Two locations, four sales, 1145 lots. The spring ‘design’ series at Lyon & Turnbull (25% buyer’s premium) offered an impressive cross-section of objects from progressive design movements from 1860 to the present day. Bidders responded in kind.
Across the April auctions – one in Edinburgh, three in London, all conducted live online – 3746 registered participants generated a hammer total of £1.95m and an average selling rate of 88%.
The Design Since 1860 sale in Scotland on April 21-22 was first out of the blocks. 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 by EW Godwin (1833-86) and probably made by art furniture manufacturer William Watt & Co.
This 3ft 6in (1.06m) wide cabinet is typical of Godwin’s Anglo-Japanese style. He often incorporated genuine 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 EW 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 £19,000.
De Morgan high achiever
Sold at £13,000 was a William De Morgan three-colour lustre dish decorated by leading factory artist Charles Passenger 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 with the light blue tone created using acid etching). He later lamented that his efforts had been in commercial vain as relatively few pieces were sold.
Dresser produced designs for the Coalbrookdale Ironwork Company between 1867-72. His pair of iron chairs combined both details from the gothic revival and highly stylised foliate forms that reflected his interest and close study of botany. They sold for £8500.
There were some fine examples of Glasgow School design, not least two pairs of stained oak dining chairs designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Made in 1910, these ‘brander’ back chairs (a reworking of the classic Scottish vernacular form) were among the designs Mackintosh made for the decorator William Douglas.
The 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. One pair sold at the low end of expectations at £15,000, the other failed to get away.
Sold for £8000 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 both a furniture maker (he joined Wylie & Lochhead as trainee designer in 1893) and a stained-glass designer (in 1908 he moved to Manchester to manage and design for George Wragge).
This particular model was sold in mahogany or oak – with the latter much the rarer of the two. A similar display cabinet by Taylor painted in white sold for £7000 at McTear’s in Glasgow in April.
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 once formed part of an entrance screen at Blackie’s Printing Work. They brought £6500.
The total for the sale was £617,600 with the selling rate running at 83%.
Victorian and pre-war design is an area of opportunity for the UK’s provincial auction rooms. Specialist departments at the ‘big three’ are now cigarette paper thin with the majority of material consigned for sale ushered online or moved on via referrals. Like others on the regional scene, L&T is making a good play at filling any void.
Glass by René Lalique (1860-1945), the epitome of inter-war period glamour, took centre stage on April 29. Dedicated Lalique sales have been a London fixture for many years (first at Christie’s South Kensington and at Bonhams) and L&T was quick to pick up the baton.
The firm’s first dedicated Lalique sale, assembled by recently recruited former Christie’s specialist Joy McCall, enjoyed a selling rate of 88% with the £329,000 total at the top end of expectations.
The first 57 of 107 lots came from a private European collection. Largely composed of pre-war vases, it included some of the most famous Lalique creations: the clear, frosted and grey stained Serpent vase, designed in 1924 (£22,000) and two versions of the 1919 Perruches vase, one in deep amber with white staining (£14,000), the other in cased opalescent and blue stained glass (£20,000).
The appeal of vibrantly coloured or opalescent glass helps explain why two apparently similar items can be priced quite differently.
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” said 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 £11,000. By comparison, another opalescent Ceylan vase sold at Sworders the same week for a more typical £3500.
An impressive selection of cobalt blue vases included versions of Thibet, designed in 1931 with a pair of ibex forming the handles (£8000), Tuileries with its foot of sparrows from 1930 (£7000) and the globular Milan vase worked with leafy branches from 1929 (£17,000).
Bringing the sale series right up to date was the cross-collecting Modern Made catalogue assembled by specialist Philip Smith. Some 1427 bidders registered for this sale that enjoyed a total of £948,000 and a selling rate of 80%.
As well as some important Modern British works – including Edward Wolfe’s portrait of Pat Nelson sold at £95,000 (see ATG No 2492) – the April 30 sale could also boast a group of studio and contemporary glass from a private European collection. More typical of material sold in New York and Paris, the 33-piece consignment, put together by an international collector in the 1990s, featured works by leading names in the field from Italy, Sweden, Japan and the US.
Italian ‘maestro vetraio’ Lino Tagliapietra (b.1934) has been described by US contemporary Dale Chihuly (b.1941) as “the greatest glassblower in the world”.
Fourteen works made by Tagliapietra in the 1980s and ‘90s were topped at £12,000 by his 22in (56cm) Foemina Vase fashioned in two-tone orange blown and cut glass that was signed and dated Murano 1985. His 21in (53cm) Spirale Vase made in white and clear glass in the 1990s sold for £6000, while a 2ft 1in (63cm) hand-blown vase from the same period brought £6500.
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 £10,000.
An array of post-war furniture classics was led at £11,000 by 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.