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Fine art pottery still sells well
Susan Emerson Nutter

CINCINNATI— Preparation is the key to any successful auction. Just ask Riley Humler of Humler & Nolan whose early June Rookwood XXVIII auction saw stable sales and continued interest in the best each genre had to offer.

“We thought the sale went pleasurably well,” Humler said. “Utilizing conservative estimates resulted in minimal buy-ins while generating lots of interest. Prices continue to be soft, but knowing this, we planned accordingly with good results.”

This June auction always starts with an interesting mix of a variety of pottery types – from Roseville and Weller to Owens, Overbeck, and Fulper. Mix in art glass (think Galle, Steuben, Daum Nancy, and the like) to a bit of fine art and a bit of Arts and Crafts pieces, and well – there was something for everyone’s tastes.

The top lot for this portion of the event was the Mary Louise McLaughlin Losanti vase that realized $27,000. Featuring six carved and painted gray tulips against an oxblood and green ground, this circa 1904 vase wore McLaughlin’s incised monogram, four notches (IIII) which represented 1904, and the number 166. The vase stood 5 ˝ inches tall and came from the Ross C. Purdy Museum Collection.

Of the Weller offered a Pan garden ornament covered in matt glazes went to $3,100. Incised Weller Pottery in script on the bottom, this figure was 16 7/8 inches tall. An 8 inch tall by 10 ˝ inches wide Weller parrot fledgling gardenware figure sold for $2,600, and Weller Hudson scenic vase by Hester Pillsbury showing a snow-capped mountain below a full moon peeking through a silhouetted tree reached $2,400. Having twin handles, the vase was incised “Weller Pottery” on the bottom and signed Pillsbury on the side.

An important 1905 Van Briggle Despondency vase having a lightly crystalline deep green matt glaze and incised with AA, Van Briggle, 1905 and the Roman numeral I made $17,500. The catalogue listing included, “The consignor of this vase’s grandmother, Anne Stratton Gregory, was orphaned in 1912 and subsequently raised by Anne Gregory Van Briggle Ritter. The vase has never been offered for sale having been in the Gregory family since made. As a youth, the consignor witnessed this vase being pulled out of a straw filled barrel sent directly from Anne Gregory’s estate to her grandmother. Curiously, family oral history indicates that Artus Van Briggle created Despondency as a sort of self-portrait, dealing with his unresolved feelings and concerns about tuberculosis that eventually took his life.”

Decorative arts besides ceramics made up this event and included an Edward S. Curtis Orotone titled Chief of the Desert, Navaho. The print measured 8 by 10 inches, and was housed in its original Curtis Seattle Studio frame with a label verso that read: “Curtis - Home of the Curtis Indians - At Home and Studio Portraiture - The Curtis Studio - 4th and University, Seattle - Wash., U.S.A.” It sold for $8,500 (est. 6,000-$8,000).

And several lots of paperweights were offered with a unique lamp garnering attention. A large Daniel Lotton multi-flora paperweight lamp created just as a Lotton paperweight would be sold for $3,600, while a unique Daum Nancy cameo and enamel covered box decorated with the legendary knight, Saint George on the cover came in at $4,500. The decoration — both man and horse in flowing garments accented by hand detailed patterns and wearing feathered headgear enhanced by fired-on gold; the edge of the cover and the pale blue base having decorative enamel bands and etched patterns with gold accents; hand signed via enameling Daum Nancy with the cross of Lorraine below the base – was spot-on.

The featured ware; Rookwood, also saw some stellar sales. “Rookwood is not bringing the prices it once did,” Humler said, “Times have changed from 15 years ago, but for collectors, they can be bargain hunters and buy some great pieces inexpensively in comparison.”

This sale’s Rookwood headliner was a Native American portrait vase of a woman doing beadwork. Done at Rookwood in 1899 by Grace Young, this 9 inch tall vase sold for $22,500 . What set this piece apart from other Rookwood examples decorated with a Native American is the subject depicted is a woman actually doing something; in this case, stringing beads.

The catalog listing for this piece notes, “Most of Rookwood’s Indian portraits were taken from rigidly posed photographs of Indian men, usually standing, dressed in tribal gear with the occasional rifle or bow. In over 40 years this is only the second image of an Indian woman we have seen and one of the very few where daily work routines are featured.”

“Rookwood made in the 1920s is enjoying an upswing in interest,” Humler noted pointing to the Vellum glaze plaque of a view of Mt. Rainier painted, circa 1927, by Fred Rothenbusch. The plaque was monogrammed by Rothenbusch in the lower right hand corner and sold in its original Arts & Crafts finished corner frame for $20,000.

“Good, clean, fresh pieces did very well at our June auction and attracted a fair amount of attention,” Humler noted. “Collectors showed interest across many different areas which made for a solid sale.”

Contact: 513-381-2041

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