Eero Saarinen made mid-century Modern furniture timeless

A circa-1970 Eero Saarinen Womb chair and ottoman sold comfortably within its $1,500-$2,000 estimate for $1,800 plus the buyer’s premium in August 2023. Image courtesy of Wright and LiveAuctioneers.

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A circa-1970 Eero Saarinen Womb chair and ottoman sold comfortably within its $1,500-$2,000 estimate for $1,800 plus the buyer’s premium in August 2023. Image courtesy of Wright and LiveAuctioneers.
A circa-1970 Eero Saarinen Womb chair and ottoman sold comfortably within the $1,500-$2,000 estimate for $1,800 plus the buyer’s premium in August 2023. Image courtesy of Wright and LiveAuctioneers.

<IN PROGRESS>

NEW YORK — In business since 1938, furniture maker Knoll has worked with several acclaimed designers, but it was Eero Saarinen (1919-1961) who put the company on the map with his now-famous Womb chair in 1946.

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A tale of two Eames DCM chairs illustrated the mid-century market at LAMA

An early Charles and Ray Eames DCM chair by Evans Plywood Division. $28,000 at Los Angeles Modern Auction.

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LOS ANGELES – In the mid-century market, the devil is in the details. It’s why two vintage examples of Charles and Ray Eames’ DCM chair carrying similar estimates at Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA) on November 15 could bring vastly different prices.

The DCM (Dining Chair on Metal) was one of four plywood chairs by the husband-and-wife design team released to the marketplace in 1946. In time, the DCM would become a standard fixture in the Herman Miller catalog, but only after 1949, when the manufacturing know-how and licenses were bought from its original maker, Evans Plywood Division. These early Evans chairs in rosewood ply and solid zinc-plated steel rods are super rare and distinctive for two specific construction details: construction, namely the metal feet, and the circular ends to the ribs that connect the seat and the backrest. To serious collectors, these are catnip. Estimated at $1,500-$2,500, the rosewood ply Eames DCM chair took $28,000 ($36,680 with buyer’s premium).

Under Herman Miller the DCM – which is still made today – has gone through a series of subtle changes that also help with determining a chair’s date. Outwardly similar, an ash plywood chair in the sale was probably from Miller’s second or third iteration, with its rubber feet and oval ends to the backrest connectors. Made a decade later than the Evans chair, it was estimated at $1,000-$1,500 but took a modest $350 ($458 with buyer’s premium).

The LAMA sale also included the return to auction of a chair created by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen for the Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Design in Home Furnishings contest in 1940. It was the event that announced the arrival of both designers, with their joint entries winning in both the chair design and the living room categories.

Not only did the winners have their work exhibited in New York from September 4-November 9, 1941, they were also awarded contracts for manufacture and distribution. As indicated by a manufacturer’s label to the underside, the Eames and Saarinen chair was made by the Gardner, Massachusetts firm Heywood-Wakefield, with the complex Honduran mahogany shell created by the Haskelite Corporation using an iron mold. However, although stocked by department stores from the day the exhibition opened, full-scale production of the chair never happened due to the U.S.’s impending involvement in the Second World War.

This chair, previously owned by Lilian Swann Saarinen, first wife of Eero Saarinen, was last sold in May 2003 at Wright in Chicago, when it realized $37,440. This time, estimated at $10,000-$15,000, it sold for $24,000 ($31,440 with buyer’s premium).

A set of four chairs in one of Jean Prouve’s best-known plywood designs, the Tout Bois, achieved $28,000 ($36,680 with buyer’s premium). The form was first made in metal in 1934, but Prouve adapted it many times throughout his career. During the Second World War, Prouve worked with the Vauconsant Company to produce the chair in wood due to the scarcity of metal. The earliest wartime examples, such as these, dating to circa 1941, feature a frame of solid oak with side tenons passing through the back frame. Bought by the consignor from New York dealership Sebastian + Barquet in 2010, they were estimated at $20,000-$30,000.

Works by the African American ceramicist Doyle Lane (1923–2002) proved particularly popular as well. Of the six pieces on offer, five sold above their estimates.

The best of these, sold at $20,000 each ($26,200 with buyer’s premium), were two of Lane’s trademark ‘weed pots’ — the delicately potted vases with tiny necks that could hold only a single sprig of flowers. One with a turquoise glaze, the other in a matte black, both dated from the 1960s, when Lane was working from a studio on the El Sereno district of Los Angeles and exhibiting his work at the Brockman Gallery in Leimert Park and the Ankrum Gallery on La Cienega Boulevard, two galleries known for their support of black artists.

