DENVER, Pa. – When Keats wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever – its loveliness increases,” he unwittingly created a tagline for Morphy Auctions’ $3.3 million Fine & Decorative Arts sale held June 18-19. The breathtaking array of European and American antiques, glass and ceramics dazzled an international contingent of bidders who drove prices on many items to unexpected if not astounding levels. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.
Russian vase by unknown manufacturer commands $141,450 – 157 times high estimate
The fresh-to-market 2,500-lot selection included a dark horse that would shock even the experts as it raced to the top of prices realized. The sale’s big winner, a Russian pottery vase (shown at top) dated “1903” and bearing multiple impressed marks, had the unmistakable look of expert craftsmanship. Its elaborately designed metal overlay depicting helmeted warriors on horseback was tastefully set with jeweled cabochons and further embellished with a medley of notched, engraved and repousse adornments. The 7½-inch vessel, which was cataloged with a $600-$900 estimate, was off to the races from the very first bid and didn’t end its breathtaking run until 66 bids later when it hit $141,450 – 157 times its high estimate. Its new owner, who bid via the Internet, wishes to remain anonymous.
The competition for high-end European design continued unabated with the introduction of a spectacular array of antique lamps and glass. Leading the group was a rare and important 18-inch-tall Galle mold-blown Rhododendron lamp similar to an example shown in the Duncan/de Bartha reference book Galle Lamps. It handily surpassed expectations at $98,400.
The Tiffany name worked its magic in the auction room repeatedly and across several categories. A 10 7/8-inch Tiffany glass paperweight vase in an overall swirl pattern incorporating shades of red, maroon, lilac, orange, green and brown was signed on its base and identified as a “Favrile Exhibition Piece.” Estimated at $6,000-$8,000, it climbed to $43,050.
Similarly estimated, a 7½-inch Tiffany paperweight vase designed in an upright egg shape with a marbled motif was bid to $36,900. A Favrile Cypriote vase of organic shape with iridescent gold patches on a matte black iridescent background also sold for $36,900, more than nine times its high estimate.
Prized Tiffany lamps included a superb Dragonfly with heavily rippled glass and gleaming cabochon jewels. It came to auction with a $75,000-$90,000 estimate and went out the door at $113,775. A profusely decorated 20-inch Tiffany Poppy lamp settled within its estimate range at $67,200, while a Poinsettia lamp with a shade encircled by a wide band of the familiar Christmas flowers finished well above estimate at $37,200.
In the jewelry section, it was once again the Tiffany brand that dominated. A magnificent Tiffany & Co., platinum ring featuring a 13-carat Mandarin garnet surrounded by four oval-cut and six straight baguette-cut diamonds weighed in at a hefty 12.1 grams. Presented in its original Tiffany midnight blue velvet box, it sold for $23,370. A Russian silver jewelry box by Ovchinnikov depicting a three-dimensional woman with child on its lid achieved $24,600 against an estimate of $1,000-$1,500.
Many serious art buyers browsed the selections displayed at the gallery preview. “We knew there would be many enquiries about the art, in particular some of the European works,” said Morphy Auctions president, Dan Morphy. “Provenance is very important to art collectors, and several of the paintings had exceptional lineage, such as the Dutch school oil-on-canvas of Diogenes that sold for four times the high estimate.”
The artwork referenced by Morphy was an unsigned 60- by 48-inch (framed) painting titled Diogenes In Search Of An Honest Man. Dating to the early 17th century, it came with provenance that confirmed it previously had been held in several distinguished private collections and was exhibited at both the Denver Art Museum and San Diego Fine Arts Gallery. The artwork sold in 1987 at Sotheby’s, whose auction catalog noted that the artist might have been Werner van den Valckert, Nicolaes Claes Moyaert or Johannes Woutersz. It was also stated that the painting has a companion piece in the Glasgow College (Scotland) collection titled Laomedon, King of Troy with Neptune and Apollo. Intriguing to bidders on both sides of the Atlantic, the work swept past its $10,000-$15,000 estimate to sell at Morphy’s for $61,500.
“We were very proud of the selection in our June Fine and Decorative Arts Auction,” Morphy said. “Many of the items came from important collections and estates, and we did our utmost to present everything in a way that was respectful and professional, from the way the pieces were photographed for our catalog to the way we displayed each item at the preview. Our reward was in seeing the fantastic prices we were able to achieve for consignors who had entrusted us with their property.”
To discuss consigning to a future Morphy Auctions Fine & Decorative Arts sale, call Dan Morphy toll-free at 877-968-8880 or email email@example.com. Visit Morphy’s online at www.morphyauctions.com.