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Circa-1958 Gorham Circa 70 sterling silver coffee and tea set with tray, designed by Donald Colflesh, estimated at $8,000-$12,000 at Neal Auction Company.

Gorham Circa 70 sterling silver coffee and tea set leads our five lots to watch

Gorham Circa 70 Sterling Silver Coffee and Tea Set

NEW ORLEANS – In the late 1950s, the promise of outer space tantalized the public. Spooked by the launch of the Soviet satellite dubbed Sputnik, Americans were determined to catch up and best their Communist counterparts in what became known as ‘the space race.’ The contest between the two global superpowers also sparked a design revolution that reached every corner of the decorative arts, even the hidebound, somewhat stodgy realm of silver.

In 1958, the Gorham Manufacturing Company of Providence, Rhode Island, hired Donald Colflesh, then freshly graduated from the industrial design program at the Pratt Institute, to bring a Space Age vision to its wares. His designs, several of which Gorham put into production in 1960, were christened the Circa 70 line in recognition of their futuristic look. Unfortunately, most of Gorham’s customers were too conservative in their tastes to make even one small step – never mind a giant leap – toward the Circa 70 line, and it was discontinued after a few years.

Contemporary collectors love Colflesh’s sleek, visually striking Circa 70 pieces, and their scarcity often leads to bidding battles at auction. Neal Auction Company will present an especially fine example of the Circa 70 sterling silver tea and coffee set in its Premier Estate Collections sale on Friday, January 26. It includes a coffee pot, tea pot, a covered sugar bowl, and a creamer, as well as a sterling silver and formica tray. This last is not, strictly speaking, a Colflesh design. Drawing inspiration from the handles on the sugar bowl, Gorham artisans fashioned the tray, and Colflesh gave it his blessing.

The lot at Neal comes with other extras that Circa 70 coffee and tea sets typically lack: the consignor included the original Gorham brochure as well as the receipt, dated September 14, 1961. It is estimated at $8,000-$12,000.

Gustavo Novoa Four-Panel Floor Screen

Gusvato Novoa four-panel floor screen, estimated at $2,000-$4,000 at Auctions at Showplace.
Gusvato Novoa four-panel floor screen, estimated at $2,000-$4,000 at Auctions at Showplace.

NEW YORK – Auctions at Showplace’s New York Estate Auctions sale on Sunday, January 21 has an interesting Gustavo Novoa (b. 1941-) four-panel floor screen as part of its 280-lot sale. It’s a case where the lot’s backstory is more interesting than the lot itself.

Novoa is well known as a primitive artist who focuses on wildlife and preservationist causes. One of his works is in the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library collection, having been presented to then-First Lady Barbara Bush at the White House in 1991. Another piece earned a world record price for the artist at a wildlife preservation fundraising auction headed by then-Prince Charles of England in Miami. Novoa has been represented by the Wally Findlay Gallery in New York since the early 1970s.

What makes the piece so interesting is an inscription on the reverse: To My Dearest Monique, and signed Fabian Compton, apparently referencing the estate of the consignor, Monique van Vooren (1927-2020). Van Vooren was an obscure Broadway, film and television star whose limited and checkered career was also marked by a federal grand jury perjury charge in 1983 that ended with her being ordered to perform 500 hours of community service for lying about cashing her late mother’s Social Security checks.

She appeared in productions as diverse and bizarre as the 1950 Italian melodrama Tomorrow Is Too Late and 1958’s Gigi with Leslie Caron (an uncredited appearance), to two episodes of ABC’s Batman in 1968, a turn as Baroness Katrin Frankenstein in 1973’s Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, and a bit role in Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Wall Street. She clearly served as a combination of a stunt hire and charity case on the part of casting directors.

It’s unclear who Fabian Compton is. Van Vooren was married to New York businessman Jerry Purcell from 1958 to his death in 2002; perhaps the four-panel screen was a gift from an ardent fan of her rather eclectic body of work. It is estimated at $2,000-$4,000.

