R Lalique Cire Perdue Wasp Vase by Rene Lalique

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R.Lalique Leaves The Building: Prices Strong With Some Through The Roof At Christie’s London

In any collecting field, when an auction puts down a new world record auction price or two, it’s a statement about the health of the market and the worldwide interest in the artist. This is about a sale with likely double-digit auction records.

Sauterelles Vase Rene Lalique Green Glass GrasshoppersOn April 30th, Christie’s cataloged 84 lots of R. Lalique at their King Street salerooms. All were from the same European based consignor and all apparently acquired in the last few years. So “fresh to market” would not apply here, with most of the goods having been to rodeo* quite recently.

To say that vases dominated the offerings and the results would be a bit of an understatement. Of the 84 lots originally cataloged, only 8 were not vases. With Lot 83, the highly questionable gray Bacchantes Vase being withdrawn** prior to the start, 75 of the 83 lots presented at the podium were R. Lalique Vases. The group included 3 cire perdue vases, both Cluny and Senlis Vases, and a total of 54 colored glass vases, assuming of course you regard gray and black as colors in the R.Lalique world! ***

Formose Vase Rene Lalique Cased Opalescent Blue-Green Agate GlassSo of the 83 lots offered, the auction house reports that 62 were sold****, for a roughly 75% sales rate on the lot numbers. The premium inclusive total (used for all the following sales numbers) was £1,361,375 or about £21,950 per lot average selling price. Using an approximate real life exchange rate of 1.71 dollars to the Brit Pound (again for all that follows), that makes the sale total about $2,328,000, or $37,550 per sold lot.

Let’s talk about the likely world record prices at auction for particular lots (keeping in mind the vagaries of what exchange rate to use for comparison, not knowing if the buyer had additional costs such as sales tax or vat, etc.):

Lot 3 Formose Vase (Agate) £23,750/$40,600 – for the model
Lot 7 Ronces Vase (Blue) £17,500/$29,900 – for the model
Lot 13 Penthievre Vase (Amber) £35,000/$59,900- for this color of the model, and likely for the model
Lot 15 Serpent Vase (Amber) £35,000/$59,900 – for the model *****
Lot 39 Esterel Vase (Amber) £6,875/$11,750 – for the model
Lot 47 Gros Scarabees Vase (clear/frosted) £17,500/$29,900 – for this color (well, colorless) of the model
Lot 51 Sauterelles Vase (Opalescent) £43,750/$74,800 – for this color (and for maybe 20 minutes) for the model
Lot 60 Ceylon Vase (Yellow Amber) £27,500/$47,000 – for the model
Lot 63 Sauterelles Vase (Green) £57,500/$98,300 – for the model
Lot 73 Borromee Vase (Blue) £32,500/$55,600 – for the model
Lot 77 Martin Pecheurs Vase (Black) £43,750/$74,800 – for the model
Lot 80 Montargis Vase (Black) £40,000/$68,400 – for the model

And a real close one:

Lot 54 Terpsichore (Opalescent) £37,500/$64,100 – for the model a very close 2nd place but considering the slightly higher selling vase had more than just a passing opalescence, this is a really strong result.

Cluny Vase Rene Lalique Bronze Masque And Serpent Attachments Over Smokey GlassThat’s a decent number of likely world record prices in a relatively small sale out of only 62 sold lots.

Lest you are tempted to let thoughts of the superior investing acumen of the seller fog your brain, let’s take a bit of If/If time here using the amber Serpent Vase as an example. The all-in price paid at Heritage was $56,762.50. That would be the buyer’s cost. But the hammer price (not the all-in price shown above that would include the auction house buyers premium, but the price relevant to the seller’s proceeds) at this sale was $48,880. There would also be some expenses off that $48,800 such as a likely a seller commission, shipping back and forth to parts known and unknown, etc. Surely the seller hit some winners and just as surely got nicked a bit here and there as well. All If/If of course:).

But to settle the big picture, it’s rumored that the consignor was sitting in the saleroom during the auction and did not appear to be dissatisfied with the ongoing results. Also likely satisfied was the single bidder that bought roughly a quarter of the lots in the sale (including the yellow Ceylan Vase, the green Sauterelles Vase, the blue Borromee Vase, the black Lezards Et Bluets Vase, and the agate Formose Vase), or all of the top five purchasers that accounted for roughly half the sale lots.

Serpent Vase Rene Lalique Dark Amber Glass Coiled SnakeThe high seller was Lot 25, the Cluny Vase which made £116,500/$199,200. The runner-up was the Cire Perdue Covered Vase Lot 45 which made £92,500/$158,200. Curiously, one disappointment of the sale was that the runner-up vase was the only one of the three cire perdue vases to sell. Of course estimates were high as they were throughout the sale owing likely to the high prices recently paid by the seller, but that didn’t stop many of the colored glass commercial vases from making strong numbers. Also with only three cire perdues, it might just be too small a sample to draw conclusions from. And there might be other issues concerning specific pieces that caused a lack of bidding.

