The Work of Émile Gallé

Born in France in Nancy in 1846 Émile Gallé’s life was preordained in so far as he would go into the family business making ceramics.  He was happy to do this and worked there for some years but he was innovative and needed to branch out on his own to explore his artistic side and create items that would be more in tune with him and the nature around him.  His chosen medium was glass which he had experimented with and in time perfected. He created what we have come to know as art nouveau cameo glass.  Each piece draws on the flora and fauna around him and he broke down taboos by using colour in his glass pieces.  The result was a business that saw him set up his own shop in Paris and he exported his glass creations all over the world.  But he did not stop there as he revisited the world of ceramics and designed love plates, (ceramic plates with romantic sayings inscribed on them), many of which did not endure the war years.  He designed items in wood and there are even some etchings and paintings by him.  Born in 1846 Émile devoted his life to his work and fellow man.  He became involved in political matters and even spoke up in defence of the Irish catholics against England.  He died at the height of his profession in 1904 in his home town of Nancy where he spent his entire life. Items produced in his factory after 1904 have an * printed after his name to signify that it was made in his factory but after his death.  The most sought after pieces are those produced in his lifetime.  His glass can be seen in many museums and even in some unlikely areas e.g. a gallery in St Cyprien in South of France which houses some very important large pieces.  The market for his glass is very favourable and prices continue to rise.  It is becoming increasingly more difficult to find Gallé glass because of its popularity.  Items that come up for auction in the United States are finding their way home to Europe and there is a regeneration of interest in his work in France where there is a great effort to buy back pieces now that he has finally begun to get the fame he so deserved. All items pictured here have been sold through my saleroom and show the variety and vibrancy of the pieces. Antique roadshow of 29th of Jan showed a piece by Gallé which was a fake, evident by its crude design and the location of the signature which must be in the bottom third to be real. Signature on piece in question was at the top.  Buy with care!

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Auction Updates

The wine cooler given by George Washington to Alexander Hamilton made $782,500.00 well in excess of the top guide price of $600,000 and was bought by a private collector while the John Aubudon book of North American Birds made $7,922,500.00, well below the record price paid in 2010 of $11.5 million, and was also bought by a private American collector.  The Lavery painting “Portrait of Mary” failed to sell but the giant antlers made £43,250.00.

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Francis Bacon Painting To Be Auctioned

Christies in London will auction a painting of a nude female by Francis Bacon on 14th of February.  Painted in 1963 the work, entitled “Portrait of Henrietta Moraes”, is expected to make in excess of £21million.  Henrietta Moraes was a friend of Bacon and lover of Lucian Freud and her portrait is one of the most sexually charged paintings ever painted by Bacon.  The record for a Francis Bacon work stands at $86 million in 2008 in New York.

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Elizabeth Taylor’s Art Collection

Now that all of Taylor’s jewellery have found new owners Christies have one more sale to arrange, the sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s Art Collection.  Her father, Francis, was an art dealer and was agent to Artist Augustus John.  Therefore it comes as no surprise that there are 22 of Augustus John’s paintings in the sale which will take place on 7th and 8th of February.  In all 38 paintings will be auctioned among them such renowned artists as Degas, Pissarro, Renoir and the most famous of all Vincent Van Gogh.  The Van Gogh painting, entitled  Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Rémy is expected to sell for £5-7 million. This painting was once the subject of a restitution claim by the heirs of a German Jewish art dealer but fortunately for Taylor the US Supreme Court did not uphold the claim.  The Painting may well exceed expectation but the two days of sale will make for interesting viewing.

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George Washington Gift

A four-bottled silver plated Sheffield wine cooler which was a gift from George Washington to one of the founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, in 1797 is to be auctioned by Christies in New York on 19th of January.  Hamilton was also US Secretary of the Treasury.  The wine cooler, which has not been seen by the public until now, is well documented in history and symbolizes the partnership between Washington and Hamilton.  The guide price on the wine cooler is $400,000 to $600,000 and has been in Hamilton’s family until now.  Because of the provenance attached to the piece there is great speculation that the higher guide price will be achieved and possibly surpassed.

UPDATE: The wine cooler sold to a private collector, Gary Hendershott of Little Rock, for $782,500.

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World’s Most Expensive Book?

Christie’s will auction what could be the world’s most expensive book on January 20th.  The book is a copy of John James Aubudon “The Birds Of America” and the last time one came to auction it made £7,321,250.00 in December 2010.  Compiled in 1827 and published for only eleven years the book is a four volume collection of 435 hand-coloured engravings of North American birds , each engraving over 3ft in height.  There are 107 copies in Institutions but 13 copies are known to be in private collections.  Sothebys sold the last copy in 2010 but can Christies beat the world record?

UPDATE: The book sold to a private American collector for $7,922,500.

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True Relic Returned To Holycross Abbey

A piece of the True Cross has been gifted to Holycross Abbey by the Ursuline Convent in Cork.  The ancient antiquity was given to the convent by Archbishop Thomas Morris in grateful appreciation for storing their relic while the abbey was undergoing restoration.  It was in fact a portion of the relic housed in Holycross.  Thieves broke into the abbey in October of last year and stole the relic.  Now, in a gesture of solidarity, the Ursuline nuns have gifted their portion to Holycross who will once more be reunited with the relic next month thereby bringing back the importance attached to the Abbey and the pilgrims the True Cross attracted.

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Fresco Restored

Layers of paint on the walls of St. Eunan’s Cathedral in Letterkenny have been peeled away to reveal a fresco by renowned Church artist Harry Clarke.  Hidden from view for 60 years, the restored 1930’s fresco has caused a stir among art lovers who are flocking to the cathedral to catch a glimpse of it.

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William Orpen Paintings To Be Auctioned By Sothebys

Two portrait paintings by Irish artist Sir William Orpen will be auctioned on May 10th in London.  The subjects of the paintings are the 4th Marquis and Marchioness of Headfort whose marriage caused a scandal in Edwardian times, (he an aristocrat from Kells, Co. Meath and she a common music-hall chorus girl).  Known simply as Portrait of Rosie and Portrait of Geoffrey, the paintings are estimated at £300k to £500k and £60,000-£80,000 respectively.  The portrait of the Marchioness is a far superior work, hence the difference in value.  Orpen was renowned for his portraits of high society ladies and the painting of Rosie, resplendent in her cocktail dress, fur and diamond earrings, is testament to his skill in this particular field.  The full article by Michael Parsons can be read at www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/0114/1224310239954.html

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“Domhnach Airgid” On View In The National Museum

A rare antique, priceless in both historic and cultural terms, is on display in The National Museum of Ireland.  Dating from 1350 this religious artifact, known in English as “Silver Church”, was designed to store a manuscript of fragments from 39 sheets of the Gospels but it is much more a piece of iconography.  Supposedly it was given by St Patrick to a companion thereby bestowing on it the veneration it deserved but it is also an example of Irish lettering from the 8th or 9th Century.  Remodelled in 1350 the “Domhnach Airgid” has figurative depictions of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as well as the veneration of St. Patrick and a depiction of St. Bridget.  It is a fusion of feudal ideals with native traditions.  By so doing it becomes a political statement.  The full article by Fintan O’Toole can be read at

www.irishtimes/newspaper/weekend/2012/0114/1224310228113.html

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