Flying under the radar: Austrian Art Nouveau lamps Made during the same timeframe as their botanically themed Tiffany counterparts, Austrian Art Nouveau specialty lamps are far more affordable but no less beautiful in their own way.
News-Antique.com - Dec 06,2008 - Tiffany Studios’ stunning turn of the 20th century leaded-glass lamps appear frequently in the auction marketplace, but many collectors may not be aware of a contemporaneous but far-less-expensive alternative: Austrian figural bronze-base lamps.
Made during the same timeframe as their botanically themed Tiffany counterparts, Austrian Art Nouveau specialty lamps often incorporate bronze animal forms as their bases. They are almost always devoid of manufacturer or foundry marks.
“These lamps have always flown under the radar,” said a New York collector of 30 years. “Not too many people know what they are. They’re very unusual and of incredible quality. From a design standpoint, they were ahead of their time, and are now rarer than Tiffany lamps – that’s something that always attracted me to them.”
The collector, who uses his lamps functionally and has kept them in perfect working order, says it is unusual to find an example for sale at a public venue. “It has always been incredibly difficult to find these lamps. The first one I ever saw was in the United States at a show, but over the past three decades I’ve obtained almost all of my lamps through private sources. Dealers have gotten to know me and will call when they find a lamp they think I would like.”
Tiffany Studios lamps, by comparison, are much easier to source, the collector said. “If you wanted a Tiffany Magnolia lamp, for example, you could put the word out and probably find one within months. That’s not the case with these Austrian lamps. They’re extraordinarily rare and unique.”
In his collection, one may find lamps replicating peacocks, a frog and toadstool, a dragon, alligator, and mythological Jugendstil-type fish, among many other creatures. Each features an enameled or faux-jewel-studded shade, as well as cabochons and other iridescent jewel accents, often serving as eyes. Throughout, the artistry is superb.
When lamps of this style appear at auction, it’s major news to collectors, said the interviewee. “There was a lizard lamp at Christie’s East, but that was over 15 years ago,” he said. “Then last year a collection appeared at Hal Hunt’s auction house in Alabama. There must have been 700 people there.”
Now it is the collector’s turn to sell. In the opening session of Morphy Auctions’ Dec. 11-13 Winter Sale, his 23-lamp collection will be auctioned, with no lamps held back. If there is a showstopper that leads the rest of the menagerie, it’s the superb 18-inch-high figural peacock lamp whose draped bronze base dramatically replicates a peacock’s showy tail feathers with inset jewels. Adding to its magnificence is a Mont Joye enameled-glass shade with quintessential Art Nouveau butterfly-and-dragonfly motif. It is expected to make between $6,000-$8,000.
For additional information, call 717-335-3435 or view the fully illustrated catalog online at www.morphyauctions.com or www.liveauctioneers.com.
CAPTION FOR IMAGE AT TOP:
Circa-1915 jewel-eyed frog and toadstool lamp with Austrian glass shade – estimate $2,000-$2,500.