Monster movie posters reap scary-high prices

This mint condition one-sheet poster for 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' (1954) brought over $25,000 at auction. Talented poster artist Reynold Brown depicted the beautiful heroine forcibly rejecting the Gill Man’s romantic overtures. Heritage Auctions image

This mint condition one-sheet poster for ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ (1954) brought over $25,000 at auction. Talented poster artist Reynold Brown depicted the beautiful heroine forcibly rejecting the Gill Man’s romantic overtures. Heritage Auctions image

 

DALLAS – Collectors of horror movie posters relish that frisson of terror generated by classic monsters. Demand for rarities rules the marketplace. Possessed by specialist passion, buyers are willing to pay ever higher prices for the most sought-after titles. At the top of everyone’s wish list are the chilling horror films of the silent 1920s and early 1930s.

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The signature of Philip and Kelvin LaVerne is usually easy to spot. Here it appears within the decorative scheme on a ‘Chan’ occasional table. Courtesy Wright Auctions

Philip and Kelvin Laverne: Bright ideas in heavy metal

NEW YORK – Philip Laverne (1908-1988) and his son Kelvin (b. 1936) sought to create pieces that were both functional furniture and expressions of fine art. Their approach, their designs, their techniques were unique and thus their works remain instantly recognizable. Supported by wooden frames, the tables and cabinets were clad in bronze, brass, and pewter, which had been cast, carved, etched, incised and patinated. The strong metal forms become showstoppers in an interior, and collectors scroll through auction catalogs to find the best.

Major surfaces are often covered by low-relief figural scenes inspired by archaeological or art historical sources. Many designs are drawn from Chinese art, while others reflect ancient Greek friezes or even Egyptian wall paintings. Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel ceiling was also a theme that appealed to the LaVernes. Another group of furniture from their workshop is more simply ornamented with repeated geometric patterns. Full-bodied sculptural figures were at times used as dramatic table supports. Some designs were issued as a series, others seem one-of-a-kind. Surprises turn up all the time.

Richard Wright has sold many examples at his Chicago-based auction firm and even chose one for his personal collection: “LaVerne furniture is totally unique within American design, and it’s readily identifiable. The pieces pull together all kinds of disparate elements including archaeological and art historical references, which are then applied to some pretty muscular forms. Sometimes the objects are very decorative in themselves, but oftentimes the forms are architectonic and plain with heavy pattern applied to them.

“The materiality is completely essential to the work. A lot of the forms are quite modernist, but with this archaeological treatment done to them, they become very compelling. The surface feels like unearthed old metal. Fortunately for collectors, while some of the furniture is very expensive, some of it is relatively accessible. I actually live with a LaVerne coffee table at my house, and I have young kids – it’s incredibly durable,” he said.

In addition to distinctive forms and decoration, LaVerne furniture has a characteristic patina carefully cultivated through processes developed by the furniture makers. One technique involved burying the metal elements in special soil compounds to achieve the appearance of ancient artifacts. While some tables have an overall dark bronze finish, those with decorative surface patterns use the contrast of dark and light metals to make the design pop out for the viewer. Colored enamels were added to enhance figures in the more elaborate chinoiserie scenes. Because the LaVernes put so much effort into the decoration and patination of their pieces, condition is an important element in determining present value.

After experimenting in the late 1950s, the LaVernes, father and son, began to produce limited edition designs in the 1960s, some of which are much rarer than others. The cabinetmakers’ joint signature is usually clearly visible on the surface, often within the relief scenes. Well-preserved examples may retain a paper label from the team’s New York studio at 46 E. 57th St. The cabinetmakers published their own sales catalogs – The Art of Philip LaVerne – which are helpful in determining the names of styles and patterns. The workshop advertised, emphasizing the union of art and functionality, and examples entered collections around the country.

A rare free-form cocktail table sold for $17,080 last year at Palm Beach Modern auctions had a printed label for “Philip LaVerne Collection, Works of Art,” that was hand-lettered with the edition, “Odyssey #2.” The table’s top was covered with Grecian scenes inspired by Homer’s Odyssey and the supports were in the form of fluted column sections. According to the auction catalog, Herbert and Belle Lapidus purchased the table in 1967 from the New York studio. Phillip LaVerne told Mr. and Mrs. Lapidus that only one other free-form “Odyssey” table had been made and that “Odyssey #1” appropriately had gone to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

In an interview with ACN, Wade Terwilliger of Palm Beach Modern talked about the market for LaVerne: “People like the craftsmanship. There’s real artistry in the design, and the pieces are functional. You definitely want to have the original patina on them, and most of them do. Sometimes the finish gets rubbed out a little, especially if they have color applied. We often get the ‘Chan’ coffee table; the one we sold last fall was in excellent condition. We sold a pair of small end tables in January and those did particularly well.”

“At the auction house, we usually categorize things as ‘Hollywood Regency’ or ‘Traditional Modern’ – but LaVerne is completely by itself. Most of our consignments come out of New York or from Florida – it was popular down here, and we always carry LaVerne. I’ve seen big dining tables that are outstanding, also console tables and center hall tables. Pewter, brass, bronze – there are mixed metals on most of them. The pieces get noticed. Everyone recognizes quality, and there’s that artistic element that captures the viewer’s attention.”

Since the LaVernes were based in New York, examples were purchased for big city apartments and winter homes in Florida. A rare “Pharaoh” coffee table, circa 1965, sold at Sotheby’s last year for $23,750. But examples also emerge from estates around the country. Three pieces from a local collection were offered in July at a Case auction in Knoxville, Tenn., and a pair of coffee tables from a Mobile estate brought over $12,000 at Neal’s in New Orleans. On an episode of the Antiques Roadshow aired last year, furniture expert Leigh Keno examined a “Spring Festival” console in the Chan series that had turned up in Kansas City. He told the astonished woman that her husband had indeed made a good buy – his $600 investment might bring over $15,000 at auction.

Galleries featuring 20th Century Design seek out LaVerne for their clients. Fascinated by the patterned forms, some dealers have become specialists and are pursuing much-needed research on the furniture makers’ sources, techniques and production. The Cristina Grajales Gallery in New York had a cataloged exhibition of rare forms in the spring of 2008 titled “The Poetry of the Soul: Works of Philip and Kelvin LaVerne.”

Evan Lobel of Lobel Modern NYC is working with Kelvin LaVerne, now in his late 70s, to produce a comprehensive reference book and catalogue raisonne on LaVerne furniture, which should be available next year.

 

Clever designs and vivid chromolithography make Mardi Gras ball invitations visually appealing. This 1882 Rex example celebrating the ‘Pursuit of Pleasure’ sold for $1,912. Courtesy Neal Auction Co.

An invitation to celebrate with Mardi Gras memorabilia

NEW ORLEANS – Mardi Gras celebrations are in full swing in New Orleans this week. Daily parades with lavish floats began on Jan. 31 and continue until Fat Tuesday, Feb. 17, when the major krewes of Rex and Zulu head out in the morning. Behind the scenes, members of the many organized Carnival associations enjoy costume balls, another tradition that dates back to the 19th century.

Neal Auction Co. opened their annual “Louisiana Purchase Auction” last November with over 150 lots from Isabel Spelman Devereaux Collection of Mardi Gras memorabilia and offered additional lots in the first auction of 2015. The turn-of-the-century collection included brightly chromolithographed ephemera, principally exotic ball invitations, colorful favor pins given out at the balls, and parade bulletins with pictures of the carnival floats.

Isabel Spelman (1883-1955) not only collected Mardi Gras artifacts, she participated in the celebrations. She was a maid in the Rex Court of 1904, and all her older sisters participated including Caroline, who was Queen of Carnival in 1892. In Neal’s introduction to the collection, her granddaughter wrote: “Gowns and gloves, parasols and fans and mountains of invitations filled her life. Unfolding the magical ball invitations that were sent to her mother and sisters and eventually to her, enchanted her imagination all of her life.”

Neal Vice President Rachel Weathers said of the collection, “The condition was pristine. How that ephemera survived in this climate in such good condition. The story is that the material was in a box under the grandmother’s bed, and the children weren’t allowed to play with it. She saved these things and they were very carefully kept the whole time. Some of those ball invitations were very clever – they are works of art.”

