Rago posts $406K world record for a William Morris glass vase

William Morris, Beetles with Flora glass vase, which sold for $310,000 ($406,100 with buyer’s premium) at Rago.

LAMBERTVILLE, NJ — On May 17, Rago achieved a new world record for American glass artist William Morris (b. 1957-) with a $310,000 hammer ($406,100 with buyer’s premium) for Beetles with Flora, a hand-blown glass vase from the artist’s Native Species series. The hammer price was far beyond the estimate of $30,000-$50,000. Full results for the sale can be seen at LiveAuctioneers.

Morris’ previous record was set in 2013 by Sable Antelope, a 1995 canopic jar with a figural antelope head, all from blown glass. Bonhams achieved $290,500 (including buyer’s premium) for the work, more than triple its estimate.

Trained under legendary glass artist Dale Chihuly, Morris carved his own niche in art glass by creating works that resemble ancient or antique objects. He brings history and a bit of nature to everything he designs.

Morris retired in 2007 to homes in Washington and Hawaii, making the 1999 work Beetles with Flora all the more desirable to collectors. Bidding began at $22,000 but steadily rose until it reached the $310,000 sum. The vase was far and away the top lot at Rago’s Contemporary Glass sale.

American, English, and Continental Silver comes to New York May 28

Louis XV French Gold-Plated Bronze Wall Clock, estimated at $21,000-$25,000 at Jasper52.

NEW YORK — American, English, and Continental silver ranging from the 18th to the 21st centuries comes to market at Jasper52 on Tuesday, May 28 exclusively at LiveAuctioneers.

The sale is highlighted by this early 18th-century George II silver bread basket, made in London in 1728 by Thomas Farren. With a beautiful scrolling edge upper border and pristine weave-work walls, the 9in diameter piece weighs 73 troy ounces. It carries an estimate of $50,000-$60,000.

Also featured is a 19th-century Louis XV French gold-plated bronze wall clock. Signed Preyat – Paris on the face and stamped S. Marti – Medaille de Bronze, it is estimated at $21,000-$25,000.

The final highlight comes direct from a private chateau in the south of France. This pair of privately commissioned candelabra were crafted by Henin & Cie, are in superb condition, and date to the 1880s. The pair is estimated to bring $14,000-$17,000.

One-sheet Poster for the 1980 British Royal Premiere of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ leads our five lots to watch

British world premiere one-sheet for ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ estimated at £10,000-£20,000 ($12,500-$25,000) at Propstore May 30.

One-sheet Poster for the 1980 British Royal Premiere of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’

RICKMANSWORTH, UK – One of the rarest of Lucasfilm marketing one-sheets for The Empire Strikes Back will be offered at Propstore Thursday, May 30 as part of its UK-based Collectible Poster Live Auction – London sale. The complete catalog is available for review and bidding now at LiveAuctioneers.

Anticipation was high for the release of the top summer blockbuster of 1980. Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox spared no expense for the UK release, timing it around the traditional date for British Empire Day. As a nod to philanthropy, the film’s premiere was part of the Royal Charity event in London May 20. This special poster was designed by Eddie Paul of the London ad agency FEREF, with the final artwork created by Ralph McQuarrie. Fox hired legions of actors dressed as Imperial stormtroopers to march around downtown London holding up placards of this poster.

Described as ‘unrestored in original flat, unfolded condition,’ the Empire Strikes Back poster to be offered at Propstore is estimated at £10,000-£20,000 ($12,500-$25,000).

Time Magazine Cover Art Featuring Gina Lollobrigida

Original portrait of Gina Lollobrigida, created by Boris Chaliapin for a 1954 ‘Time’ magazine cover and later presented to the actress, estimated at €50-€70 ($54-$75) at Wannenes May 28.
Original portrait of Gina Lollobrigida, created by Boris Chaliapin for a 1954 cover for ‘Time’ magazine that was later presented to the Italian actress, estimated at €50-€70 ($55-$75) at Wannenes May 28.

GENOA, Italy – On Tuesday, May 28, Italian auction house Wannenes will sell more than 400 lots from the estate of actress Gina Lollobrigida (1927-2023). Everything in the sale is offered without reserve, with all estimates set at just €50-€70 ($55-$75).

Pictured here is the original artwork used for the cover of a 1954 edition of Time magazine. It was one of 413 covers painted for Time by the Russian-born portrait painter Boris Chaliapin (1904-1979). It was said that he could execute excellent likenesses in as little as 12 hours. Occasionally, the magazine sent his portraits to the sitters after publication. Lollobrigida was among those who were favored in this way. Her Chaliapin portrait is offered in a wooden box with a label on one side that reads, ‘To Gina From her friends at Time, March 1969.’

