Austrian Art Nouveau lamps at Morphy Auction

Tiffany Studios’ stunning turn of the 20th century leaded-glass lamps
appear frequently in the auction marketplace, but many collectors may
not be aware of a contemporaneous but far-less-expensive alternative:
Austrian figural bronze-base lamps.

Made during the same timeframe as their botanically themed Tiffany
counterparts, Austrian Art Nouveau specialty lamps often incorporate
bronze animal forms as their bases. They are almost always devoid of
manufacturer or foundry marks.

“These lamps have always flown under the radar,” said a New York
collector of 30 years. “Not too many people know what they are. They’re
very unusual and of incredible quality. From a design standpoint, they
were ahead of their time, and are now rarer than Tiffany lamps – that’s
something that always attracted me to them.”

The collector, who uses his lamps functionally and has kept them in
perfect working order, says it is unusual to find an example for sale
at a public venue. “It has always been incredibly difficult to find
these lamps. The first one I ever saw was in the United States at a
show, but over the past three decades I’ve obtained almost all of my
lamps through private sources. Dealers have gotten to know me and will
call when they find a lamp they think I would like.”

Tiffany Studios lamps, by comparison, are much easier to source, the
collector said. “If you wanted a Tiffany Magnolia lamp, for example,
you could put the word out and probably find one within months. That’s
not the case with these Austrian lamps. They’re extraordinarily rare
and unique.”

In his collection, one may find lamps replicating peacocks, a frog and
toadstool, a dragon, alligator, and mythological Jugendstil-type fish,
among many other creatures. Each features an enameled or
faux-jewel-studded shade, as well as cabochons and other iridescent
jewel accents, often serving as eyes. Throughout, the artistry is
superb.

When lamps of this style appear at auction, it’s major news to
collectors, said the interviewee. “There was a lizard lamp at
Christie’s East, but that was over 15 years ago,” he said. “Then last
year a collection appeared at Hal Hunt’s auction house in Alabama.
There must have been 700 people there.”

Now it is the collector’s turn to sell. In the opening session of
Morphy Auctions’ Dec. 11-13 Winter Sale, his 23-lamp collection will be
auctioned, with no lamps held back. If there is a showstopper that
leads the rest of the menagerie, it’s the superb 18-inch-high figural
peacock lamp whose draped bronze base dramatically replicates a
peacock’s showy tail feathers with inset jewels. Adding to its
magnificence is a Mont Joye enameled-glass shade with quintessential
Art Nouveau butterfly-and-dragonfly motif. It is expected to make
between $6,000-$8,000.

For additional information, call 717-335-3435 or view the fully
illustrated catalog online at www.morphyauctions.com or
www.liveauctioneers.com.

Circa-1915 jewel-eyed frog and toadstool lamp with Austrian glass shade – estimate $2,000-$2,500.

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