Harry Davis-decorated Royal Worcester ‘polar bear’ vases prowl into Nadeau May 18

Royal Worcester vase and cover decorated with polar bears by Harry Davis, estimated at $10,000-$20,000 at Nadeau’s Auction Gallery.

WINDSOR, CT — A trio of Royal Worcester ‘polar bear’ vases decorated by Harry Davis will be offered in the Saturday, May 18 Annual Outdoor Mid-Century Auction at Nadeau’s Auction Gallery. Bidding for these vases, consigned as part of a New Jersey private collection, is available via LiveAuctioneers.

Of all the many subjects painted by Harry Davis during his long and celebrated tenure at the Royal Worcester factory, among the rarest and most desirable are his polar bears in Arctic landscapes.

A visit to London Zoo inspired this select range, which repurposed the matte-blue ground that Royal Worcester had long used for vases decorated with swans in flight by fellow artist-decorator Charles Baldwyn. In an interview late in life, Davis recalled painting ‘about 50’ polar bear vases, with most surviving examples dated to the years 1903 to 1905.

All three of the vases at Nadeau’s assume the same 16in form, the elaborate two-handled vase and cover known simply as model number 240989. Depicting subtlely different variations on the theme of polars bears on an ice floe, they carry estimates of $10,000-$20,000 each.

Harry Davis (1885-1970) is perhaps the most prominent of the artist-decorators who worked at Royal Worcester in its early 20th century peak. Worcester born and bred, he entered his local porcelain factory as an apprentice at the age of 13. He proved a remarkably versatile decorator, although he is best known as a painter of landscapes populated by sheep and highland cattle.

Rediscovered Herter Brothers mantel commands $152K at Moran

Herter Brothers Aesthetic movement mantel commissioned for Happy House, the Darius Ogden Mills residence in California, which sold for $120,000 ($152,000 including premium) at John Moran.

MONROVIA, CA — A rediscovered Herter Brothers mantel commissioned for Happy House, the Darius Ogden Mills residence in California, exceeded its expectations at John Moran. Estimated at $6,000-$8,000, it hammered for $120,000 ($152,000 including premium) on the second day of the April 9-10 sale titled Traditional Collector.

Although later converted into a sideboard with the addition of two locking cabinet doors and three shelves, period black-and-white photographs confirm this as the parcel-gilt, inlaid, and ebonized cherrywood mantel and fire surround from a first-floor bedroom of Happy House in Millbrae, near San Francisco. It is stamped twice with the words ‘Herter Bros.’, and it has a Happy House inventory mark in pencil on the back.

Darius Ogden Mills (1825-1910) was a prominent Gilded Age figure. Born into privilege, he ventured west in the gold rush years and invested in railroads, mining, and banking. For a while, he was known as California’s wealthiest citizen. It was on his estate near San Francisco that he built Happy House, a marvel of Italianate architecture designed by Diaper & Seltzer that was completed in 1871.

From floor to ceiling, the interiors of the house were entirely decorated by the Herter Brothers. Their initial endeavors embraced the Renaissance Revival style, but around 1880 it was redesigned in the prevailing Aesthetic taste. The two Anglo-Japanese bedroom suites supplied by Herter share the same lush and dense floral marquetry to those commissioned for the bedroom of the Vanderbilt residence on Fifth Avenue in New York. This mantel is thought to have been from the bedroom used by Mills’ wife Jane Templeton Cunningham. Despite its later additions, it was in overall good condition and could be returned to its former glory with relative ease.