Viking-era Amulet Designed to Ward Off Attacking Elves

Viking-era amulet to protect against 'elfshot', estimated at £250-£350 ($315-$445) at Timeline Auctions in its early June series of sales.
Viking-era amulet to protect against 'elfshot', estimated at £250-£350 ($315-$445) at Timeline Auctions in its early June series of sales.

HARWICH, UK – This Viking-era amulet dating from the 9th to the 11th century AD was believed to offer protection against ‘elfshot’. This term for an attack of elves was believed to be responsible for mysterious suffering in men and livestock, such as rheumatism and arthritis, as well as muscle stitches and cramps. Elves were thought to shoot darts or arrows at the places when pain had no obvious external cause. The occasional discovery of small arrowheads – the remains of Neolithic or Mesolithic flints – was thought to be proof of their existence. 

The tiny 5/8in (16mm) amulet, in gold and carnelian, is one of two offered for sale by Timeline Auctions as part of a five-day auction running from Tuesday, June 4 through Sunday, June 9. Each is estimated at £250-£350 ($315-$445). 

Original 1950s Rube Goldberg Daily Comic Strip

Original Rube Goldberg comic strip art, estimated at $3,000-$5,000 at Weiss Auctions June 5.
Original Rube Goldberg comic strip art, estimated at $3,000-$5,000 at Weiss Auctions June 5.

LYNBROOK, NY – For decades, American cartoonist Reuben ‘Rube’ Goldberg (1883-1970) delighted the public with his zany, complicated, and convoluted mechanisms for performing simple, everyday tasks. To this day, any contraption deemed unnecessarily complicated is described as a ‘Rube Goldberg device,’ so lasting is his cultural comedic impact.

Weiss Auctions brings an original 1950s-era Rube Goldberg daily one-panel strip to market as part of its Wednesday, June 5 Comics, Comic Art, and Animation sale. Titled ‘Taking the Shirt Off the Taxpayer’s Back,’ it features a comedic series of actions that ultimately trigger the intended result. The strip is dated July 15, but it is unknown which year it ran. Measuring 7 by 15in, the original artwork is estimated at $3,000-$5,000.

Pair of Robert Garrard II Victorian Sterling Silver Four-arm Candelabra

Pair of Robert Garrard II Victorian sterling silver four-arm candelabra, estimated at $20,000-$30,000 at Tremont June 4.
Pair of Robert Garrard II Victorian sterling silver four-arm candelabra, estimated at $20,000-$30,000 at Tremont June 4.

SUDBURY, MA – R&S Garrard was one of Victorian London’s fine silversmiths, serving a genteel clientele in the booming days of the British Empire. This pair of sterling silver four-arm candelabra is a featured lot at Tremont Auction’s Tuesday, June 4 Annual Spring Fine Arts & Antiques sale.

The pair dates to 1869 and 1870 and features ornate figural decorations of lion’s head scrolling arms with aesthetic angular accents. Their columns have faceted and decorated panels supporting figural busts and urns, and they bear the motto of Ung Durant Ma Vie, possibly for the Barrington family of London. They are also hallmarked on the sides of the bases and the interior columns of their tops with the phrase R&S Garrard Panton St. London. The pair carries an estimate of $20,000-$30,000.

David Iwerks collection of Disney and Ub Iwerks items performed admirably at Abell

Charlotte Clark Mickey Mouse Doll signed by Walt Disney, which sold for $16,000 ($20,480 with buyer's premium) at Abell.

LOS ANGELES — The David Iwerks collection of Disney-related items — along with artifacts from his father Ub’s legendary animation career — crushed estimates at Abell Auction April 16. Complete results are available at LiveAuctioneers.

As anticipated, the sale’s top lot was the Charlotte Clark Mickey Mouse doll signed by Walt Disney. Estimated at $6,000-$8,000, the 1930s-era plush toy doubled its high estimate to hammer at $16,000 and sell for $20,480.

Also expected to beat its expectations was the original hand-written score for Minnie’s Yoo-Hoo by legendary animation scoring specialist Carl Stalling. With sheets for every instrument in the scoring orchestra, the one-of-a-kind 1930s artifact hammered for $15,000 ($19,200 with buyer’s premium), more than doubling the high estimate.

The super-performer was a one-sheet for Flip The Frog, a generic promotional item from the 1930-1933 run while Ub Iwerks was at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Estimated at just $700-$1,000, it hammered for $5,500 ($7,040 with buyer’s premium).