Most intriguing is the cultural diversity of the themes dreamed up by various groups for their annual parades and balls. The Mistick Krewe of Comus, oldest of the Mardi Gras associations, selected “Nippon, the Land of the Rising Sun” in 1892. World expositions had popularized Japanese decorative arts, and The Mikado operetta had been a big hit for Gilbert and Sullivan in 1885. Winnie Davis, the younger daughter of Confederacy President Jefferson Davis was court Queen that year, and she and her maids wore silk kimonos. A vintage five-part fan-shape invitation to that ball was auctioned off for $1,037.

Literary and historical themes abound – the Krewe of Proteus chose Latin classic The Aeneid as their theme in 1884 and “Orlando Furiouso” in 1897. The Knights of Momus selected “Legends from the Court of King Arthur” as for their decorations in 1900. A souvenir pin from their ball with the Lady of the Lake holding Excalibur aloft brought $538 in last fall’s auction.

Creative minds ventured farther afield with ambitious titles such as “The Hindoo Heavens” for Krewe of Proteus in 1889 or “The Inferno” for Krewe of Nereus in 1898. Balls became nights of costumed fantasy that transported dancers to another world. Long before the advent of photos posts, only the imaginative ball invitations remain to suggest the pleasures of those parties presented before solemn Lent kicked in on Ash Wednesday.

Many of the individual pieces in the Spelman collection had been illustrated in historian Henry Schindler’s series of books on Mardi Gras treasures, such as Jewelry of the Golden Age and Invitations of the Golden Age. Schindler was an early collector of the specialty memorabilia and his publications shed light on the artists and inspiration behind the design work. He took time from his busy Mardi Gras schedule to praise the collection sold at Neal’s: “The fabulous collection of Golden Age Carnival memorabilia was the largest such treasure trove from a single family to come to market in many years.”

Schindler and Wayne Phillips, curator of costumes and textiles at the Louisiana State Museum, contributed their expertise to Neal’s catalog entries on the extensive collection. In an interview with ACN, Phillips explained, “We have a permanent Mardi Gras exhibit in the Presbytere on Jackson Square, which is just one of our museums here in New Orleans. The display includes a large cross section of the materials that are collected for Mardi Gras including costumes and the type of things that have sold at auction, like the ball invitations.” The galleries contain exhibits from both the 19th and 20th centuries as well as vintage films of past parades; the glittering costume designs are breathtaking.

The curator continued, “The goal of that exhibit is to share the history, because a lot of people don’t realize how deep the history of Mardi Gras goes. And, of course, the origins of Carnival itself had its roots in medieval Europe and even earlier in ancient Greece and Rome. The celebration of Mardi Gras here goes back almost to the beginning of the permanent settlements in Louisiana by the French in the late 1600s, but it wasn’t really till the middle 1800s that the Mardi Gras as we know it today emerged.

“When the collection came in to Neal’s, they needed a little bit of extra assistance in dating some of it and making a conclusion about what it was and how it was used. Many of the ball invitations are dated and labeled with the organization giving the ball and maybe even represent the theme. But some of the other things are a little harder to figure out. Generally, the themes shown on the ball invitation would be carried out in the parade as well, if that particular organization paraded.”

Phillips emphasized the high degree of sophistication in the annual theme choices: “There was a fascination with the unknown and the exotic at the time. The parade themes drew from mythology, literature, and history – they were really meant to be rolling history lessons when they went down the street. They were enlightening and educational as well as entertaining. You see all kinds of cultures represented in the balls and the parades. Japan was a common theme that started popping up in the 1880s and 1890s and there were other themes taken from the Middle East and Far East. Beyond that, there was one parade in the 1890s that historians regard fondly because the theme what other planets might have looked like, an early example of science fiction.”

For an up-to-date schedule of public events connected to Mardi Gras, visit www.neworleansonline.com. To learn more about Mardi Gras history in New Orleans, go to www.louisianastatemuseum.org .

 

In watercolor and ink on paper, an elaborate and brightly colored birth and baptismal record for David Alder, born March 2, 1792, is decorated with angels, hearts and floral devices. Attributed to Joseph Lochbaum – ‘The Nine Hearts Artist’ - active 1799-1806 in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, the fraktur sold for $3,220 last year at Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates.

Pa. German fraktur subject of exhibits, comprehensive catalog

PHILA., Pa. – Fraktur is the name used for documents and religious texts that – in the hands of Pennsylvania German artists – became an important expression of American folk art. The name is derived from the angular appearance of the “fractured” German lettering used on this type of ephemera. Serious collectors have been willing to pay five and six figures for the best examples, and in 2015, the spotlight is on their specialty.

Three exhibitions and the most comprehensive work of scholarship in the last 50 years will introduce a wider audience to the beauty and historical importance of these fragile works on paper. Now open at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, “Drawn with Spirit: Pennsylvania German Fraktur from the Joan and Victor Johnson Collection” will be on view through April 26. The Johnsons have promised the future gift of their extensive holdings to the museum. Nearby, the Free Library of Philadelphia will present an exhibition of works drawn from its own permanent collection titled “Quill & Brush: Pennsylvania German Fraktur and Material Culture,” to run March 2 through June 14.

On March 1, the Winterthur Museum in Delaware will open “A Colorful Folk: Pennsylvania Germans, and the Art of Everyday Life,” a broader yearlong exhibition which groups fraktur with other art forms from this distinctive culture such as painted furniture, decorated pottery and textiles. In 2014, Winterthur purchased 121 fraktur and nearly 200 textiles from the estate of Frederick S. Weiser, an ordained Lutheran pastor and legendary scholar and collector of Pennsylvania German folk art. Assembled by Weiser over a span of more than 40 years and with a careful eye to collecting the most significant or rare examples, the collection includes many objects acquired directly from descendants of the original owner or maker. Many objects were featured in Weiser’s publications, exhibitions, and lectures and represent a core group of well-documented pieces on which scholars rely.

The guiding force behind this exhibition activity is Winterthur assistant curator Lisa Minardi, who has authored the comprehensive Drawn with Spirit catalog, which is the most important scholarly study of fraktur since Donald Shelley’s 1961 publication for the Pennsylvania German Folk Art Society. The catalog opens with an informative interview with the Johnsons by Ann Percy, curator of drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Their comments are accompanied by interior views of the collectors’ home, showing how they enjoyed displaying the fraktur. This is followed by over 300 pages of information assembled by Minardi on the origins, motifs, techniques and distinctive schools of fraktur, profusely illustrated with examples from the Johnson Collection.

In an interview with Auction Central News, Lisa Minardi explained, “The three projects came about very separately; it was just coincidental that the timing was overlapping. I have made fraktur my specialty and I’ve know the Johnsons for years – they wanted me to write the catalog. That was the first ball that was moving. The Free Library had hired me in 2007-2009 to help recatalog their whole fraktur collection. When they received this grant to do two exhibitions on traditional and contemporary, I guess it a natural fit for me to do the traditional one.”

She continued, “At Winterthur, we made a big acquisition last year of Pastor Frederick S. Weiser’s collection and there was an opening on the exhibition schedule. I think there is really strength in numbers, and these exhibitions make the Delaware Valley a destination if you’re interested in folk art. You really have to come and see all three.” Winterthur will also issue a separate catalog for their exhibition.

According to Minardi, “The Winterthur exhibition is a little different than the other two because it’s not just a fraktur exhibition; it’s very much a mixed media show with furniture, pottery, metalwork – all sorts of media. We were aiming for it to be more like the 1983 traveling exhibition that Winterthur and the PMA did – “The Pennsylvania Germans: A Celebration of their Arts, 1683-1850.” There really hasn’t been a comprehensive exhibition of German folk art since then. We’re aiming to address that with new scholarship and new exhibitions.”

In her opening introduction to the Johnson catalog, Minardi wrote, “Fraktur has become one of the most distinctive and iconic forms of American folk art. The most common type made by the Pennsylvania Germans was the Geburts-und-Taufschein, or birth and baptismal certificate. Whether handwritten or printed, these documents typically include extensive genealogical data … in addition to decorative motifs such as hearts, flowers, angels and birds.” The catalog illustrates a variety of these birth and baptismal certificates, which were obviously a favorite of the Johnsons, but there are also decorated bookplates, religious views and texts, cutwork valentines, and just-for-fun drawings.

