Published: May 31, 2022
Review by Z.G. Burnett, Photos Courtesy of Fontaine’s Auction Gallery
PITTSFIELD, MASS. – Tiffany lamps dominated the top listings at Fontaine’s May 21 auction, with eight out of the ten highest prices won by table and floor lamps from the prestigious studio. Tiffany lamps comprised 24 of the sale’s 406 lots which included notable silver, fine jewelry, painted works of art and sculpture, almost all perfectly suitable to outfit a Gilded Age estate.
“Bidding was robust and there was a lot of action for the Tiffany,” said John Fontaine, chief executive officer and auctioneer. Tiffany continues to be a favorite among collectors, with the two top lots and many others selling online and over the phone during this live sale.
The highest-selling of these lamps was the “Spider” table lamp, an unusually creepy design for Tiffany. Presented with a mushroom base, these two styles are typically paired together. Made in 1905 from green leaded glass and gilt bronze, the shade resembles an arachnid crouching over its web, but further inspection reveals an abstract form rather than a bronze spider. The lamp nonetheless caught $40,625. A similar lamp sold for just under $109,000 at Sotheby’s Dreaming in Glass: Masterworks by Tiffany Studios sale in 2019.
Close behind this was another Tiffany table lamp, more typical of the studio and displaying a daffodil motif on its polychrome leaded glass shade and a slender, footed urn-like base crafted from patinaed bronze. Slightly smaller than the Spider, it sold for $37,500. The third lot was once more a table lamp from Tiffany; this time with a tulip motif on its shade and footed base decorated with spirals. This sold for $34,375.
Among the top lamp lots, a Tiffany Turtle-Back torchiere stood out. Its Favrile glass was developed and patented by Louis Comfort Tiffany then produced for the company in 1896. The glass is prized for its distinct iridescence. The inverted shade is supported by three intertwining, stemlike tendrils fashioned from patinaed bronze. The lamp reached $31,250.
Other top Tiffany lamps included a Turtle-Back floor lamp with a bronze patina footed base, circa 1910, for $34,375; two early Twentieth Century Linenfold table lamps with Favrile glass shades, which sold for $30,000 and $23,750; a circa 1915 Geometric table lamp for $28,750 and an Apple Blossom table lamp, circa 1905, for $20,000.
Lamps were not the sole subject of this sale, as many other lots demonstrated. Following the top Tiffany lamps in lot sequence and price was a 1993 Bentley Brooklands Sedan, which arrived at $23,750. The model was introduced in 1992 to replace the Bentley Mulsanne S and Bentley Eight Models, and as a slightly less expensive alternative to the Bentley Turbo R. This sale was quite a deal, as the original MSRP base price was $138,500. With 32,920 miles and a 6.75-litre Rolls-Royce V8 engine under its hood, rear-wheel drive and four-speed automatic transmission, it’s no doubt that the buyer will rack up that mileage quickly in the coming season.
Another eight-legged Tiffany creation appeared in the sale, an inkwell in the shape of a crab, offering a pot with a hinged lid. Crafted from patinaed bronze, the life-sized crab is exquisitely detailed. The inkwell has a glass insert, and the top is fashioned from a real oyster shell. An identical inkwell is featured in Tiffany Lamps and Metalware; An Illustrated Reference to Over 2000 Models by Alastair Duncan (2007). This charming crustacean performed over estimate at $20,000.
Sterling silver flatware has been trending of late in the auction market and the Reed & Barton set in the Love Disarmed pattern from this sale was no exception, selling for $18,750. Highly sought-after by collectors, the figural representation of a mother and child on the handles was achieved with molded dies that wore down after aggressive marketing of the pattern, and the last production run was around 2005. This rare 114-piece set is from the early Twentieth Century and retained its original mahogany case.
Standing in relief against the other top lots was a bronze tondo portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), made by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The artist and author met in 1887, as Saint-Gaudens was inspired to create the portrait after reading Stevenson’s The New Arabian Knight (1882). Saint-Gaudens only had five short sessions in which to model Stevenson’s head, then added his hands to the relief’s design the following year. The bronze was released in many editions of different sizes up to 1893, and Saint-Gaudens later remodeled it for a larger memorial in Edinburgh. This example is an early cast marked 1887 and realized $16,250.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, www.fontainesauction.com or 413-448-8922.
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