. An unusual Batchelder small chest with incised daffodils on the front panel had several competing absentee bids and realized $8,225. Roycroft sold well, with several rdf_Descriptions far exceeding their top estimates. Among them was a single-drawer dressing table with integrated mirror and Mackmurdo feet that brought $7,638; a four-drawer dresser with integrated mirror, brass pulls, and Mackmurdo feet sold for $10,575, and a double bed with vertical slat headboard and footboard, also on Mackmurdo feet, achieved $7,050.
Exceptional pottery is the norm at Rago, and this auction brought with it some outstanding pieces. A Grueby Kendrick vase that was used for the catalog cover had seven tooled and applied handles and was covered with a rare organic matte mustard glaze. This rdf_Description opened the auction with a realized price of $52,875.
On the light-hearted side was a rare Roycroft hammered copper and Bakelite telephone inscribed “Property of the American Bell Telephone Company.” After topping out at $4,250 in absentee bids, this appealing piece sold for $8,225. A large and nostalgic Indiana porch glider with the original split reed seat sold for $4,113.
Prices reflect a 171/2 percent buyer’s premium.
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