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Tiffany Lamp Sells for $126,000 in Cowan's July 24th Fine and Decorative Art Auction

 Cowan's July 24-25 Fine and Decorative Art Auction Exceeds Expectations as Strong International Bidding Drives the Sale

 Tiffany Studios Snowball Table Lamp Sells for $126,000

 CINCINNATI, Ohio Exceptional quality made a difference during the July 24-25 live salesroom auction of Fine and Decorative Art conducted by Cowan's Auctions. Led by two extraordinary items that each realized six-figure prices a Tiffany lamp and a Gorham punch bowl the auction grossed just under $800,000.

 A Tiffany Studios table lamp brought the top bid of the auction, selling for $126,000. Circa 1905 to 1910, it featured a leaded glass snowball or guelder rose shade, the tall dome elegantly perched on a bronze standard having an adjustable central rod enclosed by four partially reeded supports ending in paw feet and resting on a cross-form base. The shade and base were both marked.

 The shade's design, said to be a favorite of Louis Comfort Tiffany, was discontinued in 1910. It resembled sections of two stained glass windows, both created circa 1898, one from the dining room at Laurelton Hall, now in the Morse Museum, and another exhibited at the Paris Exposition of 1900.


The lamp was fresh to the market, coming out of a modest home in Hamilton, Ohio. Purchased by the consignor in the 1960s, it went to auction accompanied by correspondence from Henry Winter, a Tiffany expert and author, who appraised the piece at $650 in 1967.

 A conservative pre-sale estimate of $20,000 to $30,000 created a bidding frenzy for the lamp. "What it brought was not a surprise. I think that's what it's worth," said Graydon Sikes, Cowan's director of Fine Art.

 Like the lamp, a Gorham Martelé silver punch bowl and plateau were exceptional and unshopped, having been recently picked from an estate. The set realized $108,000, well above the pre-sale estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.

 Made in 1901 and having a marine decoration, the set was a masterpiece of Art Nouveau silver. The bowl had a scalloped and dramatically undulating rim over a body decorated with waves, sea plants and mermen blowing conch shells, all supported by a base of four dolphins. The matching plateau had a rippling form punctuated by cast female heads.

 Both pieces were the work of David Wilmot (1853-1940), one of Gorham's master chasers. The punch bowl required 100 hours to make and 197 hours to chase; the plateau required 75 hours to make and 135 hours to chase.

Gorham began producing the Martelé line in the second half of the 1890s, under the direction of chief designer William Christmas Codman. The artistic development of Martelé was both an adoption of the Art Nouveau aesthetic, at the height of its European popularity by the late 1890s, and a conscious effort by Gorham's design team to create silver pieces that went beyond their utility to become art. Codman focused on the development of highly skilled craftsmen who hammered and chased each piece by hand, leading to the line's unique artisanal quality and lending it the name Martelé, coming from the French for "hammered."

 One of the biggest surprises of the auction was a 17th-century Old Masters portrait of a man at work while holding a compass, oil on board, that sold for $45,000. Heavily restored, the unsigned painting had a pre-sale estimate of $300 to $600. For the crowd in the gallery, the bidding became entertaining as Evan Sikes, Cowan's Director of Marketing, was on the phone with a potential buyer in Italy. Evan, who speaks Italian, facilitated the phone bidding, but in the end it was a London gallery that acquired the artwork.

 Also selling strongly were two Mughal works in gouache, Indian, early 19th century, that sold together for $27,600, well above the pre-sale estimate of $4,000 to $6,000.

 Art did well throughout the sale, which began with 100 lots of paintings and sculptures. "I was thrilled with the paintings," said Graydon Sikes. "We did splendidly well with our regional art, and we had a couple of sporting art paintings that really did well."

Among the latter, two signed oil paintings by Gustav Muss-Arnolt (American, 1858-1927), each showing a pair of English setters in a field, sold for $32,400 for a 16- by 20-inch example and $22,800 for a slightly smaller work.

The final installment of the Clarence and Mildred Long Collection of Indiana artists attracted a notable crowd of bidders. From the collection came Silver Stream by Georges LaChance (American, 1888-1964), oil on canvas, 30 by 36 inches, that depicted a horse-drawn farm wagon crossing a stream. It sold above estimate for $8,400.

Works by Cincinnati artists included Mère et Bébé (Mother and Baby) by Elizabeth Nourse (American, 1859-1938), watercolor on paper, dated 1897, showing a mother doing needlework beside an infant sleeping in a bassinette. Subjects such as these are among Nourse's most intimate and desirable narratives. The painting sold for a reasonable $7,200, going to a Cincinnati buyer. "This is one of the best subjects we ever sold by Nourse. It was a mother and child, which is what collectors want," noted Graydon Sikes. An accomplished Cincinnati Impressionist, Nourse lived most of her life in France as an expatriate.

The diverse nature of the auction offered bidders material that ranged from an 11 1/4" Galle Cameo dragonfly vase, French, early 20th century, that sold for $2,952, to a Louis XV-style marble-top commode in kingwood, French, 19th century, at $3,960, and from a 7 1/2-inch Arts & Crafts vase by Austrian Gustave Gurschner, circa 1908, bronze with a highly detailed Celtic design, at $3,120, to a Swiss music box with interchangeable cylinders, the case with inlay and mother-of-pearl, at $3,321.

Rugs were among the items to see continued increased interest. "The rug market is really making a comeback," noted Graydon Sikes. Among those offered, a Ferahan Sarouk rug from Iran, dating to 1900 to 1920, 23 feet 2 inches by 13 feet 6 inches, sold for $3,480, despite some damage.

 Cowan's next live salesroom auction of Fine and Decorative Arts will take place Sept. 19 at the company's showroom in Cleveland, Ohio. For information about that sale or those in Cincinnati, phone Cowan's Auctions at (513) 871-1670 or visit

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