A primer on Daum Nancy signatures

There is no single, correct Daum Nancy signature. In fact, there are many different original ones. Let’s break it down. Daum was the family name of the Daum Frères (Brothers). Nancy was the name of the city where the Daum factory was located. It has nothing to do with the lady’s name Nancy. Daum always included the two bar Cross of Lorraine as part of its signature. It is the emblem of Lorraine, the eastern region of France, near the German border.

The Free French Forces resistance flag and naval jack

The type of signature mostly depended on the techniques that were used in making a vase. For instance if black enamel were being used on a vase that was both acid-etched and enameled, the chances were good that the signature would be found underneath, in black enamel (or whatever color the artist was using). It makes sense. The artist was working on a vase and already had a paint brush in hand with black enamel on it. After the decoration was completed and the vase signed, it went back into the kiln. The firing fixed the decoration and the signature permanently.

Daum Nancy black enameled signature (including the artist’s initial)

The example above is a black enameled Daum Nancy signature. This particular example also has the initial A of the artist. Unfortunately I don’t know of the existence of a list of decorators to be able to identify the artist. No two enameled signatures would be alike because it depended on the handwriting of the artist. Each artist has his or her own distinctive signature.

Acid-etching is the most common technique used to produce French cameo glass. It’s what makes cameo glass cameo, which is an acknowledgment of the raised nature of the decoration. A cameo signature is the way most acid-etched vases were signed.

Daum Nancy cameo (acid-etched) signature

Sometimes vases were accented with gold decoration. It was hand-painted, then followed by firing and burnishing. Again, the artist already had a gold brush in his hand, so why not use it to sign the vase? It became permanent after firing. (See the example below.)

Daum Nancy gilded signature

Wheel-carving, sometimes called intaglio-carving is a technique where fine details are hand-engraved with a spinning wheel. Only the best artists were talented enough to do it. Signatures were frequently hand-engraved when a vase had been wheel-carved. Another example of using what you have.

Daum Nancy wheel-carved signature (The U was written as a V in a nod to earlier alphabets)

So what we’ve learned is that the type of signature was frequently determined by expediency. Whatever brush or tool was already in hand was used to signed the work, at least most of the time. There are many other Daum Nancy signatures, but the majority of them fall into one of the categories above.

A review of Heritage Auctions Tiffany, Lalique & Art Glass sale, April 29, 2021

Heritage Auctions, Dallas, TX, held a Tiffany, Lalique & Art Glass sale on April 29, 2021. Following is a review of several of the items.

Tiffany Studios Nasturtium Lattice floor lamp, Heritage lot #79038

There were only three Tiffany Studios lamps in the sale, all selling well. Lot #79038, a Nasturtium Lattice floor lamp sold best, realizing $150,000, including buyer’s premium, against an estimate of $80,000 – $120,000. In my opinion, this is not the way the lamp was originally sold by Tiffany. The shade was a chandelier that was adapted into a floor lamp.

Tiffany Favrile Jack-in-the-Pulpit vase, Heritage lot #79027

There were quite a few Tiffany Favrile vases in the sale, many of them from the estate of Arthur Reichstadt of Dallas, TX. Lot #79027, a Jack-in-the-Pulpit model, was the highest priced. It sold for $15,000, including buyer’s premium, against an estimate of $2,000 – $3,000; a result that I have a lot of trouble understanding. The prices for Jack-in-the-Pulpit vases have been soft for quite a few years and this model is not the standard model, which in my opinion is much more desirable.

Rookwood Pottery floral vase by Shirayamadani, Heritage lot #79068

Rookwood Pottery has been in the gutter for decades. Personally I love it and don’t understand why, but prices have been steadily going down, so as a dealer I just can’t trade in it. But one decent vase, lot #79068, a large, 1903 standard glaze example with flowers, by Kataro Shirayamadani (in my opinion Rookwood’s best artist), did very well. It sold for $22,500, including buyer’s premium, against an estimate of $700 – $900. Again this is a result that makes no sense to me. There are way better examples of Shirayamadani’s works that sell for less. The strangest things happen at auctions. Congratulations to the consignor.