Lane’s star has been rising of late. A weed pot with a blue drip glaze sold for $30,000 at LAMA’s equivalent sale in July – the same time that the David Kordansky Gallery was holding a show of 100 Lane ceramics in New York.
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Early Charles and Ray Eames DCM chair by Evans Plywood Division, which sold for $28,000 ($36,680 with buyer’s premium) at Los Angeles Modern Auction.
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Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen chair from the Museum of Modern Art Organic Design competition, which sold for $24,000 ($31,440 with buyer’s premium) at Los Angeles Modern Auction.
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Set of four Tout Bois chairs by Jean Prouve, which sold for $28,000 ($36,680 with buyer’s premium) at Los Angeles Modern Auction.
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Weed pot by Doyle Lane, which sold for $20,000 ($26,200 with buyer’s premium) at Los Angeles Modern Auction.
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Weed pot by Doyle Lane, which sold for $20,000 ($26,200 with buyer’s premium) at Los Angeles Modern Auction.
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Quittenbaum serves multi-course feast of design and Murano glass, Oct. 10-12

Ercole Barovier Christian Dior vase, estimated at €5,000-€6,000 ($5,300-$6,400) at Quittenbaum.

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MUNICH – Quittenbaum Kunstauktionen GmbH is planning a multi-course feast of design and Murano glass. On Tuesday, October 10, the house will present a sale of Italian Design; it follows this on Wednesday, October 11 with an auction of International Design; and it caps the proceedings on Thursday, October 12 with a sale devoted to Murano Glass. Absentee and Internet live bidding for all three will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

The greatest prize in the October 10 Italian Design sale is a complete set of 100 % Make Up lidded vases, estimated at €25,000-€35,000 ($26,600-$37,300). Alessandro Mendini created the 15.5in vase for the Italian brand Alessi about 30 years ago, and recruited 99 other artists and designers to decorate the white porcelain piece as each saw fit. Ettore Sottsass, Michael Graves and Philippe Starck were among those who contributed to the project, which yielded 100 designs that were produced in individual limited editions of 100 vases.

The stress here is on the word ‘individual,’ as it appears that the 100 % Make Up vases were never retailed as a full set of 100. Dogged collectors have had to take it upon themselves to hunt down examples and assemble a complete group such as the one on offer on October 10 at Quittenbaum.

Other lots worthy of mention in the Italian Design sale is a 1985 Mamounia armchair by George J. Sowden and Nathalie du Pasquier, made by Memphis, Milan and estimated at €3,000-€5,000 ($3,200-$5,300), as well as more than 30 lots of vases, lighting and other decorative arts objects by Ettore Sottsass. Notable among them is a 1967 totem, titled Menta and belonging to his Mirabili series, which is estimated at €20,000-€25,000 ($21,300-$26,600).

Quittenbaum’s International Design sale on October 11 features head-turners such as a late-1950s Eero Sararinen for Knoll Tulip dining table with five chairs, estimated at €4,000-€5,000 ($4,200-$5,300), and a delicate-looking 1985 Ram chair by André Dubreuil, estimated at €2,500-€3,500 ($2,600-$3,700).

Completing the parade of delights is the October 12 Murano glass sale, which is led by a Carlo Scarpa Variegato vase dating to 1942, rendered in clear glass laced with orange and purple threads and estimated at €40,000-€60,000 ($42,600-$64,000). Equally impressive is a four-sided mid-1950s Scozzese vase by Fulvio Bianconi, graced with bands of white, yellow, red, green and blue and estimated at €30,000-€50,000 ($32,000-$53,300).

Additional Italian glassmaking legends represented in the sale include Dino Martens, who appears in the form of a 1952 Oriente vase estimated at €5,000-€6,000 ($5,300-$6,400), and Ercole Barovier, who contributes a so-called Christian Dior vase dating to 1963 that also has an estimate of €5,000-€6,000 ($5,300-$6,400).

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[av_slide slide_type=’image’ id=’179008′ video=’https://’ mobile_image=” fallback_link=’https://’ title=” video_ratio=’16:9′ custom_title_size=” av-desktop-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” custom_size=” av-desktop-font-size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” font_color=” custom_title=” custom_content=” heading_tag=” heading_class=” link_apply=’image’ link=’manually,https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/160914771_alessandro-mendini-paola-navone-philippe-starck-ettore-sottsass-et-al-100-lidded-vases-from-the ‘ link_target=’_blank’ av_uid=’av-lmkqwmjm’ sc_version=’1.0′ video_autoplay=” video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=”]
Five unidentified pieces from a complete set of 100 % Make Up lidded vases, designed by Alessandro Mendini and decorated by Ettore Sottsass Michael Graves, Philippe Starck and 96 others, estimated at €25,000-€35,000 ($26,600-$37,300) at Quittenbaum.
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[av_slide slide_type=’image’ id=’179009′ video=’https://’ mobile_image=” fallback_link=’https://’ title=” video_ratio=’16:9′ custom_title_size=” av-desktop-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” custom_size=” av-desktop-font-size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” font_color=” custom_title=” custom_content=” heading_tag=” heading_class=” link_apply=’image’ link=’manually, https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/160914734_ettore-sottsass-totem-menta-from-the-mirabili-series-1967 ‘ link_target=’_blank’ av_uid=’av-lmkqy1wb’ sc_version=’1.0′ video_autoplay=” video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=”]
Ettore Sottsass Menta totem from his Mirabili series, estimated at €20,000-€25,000 ($21,300-$26,600) at Quittenbaum.
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[av_slide slide_type=’image’ id=’179010′ video=’https://’ mobile_image=” fallback_link=’https://’ title=” video_ratio=’16:9′ custom_title_size=” av-desktop-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” custom_size=” av-desktop-font-size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” font_color=” custom_title=” custom_content=” heading_tag=” heading_class=” link_apply=’image’ link=’manually,https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/160914762_george-j-sowden-and-nathalie-du-pasquier-mamounia-armchair-1985 ‘ link_target=’_blank’ av_uid=’av-lmkqyzrn’ sc_version=’1.0′ video_autoplay=” video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=”]
Mamounia armchair for Memphis, Milan by George J. Sowden and Nathalie du Pasquier, estimated at €3,000-€5,000 ($3,200-$5,300) at Quittenbaum.
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[av_slide slide_type=’image’ id=’179011′ video=’https://’ mobile_image=” fallback_link=’https://’ title=” video_ratio=’16:9′ custom_title_size=” av-desktop-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” custom_size=” av-desktop-font-size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” font_color=” custom_title=” custom_content=” heading_tag=” heading_class=” link_apply=’image’ link=’manually,https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/160917562_eero-saarinen-dining-table-tulip-173-with-five-chairs-151-1956-57 ‘ link_target=’_blank’ av_uid=’av-lmkr0euu’ sc_version=’1.0′ video_autoplay=” video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=”]
Eero Saarinen for Knoll Tulip dining table with five chairs, estimated at €4,000-€5,000 ($4,200-$5,300) at Quittenbaum.
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[av_slide slide_type=’image’ id=’179012′ video=’https://’ mobile_image=” fallback_link=’https://’ title=” video_ratio=’16:9′ custom_title_size=” av-desktop-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” custom_size=” av-desktop-font-size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” font_color=” custom_title=” custom_content=” heading_tag=” heading_class=” link_apply=’image’ link=’manually,https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/160917578_andre-dubreuil-ram-chair-1985 ‘ link_target=’_blank’ av_uid=’av-lmkr14qh’ sc_version=’1.0′ video_autoplay=” video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=”]
André Dubreuil Ram chair, estimated at €2,500-€3,500 ($2,600-$3,700) at Quittenbaum.
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[av_slide slide_type=’image’ id=’179014′ video=’https://’ mobile_image=” fallback_link=’https://’ title=” video_ratio=’16:9′ custom_title_size=” av-desktop-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” custom_size=” av-desktop-font-size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” font_color=” custom_title=” custom_content=” heading_tag=” heading_class=” link_apply=’image’ link=’manually,https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/160692870_carlo-scarpa-variegato-vase-1942′ link_target=’_blank’ av_uid=’av-lmkrbpzc’ sc_version=’1.0′ video_autoplay=” video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=”]
Carlo Scarpa Variegato vase, estimated at €40,000-€60,000 ($42,600-$64,000) at Quittenbaum.
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[av_slide slide_type=’image’ id=’179015′ video=’https://’ mobile_image=” fallback_link=’https://’ title=” video_ratio=’16:9′ custom_title_size=” av-desktop-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” custom_size=” av-desktop-font-size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” font_color=” custom_title=” custom_content=” heading_tag=” heading_class=” link_apply=’image’ link=’manually,https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/160692906_fulvio-bianconi-scozzese-vase-1954-57 ‘ link_target=’_blank’ av_uid=’av-lmkrclzn’ sc_version=’1.0′ video_autoplay=” video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=”]
Scozzese vase by Fulvio Bianconi, estimated at €30,000-€50,000 ($32,000-$53,300) at Quittenbaum.
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[av_slide slide_type=’image’ id=’179016′ video=’https://’ mobile_image=” fallback_link=’https://’ title=” video_ratio=’16:9′ custom_title_size=” av-desktop-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” custom_size=” av-desktop-font-size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” font_color=” custom_title=” custom_content=” heading_tag=” heading_class=” link_apply=’image’ link=’manually,https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/160692994_dino-martens-oriente-vase-1952 ‘ link_target=’_blank’ av_uid=’av-lmkrdr6k’ sc_version=’1.0′ video_autoplay=” video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=”]
Oriente vase by Dino Martens, estimated at €5,000-€6,000 ($5,300-$6,400) at Quittenbaum.
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[av_slide slide_type=’image’ id=’179017′ video=’https://’ mobile_image=” fallback_link=’https://’ title=” video_ratio=’16:9′ custom_title_size=” av-desktop-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” custom_size=” av-desktop-font-size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” font_color=” custom_title=” custom_content=” heading_tag=” heading_class=” link_apply=’image’ link=’manually, https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/160692958_ercole-barovier-christian-dior-vase-1963 ‘ link_target=’_blank’ av_uid=’av-lmkrejn7′ sc_version=’1.0′ video_autoplay=” video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=”]
Ercole Barovier Christian Dior vase, estimated at €5,000-€6,000 ($5,300-$6,400) at Quittenbaum.
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Doyle’s Inaugural Boston Auction features fitting lineup, June 8

