Collectors searching for designs by de Forest


Artists often create many different kinds of art: paintings, etchings, prints, ceramics, jewelry, furniture, marble sculptures, bronzes and perhaps designs for commercial products. So it is possible to buy a piece of jewelry by Alexander Calder for far less than one of his large mobiles. Or an electric fan or pedal car designed by Viktor Schreckengost, who is best known for making the ceramic “Jazz Bowl,” an icon that has sold for as much as $200,000. Works by famous artists can be part of your collection if you buy war bond posters (Norman Rockwell) or advertising figures (Maxfield Parrish) or teapots (Michael Graves).

Lockwood de Forest (1850-1932) was an American artist and decorator who worked in the American Orientalist style, influenced by his travels in India and the Middle East. By 1915, he had moved to California, and his paintings were typical California landscapes. Today collectors are again searching for some of his furniture, jewelry and textiles made after 1879 at the Ahmedabad Wood Carving Co. and later at Tiffany.

De Forest’s furniture was modeled after chairs he had seen in Indian palaces. It was hand-crafted of teak, brass and other materials. A pair of 1881 chairs designed by de Forest sold for $242,500 at Bonhams New York in September. But bidding on the chairs may have gone that high because de Forest used them in his home — and they were later purchased by William Randolph Hearst, the famous newspaper publisher.

Q: I have a picture of a bouquet of flowers painted on porcelain. It is framed and there is a label on the back that reads “A Mottahedeh Design.” I would love to know more about it and its value.

A: Mottahedeh &Co. was founded in 1929 by Rafi and Mildred Mottahedeh. The couple had the largest privately held collection of Chinese Export porcelain in the world at that time. The company made reproductions of pieces in the collection as well as copies of other fine china. The reproductions were sold at Tiffany &Co. and gift shops.

Mottahedeh also made reproductions of museum pieces, including items made of porcelain, brass, crystal, silver and stoneware. It has made reproductions for the White House, the State Department and several museums and historical sites. The company was sold in 1992, but it’s still in business, making reproductions. It has headquarters in Cranbury, N.J. Value of your painted porcelain plaque is about $150.

Q: My mother saved S&H Green Stamps in the 1970s, and she used the stamps to get me a bank that looked like a little cash register. It was green and had a panel on the front that read “Uncle Sam’s 3 Coin Register Bank.” I loved it, but I lost it years ago.

In 1996 we bought a house and found the same kind of bank in our attic, but this one is black tin. It has the same front panel. I can read only the bottom of the faded back panel, which reads “Durable Toy &Novelty Co., Division of Western Stamping Co., Jackson, Michigan.” Does this toy we found in the attic have any value?

A: Durable Toy &Novelty Co. invented a single-coin Uncle Sam’s register bank in 1906. The three-coin version was first made in 1923. It was made of cold rolled steel, and instructions for operating the bank were painted on the back. The bank accepts nickels, dimes and quarters and can’t be opened until $10 has been deposited.

Western Stamping Co. bought Durable Toy &Novelty Co. in 1958 and continued to make the three-coin bank until the 1980s. Production was moved to Asia in the 1960s, and the bank was then made of tin instead of steel. The tin bank was made in different enameled colors, including black, green and red. A limited edition was made in chrome in 1981 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the bank. Your black tin bank was made after 1960 and sells for $15 to $25.

Q: I have some old postcards with colored drawings of the head and shoulders of pretty women wearing big hats or Indian headdresses. The pictures are copyrighted by Schlesinger Bros., New York. What are they worth?

A: The Schlesinger brothers were photographers in business in New York from 1907 until the 1920s. The company published greeting cards as well as postcards. The pictures on your postcards are hand-colored photomechanical reproductions of pencil drawings. They also were produced in a large size, suitable for framing and hanging on the wall. Postcards with pictures like yours sell for about $10 each.

Q: I have a wooden coat hanger marked “W.J. Woods, Springfield’s oldest clothing store, established 1848.” The “arms” of the hanger can be folded so that it completely collapses for storage. Can you tell me when it was made?

A: The W.J. Woods Co. sold clothing for men and boys. It had stores in several cities in Massachusetts, including Springfield, Worcester, Utica, Providence and Brockton. It was in business until at least the 1920s.

Terry Kovel’s column is syndicated by King Features. Write to Kovels, (Las Vegas Review-Journal), King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

 

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