GROSSE POINTE FARMS, Mich. – A fine selection of mid-century modern furniture will be offered along with a collection of fascinating Chinese export porcelain and a notable Tiffany Studios lamp in Stefek’s Auctioneers & Appraisers Important Modern and Decorative Art Auction on Thursday, Feb. 16. The auction will begin at 6 p.m. A preview will begin Friday, Feb. 10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment.
LiveAuctioneers.com will provide Internet live bidding.
The multifaceted Italian-American metal sculptor Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) attended the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and later taught metal crafts at the Academy from 1939-1943. Bertoia’s work is known for challenging the definition of art. His creations include modern jewelry, furniture, utilitarian objects and stunning sculptures, notably his innovative Sonambient sound sculptures.
As a child, Bertoia was fascinated with the hammered copper bowls created by the vagabond gypsies passing through his hometown of San Lorenzo, Italy. He created a series of utilitarian metal objects with this in mind during his time at Cranbrook, including a hammered copper vase with flaring rim ($4,000-$6,000), which is in Stefak’s auction. This vase was purchased directly from Bertoia in 1941 by a student at Cranbrook.
In 1899, years before Bertoia taught at Cranbrook, Louis Comfort Tiffany commissioned the Meridian, Conn., Art Nouveau sculptor Louis A. Gudebrod to design the elegant Tiffany Studios “Nautilus” lamp ($20,000-$30,000). The lamp is one of the earliest electrified designs produced by Tiffany.
Gudebrod, who studied in Paris under the Beaux-Art sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, was well known as a bright young American sculptor. Gudebrod’s skillful design depicts a strong, reserved bronze mermaid raising a glowing nautilus shell to the sky as she emerges from the sea with waves gently lapping at her waist.
Waves are also rendered in the complex grisaille painting of a Chinese port that decorates the border of the polychrome Chinese export plate, produced in the first quarter of the 18th century ($4,000-$5,000). At 11 1/4 inches in diameter, the plate is an early example of the grisaille decoration. The miniscule details in the border are breathtaking; they employ perspective and chiaroscuro and surround a prominent polychrome armorial.
The designs of the talented American mid-century furniture designer John Vesey were as exclusive in the mid-20th century as fine Chinese export porcelain was to the nobility of the 18th century. His clever designs were conceptualized with reference to his Harvard education in museum studies and reinforced by his background as an art dealer specializing in 18th-century furniture. He was known for taking classic designs, such as the Napoleonic campaign chair, Cuban provincial veranda chair, or a Louis XIV commode, and turning them into clean, modern pieces that fit perfectly in mid-century interiors.
Vesey interpreted the classic Chesterfield-style sofa into something thoroughly modern, as exemplified here. The sofa, created in 1960, is covered in tufted black leather and is an impressive 8 feet long ($20,000-$30,000). Its sharply wrought metal legs are an iconic Vesey detail, who explained to the New York Times in 1958, “the abundance of wood in modern homes causes a crying need for the glossy surface that metal gives to a room.”
Designs by Vesey were purchased by international tastemakers including the Duchess of Windsor, Nelson Rockefeller, Hubert de Givenchy, Andy Warhol’s muse Jane Holzer, Bobby Kennedy and Anne McDonnell Ford. This exact Chesterfield sofa anchors John Elmo’s design for a pop art living room published in the New York Times in 1965.
The complete catalog for Stefek’s Important Modern and Decorative Art Auction is available at www.stefeksltd.com and www.liveauctioneers.com. Bids can be also placed through Stefek’s office by emailing Stefeks@stefeksltd.com or calling 313-881-1800.
ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE