Purchase Story

Rago Brings in $4.8 Million

Rago Arts & Auction Center, Lambertville, New Jersey

Lita Solis-Cohen

Photos courtesy Rago Arts & Auction Center

Rago’s design sales in Lambertville, New Jersey, on Saturday and Sunday, January 19 and 20, were at the same time as the Americana sales at Sotheby’s, and, like the sales in New York City, they had some impressive prices and some disappointments.

Rago’s total came to $4,826,775, toward the low end of expectations, with more buy-ins than usual for works from the early 20th century to today. The auction was offered in three catalogs, which included one for early 20th century and mid-modern, one for modern design and modern ceramics and glass, and one for the collection of James Elkind of Lost City Arts, New York City.

Harry Bertoia (1915-1978), monumental sculpture screen from a set of ten executed for the First National Bank of Miami, 1959, melt-coated brass over steel, unmarked, 136¾" x 55" x 30", exhibited at Bertoia: A Celebration of Sound and Motion at Sotheby’s in 2014, sold for $125,000 (est. $125,000/150,000).

The top lot of the day came from the collection of James Elkind, who has moved to smaller quarters and sent furniture, lighting, architectural elements, and Harry Bertoia sculpture to Rago for sale. A Harry Bertoia monumental screen made for the First National Bank in Miami in 1959 sold on January 20 for $125,000 (includes buyer’s premium); it was estimated at $125,000/150,000. It is always hard to sell dealer stock because people think it is not fresh, so the Elkind sale fell well below expectations, with only 62% selling. It is surprising because Elkind has a strong following and is known as a Harry Bertoia scholar. He was showing and selling Bertoia and modern design at the Winter Show in the New York City at the same time as his sale.

Of the 106 lots of mid-century and con-temporary design and sculpture in the Elkind catalog, 65 sold, contributing about a half-million to Rago’s total. He sold some hefty items. In addition to the large screen, a Bertoia gong sold for $35,000 (est. $30,000/40,000), and a pair of Sunburst doors made by Billy Joe McCarroll and David Gillespie for Forms and Surfaces, Inc., the cover lot of the sale, sold for $16,250 (est. $15,000/20,000).

Tall bird tobacco jar, England, circa 1900, salt-glazed stoneware, painted wood, head signed “R.W. Martin + Bros London + Southall,” base signed “Martin Bros London + Southall,” 16" x 6½" x 9½", from the Harriman Judd collection, Los Angeles, and featured on the cover of The Martin Brothers Potters (1978) by Malcolm Haslam, sold for $50,000 (est. $40,000/60,000).

Rago sells chronologically starting with the early 20th century. There were some successes in every category. Lot one was a Martin Brothers tobacco jar from the famed Harriman Judd collection in California. It sold for $50,000 (est. $40,000/60,000), and another Martin Brothers tobacco jar, called a Monk bird in the catalog, from the same source, sold for $37,500 (est. $30,000/50,000).

George Ohr (1857-1918), large double-sided vessel, indigo, raspberry, and green glaze, Biloxi, Mississippi, 1897-99, body incised “Marie Evans and Walters (illegible),” base stamped “G.E. OHR, Biloxi, Miss.,” partially overglazed mark incised “Sept 189 (illegible),” 6¼" x 5½" x 3", sold for $46,875 (est. $6000/9000).

The market for George Ohr pottery showed some strength. A double-sided vessel by George Ohr, the self-proclaimed “Mad Potter of Biloxi,” sold for $46,875 (est. $6000/9000). Many small Ohr vases sold in the $2000 to $5000 range.

Tiffany Studios, early Favrile turtleback lantern, New York, circa 1900, leaded glass, patinated metal, single socket, unmarked, lantern 18" x 8", chain 32" long, originally intended to hang facing a painting or other piece of art for illumination, sold for $26,250 (est. $15,000/20,000).