For the complete results of the sale, click here. You will have to sign in for the prices (free).

More results from Rago Auctions’ Early 20th Century Design sale, May 13, 2021

If you read last week’s blog, you know that Rago Auctions set the world record price of $3,745,000 for a Tiffany lamp at auction. Today’s blog is about the rest of the auction, with total sales of $5,651,233, 89% sold by lot and 429% sold by value.

Tiffany Studios 17″ diameter Poppy table lamp, Rago lot #274

The second best performing lot of the sale was another Tiffany lamp, lot #274; a gorgeous 17″ diameter tuck-under Poppy, with beautiful, rich color. Personally I loved it, but it sold for much more than I was willing to pay. The result was an impressive $93,750, against an estimate of $35,000 – $45,000.

Pair of scenic Grueby tiles, Rago lot #124

The third best performing lot in the sale, #124, was a surprise to me; a large pair of Grueby Faience scenic tiles decorated by Addison LeBoutillier sold for a very strong $81,250, including buyer’s premium, against an estimate of $20,000–30,000.

Robineau Wisteria tile, Rago lot #142

One of the bigger surprises of the sale was lot #142, a Wisteria tile by Adelaide Robineau. It sold for a whopping $75,000, including buyer’s premium, against an estimate of $7,500 – $10,000; almost 10 times the estimate. It was quite a day for ceramic tiles!

For the complete results of the sale, click here.

Rago Auctions breaks the world record price for a Tiffany Studios lamp, May 13, 2021

Tiffany Studios Dandelion lamp, Rago lot #273

As the expert for Rago Auctions, I was sent photos of a very rare and unusual Tiffany Studios lamp for evaluation. I receive lots of photos from auction galleries for evaluation, but nothing like this. I was really wowed. It was so rare I wasn’t familiar with the model, but there it was illustrated in more than one book. It was originally exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900 and the following year at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY. I suggested to Mike Fredericks, head of the lamp and glass division, that I thought it was worth $400,000 – $600,000, but that I thought the estimate should be much lower, perhaps $100,000 – $200,000, as low estimates are like catnip to cats.

Lamp detail

The lamp was consigned by the family of a diplomat from the Truman Administration who had acquired it in the 1940s. Tiffany Studios lamps were totally out of fashion at the time, so my guess is it didn’t cost much. The family was willing to accept advice from Mike, who told them that a low estimate would be very helpful. They agreed to an estimate of $50,000 – $75,000, which meant that the reserve could not exceed $50,000. So technically the lamp could have sold for $50,000 if only one person were willing to pay the price.

Two of the star cracks in the shade

Examination of the lines in the shade proved that it was actually the same lamp as in the photos in the books. The condition of the lamp was exceptional, as the lamp had been in storage for decades. There were a few problem with the shade including three small star cracks and one chip on the fitter rim. For an ordinary lamp, that probably would have seriously impacted the price, but not for an extraordinary lamp.

I messaged David Rago that I predicted a selling price in the range of $350,000+, but that I wished it would sell for $1,000,000, not really believing it, as only a dozen Tiffany lamps have ever sold for $1,000,000+ at auction. David said he was sure it would exceed $200,000. Eleven bidders were on the telephone, which included representatives from four museums. Many bidders held their cards close to their vests and were scattered among the live audience and on several live bidding platforms.

The bidding started below $100,000. I bid up to $170,000 for a client. I told him in advance that we had very little chance of being the successful bidders. As the bidding progressed higher, bidders dropped out left and right. It came down to two determined bidders on the telephones. They pushed the final price to $3,745,000, including buyer’s premium — a world record price for a Tiffany lamp at auction. The previous record was $3,372,500, set at Christie’s New York on December 13, 2018 for a very rare Pond Lily table lamp.

