Keeping it Real: Results From Doyle’s The Joan Stacke Graham Majolica Collection II
Majolica is a type of pottery known for its colorful glazing, intricate and lifelike three-dimensional designs based on nature or cultural themes, and novelty. Numerous European and American companies produced majolica for national and international distribution during its peak popularity from the 1850s through the 1880s. Doyle New York held The Joan Stacke Graham Majolica Collection II sale on April 4, 2023. Graham (1934 – 2020) was a majolica collector, expert, and published author on the subject. 169 lots of her pottery were on offer. Here are some eye-catching highlights from this exciting sale. Prices noted include buyer’s premiums.
The top sale in this event was lot #168, an iconic Minton majolica hare and duck head game pie dish and cover. Estimated at USD 20,000 to $30,000, it realized $62,225 and generated 13 bids. This marked, two piece example from circa 1876 consisted of a domed cover decorated with two-dimensional rabbit heads, two-dimensional duck heads, yellow flowers, and a yellow basket weave tray with green rope twist handles. The undersides of the base and cover were painted turquoise blue. This outstanding example was attributed to artist Paul Comolera (French, 1818 – 1897).
Comolera was employed by the British company Minton from circa 1873 to 1876. He was famous for his work rendering animals and birds in authentic and beautiful ways. His inspiration came from watching wildlife in natural habitats. Arguably his most outstanding work for Minton was a 59-inch tall, life-size (and extremely lifelike) model of a peacock standing on a mound decorated with mushrooms and ivy. In 2010, one of these traded hands for GBP 109,250 (USD 136,350) at Christie’s in London.
Majolica items produced for outside or garden use were well represented in this sale. Lot #90, an Egyptian Revival Majolica garden seat, was estimated at $10,000 to $15,000, traded hands at $52,400, and generated 29 bids. It was made by T.C. Brown Westhead, Moore & Co. of Stroke-upon-Trent in England around 1875. The seat measured 21.5 inches tall and was in the form of a beautiful seated Egyptian woman wearing a yellow and green gown, a red waist sash, and a matching headpiece. She was holding a quatrefoil topped sitting stool decorated with palmettes, an owl in flight, lotus blossoms, and two cobras.
T.C. Brown Westhead, Moore & Co. had its origins as early as 1802. By 1872, the company developed its large-scale majolica expertise and was on its way to becoming the largest pottery producer in England. T.C. Brown Westhead, Moore & Co. was very active developing its business internationally. The company had impressive displays of majolica at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, PA as well as the Paris Exhibition of 1878. Following market trends, they would continue to focus on the majolica line through the 1880s.
This majolica collection sale included a number of well-rendered pottery items that were designed for household tasks of the 19th century. Lot #55, a Minton majolica signed Japanese Boat spill vase, was estimated at $6,000 to $8,000, realized nearly $29,500, and generated 30 bids. This period piece measured six inches and was patterned after a Japanese ivory model. It featured a Japanese man and woman in traditional attire in a long, narrow boat formed from the merger of two trees in bloom. The inside of the boat was painted turquoise. This handsome example from circa 1875 was designed by Johann (John) Hasselmann Hénk (German, circa 1847 – 1921), who would go on to be the chief modeler at Minton from the early 1900s through 1911.
Spill vases were usually found on the mantelpieces of homes through the 19th century. They were containers that would hold spills– tightly rolled paper tapers or very thin wooden sticks– that would be used to transfer a lit flame from a fireplace fire to a candle, pipe, or other item needing ignition. In the 1800s, matches were costly and spills or wooden sticks could be produced inexpensively at home. You don’t see too many spill vases in active use anymore– probably for good reason!
Fish and sea life are frequent themes in 19th-century majolica items, with sardines and oysters often making an appearance on table service items. Lot #148, a majolica pink border six-pocket oyster plate, was estimated at $1,000 to $1,500, realized $4,912.50, and generated 26 bids. It was made by Griffen, Smith & Hill of Phoenixville, PA. This circa 1880 plate measured ten inches in diameter and was decorated with six authentic-looking oyster shells on a bed of seaweed with a few shells and crabs, a central pink well, and a pink and yellow border rim.
Oysters on the half shell were considered a delicacy in the 19th century. The oyster plate was designed to present oysters for consumption without their shells and was a perfect item to interpret in a majolica form. Plates often had a well or bowl integrated into their design to hold dipping sauce or condiments – making them an elegant service item for an upscale food. Oysters fell somewhat out of favor in the 1920s as a gourmet specialty. As a result, oyster plate production slowed considerably after World War I.
Doyle’s majolica collection sale rounded out with other functional household items as well as life-sized animals. Lot #21, a large Minton heron umbrella or stick stand, checked both of these boxes. It was estimated at $8,000 to 12,000, realized $11,790, and generated 15 bids. This example from 1876 measured nearly 40 inches tall and featured a heron balancing on one leg amongst tall greenery. It was holding a fish in its mouth. Like the top lot in this sale, this bird stand was also modeled by Paul Comolera.
For more information on Doyle New York’s The Joan Stacke Graham Majolica Collection II sale on April 4, 2023, visit LiveAuctioneers.
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