This Ordinary-Looking Vase Just Sold for Nearly 50 Times Its High Estimate After a 45-Minute Bidding War at Sotheby’s

The small vase's high estimate was just $9,000.

The vase on the right is the one you'll be interested in. Courtesy of Sotheby's.
The vase on the right is the one you'll be interested in. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

A small, unassuming vase estimated to sell for between $7,000 and $9,000 at a Sotheby’s auction in New York yesterday sold for a startling $431,250 after a fierce 45-minute bidding war. (Final prices include buyer’s premiums; estimates do not).

The object, a glazed ceramic vessel produced around 1900 by the Grueby Faience Company, set an auction record for a work by the Arts and Crafts-era design firm.

“The work exhibits a highly unusual and rare glaze coloration for Grueby pottery, with terrific proportions and crisp modeling, which helped drive the intense competition between at least two collectors,” a representative for the auction house said in a statement to Artnet News. “It is unlikely that another work with this particular glaze coloration will be discovered.”

One lot prior, another vase by the same company went for $72,500—more than six times its high estimate of $12,000.

The two pieces were included in a Sotheby’s design sale that altogether brought in $20.2 million against its presale estimate of $10.2 million. For a second consecutive year, the event set a new high mark for a various-owner design sale at the auction house. 

Two gilt bronze monkeys by Francois-Xavier. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Two gilt bronze monkeys by Francois-Xavier. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Leading the sale were six works by the animal-loving husband-and-wife design duo François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne.

Two sets of gilt bronze monkey sculptures by Francois-Xavier, each estimated to sell for between $400,000 and $600,000, sold for $4 million and $3.5 million, respectively, while a stretched-out bronze sheep with horns took in $2.42 million, well over its $300,000 to $500,000 estimate. 

Bringing in $12.2 million in total, the menagerie of Lalanne sculptures were met with the same rabid interest from collectors that other works by the French designers have enjoyed.

Last fall, all 274 works in a dedicated Sotheby’s Lalanne auction found buyers, quadrupling presale expectations. In November, a bronze hippopotamus-shaped bathtub by François-Xavier went for $4.3 million at Christie’s.

A white-glove sale of pieces by western furniture designer Thomas Molesworth accompanied Sotheby’s the design auction. The auction’s 55 lots brought in $1.7 million, just exceeding the $1.4 million presale estimate.


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