Tiffany Studios Pond Lily table lamp, Christie’s lot #9, December 13, 2018

Mike Fredericks had the following to say after the sale. “Upon seeing the lamp, particularly the distinct pattern of the waves in the globe, I was certain that we had the exact lamp from the 1900 Expo, and that this was an extraordinary find. The uncertainty was how would a historical, possible one-of-a-kind, yet non-leaded Tiffany lamp be received by the collecting community. As we can now see, it was received quite well, as a masterpiece as this should have been.

The family was very open to my suggestion that a conservative estimate would encourage bidder participation, and the results are better than anticipated. This was a magnificent piece of Tiffany history, and a magnificent windfall for a very excited family of consignors. Great results for our team at Rago Wright, as well, and I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Congratulations to the whole Rago/Wright crew for a fabulous job and a world record price! And congratulations to the family for a possibly life-changing result!

Tune in next week for a review of the rest of the sale.

Some results from Brunk Auction’s Art Glass sale, April 23, 2021

Brunk Auction, Asheville, NC, held an Art Glass sale on April 23, 2021. Many of the items were from the Estate of Jay R. Doros, Springfield, New Jersey; a prominent collector.

Tiffany Favrile Tel el Amarna vase, Brunk lot #1

I set everything up (at least I thought so) to bid online at the auction, but Murphy’s Law was in effect. I tried to bid on lot 1 but the computer wouldn’t let me. This is the lot I wanted more than anything else in the sale, as it was a fabulous and rare red Tiffany Favrile Tel el Amarna vase with great color and a black decorated collar. By the time I straightened out the mess, the lot was long gone for a very low price. I couldn’t have been more upset. It sold for $5,228, including buyer’s premium, against a very low estimate of $500 – $700. It was accompanied by an original receipt from Sotheby’s; June 8, 1988, lot 465, $8800. I could have sold it in the range of $15,000 – $20,000, so you can understand my chagrin.

Tiffany Favrile cameo vase, Brunk lot #5

Another really good Tiffany Favrile lot was #5, a cameo vase. The red flowers had been molten applied and then the entire vase was hand-carved by a glass artist after cooling. I wanted to buy this one too, but it went for $10,880, including buyer’s premium, against an estimate of $800 – $1,200. The lot was accompanied by an original purchase receipt from Prozzo Auction, Portland, Maine, where it was purchased in August, 2006 for $11,300. Hmm.

Durand Lava vase, Brunk lot #46

The market for non-Tiffany art glass has been weak for the last decade or so, but a rare Durand Lava vase still did well. It sold for $5,843, including buyer’s premium, against an estimate of $300 – $500. That’s pretty good considering it had problem issues of a “tiny internal rim crack, faint hairline at interior of base, some scratches”. Ordinarily problems like that would sink any lesser item. It had originally been purchased at Fanfare Antiques, Lahoska, Pennsylvania, in August, 1973 for $5,500. So it held its value better than most non-Tiffany glass.

For the complete results of the sale, click here.

A review of the most expensive Tiffany Studios lamps ever sold at public auction

I thought it would be interesting to take a historic look at the Tiffany Studios lamp market. I forgot which lamps were the winners, so my research was interesting to me (and hopefully you too). Following is a brief review.

Tiffany Studios Pond Lily table lamp, Christie’s lot #9, December 13, 2018

December, 2018 was an auspicious month in the annals of Tiffany Studios history, as the top two prices ever for Tiffany Studios lamps sold at public auction were achieved. December 13, 2018 was the date Christie’s New York set the record for the highest price. A very rare Pond Lily table lamp, selling as lot #9, with an estimate of $1,800,000 – $2,500,000, realized an impressive $3,372,500, including buyer’s premium. 

