Our Design Since 1860 auction in Edinburgh on April 21-22 was first out of the blocks. Important pieces by greats of the Victorian design movement from William Morris to Christopher Dresser were topped by an ebonised wood and cloisonné mirrored wall cabinet designed by EW Godwin (1833-86). It was probably made by art furniture manufacturers William Watt & Co (1834-85), the firm that produced and sold some of the finest furniture of the Aesthetic Movement. This 3ft 6in (1.06m) wide cabinet is typical of the Anglo-Japanese style associated with Godwin’s designs. He often incorporated real Japanese artefacts into his work, shopping regularly in the 1870s at Liberty’s East Indian Art Warehouse on Regent Street, and this is possibly where the cloisonné enamel panels to the doors were acquired.
Measuring 2ft 2in (66cm) high, this is the cabinet pictured in The Secular Furniture of E. W. Godwin by Susan Soros (1999) and came for sale from ‘an important private collection’ with an earlier provenance to dealer Paul Reeves. Estimated at £5000-8000, it took £23,750*.
Sold at £16,250* was a three-colour lustre dish William De Morgan decorated with a heron amid bullrushes c.1890. De Morgan considered pieces from the so-called ‘Moonlight and Sunset Suite’ series to be the pinnacle of his achievement in lustre. It took almost two decades of experimentation before he mastered the three-colour technique (each colour required its own firing) and lamented that relatively few were sold at the time. This particular piece was decorated by leading factory artist Charles Passenger.
Christopher Dresser produced designs for the Coalbrookdale Ironwork Company between 1867 and 1872 - his pair of iron chairs combining both details from the gothic revival and highly stylised foliate forms that reflect his interest and close study of botany. They sold for £10,625*.
There were some fine examples of Glasgow School design, not least a pair of stained oak dining chairs designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh sold for £18,750*. Made in 1910, these ‘brander’ back chairs (a reworking of the classic Scottish vernacular form) were among the furniture designs Mackintosh made for his friend, the decorator William Douglas. The pair of chairs from the set of six came with a strong collecting provenance having previously been owned by Glasgow luminaries, the sculptor Benno Schotz and the architect Jack Coia.
Sold for £10,000* was an oak and stained glass cabinet designed by Ernest Archibald Taylor (1874-1951) for Wylie & Lockhead, Glasgow c.1905. This rare piece combines Taylor’s skills as a furniture maker (he had joined Wylie and Lochhead as trainee designer in 1893) and stained-glass designer (in 1908 he moved to Manchester to manage and design for George Wragge). At the time this model was available to buy in mahogany or oak - with this much the rarer of the two.
Talwin Morris (1865-1911) is perhaps best known for his book designs (he was Arts Manager for Glasgow publisher Blackie & Son from 1898-1911), but he also produced furniture, textiles and metalwork. A pair of repoussé decorated brass panels c.1893 worked with stylised and linear plant forms and Glasgow roses formed part of an entrance screen at Blackie's Printing Work. They brought £8,125*.
The total for the sale was £772,000* inclusive of premium with the selling rate running at 83%.
Glass by René Lalique (1860-1945) - the epitome of inter-war period glamour - took centre stage on April 29. Our first dedicated Lalique sale, curated by former Christie’s specialist Joy McCall, enjoyed a selling rate of 88% with the £411,000* total at the very top end of expectations.
The first 57 of 107 lots came from a private European collection. Largely composed of vases, it includes examples of some of the most famous Lalique creations - the clear, frosted and grey stained Serpent vase, designed in 1924 (£27,500*) and two versions of the 1919 Perruches vase, one in deep amber with white staining (£17,500*), the other in cased opalescent and blue stained glass (£25,000*).
No collection of Lalique vases would be complete without the budgerigar Ceylan vase designed in 1924. The example here, estimated at £6000-8000 was exceptional. “It is simply the best Ceylan vase I have ever seen because of the depth of the opalescence and the subtlety of the green staining" says Joy McCall. "It’s superb - right down to the long tails of the birds that were very often polished down during production.” It was rewarded with £13,750*.