An exceptional vase with celadon and russet crystalline glaze by Adelaide Robineau, another luminary in the world of American art pottery, sold for $23,750 (est. $15,000/20,000). An early Favrile glass turtleback lantern by Tiffany Studios went for $26,250 against a high estimate of $20,000.

Loetz Phänomen (Phenomenon) vase with foliate decoration, Austria, 1902-03, blown glass, etched “Loetz Austria,” 7½" x 4½", sold for $21,250 (est. $8500/12,500).

Some European works sold. A Loetz Phänomen vase, 18½" x 7", designed for the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900, sold for $36,250 (est. $30,000/40,000). Two Austrian works from the Wiener Werkstätte workshop in Vienna topped their estimates: a framed period photograph of Emilie Flöge, celebrated fashion designer and lifetime companion of artist Gustav Klimt, sold for $15,000 (est. $2000/3000), and a sterling silver basket by Josef Hoffmann went for $18,750 (est. $4000/6000).

George Nakashima (1905-1990), Nakashima Studio, Conoid headboard and king-size Conoid platform bed, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1968, walnut, signed with client name, headboard 24" x 126" x 19", each platform 10" x 39" x 80½", with copy of original order card, sold for $43,750 (est. $40,000/50,000).

There were 50 pieces of Nakashima furniture in the sale—too many for them all to sell. A Conoid headboard and platform bed by George Nakashima sold for $43,750 (est. $40,000/50,000).

Paul Evans (1931-1987) for Directional, sculptured metal disk bar, 1968, bronze, composite, polychrome interior, vinyl-wrapped shelves, signed and dated “PE 68,” doors (seen in the picture) are 72" diameter x 2½" thick, cabinet is 48½" square x 15½", sold for $43,750 (est. $30,000/40,000).

Some strong prices were paid for furniture from the Paul Evans Studio and for his designs manufactured by Directional. A rare Argente cabinet by Paul Evans sold for $62,500 (est. $40,000/50,000), and a sculptured metal disk bar, designed by Evans for Directional, sold for $43,750 (est. $40,000/50,000). A bench-made two-piece display cabinet with illuminated vitrine by Phillip Lloyd Powell, New Hope, Pennsylvania, sold for $40,625, topping its $20,000/30,000 estimate.

Furniture by Wharton Esherick always seems like a bargain. An Esherick coffee table sold for $17,500 (est. $20,000/30,000), and a Hammer Handle Chair made in the late 1930s went for $6250 (est. $6000/9000). A bronze and walnut sculpture by Esherick brought $15,000 (est. $15,000/20,000).

Gio Ponti (1891-1979) for Singer & Sons, dresser, No. 2129, New York, mid-20th century, figured walnut, with manufacturer label, 36½" x 47" x 19¾", sold for $23,750 (est. $8000/10,000).

Factory-made mid-modern furniture brought surprisingly high prices. A dresser designed by Gio Ponti for Singer and Sons sold for $23,750 (est. $8000/10,000), but bench-made furniture generally brings more. An El Moro desk and Matador II chair designed in 1974 of laminated and carved African Mozambique by Michael Coffey, who makes sculptural furniture in Massachusetts, sold for $35,000 (est. $10,000/15,000).

Donald Deskey (1894-1989) for Deskey-Vollmer Inc., lamp, New York, circa 1927, chromed brass, enameled wood, frosted and molded leaded glass, two sockets, unmarked, 11" x 8½" x 5¼", in fair condition and in need of rewiring, sold for $47,500 (est. $8000/10,000). An example of this model is in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

Lighting often brings premiums. A lamp by Donald Deskey for Deskey-Vollmer Inc., like one in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, soared to $47,500 (est. $8000/10,000).

Betty Woodman (1930-2018), early pillow pitcher, Tang-style glaze, New York, 1970s, glazed earthenware, stamped “WOODMAN,” 13½" x 14" x 9½", sold for $31,250 (est. $2000/3000).