The good news for newly interested collectors is that fine examples come to the market every day at auctions around the country. Family records were often tucked away for safekeeping, only to emerge in the 21st century as bright and colorful as the day they were drawn up. Jeffrey S. Evans heads an auction house in Mount Crawford, Virginia, which features fraktur in their Americana sales, particularly rare examples made in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Evans noted, “There’s not only much less Virginia fraktur produced, there’s also much less of it that has survived. That’s the reason that it brings higher prices than examples from Pennsylvania. Most of the artists in the Shenandoah Valley either came from Pennsylvania or had training in Pennsylvania, especially in the counties of Rockingham and Shenandoah. All the fraktur that came out of those counties are based on Pennsylvania fraktur and the large majority are in German. Frederick County is a little bit different because it was primarily Scots-Irish, so some of the fraktur from there – the Record Book artist and others – that are written in English.” One example in English, a Frederick County record of Mary E. Jones’ death in 1849 by an unknown artist sold for $29,900 at Evans in 2013.

Demand remains strong according to Evans: “Especially in things that are Southern and regional when there’s a good story about the artist and the family, and especially things that have descended in the family. A matter of fact, we were just consigned a fraktur for our June sale that was found in the family Bible, that had not been discovered before, so there are some fraktur that are still coming to light out of the original families which makes them extremely desirable. Collectors like to have things that they are the first one to have collected, that are new to the market.”

The catalog Drawn with Spirit: Pennsylvania German Fraktur from the Joan and Victor Johnson Collection is available from the Philadelphia Museum of Art bookstore; visit www.philamuseumstore.org or call 215-684-7960.

Collectors also can look forward to an upcoming conference March 5-8, “Fraktur and the Everyday Lives of Germans in Pennsylvania and the Atlantic World, 1683-1850.” Lisa Minardi encourages all interested to attend: “The joint conference will be based primarily in Philadelphia at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies on Penn’s campus, but there will be different events happening at all the participating institutions. It’s geared toward both a scholarly and general audience, so you don’t have to come in there knowing everything about fraktur. There will be general talks, there will be talks about materials such as pigments, there will be talks about different sorts of imagery.”

More information is available at www.mceas.org.

 

The most recognizable furniture icon from the Memphis Group may be Ettore Sottsass’s 1981 Carlton Room Divider, constructed of plastic laminate. The design perfectly illustrates the style’s vivid colors and defiance of conventional functionality. Private Collection, Courtesy Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis Milano: Bold color, extreme design

The most recognizable furniture icon from the Memphis Group may be Ettore Sottsass’s 1981 Carlton Room Divider, constructed of plastic laminate. The design perfectly illustrates the style’s vivid colors and defiance of conventional functionality. Private Collection, Courtesy Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee

The most recognizable furniture icon from the Memphis Group may be Ettore Sottsass’s 1981 Carlton Room Divider, constructed of plastic laminate. The design perfectly illustrates the style’s vivid colors and defiance of conventional functionality. Private Collection, Courtesy Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee

PHILA., Pa. – In late 1980, Ettore Sottsass (1917-2007), a well-known designer and architect in Milan, Italy, gathered together a group of younger colleagues to brainstorm a new international design style. Eager to break with the soothing neutralities of the period, the twenty- and thirty-somethings came up with Memphis, a radical approach to design that was colorful, fanciful, and often geometric. Whether they loved it or hated, critics dissected and published the new designs, which soon received international recognition.

Why “Memphis”? No reference to the ancient Egyptian capital was intended. According to the accepted legend, Bob Dylan’s “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” from the classic Blonde on Blonde album was spinning on the turntable during that first meeting. The hip label with its links to American blues proved to be an attention-getter. The Memphis core group, which included Marco Zanini, Matteo Thun, Michele de Lucchi, and Martine Bedin, grew into a loose collection of around 25 designers who contributed fresh ideas to the periodic collections.

The Memphis designs utilized bold primary colors and inexpensive materials – plastic laminate was a favorite. Many were produced in multiples by Italian firms entrusted with their execution, but the designs often proved too intricate for true mass production. The aggressive furniture forms are best known, but a lot of ingenuity was expended on accessories such as lighting, glass vessels, and ceramics. Once cutting edge contemporary furnishings, the group’s material now stars in design sales, sought after by serious collectors.

A recent exhibition, Memphis Milano: 1980s Italian Design at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis Tennessee, is a tribute to what one inspired collector can gather. Professional photographer Dennis Zanone was first exposed to the Memphis Group’s designs in a traveling exhibition that came to its namesake town in 1984. Intrigued by the look, he began to form a comprehensive collection of furniture and decorative arts by designers attached to the group. A compact exhibition catalogue of his excellent selections is available from the Dixon. And the collection continues to grow because, as he said in the local Memphis magazine, it “makes me smile every day.”

Curator Dana Holland-Beickert writes in the catalogue: “Memphis did not happen overnight; many of the designers had been working together on projects for two or three years. Others found their way into the fold by loose associations. The inspiration and catalyst of the design collective was Ettore Sottsass, Jr., already a super-star in the Italian design world, without whom Memphis would never have happened.”

The first collection of Memphis Group designs was displayed in Milan on September 8, 1981 at the small Arc ’74 showroom during the city’s prestigious Salone Internazionale dei Mobile that year. Holland-Beickert has written an excellent summary of the design group’s history in the catalogue and comments on that first show: “While each object reflected the style of its individual designer, the collection had a certain undefined unity – at the very basis, a sense of humor and wit, and a desire to reconnect with the human spirit.”

The second Memphis collection which appeared in 1982 included a ground-breaking approach to seating, the Bel Air chair by American designer Peter Shire, and also expanded the style into the decorative arts. Shire designed the electroplated nickel silver Anchorage teapot and the first glass vessels appeared. As with the furniture works, the designers’ glass creations were executed in a workshop, in this case Toso Vetri d’Arte in Murano near Venice.

That same year, Memphis pieces were first exhibited in the United States, and material from the first four Memphis collections toured many American museums in 1984-1985. Private and public collections on this side of the Atlantic began to acquire examples for display. Although the Memphis Group based in Milan eventually disbanded and drifted apart to pursue individual projects, hundreds of designs were produced between 1981 and 1988, at least in limited editions, and the style’s influence remains strong. The school’s pater familias Ettore Sottsass died in 2007, but the continuing careers of younger members can now be followed on their websites.

Collectors setting out to acquire the 1980s Memphis designs have much to choose from in the catalogues of auction companies in the United States and Europe. The Wright auction firm, based in Chicago, has long been a major source for important Italian design, including works by the Milan collective. The Carlton Room Divider, a 1981 Sottsass furniture icon, remains a sine qua non for any collection of the style. Although sometimes described as a “bookcase,” the overwhelming angularity and unity of the form defies placing objects on the shelves. Depending on condition, examples are available from around $5000 on up; one sold in 2010 at Wright for $18,750.

As the Sottsass divider illustrates, Memphis is a strong, distinctive style, like Gothic Revival in the 19th century. Accents – an occasional table, a shelf of vivid glass vessels, a grouping of geometric ceramics – spice up an interior, where an entire room filled with Memphis sculptural forms tends to become a museum. Yet there is such a feel-good element to the designs that – once started – the collector may be tempted to buy just one more object when a new catalogue appears.

On the appeal of the Memphis material, Richard Wright says, “The design influence of Ettore Sottsass is filtered through designers around the world. He was the guiding spirit behind it all. Sottsass and Memphis embodied a philosophy, more than just a style. I see a broader interest developing in Post-Modern design, so Memphis for me is one element in Post-Modernism.”

“From a collecting point of view, it’s important to understand that some of these Memphis Group pieces are still in production. It’s pretty easy to find out what is still in production and see the price points. It certainly helps to understand what is available today at what price. The ideal was to bring good design to all facets of your environment in the home. There are wonderful Memphis lighting elements that are not that expensive, there are small pieces – dishes, vases – all those things are quite approachable.”

Collectors now can add to their reference shelf Ettore Sottsass by Philippe Thome, a comprehensive study of the designer which was published in May 2014. The recent Memphis, Tennessee exhibition catalogue can be acquired from the museum at www.dixon.org.

