By Dr. Anthony J. Cavo
There is no limit to the surprises you may encounter when appraising art and antiques. Each appraisal is like a private tour or even your own private treasure hunt.
Tiffany Studios lamp shade
On one such appraisal I had the pleasure to identify and appraise a Tiffany Studios Leaded Glass Tulip Lamp Shade. The owners, Mary Ann and Peter, thought the shade might be Tiffany but wanted to know for sure. It had been a gift from Mary Ann’s aunt with whom the “Tiffany” designation originated.
I have appraised many “Tiffany” lamps, most of which were not Tiffany and so, with a large measure of skepticism, I embarked on another ordinary appraisal that turned out to not be so ordinary.
As an appraiser I have the opportunity to visit many different homes in many different areas. This home, however, was, in every sense of the word, grand.
The rooms were large, spacious and many. Each was decorated with wonderful works of art such as the handmade Chinese and Middle Eastern carpets, nineteenth century rosewood, mahogany and oak furnishing, oil paintings, porcelains, lithographs, and miniature bronze figures.
The quality of everything I saw suggested that perhaps the “Tiffany” might actually be Tiffany.
I entered the drawing room and there it stood in MGM glory on a console table in the sunlit picture window and I knew, without any further examination, that this was truly Tiffany.
The form, the leading, the vibrant glass and workmanship seemed to prove its origin. It had to be Tiffany and if so, it had to be marked, and there were only a couple of places that could accommodate such a mark.
Patient examination of the lower rim proved what Mary Ann and Peter had been told – the shade was marked “Tiffany Studios, New York 1560-1.” Regardless of how many wonderful items I am fortunate enough to see and examine it is always exciting to encounter and authenticate such a piece. In fact, I admit I was as excited as the owners.
I was so enamored by this piece that I completely forgot to take measurements and had to make a return visit to do just that. It measured 14” (35.6 cm) in diameter. While holding it I tried to envision the studio in which it was created sometime between 1910 and 1920.
I held it against the sunlight and examined every pane, every vein of leading, every tulip, every petal and the overall construction; it was magnificent. There were very few cracks in the hundreds of pieces of glass – these may have been the result of using a high wattage bulb.
Never use high wattage bulbs on a Tiffany Studios lamp shade of this size. The optimum wattage for Tiffany lamp shades this size is 40 watts. If you use a higher wattage you risk heat damage and cracking and loosening of the fine glass panels. A 40-watt bulb will display the colors at their best, especially if a clear bulb is used.
I deemed the shade to be in very good condition and gave an appraisal of $20,000 to $25,000 as a conservative estimate and one that might well go higher in the right venue.
I have very often turned on a lamp but it’s a rare time when a lamp turns me on.
Viennese fashion bust
In addition to the Tiffany Studios shade, I had the pleasure to appraise a number of items including a Viennese fashion bronze by Gruber.
The bust measures approximately 3-3/8 inches high, 3-1/2 inches at its widest, and 1-3/8 inches deep; it bears the inscription “1840.”
The “1840” is not the date of production, rather it refers to the fashion in hat styles for the year 1840. The bust was made by the Austrian Sculptor Franz Gruber (1878-1945) and was likely executed during the late 19th to early 20th century.
The bust depicts a beautiful lady with a high fashion bonnet decorated with feathers, ribbons, and flowers.
The front of the bust is inscribed 1840 at the base as an indication of the popular fashion in hats seen during that year.
It is signed “Gruber” on the back, below the collar of the dress on the right side.
The bust is beautifully sculpted and in excellent condition with a conservative value of $650.
Standing upon a decorative Chinoiseries desk were a pair of porcelain figures of Poseidon and Amphitrite with Poseidon having a long brown beard and wearing a dark blue robe and shell hat, with a triton at his feet; the triton is missing the tips of the three tines.
Amphitrite, his wife, is clothed in dark blue, pink, and yellow robes, and carries a large shell filled with mussels and seaweed.
They are 19th century, approximately 12.5” tall and although both are unsigned, they are either Meissen or Dresden and worth $800 to $1,200 for the pair.
I usually encounter very interesting and congenial people on my appraisals, but in this case, Mary Ann and Peter were the true treasures.
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