Treasure: Tiffany lamp’s auction
A small crowd gathered on the second floor at DuMouchelles a few minutes before 11 a.m. Saturday. Among the approximately two dozen spectators was Carole Beckett, whose Tiffany lamp was among the hundreds of items being sold that day by the venerable auction house near the Renaissance Center.
She was excited not only because her lamp was among the items, but because she had never attended an auction before. “This is my first auction. I’ve seen them on television, of course, but it’s much more subtle than that. You don’t want to wave a fan around,” she said with a laugh.
Her husband, Mack, whose family based in Grand Rapids had originally owned the lamp, was unfortunately stuck at home. “We had a problem with our well,” she says of her Metamora-area horse farm. “He really wanted to be here, but we have four horses that need water.”
Bob DuMouchelle explained the auction process to those in attendance before the bidding started. He cautioned that items are as is — interested parties are expected to inspect things beforehand and he said DuMouchelles’ staff was on hand to answer questions. More than 500 items were scheduled to be sold on Saturday, part of a three-day monthly auction with thousands of items for collectors.
Carole’s lamp was the second one, part of a six-item grouping of glass objects that included two Tiffany lamps and four vases, one by Durand and three by Steuben. The other was signed by L.C. Tiffany and an example of a gold Favrile glass candlestick lamp, which dates to the early 20th century. At just 18 inches, it was substantially shorter than the Becketts’ lamp, which had a height of 30.5 inches and a diameter of 17.25.
The Becketts lamp is known as a “Tel El Amarna” lamp, an example of the company’s blue Favrile glass that dates to about 1920. With its original mesh two-light shade, it is more difficult to come by, said DuMouchelles’ Jim Flannery, who had originally appraised the lamp at a recent Trash or Treasure session.
Punctuated by shouts of “Yes,” from workers on the telephone, bidding moves quickly. “I want to start this Tiffany lamp at $2,500,” said Bob DuMouchelle, who acted as one of a few auctioneers during the afternoon. “It’s a beautiful piece and a very unusual lamp,” he reiterated. Known as Lot 1002, bidding moved quickly from $2,500 to $2,700 to $3,000 and then $3,250 in less than a minute, ending at $3,500, just shy of the original $4,000 to $6,000 estimate.
Flannery, who had a Jackson bidder on the phone, said that while the lamp was unusual, the condition of the shade ultimately kept it under the initial $4,000 estimate. “Because of the condition of the shade, it didn’t present as well as we had hoped,” he said. “It’s a frail shade that will take some expertise to fix and do it right.” That, the rewiring, minor condition issues at the bottom and the fact that having a professional refurbish the shade could be expensive, kept it from reaching the original estimate.
In the end, the winning bidder was a prominent couple who live in a 1927 house in one of the city’s historic districts, a fitting place for a 1920s-era Tiffany lamp. Despite a wish that it would have brought more, Flannery was pleased the piece would be staying in the area.
The Becketts were happy, too. Carole joked that the proceeds would help pay for her well repairs and, more importantly, be repaired and on view. “I was so pleased and thrilled that it was going to where it needed to be,” says Carole of the lamp’s new Detroit home. “We are all just curators of these wonderful works of art.”
Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to firstname.lastname@example.org. If chosen, you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Photos cannot be returned.