Bonhams have integrated Lalique back into their broader mix of 20th century design auctions.
After their first stand-alone sale in 20
years produced patchy results last November, specialist Mark Oliver
said the decision was based upon a disappointing return on lots
pitched at the lower and middle range, which hampered the November
sale's selling rate, with fewer than 50% of lots finding
Going on the latest results for Lalique from
Bonhams' 189-lot decorative art sale held on June 12 in New
Bond Street, the change appears to be the right one. Of the 50 lots
offered, all bar 13 sold, to total £364,000, down slightly on the
stand-alone November sale but produced from 152 fewer lots.
The section also contributed just under half
of the £759,750 sale total, with seven Lalique pieces featuring in
the top ten lots.
Demand for Lalique has stepped up again in
recent years with the market currently awash with plenty of moneyed
private buyers based mainly in America, France, Britain, Russia and
New buyers to Lalique in particular are
incredibly competitive, looking to build collections at the
higher-end of the market (in excess of £5000), which goes some way
to explaining the lack of demand for middle- and lower-range lots
at Bonhams' November sale.
Personal taste is also a factor which can
make it an unpredictable market at times and some pieces fluctuate
greatly in price as a result.
As a general rule, Lalique values are linked
to scarcity determined by such factors as length of production,
colours, special finishes, subject matter and the quality of the
moulding. Condition is paramount in this collecting field and can
greatly affect prices.
The most sought-after pieces of Lalique tend
to be René Lalique's cire perdue works - unique
creations cast by the lost-wax process where the mould is broken in
Bonhams' offering contained a variety of
different colour series predominantly dating from the 1920s, when
many of Lalique's designs were originally created, and included a
number of higher-range plain, opalescent and coloured versions.
Over a third of the lots were guided at the high end, with
estimates of £10,000 or more.
The top lot in this section was a black
glass Montargis vase designed in 1929. Measuring 8in
(21cm), the piece was estimated at £15,000-20,000.
Black glass is among the rarest colours in
this collecting field and, says Mr Oliver, is tough to source. This
example was not the most exciting of Lalique designs, but it still
proved desirable to a number of parties including a museum. In the
end, however, it sold in the room to a European collector for
Almost equalling this price was a Frise
Aigles clear-glass vase designed in 1911, measuring 12in
(31cm) and decorated with an early cameo technique overlaid with
red and black enamel. Probably unique, it was unrecorded in Felix
Marcilhac's Catalogue Raisonné published in 1989 -
the bible for any Lalique enthusiast.
It had a substantial chip to its base, which
was reflected in the low £5000-7000 estimate, but this did not
hamper the price and it sold to another continental buyer for
A 10in (26cm) high caramel-coloured
Archers vase from 1921 was another highlight here,
selling just above top estimate for £19,000. Matching this sum,
although pitched at a higher £18,000-22,000 estimate, was a
slightly earlier 1919 electric blue Perruches vase in
the design of budgerigars measuring 9in (25cm). The price was
marginally higher than an identical version in the same colour
which sold at Bonhams for £17,000 in November.
Best of the Rest
Getting away below estimate, but selling
nonetheless, were several other higher-valued lots.
These included a strong opalescent
Bacchantes vase designed in 1927 (and still in
production today) which took £24,000, a 1921-designed
Poissons vase in red glass which fetched £23,000, and
a top bid of £19,000 for a
clear-glass Serpent vase designed in 1924. Along
with other examples in the sale, each of the three lots was
accompanied by a duplicate in a different colour which failed to
sell - demonstrating the selectivity of this market.
"It's quite often the case that a particular
buyer wants to fill a gap in their collection and will just go for
the colour that they do not have in that series, and as a result
casualties occur," said Mr Oliver.
Outside the Lalique, the sale also yielded
strong results, including the sale's top lot. This was a rare and
unrecorded Robert Wallace Martin early stoneware bed-warmer
modelled as a tortoise, dated to 1880 and measuring 11 x 5in (30 x
In excellent condition, made to a good size,
bearing the Martin Brothers trademark grotesque features and
pitched at an enticing £8000-10,000, it sparked plenty of interest.
Contested by both room and phone bidders, it eventually sold to the
phone for £38,000.
The holy grail for most Martinware
collectors are the Martin Brothers grotesque bird jars, one of
which also fetched a top-ten price here. Dating from 1898, it sold
for £26,000 against a £15,000-20,000 estimate.
Despite their proven value in the saleroom,
this price still came as a surprise to Mr Oliver, who said:
"Although it was a little larger than average and only a few are
turning up at the moment, it was not a particularly captivating
example and had some internal hairline cracks."
Elsewhere, poor condition did little to
deter bidders for two Ferdinand Preiss Art Deco figures which were
both pursued beyond their estimates.
The first was Spring Awakening, a
14in (37cm) cold-painted bronze and carved ivory figure dated to
c.1925, which had a crack along the torso but still fetched £18,000
against a £10,000-15,000. The second was a Con
Brio model of a similar size which was missing some of
the figure's silver-patinated costume and had a crack down the
face. It sold for three times the bottom estimate to make
The buyer's premium was 25/20/12%.