Arthur Clifton Goodwin, ‘Swan Boats, Boston Public Garden,’ estimated at $4,000-$6,000. Image courtesy of Doyle and LiveAuctioneers
Arthur Clifton Goodwin, ‘Swan Boats, Boston Public Garden,’ estimated at $4,000-$6,000. Image courtesy of Doyle and LiveAuctioneers
Arthur Clifton Goodwin, ‘Swan Boats, Boston Public Garden,’ estimated at $4,000-$6,000. Image courtesy of Doyle and LiveAuctioneers

BOSTON – Doyle will hold its Inaugural Boston Auction on Thursday, June 8 at noon Eastern time. The sale will offer a wide range of property from collections and estates in the New England area and beyond. Featured will be artwork, furniture, silver, decorative arts and jewelry. The public is invited to the exhibition and auction in Doyle’s Boston gallery, located at 236 Clarendon Street, adjacent to Newbury Street. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

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Stephenson’s to auction Philadelphia estate art, jewelry and furniture, Oct. 14

Abner K. Zook (Lancaster, Pa; 1921-2003), three-dimensional carved painting depicting an Amish barn-raising. Size: 49¾ in x 25¼ in (sight), framed size 57in x 33¾in. Accompanied by lengthy personal letter sent by Zook in 1967 to the person commissioning the painting, explaining aspects of the scene in minute detail. Estimate $10,000-$15,000

SOUTHAMPTON, Pa. – The Philadelphia area’s estate specialists, Stephenson’s Auctions in Bucks County, will conduct a Friday, October 14 sale featuring fine and folk art, platinum and diamond jewelry, and an extensive array of mostly mid-20th-century furniture and decorative accessories, including porcelain and glass. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.

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Warhol Flowers summon spring at Nye & Co., March 2-3

One of two Andy Warhol ‘Flowers’ screen prints, both signed and numbered, both est. $50,000-$100,000
One of two Andy Warhol ‘Flowers’ screen prints, both signed and numbered, both est. $50,000-$10,000
One of two Andy Warhol ‘Flowers’ screen prints, both signed and numbered, both est. $50,000-$100,000

BLOOMFIELD, N.J. – Nye & Company Auctioneers’ Chic and Antique Estate Treasures auction, taking place Wednesday, March 2 and Thursday, March 3, will be headlined by property from a private New York City collection; property from the Stephen and Stephanie Alpert collection; property from a Provincetown, Massachusetts collector; and property from a Verona, New Jersey collection. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

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