Friday, July 29, 2011

Going Fishing...Again!

The editors of the July issue of Architectural Digest thought the main attraction was Elizabeth Taylor's Bel Air estate. For me, the highlight was Lauren Davis's stunning home, also in Los Angeles, which she decorated herself, revealing talent that rivals the top professionals (and a hefty pocketbook!). In the accompanying article, Davis confesses that she is an avid collector. The family room, above, features part one such collection: Palissy ware. Palissy was a 16th century French potter. In the 19th century, Mintons, the famous English porcelain company, named a line of majolica after him, rustic in style, with raised snakes and all manner of sea creatures.

The bad news is that there is no Palissy ware up for auction at this moment in the United States, that I can see anyway. But I included this photo because a) I like it. and b) the Ming pottery bowls, below, which feature FISH (to get back to the theme at hand), are so gorgeous and would look fantastic in a similar setting, don't you think?

Ming period Chinese pottery bowls, at auction August 27th, estimate $800-1,200.
As we discussed in the last blog entry, fish are, unsurprisingly, featured on a lot of table ware and various dining accoutrements.Perhaps some of these will proove, um, alluring.

This is just the dearest condiment spoon! At auction July 31st, estimate $40-80.

Lalique crystal fish dish/ashtray, at auction July 31st, estimate $160-250.

Petrossian sterling salt and pepper shakers. At auction August 13th, estimate $200-400.

A stork holds a fish on this vintage glass pitcher. At auction
July 30th, estimate $75-125.

There are two upcoming glass ware auctions, the 19th and 20th Century Glass and Lighting sale at Jeffrey Evans and Associates in Mt. Crawford, Va on July 30th, and the Stretch and Fenton Glass Auction on August 12th at Jim Wroda in Ashville, New York. Together, they provide ample opportunity to stock up on delightful vintage American glassware that is definitely a cut above what you find at the box retailers--so add some to the mix! Or buy a pretty piece, fill it with cut flowers (be it from your garden or a deli) and give it as a hostess gift or birthday present (isn't it nice, when your entertaining, to have the flowers arrive already in a vase? So much easier).

Fenton aqua glass vase, at auction August 12th, estimate $25-75.

I am fascinated by both dolphins and "dolphins"--and I put the latter in quotes because the 17th century version of a dolphin looks NOTHING like actual mammal! (If you don't know what I'm talking about, look at my logo: those are Wedgwood "dolphins!") To my mind, these Baroque dolphins, as the latter group is known, are fascinating creatures. I think I love them so much because they remind me of that time in our history when much of the animal kingdom was a marvelous, slightly menacing, mystery. Jim Wroda has several pieces of glassware with a Baroque dolphin detail, such as the Fenton vase above, estimate $25-75, and the Wright compote below.

Large Wright royal blue glass compote, at auction August 12th, estimate $25-75

But how can one discuss fish and not mermaids? And you know how I feel about kitsch. These Meissen candlesticks are high-end kitsch, to be sure. I think they're fabulous (check out their odd tail-legs), and would definitely spark conversation at your next dinner party!

19th century Meissen porcelain candlesticks, at auction August 27th, estimate $600-800.

c. 1900 Dutch silver fish spice container, at auction August 17th, estimate $200-300.
You can often find these lovely fish in Judaica sales, such as the Greenstein Gallery's August 17th auction in Cedarhurst, New York, because spice containers are part of the Sabbath ritual. They are highly collectible, I think, and it would be a fun challenge to figure out the ideal way to display them.

Of course, fish don't have to be high end. Au contraire, many of the best fish pieces are designed with the rustic cabin (or game room or family room or teenage boy's room) in mind, such as this handsome swordfish, from a bait shop in San Pedro, California.

Wooden swordfish, at auction in Ventura, CA on August 7th, estimate $125-225.

A half body carving of a Lake Trout. At auction August 4th, estimate $500-1000.

Three Gottlied Wilhelm hand colored engravings, at auction August 3rd, estimate $120-180.
This fish engravings are small, but well colored and well framed. I hope you're spotting a potential bargain here! (this auction house has another set of beauties here.)

And finally, I close with a lovely 19th century Black Forest carving. Isn't is gorgeous? At auction in Ventura, California on August 7th, estimate $350-500.With all these options over two postings, now you can do everything with fishes except--hopefully--sleep with them! Happy bidding everyone!

19th century carved fish plaque, estimate $350-500.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gone Fishing

Alas, no taxidermy fish, like Martha Stewart's stuffed tarpon (okay, what, exactly, doesn't this woman collect?), currently up for auction, but there are other fish in the sea, which you can see below.

Maybe it's because I'm a former swimmer, but I've always loved fish. They are graceful and elegant, of course, but my favorite thing about them is that their colors and patterns are not only stunningly beautiful but also aesthetically inspiring. Fish also remind us of water...of cool, refreshing water: just seeing one edges down the body temperature a bit, it seems. These days, in the auction world and elsewhere, the wheels are turning a bit more slowly. That said, I found so many fantastic fishes, that I am going to divide my finds over two postings--an Auction Addict first! And so we take the plunge...

20th C copper-gilt fish weathervane. In Boston, on August 14th, est. $1,500-2,500.
Look to New England for the most comprehensive selection of ichthyic-themed items. Skinner, in Boston, has three large and glorious fish weather vanes in its August 14th  auction (one above, another here), as well as this wonderful sign, below--that is sure to be knocked off by a big box retailer next year. Snag this one first, it's SO much cooler!
Painted sign, mid 20th century. At auction August 14th, estimate $300-500.