Tiffany Studios Trumper Creeper table lamp, Sotheby’s lot #327, December 12,2018

The day before, December 12, 2018, Sotheby’s New York broke the record for the highest price ever with a rare, colorful Trumpet Creeper lamp. Estimated at $800,000 – $1,200,000, it sold for $2,295,000, including buyer’s premium. The record would last only one day when it would be surpassed by the Pond Lily lamp, pictured above, at Christie’s New York.

Tiffany Studios Magnolia floor lamp, Christie’s lot #319, December 6, 2005

We have to go all the way back to December 6, 2005 to find the third place lamp, a magnificent Magnolia floor lamp. It sold at Christie’s New York as lot #319, with an estimate of $900,000 – $1,200,000 and realized $2,032,000, including buyer’s premium.

Surprisingly only 12 Tiffany Studios lamps have ever cracked the $1,000,000 mark and approximately 32 more have crossed the $500,000 mark. Unsurprisingly many of these 44 exclusive lamps have been Wisteria examples.

For the top lots from Sotheby’s click here. For the top lots from Christie’s click here.

A few results from Sotheby’s A Vision: The Collection of Michelle Smith sale, April 22, 2021

Sotheby’s New York held A Vision: The Collection of Michelle Smith sale on April 22, 2021, with impressive total sales of $42,868,648. Included in the sale were several lamps and miscellaneous items by Tiffany Studios. Following is a review of several of them.

For the most part, the results for the Tiffany Studios items were weak, which is interesting because the Tiffany market is actually quite strong at the moment. I can only attribute that to the fact that the lamps were not in a 20th Century sale, but rather in a single-owner sale. I certainly had no idea that Tiffany lamps might be in the collection of Michelle Smith. In fact, I had never even heard of Michelle Smith.

Tiffany Studios 20″ diameter Poppy table lamp, Sotheby’s lot #54

Lot #54 was a stunning Tiffany Studios 20″ diameter Poppy table lamp on a very rare water lily base. From the photo, it looked fabulous, but I wasn’t going to bid since I hadn’t previewed the sale. I just couldn’t afford to take the risk without first having seen it in person. It sold below its low estimate of $180,000, realizing $201,600, including buyer’s premium. Seems like a bargain to me. The base alone is worth at least $150,000 and the shade at least $100,000. I thought the lamp would sell closer to $300,000.

Tiffany 17″ diameter Dragonfly table lamp, Sotheby’s lot #86

Lot #86 was an important Tiffany Studios 17″ diameter Dragonfly table lamp; more so for the base than the shade. The background glass was only fair, but the wings were a lovely mauve color. I’d give it a 7.5. The base was a rare, important Dragonfly mosaic example. I’d give it a 10. Most of the time the shade is more valuable than the base, but not for these two lamps. It sold below its low estimate of $220,000, realizing $252,000, including buyer’s premium.

Tiffany Studios Pine Needle desk set, Sotheby’s lot #77

I gasped and giggled when I saw the result of a 3-piece Tiffany Studios Pine Needle desk set, lot #77. It sold for $13,860, including buyer’s premium, against an estimate of $1,000 – $1,500. I sell these same 3 pieces in the range of $3,500 – $4,500 all day long. Hey you, Mr./Ms. buyer! Please call or email me and I’ll help fill out your set for a lot less money!

A review of some recent sales

I’m anxious to get back to business at antique shows. The Baltimore Summer Antiques Show will be the first possibility, but the Palm Beach Show Group has not scheduled a date yet. I assume it’s because the Baltimore Convention Center is still being used as a field hospital for Covid related activities. The tentative month for the rescheduled event is November, 2021.

In the meantime, I’m still doing good business from my website. Following is a review of some recent sales.

Tiffany Studios 20″ diameter Dragonfly table lamp

I bought a fine Tiffany Studios 20″ diameter Dragonfly table lamp privately. It had very nice green mottled glass in the background with green jewels, olive green dragonfly bodies, red and green swirled wings, and red jeweled eyes. It sold to the first person I offered it to. I’m trying hard to buy more Tiffany lamps, but they’re very difficult to replace at fair prices.