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ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


The most recognizable furniture icon from the Memphis Group may be Ettore Sottsass’s 1981 Carlton Room Divider, constructed of plastic laminate. The design perfectly illustrates the style’s vivid colors and defiance of conventional functionality. Private Collection, Courtesy Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee

The most recognizable furniture icon from the Memphis Group may be Ettore Sottsass’s 1981 Carlton Room Divider, constructed of plastic laminate. The design perfectly illustrates the style’s vivid colors and defiance of conventional functionality. Private Collection, Courtesy Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee

The principal American member of Memphis was artist Peter Shire (b. 1947), who still lives and works in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles. This 1982 Bel Air armchair was a key exhibit in the 2014 Memphis Milano exhibition at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens. Private Collection, Courtesy Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee

The principal American member of Memphis was artist Peter Shire (b. 1947), who still lives and works in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles. This 1982 Bel Air armchair was a key exhibit in the 2014 Memphis Milano exhibition at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens. Private Collection, Courtesy Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee

Sottsass designed colorful glass vessels which were produced at a glassworks in Murano, Italy for the Memphis Group.  Eye-catching when displayed as a group, this quartet of 1981 vases brought $10,000 in March. Courtesy Wright Auctions

Sottsass designed colorful glass vessels which were produced at a glassworks in Murano, Italy for the Memphis Group. Eye-catching when displayed as a group, this quartet of 1981 vases brought $10,000 in March. Courtesy Wright Auctions

The Memphis Group experiments with lighting can be a whimsical addition to any interior. Founding member Martine Bedin (b. 1957) created the Olympia table lamp in 1985; an example brought $1750 in 2010. Courtesy Wright Auctions

The Memphis Group experiments with lighting can be a whimsical addition to any interior. Founding member Martine Bedin (b. 1957) created the Olympia table lamp in 1985; an example brought $1750 in 2010. Courtesy Wright Auctions

Among the most affordable Memphis creations are the ceramic designs of Matteo Thun, Marco Zanini, Masanori Umeda, Martine Bedin, and others. More table sculpture than teapot, this 1982 vessel by Thun brought $563 in a 2012 Mass Modern auction. Courtesy Wright Auctions

Among the most affordable Memphis creations are the ceramic designs of Matteo Thun, Marco Zanini, Masanori Umeda, Martine Bedin, and others. More table sculpture than teapot, this 1982 vessel by Thun brought $563 in a 2012 Mass Modern auction. Courtesy Wright Auctions

The “In Praise of Epicurus” chair, a limited edition Sottsass design produced in 1987, is a desirable addition to any Memphis collection. This example - numbered “18” - brought $17,500 last year. Courtesy Wright Auctions

The “In Praise of Epicurus” chair, a limited edition Sottsass design produced in 1987, is a desirable addition to any Memphis collection. This example – numbered “18” – brought $17,500 last year. Courtesy Wright Auctions

Small accent pieces by Memphis designers brighten interiors with a splash of color. Michele de Lucchi (b. 1951), another founding member of the style group, created the Polar occasional table in 1984; a labeled example, made in Milan, brought $2625 several years ago. Courtesy Wright Auctions

Small accent pieces by Memphis designers brighten interiors with a splash of color. Michele de Lucchi (b. 1951), another founding member of the style group, created the Polar occasional table in 1984; a labeled example, made in Milan, brought $2625 several years ago. Courtesy Wright Auctions

Highly desirable works by Ida Kohlmeyer soared past their estimates in the November Louisiana Purchase Auction at Neal in New Orleans. 'Semiotic Blue' (shown here), 1983, sold for $48,800. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

Ida Rittenberg Kohlmeyer: Collector to Collected

Highly desirable works by Ida Kohlmeyer soared past their estimates in the November Louisiana Purchase Auction at Neal in New Orleans. 'Semiotic Blue' (shown here), 1983, sold for $48,800. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

Highly desirable works by Ida Kohlmeyer soared past their estimates in the November Louisiana Purchase Auction at Neal in New Orleans. ‘Semiotic Blue’ (shown here), 1983, sold for $48,800. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

NEW ORLEANS (ACNI) – In recent years, bold abstract expressionist works by Ida Rittenberg Kohlmeyer (1912-1997) have commanded increasingly strong prices at auction houses in her native city of New Orleans. Her success in the market disproves the notion that southern regional art is all about gloomy bayous and Spanish moss. Not only have mature collectors added her paintings to their holdings, her intriguing works also appeal to a new generation of buyers.

In the November Louisiana Purchase Auction at the Neal Auction Company, Semiotic Blue and Semiotic Plum, brightly-colored 1983 companion works filled with symbolic designs, sold for $48,800 and $35,380 to a fortunate bidder. A very early work from 1958 titled Yellow Study doubled its $6000/8000 estimate to bring $16,132.50.

Ida Kohlmeyer: 100th Anniversary Highlights – on view at the New Orleans Museum of Art through February 10, 2013 – celebrates the long career of this well-known local artist. Kohlmeyer and her husband Hugh were also major benefactors of the museum, donating examples of pre-Columbian, Native American, Asian, African, Oceanic, self-taught, and contemporary art from their diverse collection.

Anne C.B. Roberts, the NOMA Curatorial Projects Manager who put together the exhibition, told ACN: “Ida Kohlmeyer was an inspirational woman and artist, whose determination set her apart and led to her prolific body of work. Earning her MFA in painting from Newcomb College at Tulane University at the age of forty-four, with two young children at home, Kohlmeyer became one of the most celebrated female Abstract Expressionists from the South.”

After receiving her graduate degree, the artist spent the summer of 1956 studying with Hans Hoffman in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she began experimenting with abstract expressionism. She also spent three months of that year in Paris, where she studied ground-breaking work by other 20th century artists.

Another influential figure entered her life in 1957 when Mark Rothko came to Newcomb College at Tulane as a visiting artist. Anne Roberts explains, “Not only did they have a professional connection, he rented her recently deceased mother’s home for his family. He used the garage as a studio. He had a room in the Newcomb art building where he had some of his works on view, and the door was always closed. He liked to display his works in an intimate, closed setting. He supported a lot of the tenets that Hoffman had taught her. She was influenced by his work and began using rectangles as a point of departure; her work had similar atmospheric qualities.”

Eventual breaking away from the Rothko influence, Kohlmeyer developed her own unique personal style beginning in the 1970s. That style blossomed in the 1980s with a series of vivid paintings filled with symbols or pictographs arranged on a grid, which could be variously interpreted by individual viewers. While influenced by Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism, her works became unmistakably her own – a quality that delights collectors. In addition to her paintings, she also created an impressive collection of prints and sculptures made of Plexiglas, wood, and cloth.

For the NOMA exhibition, Roberts chose twelve examples which highlight different periods from the artist’s creative life. The curator says, “I think the earliest work in the show is 1956, which was created while she was studying with Hans Hoffman in Provincetown. It was one of the first pieces after she moved decisively from painting figures to abstract expressionist painting. Then the show goes up to the late 1980s.”

She continues, “This selection of works from NOMA’s permanent collection touches on the breadth of Kohlmeyer’s professional career. From her early work inspired by her teacher Hans Hoffmann and colleague Mark Rothko, both pillars in the Abstract Expressionist canon, to her mature style of glyphs, the play between color and line is evident.”

“Whether muted or bold, it is color that defines shape, space, and sentiment. The organic shapes, often delineated by the color, create a dynamism that moves the eye around the picture. As discrete works of art, each piece holds its own power. Seen together, the evolution of Kohlmeyer’s oeuvre around her foundation in color and line takes on a vibrant new energy.”

A simple search will turn up numerous catalogues from exhibitions during the artist’s lifetime, but the best reference is Ida Kohlmeyer: Systems of Color by Michael Plante (2005), illustrated with more than a hundred images of her work. Plante, holder of the Jessie J. Poesch Professorship in Art in the Newcomb Art Department at Tulane University, is the perfect biographer for one of the school’s most famous alumnae. Readers will find a full chronology, a bibliography for further study, as well as a listing of exhibitions, collections, and commissions.

