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Provenance, design, condition earn Frederick Rhead vase ‘conservative’ $90,000 estimate

Many items of the 200 lots up for bid at John Moran Auctioneers' April 29 auction are sure to entice collectors of pottery and porcelain, specifically one 18-inch vase by renowned artist Frederick Hurten Rhead.

PASADENA, Calif. — John Moran Auctioneers is presenting a 200-lot selection of early 20th century design, silver, Continental furnishings and fine art from Southern California estates and private collections at the firm’s April 29 Antiques and Fine Art Auction. Additionally, collectors of American art pottery will be thrilled to find a masterwork by one of the leading artists in his field, Frederick Hurten Rhead (1880-1942).


Made at the University City Pottery, this 1910 masterwork vase by Frederick Hurten and Agnes Rhead, is expected to hammer for between $70,000 and $90,000. (Photo courtesy John Moran Auctioneers)

The large vase, standing nearly 18 inches tall, is signed to the underside with Rhead’s monogram and that of his wife and collaborator, Agnes (b. 1877), along with marks for the University City Pottery in Missouri and the American Women’s League, dated 1910. Incised and polychrome-enameled with the sweeping figure of a peacock, its highly detailed tail feathers fanning across the buff-colored ground interlaced with stylized tree branches, it possesses striking design and outstanding execution.

Though Rhead’s most ubiquitous contribution to 20th century design is as the designer of Fiestaware, the brightly colored dinnerware manufactured by the Homer Laughlin Company, it was during his short time teaching at the People’s University in University City, Missouri, alongside several other notable artists, including Adelaide Alsop Robineau and Taxile Doat, that the British-born artist produced the tiles and vases that today rank among his most highly valued works. A four-tile panel, also from University City and dating from 1910 and also featuring a peacock, realized $510,000 at auction in October 2012, and another 1910 piece, a vase decorated with mushrooms, fetched $120,000 at auction in June 2012.

The vase offered at Moran’s is expected to equal or surpass those examples, though it has been assigned a conservative presale estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. With its arguably more compelling design, it also arrives on the market with excellent provenance, having not once been offered for sale since its purchase from the pottery in 1910. That purchase was by a couple residing in St. Louis, who subsequently presented it as a wedding anniversary and baby gift to the Meyers Family of Iowa City, Iowa. It has since passed through several generations of the same family, and was only recently rediscovered in the home of the current owner in Southern California.

John Moran Auctioneers’ next auction is scheduled for May 20, and is the first of their semiannual HQ Jewelry and Luxury Auctions. Then, on June 17, is Moran’s next Antiques and Decorative Arts Auction. For more information, visit or contact 626-793-1833 or


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