Custom pocket watch for an Imperial Russian prince heads Heritage’s June 3 sale

Czapek & Cie gold and enamel quarter-repeating pocket watch For Prince Alexey Fyodorovich Orlov of Imperial Russia, estimated at $6,500-$1M at Heritage.

DALLAS — Czapek & Cie has long been a watchmaker to royalty. Founded in the mid-19th century by Czech-Polish watch specialist Francois Czapek, the company continues its fine timekeeping heritage with luxury examples worn by the affluent.

Around 1860, Czapek & Cie was commissioned to produce this pocket watch for Prince Alexey Fyodorovich Orlov (1787-1862) of Imperial Russia. Born into the aristocracy, Orlov began as a military man, serving Russia in the Napoleonic Wars from 1805 to the capture of Paris in 1814. He was elevated to the title of count for his services with the Horse Life Guards in the 1825 rebellion, and became a lieutenant-general during the Turkish War of 1828-1829.

In 1833, he transitioned to diplomacy with his appointment as ambassador for Czar Nicholas I in Constantinople (Istanbul). His career took a dark turn in 1844 to 1856 when he headed the Third Section secret police. He became a prince in 1856.

Though his death would only come two years later, his 1860 gold, enamel, and polychrome pocket watch was likely a prized possession. Fitted with the House of Orlov coat of arms, the quarter-repeating timepiece remains in excellent condition. Assigned an estimate of $6,500-$1 million, it is a featured lot in Heritage AuctionsWatches & Fine Timepieces sale on Monday, June 3. The complete catalog is available for review and bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

Buggy, wagon, and saleman sample collection brought strong results at Chupp

The Sun Always Shines On the Studebaker sign, which sold for $22,000 ($26,400 with buyer’s estimate) at Chupp.

SHIPSEWANA, IN — The lifetime collection of Lavon Yoder was offered at Chupp Auctions April 12 and April 13 with surprisingly strong results for Americana. Complete details of the sale are available at LiveAuctioneers.

Yoder’s collection was wide-ranging but had many focal points, including commercial horse-drawn wagons and related advertising and ephemera, nearly all of which sold far above their estimates. A new-old stock International Harvester Columbus Wagons advertising sign began bidding at a mere $50 but hammered for an incredible $31,000 ($37,200 with buyer’s premium).

Similarly, a 20ft three-piece sign for B.R. Cobb’s Stable (reading Hack and Boarding Erected 1888) was estimated at $100-$200 but skyrocketed to $23,000 ($27,600 with buyer’s premium). In both cases, dozens of escalating bids occurred before the hammer finally fell.

A tin lithographed sign advertising Studebaker wagons, described as ‘super rare’, was similarly estimated. More than four dozen bids took it to an astounding $22,000 ($26,400 with buyer’s estimate).

Salesman’s samples — miniaturized versions of large-scale products used to sell in person — are always in high demand. Two examples hammered for far beyond their $100-$200 estimates. A Monitor Mfg. Co. miniature windmill with its original transportation case commanded $17,500 ($21,000 with buyer’s premium), and a miniature horse-drawn Adriance Buckeye sickle mower with transportation case sold for $14,000 ($16,800 with buyer’s premium).

Gaetano Pesce handily beat estimates at Lyon & Turnbull’s Modern Made sale

Tramonto a New York (Sunset over New York) three-seater sofa designed by Gaetano Pesce for Cassina, which sold for £6,000 ($7,530, or $9,865 with buyer’s premium) at Lyon & Turnbull.

LONDON, UK – A cache of works by the Italian architect, artist, and designer Gaetano Pesce (1939-2024) was among the highlights of the Lyon & Turnbull Modern Made sale. The collection, among the largest in the UK, was formed by the photographer and graphic designer Steve Allison (b.1948-).

L&T’s head of sale Philip Smith described Allison’s collection as “an exemplar of how to acquire fantastic things on a relatively modest budget, by following your eye and your passions”. Allison — an integral part of the theatre, dance, and music scene of Cardiff, Wales since the 1970s — has collected Gaetano Pesce’s work for many years.

Examples of most of Pesce’s best-known interior furnishings from the Eighties, Nineties, and Aughts were included. All share the design pioneer’s famously bold aesthetic employing vibrant colors, experimental materials, and inventive organic forms. It is an indication of current collecting trends that of the 70 pieces offered in 58 lots on April 26, just three failed to sell.