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Copyright 2012 Auction Central News International. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Highly desirable works by Ida Kohlmeyer soared past their estimates in the November Louisiana Purchase Auction at Neal in New Orleans. 'Semiotic Blue' (shown here), 1983, sold for $48,800. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

Highly desirable works by Ida Kohlmeyer soared past their estimates in the November Louisiana Purchase Auction at Neal in New Orleans. ‘Semiotic Blue’ (shown here), 1983, sold for $48,800. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

'Semiotic Plum,' the brightly colored companion work to Semiotic Blue, sold for $35,380. The same bidder purchased both paintings. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

‘Semiotic Plum,’ the brightly colored companion work to Semiotic Blue, sold for $35,380. The same bidder purchased both paintings. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

Two years ago, Neal Auction Company sold Kohlmeyer’s 'Symbols on Black #1' for $37,045. The mixed media on canvas work, signed and dated 1981 at lower right, bore the original label of the Arthur Roger Gallery, the artist’s representative in New Orleans. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

Two years ago, Neal Auction Company sold Kohlmeyer’s ‘Symbols on Black #1’ for $37,045. The mixed media on canvas work, signed and dated 1981 at lower right, bore the original label of the Arthur Roger Gallery, the artist’s representative in New Orleans. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

'Juxtaposed,' a 1981 screenprint, is part of the current exhibition Ida Kohlmeyer: 100th Anniversary Highlights, at the New Orleans Museum of Art through February 10, 2013. Courtesy New Orleans Museum of Art

‘Juxtaposed,’ a 1981 screenprint, is part of the current exhibition Ida Kohlmeyer: 100th Anniversary Highlights, at the New Orleans Museum of Art through February 10, 2013. Courtesy New Orleans Museum of Art

'Synthesis BB,' mixed media on canvas from 1983, is composed of the bold symbols that dominated Kohlmeyer’s later work. Courtesy New Orleans Museum of Art; Promised Gift of Arthur Roger

‘Synthesis BB,’ mixed media on canvas from 1983, is composed of the bold symbols that dominated Kohlmeyer’s later work. Courtesy New Orleans Museum of Art; Promised Gift of Arthur Roger

'Romantic Triple Decker,' a 1973 color lithograph and collage, is on display in the New Orleans Museum of Art exhibition celebrating the centenary of Ida Kohlmeyer’s birth. Courtesy New Orleans Museum of Art

‘Romantic Triple Decker,’ a 1973 color lithograph and collage, is on display in the New Orleans Museum of Art exhibition celebrating the centenary of Ida Kohlmeyer’s birth. Courtesy New Orleans Museum of Art

'Yellow Study' brought $16,132.50 in Neal’s November sale, doubling its $6,000-$8,000 estimate. This very early work of Kohlmeyer’s was painted shortly after she received her M.F.A. from Tulane, studied with Hans Hoffman in Massachusetts, and met Mark Rothko in New Orleans. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

‘Yellow Study’ brought $16,132.50 in Neal’s November sale, doubling its $6,000-$8,000 estimate. This very early work of Kohlmeyer’s was painted shortly after she received her M.F.A. from Tulane, studied with Hans Hoffman in Massachusetts, and met Mark Rothko in New Orleans. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

Rarer than table lamps, this Tiffany floor model with a shade of overlapping tulips brought $137,500 at Rago’s in June 2012. Courtesy Rago Auctions

Neustadts’ Tiffany collection reflects the art of buying the best

Rarer than table lamps, this Tiffany floor model with a shade of overlapping tulips brought $137,500 at Rago’s in June 2012. Courtesy Rago Auctions

Rarer than table lamps, this Tiffany floor model with a shade of overlapping tulips brought $137,500 at Rago’s in June 2012. Courtesy Rago Auctions

NEW YORK – Today’s collectors can draw inspiration from tales about legendary figures of the past, who assembled glorious collections with enthusiasm and aesthetic discrimination. Anyone interested in antique glass will be interested in the story of New York City collectors Egon and Hildegarde Neustadt who formed one of the most comprehensive collections of Tiffany lamps ever gathered.

Lindsy R. Parrott is the Director and Curator of the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, which includes lamps, stained glass windows, and a study collection of over 275,000 unused pieces of glass, which remained when the famous studio closed in 1937. The collection’s history, images of highlights, and catalogue ordering information can be found at www.neustadtcollection.org.

The Neustadts originally formed the collection when the “getting” truly was good. Parrott explains, “Dr. Neustadt was absolutely a visionary. He started collecting these in 1935, only two years after Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) had died. He and his wife were living in Queens. They had come from Austria and were very proud to be Americans. They liked Tiffany glass because it was an American art form.”

Hildegarde Neustadt spied their first example, – one of the daffodil-shaded lamps in the collection – at a second hand shop. At that time in the mid-1930s, Tiffany in particular and Art Nouveau in general were out of style. Ordinary people decorated their homes in the truly forgettable Colonial Revival style, while the more adventurous were experimenting with Art Deco and its successors.

Mrs. Neustadt only had money for the table they needed that day, but several weeks later she returned and purchased the daffodil lamp for $12.50. In Dr. Neustadt’s reminiscences, he recalled that their friends did not think much of the acquisition. The couple persisted in their passion, and the 21st century market for Tiffany lamps, which has seen examples soar past the million dollar mark has proved that the Neustadts’ taste in decorative arts was just about perfect.

In The Lost Treasures of Louis Comfort Tiffany, Hugh F McKean writes about Tiffany’s interest in lighting: “He was fascinated with light and with all kinds of illumination. He loved color for itself. He loved glass for itself. Lamps were one art form that offered an opportunity to satisfy all three interests. He took them very seriously.”

The Neustadt Collection is unusual in that it does not have a permanent home but organizes travelling exhibitions to tour its treasures around the country. At present, The Brilliance of Tiffany: Lamps from the Neustadt Collection, on view at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art through January 13, 2013, presents more than 40 examples of lighting as well as a display of glass fragments used to assemble the shades. A smaller exhibition, Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light begins traveling next year.

The organization also enjoys an ongoing affiliation with the Queens Museum in the borough of New York where the Neustadts lived. A dedicated gallery is showing An Orchestra of Color: Flat Glass of Louis C. Tiffany with eleven lamps, two windows, and more than 200 pieces of flat glass from the Neustadt holdings. Parrott also co-curated and loaned objects for the exhibition Louis C. Tiffany and the Art of Devotion at the Museum of Biblical Art in New York through January 20, 2013.

Parrott says, “We are very excited about this next chapter of our partnership with the Queens Museum of Art, a partnership we have maintained since 1995. We will have a new gallery when the expanded museum opens in the fall of 2013. The gallery will present small changing exhibitions drawn from our permanent collection. These shows will dig deeper into a particular aspect of Tiffany’s lamps, glass, windows, etc. We will also feature permanent installations dedicated to telling the story of Dr. and Mrs. Neustadt’s collection and Tiffany’s presence in Queens – the original site of the workshop was less than two miles from the Queens Museum.”

Surrounded by the glowing lamps, the Director emphasizes the depth of the superb collection: “I really view this as a teaching collection. We have multiples. For example, we have two identical peony shades. We have three grape hanging shades, all of which are identical but the color palette is incredibly different. Viewers can see how glass selection affects the overall success of the lampshade. These grape lamps have the same model numbers, but the one on the left is much more complex.”

She continues, “All three of these lamps have pond lilies as their subjects, but the lilies are different species. The artists are carefully studying botanic samples and going out into the field. Yes, we have a lot of lamps, but it’s such an important selection.”

In 1983, the year before he died, Dr. Egon Neustadt presented a major gift of lamps to the New-York Historical Society. While some are on display at the Manhattan museum, the complete group can be viewed online under “Special Collections” at www.nyhistory.org.

Tiffany created lighting in a variety of shapes and sizes from simple standard desk lamps to custom orders for chandeliers. At the time they were made, the choice of shade, base, and detailing affected the price, but they were definitely a luxury item. Purchasing a fine table lamp for $400 in 1906 would have been impossibile for a average family when their income might only be $500 a year.

Today’s prices vary as well. Five- or six-figure prices are common for rarer shade subjects. But dedicated collectors who watch auction offerings can find affordable opportunities to bring a Tiffany lamp into their own collections.

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ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Rarer than table lamps, this Tiffany floor model with a shade of overlapping tulips brought $137,500 at Rago’s in June 2012. Courtesy Rago Auctions

Rarer than table lamps, this Tiffany floor model with a shade of overlapping tulips brought $137,500 at Rago’s in June 2012. Courtesy Rago Auctions

Rarer than table lamps, this Tiffany floor model with a shade of overlapping tulips brought $137,500 at Rago’s in June 2012. Courtesy Rago Auctions

Rarer than table lamps, this Tiffany floor model with a shade of overlapping tulips brought $137,500 at Rago’s in June 2012. Courtesy Rago Auctions

Although floral themes dominate lamp repertoire, collectors clamor for designs with fluttering creatures from the insect world. This lamp with a dragonfly shade signed Tiffany Studios New York sold for $74,063 at Skinner’s last December. Courtesy Skinner Inc.

Although floral themes dominate lamp repertoire, collectors clamor for designs with fluttering creatures from the insect world. This lamp with a dragonfly shade signed Tiffany Studios New York sold for $74,063 at Skinner’s last December. Courtesy Skinner Inc.

