Historically Significant Rookwood vase Returns Home to Rookwood Pottery
December 8, 2014 | Photo: Rookwood Pottery Standard Glaze Tiger Eye “Uranus” Vase, A.R. Valentien, 1899, 18 1/2”
The Humler & Nolan Holiday Sale 2014 auction, November 8th & 9th, featured a new Paintings session along side their well established fare of fine American and European Art Pottery and Art Glass and was highlighted by the sale of one of the most important pieces of Rookwood Pottery ever produced.
Lot 1239, an 18 1/2 inch "Tiger Eye" vase known as the "Uranus Vase", from the Rookwood session of over 500 lots of antique Rookwood Pottery, was won on a high bid of $31,000 placed on behalf of the Rookwood Pottery Company. The Uranus Vase, created in 1899 by Albert Valentien, is decorated with a flight of incised cranes awash in golden hues of the Tiger Eye glaze effect. In 1900, the Uranus Vase was displayed as a star amongst hundreds of pieces that made up the Rookwood exhibition at the Paris Exposition Universelle. When the exposition judges conferred the official awards, and in large part due to the vase's elusive Tiger Eye effect, the Rookwood Pottery Company was honored with the Grand Prix, the top award in their category. The significance of this award to Rookwood and American Art Pottery cannot be overstated, as it was this medal that put Rookwood Pottery on the map as America's finest and gave notice to the rest of the world that Rookwood Art Pottery now rivaled anything produced in Europe or Asia.
After the Paris Exposition, the Uranus Vase spent decades on display in the Rookwood Pottery showroom in Mt. Adams, Cincinnati, Ohio. Ownership passed, along with the pottery itself, through a number of hands until the vase dropped out of site, having been gifted to a friend by former Rookwood owner George Sperti. Humler & Nolan's November Rookwood session was the first time the piece has been sold. The famous vase will once again reside in the showroom of the Rookwood Pottery Company, which resumed operations in Cincinnati in 2006.
Prior to the Rookwood session, Holiday Sale 2014 began Saturday morning with the Keramics session comprised of over 400 lots of fine American and European Art Pottery. Auctioneers were pleasantly surprised early in the session when lot 0047, a 10 3/4 inches Arts & Crafts mat cylinder vase with a banded rural scene hand painted by Levi Burgess in 1900, sold for $2200 over and pre-auction estimate of $300 - $500. Lot 0282 was a ceramic plaque with a decidedly more modern look. The large high glaze plaque, a Polia Pillin creation entitled “Musica” showing three lovely ladies playing their musical instruments in pleasing earth tone colors ($3000 - $4000), sold for a high bid of $4400. Newcomb College Pottery continued to fetch strong prices with the session's first Newcomb item, lot 0313, a handsome high glaze vase with seven unfurled yellow irises carved and painted by Marie Levering Benson in 1908 ($5000 - $7000), reaching a winning bid of $7750. The European section of Keramics encompassed a number of impressive results. However, the lot that stood out the most in both decoration and price was definitely number 0342, a richly colored, 7 1/8 inch Royal Doulton Chang vase with thick, viscous glazes done by Charles Noke and Fred Moore, which reached a bid of $6500.
Humler & Nolan's inaugural Paintings session followed Keramics. H&N had long anticipated expanding into the market of two dimensional art and this initial offering did not disappoint. Two results of note include 0467, a charming Henry Faulkner (Kentucky 1924-1981) oil on masonite entitled “Plato’s Ascension”, dated 1973 and featuring a goat atop an altar-like structure with a citrus tree sold for $6000 and 0472, a pleasant barnyard scene signed Ada W. Shulz (Indiana 1870-1928) picturing a small child feeding a group of birds, chickens perhaps, and a goose all done in heavy impasto with bright colors which reached a high bid of $6250.
Saturday's final session, Art Glass, offered an interesting array of merchandise, but it was Daum Nancy that grabbed the spotlight. Lot 0585, a fine, 8 inch Daum Nancy footed vase decorated in cameo with persimmon red anemones rising above their green foliage against a wonderful vertical stripe backdrop of ivory and tea berry rose brought $7750 against an estimate of $3000 - $5000. Just a few minutes later, lot 0589, an 11 7/8 inch Daum Nancy oval cameo vase displaying tall pink & white daisies centered with golden yellow cabochons towering with oncoming buds and a tangle of foliage ($2000 - $3000) found its way to a high bid of $6750. Another highlight of the Art Glass session sold well despite being a bit of a mystery. Lot 0673, an unidentified lamp with a leaded glass shade with a detachable metal foliage overlay including teasel, frogs and snails ($1000 - $1500) sold for $3500.
Session IV of Holiday Sale 2014, the Sunday session, is dedicated to Rookwood Pottery. As stated above, the Uranus Vase was the top seller of the weekend. That being said, Humler & Nolan is the world's top seller of Rookwood Pottery and with over 500 lots of Rookwood, you know there was some impressive artwork crossing the auction block. For example, two Rookwood plaques that shared a page in the auction catalog, lots 1097 and 1098, both brought significant dollars. Lot 1097, a 7 7/8 inch by 9 7/8 inch Vellum glaze scenic plaque with trees and a lake in the foreground and snow covered mountains in the distance by Fred Rothenbusch in 1929, sold for $4400 while lot 1098, a 9 inch by 12 inch Vellum glaze plaque decorated by Ed Diers in 1935 showing waves crashing upon the rock lined seashore reached $3900. Between the Tiger Eye vase and items such as lots 1151 and 1200, 19th Century Rookwood was well represented. Lot 1151, an 8 1/2 inch Standard glaze vase decorated with colorful crab apple blossoms by Mary Nourse in 1893 with a Gorham Company floral themed silver overlay surpassed its estimate of $2000 - $2500 in reaching a bid of $3600. Lot 1200, a 6 inch Mahogany (Standard) Glaze lidded potpourri jar with butterfly handles and a dragon decoration, the work of Kataro Shirayamadani in 1888 ($3000 - $3500), turned a few heads when it sold for $5250. Rookwood decorator Albert Valentien was well known for his mastery in depicting botanical subjects. His skill is quite evident in the very striking lot 1318, a 14 1/2 inch, 1904 Iris Glaze vase with three life-size irises in full bloom and two buds with a gold plated silver rim which has been engraved with a floral design ($7000 - $9000). Apparently, bidders also appreciated the quality of the work, as lot 1318 sold for $9500. In addition to the artist decorated wares, an extremely rare 15 inch version of the "Dolphin Boy", more common in a larger size produced by the Faience division of the pottery, with an equally attractive example of the Ombroso Glaze, lot 1485 reached $3200 over a $2000 - $2500 pre-auction estimate.
Overall, auction results seemed to indicate that buyers are returning to the art and antiques market, while not having completely forgotten the economic downturn of a few years ago. Still an enthusiasm for the art was seen both in the faces of the attendees and in the online, telephone and in-person bids. Interested parties can review our Prices Realized for Holiday Sale 2014 on our website: www.humlernolan.com All winning bids were subject to a 15% buyer’s premium, 18% for online bidders, not included in the above prices.
Humler & Nolan is currently seeking consignments and purchases of fine Art Pottery, Art Glass, Paintings and related items for all of our 2015 auctions and beyond.