Jean-Joseph Marie Carriès (1855-1894) is remembered for his visionary work and technical mastery as a sculptor and ceramicist. He was born in Lyon, France where, at the age of six, is orphaned and raised in a Roman Catholic orphanage. He apprentices with a local sculptor, Pierre Vermare, before moving to Paris to enroll at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris to study sculpture under Augustin-Alexandre Dumont. He gains recognition for his sculpted (mostly bronze) works at the Paris Salons of 1875, 1879, and 1881. In 1878, being influenced by the Japanese ceramic works at the World’s Fair in Paris, Jean Carriès begins the study of pottery. In 1886 he is introduced to Ernest Chaplet by the artist Paul Gauguin at the Chaplet workshop on Rue Blomet. In 1888 Jean Carriès installs a workshop in La Bertille in Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye and presents his first stoneware works, a year later, in his studio on Boulevard Arago in Paris. His stoneware includes whimsical “grotesque” masks, fauns with rabbit ears, misshapen toads, heads of babies with grimacing faces, and elegant, sumptuous vases with running glazes. Jean Carriès dies at the age of 39 from pleurisy and is buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Despite his early death, his artistic legacy continues with the followers of l’Ecole De Carriès (school of Carries).
I participated in the Editions and Works on Paper 1500-2018 auction on January 29, 2019 by Forum Auctions in London. I was interested in Lithographie no.18 by the French painter, Pierre Soulages. His lithographs are in demand and finding one in very good condition (without staining, foxing and discoloration) is a challenge. Robert Jones at Forum Auctions kindly provided the initial condition report and Sarah McLean forwarded high resolution photographs confirming that the condition was indeed quite good. Encouraged, I placed a bid and won the lot!
I contacted several firms for a shipping quote and raised a concern with Sarah about potential damage in transferring the unframed lithograph to the shipper’s facility. Sarah recommended Alban Shipping and then personally coordinated the transfer of the lithograph from the auction house to the shipping facility. The lithograph arrived in perfect condition!
If you have the opportunity please check out Forum Auctions and Alban Shipping. They will provide you with a well coordinated, memorable experience coupled with stellar customer service!
A Tribute To Frères Mougin
On January 26th, treasured items of French ceramic history were disseminated around the globe. The Arts De L’Ecole De Nancy sale by Cappelaere-Prunaux auctioned ceramics by the gifted Mougin family – Joseph, Pierre, Odile, Bernard and Francois. Dr. Jacques G. Peiffer, distinguished author of several important books on the Frères Mougin is the cited expert for the sale. In addition to the ceramics, and why (to me) this sale is so very special, is the auctioning of personal memorabilia associated with this renowned family: – Photographs of Joseph Mougin working in the atelier – Intimate family photos – Designs, drawings & paintings by the family – Works by artists closely associated with the family – Victor Prouvé, Gaston Goor, Geo Conde – Several lots of glass photographic plates documenting the ceramic works – Photographs of the important Luneville Faience.
I am so fortunate that I happened to stumble upon this rare event! I purchased my first Frères Mougin vase 25 years ago. It was my introduction to French ceramics: an introduction that has led to an exciting world of exploration and discovery. There will always be a special place in my heart for the Famille Mougin.
A recent painting listed at auction stated that the successful bidder would receive a Certificate of Attribution. Really? What does this mean? My recommendation? THINK TWICE BEFORE BIDDING!
When purchasing artworks you may wish to read the following information which is readily available on several websites:
This is the conventional way of describing the relation between the artist and the work of art.
- Pablo Picasso: The auction house believes this is an original work by the artist
- Pablo Picasso (replica): The auction house believes that the artist him/herself made this work as a replica of their own, previous original.
- Pablo Picasso (attributed to): The auction house finds it likely that this is an original work, but is not prepared to guarantee this.
- Pablo Picasso (his studio): The auction house believes that the work was made in the artist’s studio and possibly under their supervision.
- Pablo Picasso (his circle): The auction house believes that the work was made by another artist but during the lifetime of the named artist and in their manner.
- Pablo Picasso (follower of): The auction house believes that the work was done in the manner of the named artist, during their lifetime or later.
- Pablo Picasso (in the manner of): The auction house believes that the work is done in the manner of the named artist but after their lifetime.
- Pablo Picasso (after): The auction house believes that the work was made by another artist, based on an original work by the named artist.
Recently I discovered a vase at auction at Salle de Ventes Saint-Job in Belgium described as “Vase Art-Déco: Grès émaillé vert, décor en relief d’un couple de sirènes, monogrammé sous la base RB, H: 30, diam: 26 cm“, which translates to “Art Deco Vase: Green enameled sandstone, relief decoration with a couple of mermaids, monogrammed under the base RB, H: 30, diam: 26 cm”. The vase had an auction estimate of 300-400 Euros. The vase was similar to a vase that I had seen by Rene Buthaud so I decided to research further… It could be an amazing find!
A Vase by Rene Buthaud???
According to icollector.com the same identical green vase sold at Wright Auctions for $4,750 + $950 commission on October 10, 2006 as “Rene Buthaud vase, France, c. 1940, glazed stoneware, 10” wide x 12” high. Incised signature to underside: [RB].” So far so good!
The same identical green vase sold again as Rene Buthaud at Treadway Toomey Auctions for $2900 + commission on December 02, 2007 according to LiveAuctioneers.com. Quite promising!