The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass organizes touring exhibitions which dazzle viewers and offer collectors in-depth information about how the beautiful lamps were constructed.  A tour-de-force creation on display in the current show, this pond lily library lamp juxtaposes a cascading glass shade above a base of supporting lily pads.  Courtesy Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass

The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass organizes touring exhibitions which dazzle viewers and offer collectors in-depth information about how the beautiful lamps were constructed. A tour-de-force creation on display in the current show, this pond lily library lamp juxtaposes a cascading glass shade above a base of supporting lily pads. Courtesy Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass

Tiffany glass, both lighting and windows, was often destined for a special setting in a sumptuous interior. This rare Neustadt Collection globe shade with lilies rising from water once graced the newel post of a grand staircase. Courtesy Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass

Tiffany glass, both lighting and windows, was often destined for a special setting in a sumptuous interior. This rare Neustadt Collection globe shade with lilies rising from water once graced the newel post of a grand staircase. Courtesy Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass

A 1920s table lamp with colorful peony shade was an excellent buy for $45,000 at last June’s Rago auction. Courtesy Rago Auctions

A 1920s table lamp with colorful peony shade was an excellent buy for $45,000 at last June’s Rago auction. Courtesy Rago Auctions

A more-ornate table lamp featuring a jeweled Venetian shade and elaborate base more than doubled its estimate to bring $81,000 at Rago’s in 2009. Courtesy Rago Auctions

A more-ornate table lamp featuring a jeweled Venetian shade and elaborate base more than doubled its estimate to bring $81,000 at Rago’s in 2009. Courtesy Rago Auctions

The Neustadt Collection also contains a number of hanging lamps. This exotic electric chandelier features iridescent turtleback glass panels inset in the bronze crown and Favrile shades over the lights suspended below. Courtesy Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass

The Neustadt Collection also contains a number of hanging lamps. This exotic electric chandelier features iridescent turtleback glass panels inset in the bronze crown and Favrile shades over the lights suspended below. Courtesy Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass

Serious collectors seek out Tagliapietra’s most important handcrafted glass designs. This exceptional battuto vase, signed and dated 2004, brought $31,000 last October at Rago (est. $7,500-$9,500).

Tagliapietra: Maestro returns to Museum of Glass in Tacoma

Serious collectors seek out Tagliapietra’s most important handcrafted glass designs. This exceptional battuto vase, signed and dated 2004, brought $31,000 last October at Rago (est. $7,500-$9,500).

Serious collectors seek out Tagliapietra’s most important handcrafted glass designs. This exceptional battuto vase, signed and dated 2004, brought $31,000 last October at Rago (est. $7,500-$9,500).

When the Museum of Glass in Tacoma organized the 2008 exhibition “Lino Tagliapietra in Retropect: A Modern Renaissance in Italian Glass” – featured that December in a Style Century article available on this website – it might have seemed like the artist’s long career had been summed up. But the working pace has never skipped a beat for the celebrated Venetian glassmaker, who divides his time and teaching between home base in Italy and workshops on these shores.

Tagliapietra will turn 78 this month, and Auction Central News caught up with the man who never seems to rest at the new MOG show, “Maestro: Recent Works by Lino Tagliapietra.” He seems pleased with the presentation: “This is new work, not so much retrospective things. I feel, it’s a wonderful exhibition – quite well done. There are beautiful installations – three, four, five with the Borboleta – butterflies.”

The exhibition, which showcases 65 works from the decade 2002-2012, runs through Jan. 6. The coloration and patterning of individual objects is intense, the techniques of their creation unfathomable. Amid the stunning single pieces are group installations, such as the 2011 assemblage called Gabbiani, the word for seagulls in Italian. Another 2011 composition called Masai resembles a line of decorated shields.

Tagliapietra explains, “I am doing a lot of experimental things at present, trying different things – different colors, different techniques. I also work on the rediscovery of older techniques. I do mentoring in Italy and also here in the United States.”

The making of these massive, intricate projects – La Porta Blue in Campo dei Frati 2012 is nearly 4 feet high – requires the work of many hands under the direction of the maestro. He says, “It depends on what we are doing. It’s possible to work with three or four people. Sometimes I work with six or seven people. I form a relationship with them. When we start with a new guy, we give him very long training before he begins, then he becomes part of the famiglia.”

Tagliapietra is particularly delighted with the exhibition catalog published by the Museum of Glass through the University of Washington Press. Accompanying the superb photographs is an essay, not by an art historian, but by Claudia Gorbman, professor of film studies at the University of Washington/Tacoma who draws parallels between the glass and audiovisual media.

“To the extremely demanding world of glass, Lino Tagliapietra brings unparalleled mastery,” she writes. “Dale Chihuly and many others have called him the greatest living glassblower. He stands at an extraordinary confluence of two systems and two ideologies of glassmaking. On the one, hand he is a product of the 1,000-year-old Venetian factory tradition. … On the other hand, for the past quarter century he has gained global renown as an independent star in the firmament of glass art.”

Next to an image of Lino Tagliapietra at work in the hot shop, the book features his statement: “In Murano we were young when we went into the glasshouses: we did not continue school. It was a different situation and different training than you get in the States, but I think it takes the same amount of time, one way or another, to make good work. … The most valuable aspect of the traditional Murano education is that you have the chance to practice. All the time!”

The volume also features detailed descriptions of painstaking glass techniques, such as the last stage of making a borboleta (butterfly) for one of the show’s most spectacular installations: “The piece begins as an incalmo vessel, but toward the end, it is whirled out like a pizza centered on the punty – a glass pizza with a beautiful bilateral pattern of color splotches. The spinning glass is then allowed to slump, and a butterfly is born as mysteriously as the phoenix.”

In the marketplace, Tagliapietro works can be found at almost every price point. He worked his way up through the Murano glass factories, becoming chief glassblower and designer at Effetre International in mid-career. Collectors place the greatest value on the masterpieces Lino has designed and created hands-on in recent decades. An exceptional sculptural work, signed and dated 2004, in style quite similar to exhibits in Maestro, sold for $31,000 last October at a Rago auction.

Suzanne Perrault at Rago says of Tagliapietra, “He brings to contemporary studio glass a Murano approach. He runs a workshop, liked Dale Chihuly does, but perhaps not as large. He travels greatly and does many projects with other glassmakers.”

“Some of his more commercial lines (like Effetre) do very well, but what serious collectors want are the handcrafted items, like the large battuto vase we sold for over $30K,” she continues. “His rare spiral pieces, especially the taller ones, do very well too. The prices for his new sculpture from his studio are very high.”

In the conclusion of her catalog essay, Claudia Gorbman writes, “When we think of the restrained, ‘tasteful’ monochromaticism with which Venetian glass is most often associated, the exuberance of these color patterns signals Lino’s total mastery of and liberation from the tradition that produced him, like a vessel that has launched and taken off for uncharted parts of the universe.”

“Lino’s approach to glass is fearless. He continues on his 70-year-long journey with it, showing the same passionate curiosity that brought him to it as a young boy on the island of Murano.”

The current catalog, one for the 2008 exhibition Lino Tagliapietra in Retropect, and many other important publications in the field are available at www.museumofglassstore.org


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Serious collectors seek out Tagliapietra’s most important handcrafted glass designs. This exceptional battuto vase, signed and dated 2004, brought $31,000 last October at Rago (est. $7,500-$9,500).

Serious collectors seek out Tagliapietra’s most important handcrafted glass designs. This exceptional battuto vase, signed and dated 2004, brought $31,000 last October at Rago (est. $7,500-$9,500).

‘Borboleta’ (il giardino di farfalle – garden of butterflies) is one of the glass installations in the current exhibition ‘Maestro: Recent Works by Lino Tagliapietra’ at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma through Jan. 6. Courtesy Museum of Glass; photo by Francesco Allegretto.

‘Borboleta’ (il giardino di farfalle – garden of butterflies) is one of the glass installations in the current exhibition ‘Maestro: Recent Works by Lino Tagliapietra’ at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma through Jan. 6. Courtesy Museum of Glass; photo by Francesco Allegretto.

This 2011 Fuji vase in the ‘Maestro’ exhibition is part of a series of recent works named after international cities and places. Courtesy Museum of Glass; photo by Russell Johnson.

This 2011 Fuji vase in the ‘Maestro’ exhibition is part of a series of recent works named after international cities and places. Courtesy Museum of Glass; photo by Russell Johnson.

On view in Tacoma, the stark ‘La Porta Blu in Campo dei Frati’ – almost 4 feet high – marks a new direction for the glassmaker in 2012. Courtesy Museum of Glass; photo by Russell Johnson.

On view in Tacoma, the stark ‘La Porta Blu in Campo dei Frati’ – almost 4 feet high – marks a new direction for the glassmaker in 2012. Courtesy Museum of Glass; photo by Russell Johnson.