Two works by Betty Woodman offered in the glass and ceramics section were the top lots for Sunday. An early pillow pitcher with Tang-inspired glaze sold for $31,250 (est. $2000/3000), and a two-handled vase from the 1980s sold for $20,000 (est. $2250/2750). An early basket with a Tang-inspired glaze by Woodman, estimated at $2000/3000, sold for $10,625. Woodman was the first living female ceramic artist to have a show at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. The glass and ceramics session on Sunday opened with a selection of works by Harrison McIntosh (1914-2016). A McIntosh large footed bowl sold for $9375 (est. $3000/4000).

Predictably, works by Dale Chihuly and Yoichi Ohira led the section on glass. A Chihuly 19-piece Oxblood Seaform set with black lip wrap, made in 1987, sold for $30,000 (est. $10,000/15,000). A Yoichi Ohira Bolla vase sold with its original framed drawing for $20,000 (est. $5000/7000). Dan Dailey’s 2" high Circus Vase sold for $30,000 (est. $10,000/15,000).

For more information, contact Rago Arts at (609) 397-9374 or check the website (www.ragoarts.com).

William Jervis (1849-1925), vase with leaves and buds, Rose Valley Pottery, Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, 1904-05, with raised rose with “V” stamp, incised artist signature, 7¼" x 3¾", sold for $7500 (est. $3500/4500).

Josef Hoffmann (1870-1956) and Adolf Erbrich (b. 1874), silver basket, Austria, early 20th century, stamped “WIENER WERKSTATTE WW JH,” with rose mark, Diana head, and silversmith cipher, 7¾" x 9½" x 6½", 20.2 troy ounces, from the collection of Jacqueline Fowler, Connecticut, sold for $18,750 (est. $4000/6000).

Adelaide Robineau (1865-1929), vase with celadon and russet crystalline glaze, Syracuse, New York, 1915, incised “RP 15/213,” 3¾" x 4¼", sold for $23,750 (est. $15,000/20,000).

Gustav Stickley, early sideboard, No. 961, with copper strap hardware, Eastwood, New York, 1902-03, early red decal, 49½" x 70" x 25¼", sold for $18,750 (est. $8000/12,000). It descended in the family of Anton Otto Fischer and his wife, Mary Ellen Sigsbee. Fischer was a noted painter of seascapes, ships, and sailors, and he illustrated numerous books, including Moby Dick and Treasure Island. Sigsbee, one of four daughters of famed naval captain Charles D. Sigsbee, was a noted political cartoonist for suffrage and worked with several of the leading figures in the suffrage movement. She and Fischer bought a home in Woodstock, New York, in the 1930s, and among the many furnishings they purchased was this sideboard.

Paul Evans (1931-1987) for Paul Evans Studio, Argente cabinet, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1960s, welded, scored, textured, and painted aluminum, polychrome wood, and vinyl, welded signature, 80½" x 36" x 20", in good vintage condition, sold for $62,500 (est. $40,000/50,000).

Stanislav Libensky (1921-2002) and Jaroslava Brychtova (b. 1924), Head with a Square Eye (Head V), Czech Republic, 2000-02, cast glass, 19¼" x 14½" x 9", signed, exhibited at Stanislav Libensky & Jaroslava Brychtová: Drawings and Glass Sculpture in 2003 at the Czech Center, New York City, sold for $23,750 (est. $12,000/16,000).

Michael Coffey, El Moro desk and Matador II chair, Massachusetts, designed in 1974, laminated and carved African Mozambique, both signed, desk 37" x 69" x 36", chair 26½" x 23" x 27", sold for $35,000 (est. $10,000/15,000).

Phillip Lloyd Powell (1919-2008), bench-made two-piece display cabinet with illuminated vitrine, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1970s, chip-carved walnut, polychrome wood, glass, mirror, unmarked, 80½" x 58" x 20", commissioned from the artist, in very good vintage condition, sold for $40,625 (est. $20,000/30,000).


Originally published in the May 2019 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2019 Maine Antique Digest

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