A month of exception design was led by Lalique's La Chasse chandelier, William De Morgan's Moonlight and Sunset Suite pedestal bowl and pieces from Pierre Paulin's Multimo range. Read on for a full review of our October Design auctions...
Another icon of French Art Deco - a patinated bronze serpent floor lamp by Edgar Brandt (1880-1960) - was among the highlights of the Design Since 1860 sale held in Edinburgh on 20 & 21 October. This celebrated design titled La Tentation was made in different sizes of which this is the largest. The mottled glass shade is made by the Nancy glassmaker Daum. As sought after today it was in the Roaring Twenties, it sold for £31,250*.
The sale was topped by a William De Morgan Moonlight and Sunset Suite pedestal bowl that took an extraordinary £32,500*. De Morgan considered pieces from the Moonlight and Sunset Suite series made in the early 1890s to be his very best work. The complexity of the process made them expensive even by the standards of the Arts & Crafts movement and they are uncommon on the market.
A bowl of this form is pictured in Martin Greenwood’s The Designs of William De Morgan (2007) while the central design of an owl and a mouse and a cat is known from tiles. It is signed with the initials FP for Fred Passenger. In the equivalent sale in April, a similar dish by Passenger decorated with a heron amid bullrushes sold for £16,250*.
However, at a moment when the art market is clearly waking up to the contribution of women in art history - few lots were more admired than a series of Art Nouveau pencil and watercolour jewellery designs by Frances Macdonald McNair (1873-1921). They date from c.1901-02, shortly after Macdonald had married Herbert McNair and moved from Glasgow to Liverpool to teach design classes at the university’s Art Sheds.
Very few examples of the jewellery she produced during this brief window appear to have survived. However a handful of original designs are known, including these four diminutive works which can be traced directly back through the family to Mrs C Armstrong, the artist's niece. They were last on the market in 1979 when sold by The Fine Art Society.
All were eagerly pursued by multiple bidders selling for between £6,250* for a design for a pendant on the theme of motherhood (Macdonald McNair’s son Sylvan was born in 1900) to £13,750* for a design for a turquoise and wirework gold pendant that was annotated with the manufacturing instructions ‘Please put on extra ring and fasten chain to pendant’.
“With strong bidding across the sale we are delighted with the near 80% selling rate. There were strong results for good examples of named designers work – Frances McNair again showing her star power and prices for outstanding William de Morgan pieces continue their upward trajectory. Four of the top ten prices in the sale were for furniture by the Cotswold maker Peter Waals, a reflection of the demand in the market for remarkable and individual craftsmanship,” said Director John Mackie.
Lalique glass has come to epitomise the glamour of the inter-war period. A splendid array of vintage pieces were topped at £100,000* by an example of the La Chasse chandelier. This relatively early design from 1913 fashioned in clear, frosted and grey stained glass is, at 150cm (59in) high by 113cm diameter, the largest chandelier René Lalique made. The use of multiple panels of intaglio, moulded, clear, stained and frosted glass provided him with a broad canvas upon which to work on the time-honoured subject of stags running through the forest pursued by dogs.
The advent of the electric light and its possibilities for the medium of glass appealed to a progressive designer like René Lalique: he had begun designing light fittings as early as 1902.
A distinct market subset are the series of car mascots or hood ornaments (bouchons de radiator) produced in the six years between 1925-31. With the aid of a metal mount and a light fitting, these could be fitted to the radiators of a luxury sports car and illuminated. The first of these was the Cinq Chevaux (five horses), ordered from Lalique by André Citroën for the launch of a new version of the 5CV at the Art Deco exposition in Paris. And example of this mascot in a clear and frosted glass with a slight amethyst tint sold for £10,000*.
Another sculptural piece, Groupe De Six Moineaux modelled as six sparrows in a row in clear, frosted and grey stained glass, sold at £8,125*. Designed 1933, it too could be illuminated via light fitments concealed in the base.
"We are delighted that the sale garnered interest from all five continents and saw some strong prices across the board. We are now looking forward to the Lalique scent bottle sale on 18 February in London,” said Senior Specialist, Joy McCall, Head of our Lalique auctions.
Head of Sale, Philip Smith described Modern Made as “a fabulous platform for showcasing art and objects by some of the best artists in the post war years and the sale goes from strength to strength. The current edition was no exception with busy footfall for the exhibition and international interest that led to exceptional prices”. The total was £850,000*.
Sold in 1974 for £6000, Helen Bradley’s Blackpool Sands with Punch and Judy Show led the sale at £137,500*.
It had been chance encounter with LS Lowry in the 1960s that had encouraged Bradley to create her own very personal style. Blackpool, the seaside town where her grandparents lived and where she spent her childhood holidays, provided the setting for some of her most memorable works. This 75cm x 94cm (29.5in x 37in) oil, complete with a handwritten narrative pasted verso, brims with all the fun of the seaside and the cast of characters that recur across Bradley’s works, including Miss Carter clad in signature bubble-gum pink. Its importance to Bradley’s oeuvre was reflected in one of the highest ever prices for the artist at auction.
It is the blending of paints and sculpture with design objects from other disciplines that gives the Modern Made sales their unique signature.
Sating appetites for the best in post-war furniture were a pair of Multimo lounge chairs and a sofa conceived by Pierre Paulin (1927-2009) for Artifort in 1969. Paulin later recalled: ”At Artifort, I started using new foam and rubber from Italy and a light metallic frame, combined with ‘stretch’ material. Those new, rounder, more comfortable shapes were such a success that they're still being copied today.” Paulin-Artifort pieces were made in small numbers and only infrequently comes to the market. The sofa and the chairs, offered as two lots took £25,000* each.
Ceramics by renowned names continued to see demand with Dame Lucie Rie's 'Footed Bowl' selling for £8,125*, while Bio Ponti's 'Funérailles de Thais' Footed Bowl' saw £3,250*.