In the June Italian Glass sale at Wright auctions in Chicago, this ghostly pale Cogolo vase with filigree zanfirico, made in 1985 for Effetre in Murano, Italy, brought $7,500.

In the June Italian Glass sale at Wright auctions in Chicago, this ghostly pale Cogolo vase with filigree zanfirico, made in 1985 for Effetre in Murano, Italy, brought $7,500.

In Rago’s February sale, a tall spiral glass sculpture (33 1/2 inches high), Murano 1991, passed its modest $2,500-$3,500 estimate to bring $18,750.

In Rago’s February sale, a tall spiral glass sculpture (33 1/2 inches high), Murano 1991, passed its modest $2,500-$3,500 estimate to bring $18,750.

A strikingly simple black and white glass bowl, Effetre 1986, sold in February at Rago for $5,313.

A strikingly simple black and white glass bowl, Effetre 1986, sold in February at Rago for $5,313.

Wine coolers were also made in European and Chinese Export porcelain. This Royal Copenhagen example in the Flora Danica pattern, 1969-1974, sold for $1300 last December. Courtesy Heritage Auctions

Winterthur’s ‘Uncorked’ celebrates history, business of wine

Wine coolers were also made in European and Chinese Export porcelain. This Royal Copenhagen example in the Flora Danica pattern, 1969-1974, sold for $1300 last December.  Courtesy Heritage Auctions

Wine coolers were also made in European and Chinese Export porcelain. This Royal Copenhagen example in the Flora Danica pattern, 1969-1974, sold for $1300 last December. Courtesy Heritage Auctions

WINTERTHUR, Del. – Winterthur’s new exhibition, Uncorked! Wine, Objects & Tradition will have collectors lifting their glasses in a toast. The show comprehensively covers the influence of wine on history, religion, politics, and entertaining.

In a recent interview, Leslie Grigsby, Winterthur’s Senior Curator of Ceramics and Glass, revealed her inspiration for the long-running exhibition: “The subject has been something I’ve been in love with since I began in the field, down in Colonial Williamsburg. When you look at dishes and drinking vessels long enough and are in love with how they were used, this project grows naturally out of it.”

She continued, “The exhibition fills our two largest galleries, and it includes well over 300 objects – anything from small wine glasses and decanters to sideboards, books from the library, and objects for the garden.”

Uncorked! opened April 28 and will be on display through January 6, 2013. Collectors around the country also can access a “virtual exhibition” online at www.winterthur.org, which includes images of the objects and in depth discussion of the business and pleasure of wine drinking.

Grigsby explained, “We wondered a little bit about whether it made sense to put the virtual exhibition online at the same time that we’re opening the museum exhibition. But then we decided that it was so rich in different kinds of objects that people would look at it and go, wow – I need to go there and see it live.”

“We are not trying to teach them about how wine is made or how to tell the difference between the many wines available today,” the curator said. “We are hoping they will feel the sense of joy that often was associated with these objects. We have quotes from Charles Dickens and from Homer. We have drinking rhymes and a whole set of objects associated with drinking games as well as the more serious objects that show you the variety of elegant wares available.”

Among the many treasures, visitors will find a communion chalice made by Paul Revere, Jr., dated 1768; an English inlaid bottle case fitted with decanters and glasses; English silver wine labels for port and sherry, 1725-1775; and a Hogarth print of “A Midnight Modern Conversation,” circa 1733, which depicts a raucous group of gentlemen around a punchbowl.

On view in the drinking games section is a group of puzzle jugs. Drinkers had to pull from the correct opening and cover the others in order not to be splashed with wine. One English example is decorated with this rhyme in blue: “Here Gentlemen Come try yr Skill, [I’ll] hold a wager if you will, that you Don’t Drink this [liquor] all, without you Spill or lett some Fall.”

One favorite of Leslie Grigsby’s is “Settling the Affairs of the Nation, a late 18th century London print showing the inside of wine shop. She said, “This is in a section we have on the business of wine – selling wine and wine equipage – and the fact that wine helps sell other things. Typically in the 18th and 19th century, there are two different areas of wine sales – people who sell wine and the people who sell wine equipage. And the latter often sell dinnerware which makes sense.”

Viewers of the exhibition will become entranced by the collecting possibilities. Four years ago Heritage Auctions in Dallas established separate sales for fine silver, and antique wine coolers have become highly sought after for display and practical use on the table.

Tim Rigdon, Heritage’s Director of Silver, Vertu, Decorative Arts, and Design, explains the possibilities: “You have the ewers, the stands and coasters, the strainers, the labels – there is a huge variety of material. Just in silver. Often wine paraphernalia has Bacchic and grapevine motifs on the best examples.”

He continues, “Most often, a lot of that material does end up being used, and I strongly encourage collectors to actually use their pieces. In the April sale, there were six coolers in all, three different pairs, each a different size – all made by the same maker.”

“They had a wonderful combination of filigree silver and engraved glass that you get at the end of the Victorian and beginning of the Edwardian period. During the course of a dinner, you could have multiple vintages which require coolers of different sizes. The staff would not only serve at the dinners but also care for the polishing of the pieces.”

“We do two to three dedicated silver sales a year, and wine coolers do incredibly well,” he points out. “A year and a half ago, we also sold a collection of late Georgian and early Victorian English wine ewers and jugs which had been formed by an American who was a long time resident in Hong Kong. English residents in the army or in trade would have all the elegant accoutrements they would have enjoyed back home.”

To view past and future sales of silver at Heritage, visit www.LiveAuctioneers.com.

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ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Wine coolers were also made in European and Chinese Export porcelain. This Royal Copenhagen example in the Flora Danica pattern, 1969-1974, sold for $1300 last December.  Courtesy Heritage Auctions

Wine coolers were also made in European and Chinese Export porcelain. This Royal Copenhagen example in the Flora Danica pattern, 1969-1974, sold for $1300 last December. Courtesy Heritage Auctions

Uncorked! Wine, Objects & Tradition, a major exhibition at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware, explores the history, business, and politics of wine consumption. Among the artifacts on display is this English pearlware group of Bacchus, the god of wine, and his female consort Ariadne dating 1790-1810.  Courtesy Winterthur Museum

Uncorked! Wine, Objects & Tradition, a major exhibition at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware, explores the history, business, and politics of wine consumption. Among the artifacts on display is this English pearlware group of Bacchus, the god of wine, and his female consort Ariadne dating 1790-1810. Courtesy Winterthur Museum

Clusters of grapes and grapevines often ornament wine equipage. On view at Winterthur, this silver presentation pitcher or wine ewer with a grapevine band was made in the workshop of Edward Lownes of Philadelphia and is dated 1827.  Courtesy Winterthur Museum

Clusters of grapes and grapevines often ornament wine equipage. On view at Winterthur, this silver presentation pitcher or wine ewer with a grapevine band was made in the workshop of Edward Lownes of Philadelphia and is dated 1827. Courtesy Winterthur Museum

Glass was perfect for storing and serving wine. This American lead crystal decanter, 1825-1840, cut in the peacock eye or comet pattern, is one of several examples in Uncorked!  Courtesy Winterthur Museum

Glass was perfect for storing and serving wine. This American lead crystal decanter, 1825-1840, cut in the peacock eye or comet pattern, is one of several examples in Uncorked! Courtesy Winterthur Museum

Wine coolers were often made in pairs and came in various sizes to use with different vintages. These wheel-cut crystal containers on a reticulated base by London maker William Comyns & Sons, 1903-1904, brought $8125 last month.  Courtesy Heritage Auctions

Wine coolers were often made in pairs and came in various sizes to use with different vintages. These wheel-cut crystal containers on a reticulated base by London maker William Comyns & Sons, 1903-1904, brought $8125 last month. Courtesy Heritage Auctions

This Tiffany silver wine cooler, 1870-1875, makes its purpose clear: Bacchus serves drink to a putto on either side. The lot sold at in Heritage’s Silver & Vertu auction last September for $6572.50.  Courtesy Heritage Auctions

This Tiffany silver wine cooler, 1870-1875, makes its purpose clear: Bacchus serves drink to a putto on either side. The lot sold at in Heritage’s Silver & Vertu auction last September for $6572.50. Courtesy Heritage Auctions

Puzzle jugs appear in the Drinking Games section of the exhibition – the one at left is Dutch, 1650-1670, the one at right is English from Liverpool, 1750-1770. Users had to cover the correct holes with their fingers or wine would splash on the face and clothes.  Courtesy Winterthur Museum

Puzzle jugs appear in the Drinking Games section of the exhibition – the one at left is Dutch, 1650-1670, the one at right is English from Liverpool, 1750-1770. Users had to cover the correct holes with their fingers or wine would splash on the face and clothes. Courtesy Winterthur Museum

An 1839 oil on canvas portrait of Napoleon in uniform signed by V. Varillaz will be offered in New Orleans in the April 21-22 sale (estimate $4,000-6,000). Courtesy Neal Auction Company

Napoleon and the Empire style in focus at Hillwood

An 1839 oil on canvas portrait of Napoleon in uniform signed by V. Varillaz will be offered in New Orleans in the April 21-22 sale (estimate $4,000-6,000). Courtesy Neal Auction Company

An 1839 oil on canvas portrait of Napoleon in uniform signed by V. Varillaz will be offered in New Orleans in the April 21-22 sale (estimate $4,000-6,000). Courtesy Neal Auction Company

WASHINGTON – The journey of Napoleon from successful general to decorative arts icon is a fascinating chapter in art history. While his attempt to engineer political unification on the scale of ancient Rome ultimately failed, his patronage of a classical style we still call “Empire” continues to enchant collectors.