Ceylan Vase Rene Lalique Yellow Amber Eight Birds Motif GlassOur thoughts on the market and the meaning of the higher prices have remained steady for many years now, and this sale does not alter them. Even the large numbers of world record prices do not signal some tulip bulb or Silicon Valley stock style bubble. In any rising market, especially art, there will be individual items that get a bit over-heated in an instance. But the overall market, even for colored vases and mascots (two sometimes hot areas) can best be described over the last 18 years, beginning in 1996, as making a steady and general uphill climb. A few examples to make the point:

10 to 15 years ago, an opalescent green Rampillon Vase sold for about $6600 on Ebay. Over a decade later, it made under $11,000 at this sale******. In the same time frame, some colored Ronces were selling in the $10,000 range. So 15 years later on outlier world record on one vase makes $30,000. But the group of Ronces taken together was certainly not out of control. Did the green grasshopper vase go through the roof? Sure. But that’s only one vase. The four Formoses as a group, notwithstanding the agate example going quite high, were strong but not crazy. All the Perruches Vases were also firm but not wild, and certainly not records. And even some of the likely record prices were close (arguably close) to previous record highs.

Rampillon Vase Rene Lalique Green Opalescent GlassYou also have to consider the venue and how that impacts pricing. Joy McCall and her staff have built a high quality reputation that gives comfort to all bidders, but especially new and inexperienced ones. The Christie’s sales of R. Lalique have tended toward the high side in recent years as they’ve drawn in some great material, and also attracted the then current crop of higher end bidders building up (and chasing up at times) collections. Those bidders feel that they can bid with confidence at these sales, and this impacts prices of course.

When owners come to RLalique.com for an evaluation of their items, we tell them that in addition to all the other considerations, that speed, cost, method, timing, and location of sale are significant factors in the expected value of art. These are not listed stocks where you call your broker and sell in an instant for the one penny spread. Confidence plays a great role in both the acquisition and disposition of art, and here we believe it has played a large one.

Overall, just the kind of results you could anticipate in a firm market, at the right venue, with solid material offered.

If you are looking for more information about any of the R. Lalique models that sold in this sale (or any that didn’t), check out the R. Lalique Catalog here at RLalique.com.

All in all, another great day for the great Rene Lalique.

* “Been to the rodeo before” or “This ain’t my first rodeo” are American expressions indicating that the same thing has happened or been experienced before, or something that’s happening is familiar.

** Here at RLalique.com, we noticed a couple of years ago during our daily world wide auction searches, a spate of supposed grey glass R. Lalique Bacchantes Vases appearing at auction in Europe. They were highly suspicious for their numbers, and for a couple of other reasons best kept close to the vest. They had concave bottoms and what appeared to some to be passable signatures. But of course, R. Lalique Gray Bacchantes Vases do not drop like overripe mangos from a rainforest tree, so both eyebrows and alarms were raised. We talked to the purchaser of one of the vases, and it turned out in due time that this purchaser’s vase was in fact a modern crystal reproduction, heavily worked with a false signature applied, to be passed off as authentic R. Lalique. We can only assume 🙂 because of the vase, the color, and the timing of the consignor’s acquisitions, that the withdrawal was well advised and foreseeable.

*** Gray is a color, and for this color-blind writer (in both a physical and metaphysical sense), it is the most prevalent color. 🙂 Black on the other hand is really the absence of color, but black R. Lalique items are considered by most, from a collecting standpoint to be colored pieces. The Oracle says this is the correct view on all levels (again, both physically and metaphysically speaking), as Rene Lalique could not have produced a true, colorless black glass.

**** We have Lot 10, the red Escargot Vase, as having passed at £18,000 and not selling. The published sales results show that vase selling for £20,000 plus £7500 premium, for an all-in total of £27,500 and this amount along with the sale is included in the reported results above. We assume it sold after it passed (non-buyers remorse?), but fast enough to beat the results to press and be included just as if it sold from the podium.

***** The dark amber glass Serpent Vase in this sale is likely the previous world auction record holder from Heritage Auctions, where it made just a bit less. This standout example of the classic deco design graced the halls of World Headquarters for many years before being released to set the world record price for the model on now two different occasions.

****** Thankfully, the Christie’s London staff had the good sense not to repeat the November 1995 Park Avenue catalog calumny that only five of these green opalescent Rampillon Vases are known to exist. This author once had three of them in hand at the same time (yah yah, big hands) and pulled out that catalog just to have a good laugh.

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