A Feast for the Eyes: The Lee and Susan Stahl Collection of American and English Art Pottery at Toomey & Co.
Toomey & Co. of Chicago, IL is presenting its Lee and Susan Stahl Collection of American and English Art Pottery sale on January 17, 2024. This auction includes over 220 lots of rare and beautiful category-spanning ceramics from the best-known and most prized manufacturers and artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Here are some stunning highlights from this midwinter sale that caught the eye of the Auction Daily team.
Fine vases from legacy potteries including Weller, Roseville, Shearwater, and Moorcroft are well represented in this sale, with over 140 examples on offer. The top offering in this auction is lot #0104, a rare, turn-of-last-century Sabina E. Wells for Newcomb College Pottery vase. It is estimated at USD 10,000 to $15,000. This glazed earthenware treasure from 1904 measures 9.375 inches by 6.5 inches. It is decorated with hand-drawn anemones and foliage in a blue, white, and green palette. Its identifying marks include a glazed manufacturer’s mark, date code, and the artist’s signature on its bottom. This vase was previously sold as lot #191 at Rago’s Craftsman Auction held on January 24, 2004.
Sabina Wells (American, 1876 – 1942) was a South Carolinian artist, designer, and photographer. She worked for Newcomb Pottery, which was also known as Newcomb College Pottery. This firm was in business from 1895 through 1940 and produced Arts and Crafts-style pottery. Newcomb Pottery was a spin-off company from the ceramics department at what is now Tulane University in New Orleans. This program was specifically designed to provide a liberal arts education to women from the American South.
Art pottery bowls share the spotlight at this single-owner auction. Lot #0162, a Newcomb College Pottery bowl by Sadie Irvine, is estimated at $800 to $1,000. This transitional-style glazed earthenware bowl is lavishly decorated with hand-painted wild roses and leaves in a soft blue and green palette. It dates from 1913 and measures 4.125 inches by 7.25 inches. Its underside markings include an impressed, incised and glazed manufacturer’s mark, date code, number, and the artist’s initials.
Sarah Agnes Estelle (Sadie) Irvine (American, 1887 – 1970) was closely associated with Newcomb College. A New Orleans native, she attended the school as a student and went on to become both an artist and an instructor at the company for most of her professional career. In addition to ceramics, she also showed great talent in creating fine needlework as well as paintings and drawings. Her “signature” decoration theme was local Louisiana plants and foliage.
Tabletop service items are another premier category in this important auction of the Lee and Susan Stahl Collection. Lot #0161, a Moorcroft Pottery tea service, is estimated at $4,000 to $6,000. This three-piece set consists of a teapot, covered sugar bowl, and a creamer in the company’s stunning Pomegranate pattern. Produced in England in 1917, the set was sold through Shreve & Co. of San Francisco, which added a sterling silver overlay to each item. The largest item in the trio is the covered and handled teapot. Every item includes an impressed manufacturer’s mark, the word ‘Sterling’, and a painted green signature. A similar service is noted in the reference book Moorcroft – A Guide to Moorcroft Pottery 1897-1993 on page 72.
Moorcroft is a premier British art pottery manufacturer located at Burslem in Stoke-on-Trent, England. It was founded in 1913 by William Moorcroft. The company is known for its tube-lining process. This labor-intensive process involves hand turning each item to eliminate any mold marks before the decorative pattern is transferred onto the unfired item. Moorcroft also made a full spectrum of lower-priced everyday service pieces as part of its business model. The company received its first royal warrant in 1928 from Queen Mary.
Also featured in this midwinter event is a fine collection of garden ornaments. Most are in the form of charming and fully rendered field, forest, farm, or pond animals. Lot #0123, Weller Pottery’s rare Dancing Frogs outdoor statue, is estimated at $3,000 to $5,000. This glazed earthenware copper-tone couple was made around 1930. The frogs waltz together on an oval-shaped base decorated with two white and yellow flowers and tall foliage.
Weller Pottery was launched in 1872 by Samuel A. Weller in Fultonham, OH. The company started out tiny, but by 1905, it was the biggest pottery manufacturer in the United States with headquarters in Zanesville, OH. The company specialized in both indoor and outdoor items. Garden ornaments and decorations have been popular since at least the ancient Greek and Roman eras. Over time, key design themes have included the human form, botany and foliage, and real and idealized animals. A natural fit for its product offering, Weller would go on to produce a number of playful decorative garden sculptures in the 1920s to ‘30s era; these included frogs, squirrels, gnomes, roosters, dogs, and birds, among others. Weller Pottery ceased operations in 1948.
This sale rounds out with signage, artwork, collectibles, and other functional glazed earthenware rarities. Lot #0243, a rare Two Drunken Ducks sprinkler by Weller Pottery, is estimated at $2,000 to $3,000. This copper-toned example from the 1930s measures 14.5 inches by 9.25 inches. This quirky and irresistible antique is in the form of two mostly yellow ducks enjoying (or not!) the aftereffects of one too many beers. They stand, somewhat crookedly, on a round green base decorated with a few leaves.
For more information on the Lee and Susan Stahl Collection of Art Pottery sale on January 17, 2024, visit LiveAuctioneers.
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