Just as antiques bearing Napoleon’s image attract attention in the marketplace, a Napoleonic connection will draw visitors to an exhibition. The Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens in Washington, D.C. has extensive collections of both French and Russian fine and decorative arts.

The current exhibition, The Style that Ruled the Empires: Russia, Napoleon, and 1812 – on view through June 2, 2012 – brings together paintings, porcelain, glassware, costumes and armor from the period. Scott Ruby, Hillwood’s Associate Curator of Russian and Eastern European Art who organized the show, says, “We’re focusing on the period of the invasion of Russia, and then the subsequent table-turning done by the Tsar on Napoleon, when the Russian army marched on Paris and took the city.”

Princes and Popes had been excavating Greek and Roman antiquities since the Renaissance, while commissioning new works based on these prototypes. Napoleon favored a more robust, archaeological interpretation of these ancient artifacts, which became the Empire style. As he strove to build a political empire, he surrounded himself with classically-themed furniture and paintings that reinforced his goals.

Ruby points out, “It was a way of legitimizing his rule. By associating himself with the great rulers of antiquity, he could become a great ruler in his own time. The interest in antiquity had been alive since the Renaissance. Under Napoleon, there was a distinctive change. Rather than the more feminine style that was favored in the time of Louis XVI, the Empire style employed a more accurately antique style of ornament.”

The fashion was not confined to France but spread throughout the civilized world. The curator continues, “There was a lot of innovation coming from France, but it was also very international. So it was a period when there was kind of an international embrace of this style throughout most of Europe and in Russia.”

In the exhibition, a comparison of French and Russian porcelain reveals that both were equally influenced by classicism. As Ruby puts it, “We have a couple of Sevres plates that we paired with a Russian imperial vase from our collection. It’s really difficult to tell the difference – is it French, is it Russian? They both use antique elements.”Napoleon and his extended family demonstrated a type of physical charisma that would have projected well in today’s televised political world. Although denied modern media, he circulated his image through sculpture, paintings, and prints. His siblings, who shared his Corsican good looks, were given titles and roles to play in his Empire.

The Hillwood exhibition includes a portrait miniature on ivory of his sister Elisa Bonaparte painted by court artist Jean-Baptiste Isabey (1767-1855). Scott Ruby explains, “Her costume exemplifies the fashion at the time; she’s wearing a dress with an Empire waist in a diaphanous fabric. Her hair is done up in an antique style. She was quite a powerhouse in her own right.” As Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Elisa revived use of marble from Carrara in Italy, which was used to make busts of Napoleon circulated in the newly conquered territories.

Empire fashions in costume and furnishings also became popular throughout North America with up-to-date consumers eager to display the latest styles. France was also influential because it claimed a large section of the continent stretching north from Louisiana until the land was purchased by the United States on April 30, 1803.

Napoleon always has been a particularly popular figure in Francophile New Orleans. The city was once considered a possible location for his second exile, but he died before moving there. Collectors eager to own a representative image of the Emperor find that examples frequently turn up at auction in the Crescent City.

Rachel Weathers at the Neal Auction Company on Magazine Street agrees that Napoleon’s portrait can complete an Empire interior: “If you are buying furniture in the Empire style, it makes sense to include Napoleon in your fine and decorative arts – he’s so recognizable. It’s the image that you want to put with that style. For example, you see a lot of portrait busts in gentlemen’s libraries and on parlor mantels.”

She continues, “He’s a romantic hero in a way; his image fits in with high-style classical interiors and completes the theme. Americans have ambiguous relationships with Europe, elitism, militarism, empire and democracy. Napoleon embodies all of these complexities in one handsome equestrian image.”

Weathers also emphasizes that there is no dearth of material, both objects made during his reign and those produced later in the 19th century as his legend grew. She notes, “French artists continued producing works with his visage well into the Romantic era and the reign of Napoleon III. Eugene Delacroix said it best, ‘The life of Napoleon is our country’s epic for all the arts.’”

Napoleon makes an appearance in almost every Neal sale in New Orleans. The upcoming auction on April 21-22 offers the opportunity to buy an oil portrait of the ruler in military uniform as well as a bronze-mounted porcelain roundel depicting the Emperor’s head in classical profile. In the aptly named Louisiana Purchase Auction last November, a fine large bronze of Napoleon on horseback sold for $20,315.

View the fully illustrated catalog for Neal’s April 21-22 auction and sign up to bid absentee or live via the Internet at www.LiveAuctioneers.com.

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ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


An 1839 oil on canvas portrait of Napoleon in uniform signed by V. Varillaz will be offered in New Orleans in the April 21-22 sale (estimate $4,000-6,000). Courtesy Neal Auction Company

An 1839 oil on canvas portrait of Napoleon in uniform signed by V. Varillaz will be offered in New Orleans in the April 21-22 sale (estimate $4,000-6,000). Courtesy Neal Auction Company

This large bronze statuette of Napoleon on horseback (H. 25 inches) sold at the Neal Auction Company last November for $20,315. The sculpture by Louis-Marie Morise (1818-1883) may have been a study for a monumental equestrian statue. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

This large bronze statuette of Napoleon on horseback (H. 25 inches) sold at the Neal Auction Company last November for $20,315. The sculpture by Louis-Marie Morise (1818-1883) may have been a study for a monumental equestrian statue. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

A Sevres plate with the classical goddess Flore, 1813-1814, is among the treasures on display in The Style that Ruled the Empires: Russia, Napoleon, and 1812 at the Hillwood Museum through June 2, 2012. Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

A Sevres plate with the classical goddess Flore, 1813-1814, is among the treasures on display in The Style that Ruled the Empires: Russia, Napoleon, and 1812 at the Hillwood Museum through June 2, 2012. Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

The Hillwood exhibition also includes a portrait miniature on ivory of Napoleon’s sister Elisa Bonaparte by court artist Jean-Baptiste Isabey (1767-1855). Shown wearing an exquisite dress in the Empire style, Elisa became Grand Duchess of Tuscany during her brother’s reign. Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

The Hillwood exhibition also includes a portrait miniature on ivory of Napoleon’s sister Elisa Bonaparte by court artist Jean-Baptiste Isabey (1767-1855). Shown wearing an exquisite dress in the Empire style, Elisa became Grand Duchess of Tuscany during her brother’s reign. Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

Perfect for a mantel or library setting, this French biscuit porcelain bust of Napoleon, after Jean–Antoine Houdon, sold at Neal’s in February for $5,378.Courtesy Neal Auction Company

Perfect for a mantel or library setting, this French biscuit porcelain bust of Napoleon, after Jean–Antoine Houdon, sold at Neal’s in February for $5,378.Courtesy Neal Auction Company

Idolized as a romantic historical figure, Napoleon’s image adorned objets d’arts throughout the 19th century. A porcelain jardinière mounted in gilt bronze sold for $1793 in April 2011. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

Idolized as a romantic historical figure, Napoleon’s image adorned objets d’arts throughout the 19th century. A porcelain jardinière mounted in gilt bronze sold for $1793 in April 2011. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

This Sevres portrait roundel of Napoleon wearing the wreath of a Roman emperor, slightly over 5 inches in diameter, brought $2,629 last February. Courtesy Neal Auction Company

This Sevres portrait roundel of Napoleon wearing the wreath of a Roman emperor, slightly over 5 inches in diameter, brought $2,629 last February. Courtesy Neal Auction Company