I tried to buy a couple of items at auction, but…

Emile Gallé Marquetry Verrerie Parlante coupe (The black spots are just dirt.)

I tried to buy a very rare and important Gallé marquetry Verrerie Parlante coupe at an auction in Rouen, France, on March 6, 2021. Gallé exhibited it at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1900 (see the photo below). It had an inscription in French by the poet Marcelline Desbordes-Valmore (1768-1859); Tout ce ciel que je porte en moi-même caché. The quotation is the reason the vase is described as Verrerie Parlante (Talking Glass). The marquetry designation refers to the inlaid glass on glass decoration.

I had hoped to buy the coupe for €25,000, hammer price. I dropped out at €35,000. Apparently they didn’t need me because the final price was €165,000 ($201,300), including buyer’s premium. Silly me! It will either enter one of the best collections in the world or will be exhibited in a museum, as it should.

The coupe was exhibited in a showcase at the 1900 Paris Universal Exposition

The next day a very interesting Handel scenic overlay floor lamp came up for auction in Versailles, France. Go figure! It was originally estimated to sell for €1,200 – €1,500, but the auctioneers must have had some interest in the lamp and raised the estimate to €6,000 – €8,000. That was a foolish move in my opinion. Everything sells better when the estimate is low. It generates excitement because everyone thinks they’re in the game.

Handel overlay floor lamp

It sold for €3,800, or about $5,795, including buyer’s premium. The next bid was €4,000, or about $6,100. Shipping to the US would have added about $2,000, for a total of $8,100 landed in New York. Then the lamp needed some minor restoration to the metalwork of the shade and to the base, so let’s say $400. Now the total is $8,500.

I hadn’t sold one of these lamps in a long time, so I had to guess at today’s value. I’m an auction appraiser and authenticator for several important auction houses, so I would estimate the value at an American auction in the range of $6,000 – $8,000. And I could just as easily see it selling for $7,500 as $15,000. I didn’t have enough confidence in the result so I wasn’t willing to make the effort, incur the expense and take the risk.

I’m curious what you think the lamp was worth or what you would have been willing to pay for it. It’s water under the bridge, so now it’s just a game. Write to me and let me know. My email address is on my website. I don’t want to write it here because I get enough junk mail as it is.

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