Daum Nancy Birch Tree scenic vase, before cleaning
Daum Nancy Birch Tree scenic vase, after cleaning

I sent photos of a beautiful Daum Nancy Birch Tree scenic vase to a client. He bought it from the photo. When I received the vase, I saw that it was dirty, so I cleaned it. It wasn’t just dirty, it was filthy, probably from a smoker’s house. The difference was dramatic, as evidenced in the two photos above. The colors are vivid now, with beautiful yellows and purples, especially in the background trees.

Daum Nancy Berry vase

I sold the beautiful Daum Nancy Berry vase pictured above. Why it took a while to sell is beyond me. It was gorgeous. I had to discount it more than I would have liked, but I hope that made the buyer happy.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got some good Tiffany Studios items, especially lamps, that you’re looking to sell or trade. I’m also on the hunt for good pâte-de-verre by Argy-Rousseau and A. Walter and French cameo glass by Daum Nancy and Gallé. Please email me with your offers. I’ll write you a check and buy your items outright.

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

Monumental Le Verre Francais Poissons bowl

I tried to buy a rare, monumental (8½” tall x 16½” diameter) Le Verre Francais Poissons bowl at auction in France on March 16, 2021. I haven’t been selling much Le Verre Francais glass for several years, so I wasn’t really in the market, but this one was really rare. I also don’t like to deal in huge items and this one qualified as huge. Most of the time they’re not worth the extra space and effort.

The estimate was very low at €600 – €1,000. I was willing to pay €2,000, which equates to a landed cost in New York of $3,500, including buyer’s premium and shipping. At that price, I was willing to deal with the difficulties. The bidding started at a few hundred euros and jumped to €3,000 and then suddenly to €7,000. Finally a couple of determined bidders drove the final price to €16,250 ($19,500), including buyer’s premium. Wowza!

(I just found out yesterday, 4/12/21, from a client that the bowl is now being offered for sale by a European dealer for approximately $40,000. It was displayed at a recent fair.)

Gallé plum blownout vase

The next item was an exercise in frustration. I wanted to bid on a Gallé plum blownout vase at auction in France on April 10, 2021. The model is moderately rare, with pretty good color. The estimate was fair at €3,000 – €5,000. I did all my due diligence. I asked for a condition report and made arrangements to bid on the telephone. I even had the auction house confirm my phone bidding. So what happened? Nothing! They never called me. Argh! Dummkopfs!

But I have been successful in buying recently, so I can’t complain too much. I’ll try to list the new items as soon as I can.

Treasures can still be found at yard sales

Everyone dreams of going to a yard sale and finding a treasure, but what are the odds? Pretty slim, if you ask me; about as good as winning the lottery. But people do win the lottery and so do some yard sale buyers.

6¼” Ming Dynasty bowl

A simple-looking, 6¼” diameter, Chinese bowl was bought at a yard sale near New Haven, CT for $35 (without bargaining). The buyer suspected it was something good, so they sent a photo to the Chinese expert at Sotheby’s New York. And what a good move that was! It was indeed important.

The bowl was consigned to auction at Sotheby’s. They described it as An exceptional and rare blue and white ‘floral’ bowl, Ming dynasty, Yongle period, dating to the 15th century. On March 17, 2021, with an estimate of $300,000 – $500,000, it sold for $721,800, including buyer’s premium.

I’ve never won the lottery, but it has to be the same feeling. Congrats are in order. Well done! Had I been at that yard sale, I never would have even picked up the bowl. Knowledge is power. Even the knowledge to know you have to ask someone else. I do feel bad for the sellers who sold it at the yard sale. I hope the buyer would consider going back to offer a reward.

Click here if you want to see the lot described in Sotheby’s catalog. Click here if you want to read CNN’s writeup.