The Tramonto A New York (Sunset Over New York) three-seater sofa was designed as a large orange sun sinking below the Manhattan skyline. Intended to capture the energy of ‘the capital of 20th century,’ it was made by Cassina in small numbers in 1984. Allison acquired his from MAD Design in the Netherlands in 2003. It was estimated at £3,000-£5,000 ($3,800-$6,300) and sold at £6,000 ($7,530, or $9,865 with buyer’s premium).

Pesce was a champion of new materials such as injection-molded resin and polyurethanes but — breaking with the modernist philosophy of standardization — created unique art-design pieces that invited flaws as part of the design process. “I like beauty full of mistakes because we are human. Perfection is for machines, it is obsolete, gone,” he said.

The collection included examples of the Moss and Spaghetti range of vases produced for Fish Design, which celebrate the uncertainty of their manufacture. These were among a group of small-scale pieces sold for prices between £320 ($400, or $525 with buyer’s premium) and £750 ($940, or $1,230 with buyer’s premium).

Every version of Pesce’s Greene Street Chair fashioned in cast resin, steel, and rubber is subtly different. Designed in 1984 for the Italian company Vitra, the form was named after the street where Pesce started his company in the Soho neighborhood of New York. The example in the Lyon & Turnbull auction was made in black resin and took £5,500 ($6,905, or $9,040 with buyer’s premium).

Estimated at £2,000-£3,000 and sold at £7,500 ($9,415, or $12,330 with buyer’s premium) was one of the interior doors from the headquarters of the Chiat-Day advertising agency, a seminal 1994 commission that helped shape the playful communal office spaces of today’s culture industries. Pesce’s light-hearted resin and steel doors were modeled in a range of forms, from telephones to baseball cleats with ‘melting’ handles. Allison had bought his ‘tennis racquet’ door from Los Angeles Modern Auctions in 2003 at a time when auction prices for these fanciful forms were around $2,000-$4,000 each.

Also from the Chait-Day project was a 1996 poured resin and enameled steel Waffle Table that sold at £8,000 ($10,040, or $13,150 with buyer’s premium). It had been acquired at Wright Chicago in April 2009 for $2,700.

A piece from Pesce’s series of abstract figurative lamps, collectively known as the Some of Us lamps, sold at £4,600 ($5,775, or $7,560 with buyer’s premium). It had earned $4,200 at Wright in 2008. Each of these, made in editions of 20, have a distinct countenance and form that glows when lit. This example, standing 3ft 1in (92cm) high, dated to circa 2000.

John Lennon’s ‘You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away’ acoustic guitar, found in an English attic, heads to Julien’s May 29-30

John Lennon's studio- and screen-used 1964 Framus Hootenanny 5/024 12-string acoustic guitar, estimated at $600,000-$800,000 at Julien's.

NEW YORK — John Lennon’s long-lost Framus 12-string Hootenanny acoustic guitar has been rediscovered and is coming to auction. The guitar and its original Maton case will be offered at Julien’s on Wednesday, May 29 and Thursday, May 30 as part of the Music Icons sale. It has an estimate of $600,000-$800,000.

The Hootenanny, long believed to have been lost, was used by Lennon in the recording of The Beatles’ Help! album (it featured on the singles Help! and You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away), and was played by George Harrison on the rhythm track for Norwegian Wood.

According to Julien’s, it was recently found in an attic in a home in the British countryside during a house move. Executive directors and co-founders Darren Julien and Martin Nolan traveled to the UK to view it and confirm the discovery.

Darren Julien describes it as “the greatest find of a Beatles guitar since Paul McCartney’s lost 1961 Höfner bass guitar. It still looks and plays like a dream after having been preserved in an attic for more than 50 years.” He believes it could set a new auction record for the highest-selling Beatles guitar, currently standing at $2.4 million bid at Julien’s in 2015 for the Gibson J-160E acoustic used by Lennon and McCartney to write and perform songs during 1962 and 1963.

Julien’s Music Icons sale, which will be staged at the Hard Rock Café in Manhattan, includes a remarkable array of star-touched guitars. Back at auction after almost 20 years is Prince’s yellow Cloud 3. One of his centerpiece instruments, it was used on stage from the mid-80s to the early 90s, including during the Purple Rain, Parade, Sign of the Times, Lovesexy, and Diamonds & Pearls tours.

Julien’s verified the Cloud 3’s provenance by conducting a full CT scan and interviewing Dave Rusan, the luthier behind its creation in 1985. Previously sold by Christie’s for £4,200 (about $5,280) in 2005 and then on Ebay for a price less than its original listing of £59,000 ($74,240), it is now estimated at $400,000-$600,000.

