CLEVELAND – An exceptionally rare Tiffany Studios-made candlestick from Cleveland’s exclusive Rowfant Club sold for a record price of $20,400 (including the buyer’s premium) highlighting Cowan’s Winter Cleveland Auction. The bronze gopher form tied for the top lot of the day, which also saw robust bidding on jade figurines, bronze sculptures by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, and mechanical banks spurring Cowan’s to a $305,454 sale. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.
Made in 1903, the Rowfant Club candlestick is one of just 100 of its kind that was ever made by Tiffany Studios. Standing at 8 1/4 inches, the candlestick (above) depicts a groundhog, the mascot of the Rowfant Club, seated on an open book.
Founded in 1892, the Rowfant Club is Cleveland’s premier bibliographic society celebrating the art of the book including papermaking, bookbinding and printing. With the Shakespearean motto of “Light Seeking Light Doth Light of Light Beguile,” members meet annually on Groundhog Day and each member receives a candlestick featuring a groundhog. Members then use these sticks throughout the year to reserve their seats at dinner at their weekly meetings.
“It’s not only a beautiful form but a truly unique piece of Cleveland history,” said Carrie Pinney, Cowan’s Cleveland business manager. “It’s rare that these candlesticks become available to nonmembers and clearly collectors were eager to try to get their hands on one.”
In addition to the Tiffany Studios candlestick, the auction featured nine other Rowfant Club candlesticks with the entire collection selling for a combined $25,000.
The hottest category of the day was jade figurines, including the other top lot of the day, a lot of 21 diminutive white jade cat carvings (below) that matched the candlestick’s price of $20,400. Similar lots with fewer figurines achieved prices of $18,000, $14,400 and $6,150. Heavy bidding from both the United States and China created several bidding wars that sent prices soaring above the estimates.
“Clearly the market for jade remains strong,” said Pinney. “This particular type of white jade is especially hot right now so while they sold for more than we initially expected, it isn’t exactly surprising.”
In the Fine Art category, the auction featured five bronze sculptures by well-known sculptor Harriet Whitney Frishmuth (American, 1880-1980). The top lot of the group was a 1920 piece entitled Extase featuring a nude woman with arms outstretched to the sky. The 19 ¾-inch sculpture sold for $14,760. The entire group sold for a combined $47,198.
The afternoon session featured an exceptional collection of rare mechanical banks from the late-19th and early-20th century, highlighted by a J. & E. Stevens acrobat mechanical bank that sold for $2,520.
Other bank highlights include a J. & E. Stevens Chief Big Moon mechanical bank, which sold for $1,920; a musical savings bank for $1,920; a J. & E. Stevens magician mechanical bank for $1,920; and a Kyser & Rex “boy stealing watermelon” mechanical bank for $1,599.
The top lot from the second session was a 1905 Steiff center seam cinnamon teddy bear (below) that sold for $2,829 to a LiveAuctioneers bidder. The bear was a part of a larger group of Steiff teddy bears from the first quarter of the 20th century that sparked consistent bidding from both the floor and online, pushing most prices above their low estimates. Generally credited with creating the teddy bear in 1902, Steiff bears are the most coveted items in the category.
Other auction highlights included a copy of the portfolio of prints After Fifty Years of Surrealism by Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989) that sold for $6,000, a lot of Cottier & Co. golden ebony throne chairs for $3,360, an Eanger Irving Couse (American, 1866-1936) oil on board for $3,240, a Faberge silver figural salt cellar for $2,583 and a Persian Tabriz palace-size rug for $2,091.
Nearly 500 bidders from across the globe participated in the sale, which was broken into a morning Fine & Decorative Art session and an afternoon mechanical banks, shaving mugs, toys and teddy bears session.