I then found a quite similar vase in cream sold at Heritage Auctions for $4,250 (including buyer’s premium) on October 24, 2017. However, the height was 10-1/4” (25cm). And the signature is correct for Rene Buthaud.
Despite being sold at Wright Auctions and Treadway Toomey Auctions, two reputable auction houses, the green vase still did not appear quite correct.
The typical Rene Buthaud signature or monogram is in black ink, not incised. However, Etienne Tournier at the Musée des Arts décoratifs et du Design in Bordeaux, France confirmed that the museum has a few Rene Buthaud pieces in their collection which are indeed inscribed.
Upon closer inspection I detected subtle and not so subtle differences between the vases produced by Rene Buthaud and this passable forgery. The vase “almost” appears that is from the same mold, but in that case the vases should be identical!
The Buthaud is more precisely executed and has sharper incised details. For example, compare the wavelike hair on both vases. The forgery is crude. The coloration and application of the glaze does not appear correct for Rene Buthaud.
The 1940 date noted in the Wright Auction does not correlate with the description in the reference Rene Buthaud 1886-1986 by Pierre Cruege, which on pages 84-85 dates two similar vases (obviously the prototype for this now apparent forgery) as 1922-1923. The height is listed as 25,5 cm (instead of 30cm). The height is correct for the vase sold at Heritage Auctions.
Alas, that was not the vase I hoped for…
I do very much appreciate the Salles de Ventes Saint-Job auction house for the accurate lot description which led me on this educational journey!
Taking My Own Advice…
It is so easy to purchase an item online, that sometimes I forget the importance of logistics and remembering past mistakes. This is what happened to me last month.
I placed an absentee bid with the auction house Uccle-St-Job in Belgian for a ceramic vase knowing that I would have to send a wire transfer. I asked the auction house for a shipping quote with full insurance. They provided me a quote and I sent the wire transfer (at a cost of $25) with an additional 25 Euros to cover any hidden bank fees). I received an email from a staff member (their email correspondence was anonymous so I did not know who I was responding to) that insurance was not possible and that I should arrange shipping with FedEx.
I found a UPS store in Uccle-St-Job and emailed the auction house if they could deliver the package there. I did not receive a response. I telephoned the auction house as was instructed to call back and ask for Isabel. I did so the following day. Isabel said that insurance was indeed possible and that she would send me a quote.
After being told I had been misinformed that I could use PayPal to pay the additional shipping cost I had to make second wire transfer. Again I sent the wire transfer (at a cost of $25) with an additional 25 Euros to cover any hidden bank fees.
Needless to say I received yet another unsigned email indicating that insurance was not possible and that the auction house would safely pack and ship the vase. Having little recourse I agreed. Luckily the vase arrived intact.
As a follow-up I emailed the manager of the auction house indicating my displeasure with the service and did not receive a response. I found this particularly distressing especially since the email was in French & English in the event there was a language barrier.
In this transaction I do not fault the auction house, but myself. I have witnessed the transformation of the European auction houses over the past 20 years. Some auction houses are entrenched in the past where customer service is either poor or non-existent. There is little or no effort to facilitate payment and shipping options. Email conversations are anonymous and misleading. Language is used as a barrier to effective communication.
Unless there is a compelling need to do so, my recommendation is to purchase only from auction houses that accept online payment or accept credit cards, who provide in-house shipping services, or can recommend a reliable shipper that also accepts online payment or credit cards.
Absentee Bids, continued
I will share a personal, most unfortunate experience with an absentee bid. I am sorry to say this actually occurred and has negatively affected my trust with certain auction houses.
I placed an absentee with an auction house in France for a vase as described in the prior scenario. However, this time, I had the opportunity to watch the live auction online. The lot where I had placed the absentee bid was auctioned and sold for several hundred dollars less than my absentee bid. I was quite pleased! That is, until I received the “facture” or “bordereau” from the auction house. The invoice was 100 Euros less than the absentee bid I placed! I contacted the auction house attempting to address the situation, but, I did not receive a response. Unaware of any other recourse I paid the invoice.
After that experience I no longer submit absentee bids if the bid amount is shared with the auction house. A lesson learned…
If you ever been unsure about leaving an absentee bid with an auction house your concern is justified. There are two ways to leave an absentee bid: 1. Place an absentee bid directly with an auction house, or 2. Place an absentee bid with a third party online bidding platform such as Interencheres, Drouot Live, Invaluable, Live Auctioneers, The Saleroom or Bidsquare.
Placing an absentee bid directly with an auction house in France is courting disaster. My experience, is that even if the live bidding realizes an auction price lower than your absentee bid the auction house will invoice you for one bid increment less than your absentee bid. For example, if you place an absentee bid for 1500 Euros for a Daum vase and the final bid onsite is 900 Euros, the auction house will invoice you for 1400 Euros plus their commission fee. Unfortunately this has happened repeatedly to me and confirmed by my French friends overseas.
My recommendation is do not place absentee bids directly with an auction house unless they confirm how absentee bids are processed.
An option is to place an absentee bid with a third party online bidding platform. This is a better option because “in most cases” the absentee bid is confidential and is not shared with the auction house. The exception that I am aware of is that an absentee bid placed on Drouot Live is shared with the auction house.