This large bronze carp looks a bit awkward on a stool, but the placement does give you a great sense of scale. No doubt he'll be more graceful on your shores. At Hammer & Block Auctioneers in Miami on August 4th, estimate $150-300.

Bronze Japanese koi, estimate $150-300.
Angel fish, for reasons I have not yet determined, were a common theme during the Art Deco period. If the koi doesn't float your boat, maybe this 1920s swimmer will. At a Florida auction on August 12th, estimate $200-300.
Art Deco bronze angel fish, at auction August 12th, estimate $200-300.

Every porcelain collection should have at least one pair of fish plates, as there are too many good ones to ignore. One nice thing about them is that they are usually a bit more masculine in feel than most porcelain, making them suitable for nearly every room in the house. The reliable New Orleans Auction Gallery has two fine sets, at auction on July 30th.

Pair of Limoges porcelain plates, at auction, on July 30th, estimate $200-400.

Pair of early 20th century Derby cabinet plates, at auction on July 30th, estimate $200-400.
Where will you put them? Again, we turn to Martha, who, as usual, is full of good ideas.

Photos, above and below, courtesy of Martha Stewart.

Three pieces of Imari. At auction in New York on August 7th. (No estimate)

Are all these pretty little fishes not manly enough for you? Well, take this--yes, take it! Albumen photograph of taxidermists, at auction in Kingston, New York on July 30th, estimate $200-400.

Albumen photograph of taxidermists. At auction on July 30th, estimate $200-400.
I close with a charming bottle opener. More fish swimming your way soon. Meanwhile, keep cool, my dearlings, by jumping in. The water's just fine!
Mid-century abalone and silver plate bottle opener, at auction in Florida on August 14th, estimate $30-70.

Monday, July 18, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Garden urns on pedestals help vary the plant height in Bunny Williams's greenhouse, making it look lush, green and positively magical by candlelight. Courtesy of An Affair with a House.
We're in the thick of summer now. Thanks to a decent amount of rain, things are still looking lush and green here in New York--and that's so much more pleasant than the seared grass, dead leaf look, don't you think? I spent part of the weekend helping a friend landscape his patio. The transformation reminded me how even one plant can have a big impact, especially if it's in a great planter.  Auctions are a great way to uncover affordable vintage garden pieces. The biggest sales of this sort are in the spring (and I will review those next year, my dearlings, I promise you). But even now, you can unearth some real gems...and use them immediately! Of course, such items, particularly the cast iron, tend to be heavy, so the key here is to think local (or ask the auction house for a cheap but economical trucker). I looked around the country for great finds, and, without further ado, bring you a sampling of the best of them. Stay cool!

The Classic Garden

All the classic elements, a la  Mary McDonald: Interiors: The Allure of Style.

A pair of monumental classical urns. Simply stunning. In Pasadena on July 19th, estimate $3,000-5,000.
A similar pair of classical cast iron urns, at auction in Cincinnati on July 23rd, estimate $500-700.

A planter on a stand adds color and drama, from An Affair with a House.
Gorgeous concrete Corinthian pedestal, at auction July 30th in South Carolina, estimate $50-100.

An armillary on a pedestal transforms a courtyard. From Timeless Elegance: The Houses of David Easton.
A lovely (but dirty!) pair of neoclassical garden urns. At Doyle, New York, on July 21st. Estimate $600-800.
Impressive cast iron planters, at Doyle, New York on July 21st, estimate $500-700.

Blue and white on the porch, Bunny Williams style. From Point of View: Three Decades of Decorating Elegant and Comfortable Houses.

Chinese hexagon shaped porcelain planter, at auction in FL on July 30th, estimate $150-250.

John Dransfield and Geoffrey Ross's New Jersey porch. Photo: Simon Upton, courtesy of Elle Decor.
Chinese ceramic stools work everywhere. Now, they seem to be sold everywhere but many of the ones in catalogs aren't very well made. Try a vintage one for  better quality and a more unique look .

Pair of white glazed garden seats. In New Orleans on July 30th, estimate $200-400.

Chinese garden seat, at auction in New Orleans on July 30th, estimate $200-400.
Blue and white Chinese garden seat, in MA on August 4th, estimate $300-500.
Ceramic garden seat, at auction in Chicago on July 28th, estimate $200-400.

The Whimsical Garden

Of course we must start with Tony Duquette. The majolica urns on stands and ceramic garden seat are all classic auction finds--and great for showing off plants. From TONY DUQUETTE.
Dragon jardiniere and matching pedestal, at a PA auction on  July 23rd, estimate $200-300.

Green jardiniere on stand, at auction in Hatfield, PA on July 28th, $300-500.

Pair of Moorish plant stands, in Tallahassee on July 30th, estimate $75-150.

The Rustic Garden

Miles Redd does rustic right with these great painted signs and a vintage trunk.
photo: William Abranowicz. The fantastic porch of  Mari Ann and Michael Maher courtesy of Elle Decor.

Pair of cast iron jardinieres, at Doyle, New York on July 21st, estimate $400-600.

Copper jardiniere, at auction in New York on July 30th, estimate $300-400.
Driftwood pedestal. At auction in New Orleans on July 31st, estimate $250-400.
Adirondack plant stand, at auction in MA on September 10, estimate $100-200.

I am going to close with one more shot of Mari Ann and Michael Maher's fabulous porch--since that's where I'd love to be on this hot and sticky day!

photo: William Abranowicz for Elle Decor.