The appeal of vibrantly coloured or opalescent glass helps explain why two apparently similar items can be priced quite differently. An impressive selection of cobalt blue vases included versions of Thibet, designed in 1931 with a pair of ibex forming the handles (£10,000*) and the globular Milan vase worked with leafy branches from 1929 (£21,250*).
“I am delighted that the results for our inaugural specialist Lalique sale show both the depth and strength of the market” commented Joy. “There was competitive international bidding that saw a number of new records established. We look forward to the next Lalique sale scheduled to take place in October.”
French art glass had been displayed at the Mall Galleries in London against a backdrop of a remarkable collection of posters from the Shell Heritage Art Collection. Every one of the 49 lots, catalogued by poster specialists Tomkinson Churcher, sold for a total of £60,000* that will benefit The National Motor Museum Trust.
These posters, (duplicates from the Shell collection) were 2ft 6in x 3ft 9in. (76cm x 1.14m) ‘lorry bills’ which were attached to the sides and backs of Shell delivery vehicles. They included posters from some of Shell's most celebrated inter-war advertising campaigns that chose to promote not only petrol and oil but also the pleasures of motoring.
Commissioned by Jack Beddington, who had a keen eye for young talent, the list of artists who contributed included Ben Nicholson, Graham Sutherland, Edward McKnight Kauffer and Paul Nash with styles ranging from Vorticism to Surrealism. Leading the sale at £4,250* was John Stewart Anderson’s ‘machine age’ design Motorists Prefer Shell. Ben Nicholson’s Guardsmen Use Shell took £3,000* while Graham Sutherland’s Brigham Rock, Yorkshire sold at £2,750*.
Nicky Balfour Penney, manager of the Shell Heritage Art Collection expressed her great satisfaction with the result. “I’m delighted with the success of the auction, which really exceeded expectations. The amount raised will be a fantastic contribution to the brilliant work and fund-raising of the National Motor Museum Trust.”
Bringing the sale series right up to date was Modern Made - the popular cross-collecting catalogue that mixes paintings, sculpture design and studio glass and ceramics. In addition to some important Modern British works - including a world record price for Edward Wolfe's portrait of Pat Nelson sold at £118,750* - the April 30 sale could also boast an important group of studio and contemporary glass from a private European collection. The 33 consignment, put together by an international collector in the 1990s, featured works by leading names in the field from Italy, Britain, Sweden, Japan and the US.
Italian maestro vetraio (master glassmaker) Lino Tagliapietra (b.1934) epitomises everything that studio glass movement stands for. Dale Chihuly (b.1941) has referred to him as “the greatest glassblower in the world”.
Fourteen works made by Tagliapietra in the 1980s and 90s were topped at £15,000* by his 56cm Foemina Vase fashioned in two-tone orange blown and cut glass that was signed and dated Murano 1985. His 53cm Spirale Vase made in white and clear glass in the 1990s sold for £7,500* while a 63cm hand blown vase from the same period brought £8,125*.
Equally recognisable are the creations of Rhode Island glass artist Toots Zynsky (b.1951), best known for her super-colourful thermo-formed vessels using the filet-de-verre or glass thread technique. A remarkable orange, yellow, red, green and black form signed simply Z was much admired by all who viewed for the brilliance of its colours and its manufacture. It sold for £12,500*.
In addition to pieces from the studio ceramics movements - a small vase with a turquoise and grey mottled glaze by Lucie Rie sold at £11,250* - were an array of post-war furniture classics. A version of the iconic rosewood and leather lounge chair and stool designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller (model no. 670 and 671) sold for £7,250* while there was bidding to £13,750* for a burr walnut and brass low table designed in 1951 by Ico Parisi (1916-96). This particular model was made by Singer & Sons exclusively for the American market.
With 1427 bidders registering for this sale, a total of £1,184,437* and a selling rate of 80%, it proved a fitting finale to four exceptional sales.
Head of Sale, Philip Smith declared: “Once again Modern Made has proved to be a captivating platform for showcasing the best of Modern Art across multiple disciplines. It saw record prices, great enthusiasm and excitement and vindicates the care and attention we take in carefully curating this flagship London auction. Roll on the next edition!”