Monumental Picture Frame Designed by Stanford White

Monumental giltwood frame designed by famed architect Stanford White, estimated at $10,000-$500,000 at Helmuth Stone Gallery.
Monumental giltwood frame designed by famed architect Stanford White, estimated at $10,000-$500,000 at Helmuth Stone Gallery.

SARASOTA, Fla. – On Sunday, January 28, Helmuth Stone Gallery will conduct a sale of antique picture frames from the Eli Wilner Frame Gallery. The firm of frame makers and restorers, which has operated in Manhattan for more than 40 years, consigned in excess of 500 period American and European frames to be sold in 444 lots without reserve.

Estimates start at $100-$200, but rather more is expected for this monumental giltwood frame designed by Stanford White (1853-1906). Although an architect by trade, he was a friend to many of the most notable artists at the turn of the 20th century and created frames for John Singer Sargent, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, and William Merritt Chase, among others. His reimagining of classical ornamentation influenced generations of frame-makers.

The gallery once retailed this particular 5ft 3in by 2ft 8in frame at $1.4 million, which made it the world’s most expensive period frame. It is now being offered with an estimate of $10,000-$500,000.

Eli Wilner has supplied 28 frames to the White House as well as the hand-carved and gilded eagle-crested frame for Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze – the focal point of the American wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. A similar auction of Wilner frames was conducted with New York firm Guernsey’s in February 2020.

Pair of Martin Brothers Fish Vases

Pair of Fish vases by the Martin Brothers, both dated to 1899, estimated at $12,000-$15,000 at Lion and Unicorn.
Pair of Fish vases by the Martin Brothers, both dated to 1899, estimated at $12,000-$15,000 at Lion and Unicorn.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – The collecting focus of Martinware stonewares was once firmly upon the birds and the grotesque models – the coveted Gothic-inspired creatures modeled by Robert Wallace Martin in the decades either side of the turn of the 20th century.

However, as these became increasingly expensive, the market evolved to place more attention on some of the more conventional vases, jugs and gourds produced by the Southall, London pottery firm. Many of these were modeled and decorated by Walter and Edwin Martin. This pair of 10.5in (26cm) stoneware vases depicting grotesque fish and jellyfish in low relief are incised to the bases ‘Martin Bros. London & Southall’ and dated 7/1899 and 8/1899. They have an estimate of $12,000-$15,000 as part of the two-day sale of Rare European Ceramics to be held at Lion and Unicorn on Saturday, January 20 and Sunday, January 21.

Chinese Celadon-glazed Moon Flask with Silver-gilt Mounts

NEW YORK – Taking place Tuesday, January 30 at Sotheby’s is a sale titled The Pleasure of Objects: The Ian & Carolina Irving Collection. The 178 lots from the couple’s East Hampton, New York home includes objects of the caliber of a George II period silver-gilt covered cup designed by William Kent and estimated at $40,000-$60,000, and a pair of Venetian gilt copper tazze with the arms of the Doge of Venice, bought from the famous Mentmore house sale and estimated at $20,000-$30,000.

By repute, this 18in (45cm) Chinese celadon-glazed moon flask with historicist silver-gilt mounts had been removed during the Victorian era from the former royal residence known as Brighton Pavilion. It has been assigned the sale’s top estimate, at $60,000-$90,000.

The mounts are by the early 19th-century manufacturing silversmith William Elliot (1773-1855), whose workshop was located at 25 Compton Street, Clerkenwell, London. Relatively little is known about his business, but he was the chief supplier of new plate to the shopkeeper, goldsmith, and jeweler Thomas Hamlet (1770-1853), whose Leicester Square emporium in London enjoyed the patronage of the British royal family. In the years before his spectacular bankruptcy, Hamlet made a fortune supplying many pieces to George, Prince of Wales, first for his London mansion Carlton House and then for his seaside fantasy retreat at Brighton, England.