Julien’s has previously sold Prince’s yellow Cloud ($225,000), his ‘Blue Angel’ Cloud 2 ($563,500), and his blue teal Cloud ($700,000).

Robert Salmon maritime paintings from Scotland saw smooth sailing at Stair

Robert Salmon, 'The Custom House Quay, Greenock, Scotland', which sold for $34,000 ($43,520 with buyer's premium) at Stair.

HUDSON, NY – Two oils by the Anglo American marine artist Robert Salmon, painted while he lived and worked in Scotland, were offered by Stair on April 25. His 1820 view of The Custom House Quay, Greenock and an 1818 painting titled The Pomona of Greenock Riding at Anchor hammered at $34,000 ($43,520 with buyer’s premium) and $28,000 ($35,840 with buyer’s premium), respectively.

Although Salmon (1775-1858) is often considered an American marine artist (he emigrated to Boston in 1828), he was born in the English port of Whitehaven and spent time working in both Liverpool, England and Greenock, Scotland in the 1810s and 1820s.

When he painted the local customs house in 1820, the handsome Georgian building was just two years old. Designed by Scottish architect William Burn (1789-1870) at a cost of £30,000, the building only ceased to be used as a customs and excise office in 2010. This 2ft 3in by 23in painting is the example illustrated in the 1971 book Robert Salmon, Painter of Ship and Shore by John Wilmerding. The work was estimated at $20,000-$30,000.

Salmon’s oeuvre displays a deep familiarity with sailing ships. Most adopt the traditional practice of showing the same vessel in at least two positions on the same canvas. The Pomona of Greenock Riding at Anchor is inscribed and dated 1818. Again measuring 2ft 3in by 23in, this work is pictured in Alan Granby’s A Yachtsman’s Eye, published in 2004, and appears to be the same canvas as the one offered at Sotheby’s Parke Bernet as part of the Paul Mellon (1907-1999) sale in 1981. It was estimated at $10,000-$15,000.

Both paintings were described as being in generally good condition, with craquelure, scattered inpainting, and some repaired tears.

In 1828, Salmon left Liverpool, arriving in Boston on New Year’s Day in 1829. During the growth of Boston Harbor in the first half of the century, Salmon painted the scene between 300-400 times. Salmon’s English period paintings are typically more modestly priced than those completed in North America.

Bid Smart Briefs: Mirrors

Line Vautrin Boudoir convex mirror, which sold for $78,000 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2023. Image courtesy of South Bay Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.

NEW YORK – We have always been desperate to get a good look at ourselves. The earliest known mirror, found near what is now Konya, Turkey, dates to 6200 BC, predating the Copper, Bronze, and Iron Ages. It was made from obsidian, a form of black glass produced by volcanic eruptions.

Human beings did make mirrors out of bronze and copper when metal-working advances allowed, but before then, the materials fashioned into tools to show us our own faces included mica, marble, selenite, slate, pyrite (aka fool’s gold), anthracite (a type of coal), hematite and magnetite (both are iron ores), and in China, polished jade. Pretty much any substance that could take a shine met the need.

The leading civilizations of the ancient world embraced mirrors, none more so than the Egyptians (how else were they to apply their beloved cosmetics?). Even the most modest ancient Egyptian graves contained a mirror, even if it was just a piece of wood painted to mimic one. The Romans fitted their public baths with mirrors, prompting Seneca to comment, “We think ourselves poorly off, living like paupers, if the walls [of the baths] are not ablaze with large and costly mirrors.” And, of course, the ancient Greeks, via Ovid, gave us the myth of Narcissus, the young man who fell in love with his own reflection.

For centuries, mirror-making was cutting-edge technology, and mirrors were regarded as luxury goods. According to Mark Pendergast’s 2003 book Mirror Mirror: A History of the Human Affair with Reflection, “At the beginning of the sixteenth century, a Venetian mirror in an elaborate silver frame was valued at 8,000 pounds, nearly three times the contemporary price of a painting by Raphael.” When King Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, opened the partially finished Hall of Mirrors at Versailles in 1668, visitors were awestruck. More than 350 years later, they still are.

Mirrors are no longer seen as miraculous or magical, except perhaps those fitted inside the massive telescopes that are revealing the secrets of the skies far beyond our home planet. Nor do we need mirrors to amplify and spread light – electricity has assumed that role. Nonetheless, we love mirrors and place at least a few in our homes. The desire to own a mirror that is as beautiful, or even more beautiful, than those who gaze into it is natural and normal, and not at all narcissistic. But when presented with the mirrors shown in this slideshow, you might find yourself looking a little longer than you intended.