Rago Arts and Auction - Frederick Rhead Vase

March 21, 2007

Lambertville, NJ -- The hammer fell and a record shattered at the Rago Arts and Auction Center on March 10 with the sale of a rare vase by Frederick H. Rhead that brought $516,000. Made in Santa Barbara, Calif., around 1915 and decorated with a stylized California landscape, the 11 ¼-inch vase sold to the Two Red Roses Foundation in western Florida. Prices quoted include a 20 percent buyer's premium.

"Frederick Rhead was an incredibly talented artist," said David Rago. "He learned his craft in England, then came to the United States and fused our decorative trends with his European tastes, creating a style that was very individual and yet universally beautiful. I used to be able to say that he was underappreciated. Those days are over."

Rhead (1880-1942) was born in Hanley, Staffordshire, England into a family of potters. His father trained at the Minton pottery before working for a number of firms including his own. Frederick's siblings included Charlotte Rhead, a talented designer. Before emigrating to the United States of America in 1902, Rhead served an apprenticeship under his father and also taught art.

Rhead worked for several American potteries, including Weller and Roseville. During his tenure as art director at the Homer Laughlin China Co. in Newell, W.V., he designed a line of glazed dinnerware based on a stylized Art Deco theme. The line was named Fiesta and was introduced in 1936. It became one of the best-selling lines of dinnerware ever made.

The record-setting Rhead vase (estimated at $40,000-$50,000) was consigned by former Green Bay Packers' linebacker Jim Carter and his wife, Victoria Miller (see sidebar). They also consigned a Harvey Ellis-designed Gustav Stickley inlaid desk with the original glass inkwells that realized $21,600.

Other highlights from the two-day sale included a dramatic folk-art screen housing 36 of Frank A. Rinehart's photos of American Indians, taken during the Indian Congress at the 1898 World's Fair in Omaha, Neb. The screen, estimated at $30,000-$50,000, sold for $180,000. More than 8 feet tall, it came directly from Vancroft, the Wellsburg, W.V., home built as a hunting lodge for Joseph B. Vandergrift in 1901. The screen was one of 35 lots from the home, coming to market for the first time since their creation.

Included in the Vancroft lots were two Grueby-tile-topped stands. One Gustav Stickley tabouret-form stand with a hexagonal tile brought $21,600. The second Stickley stand, with a restored finish and a cracked tile, brought $9,600.

An advertising tile decorated with a blue rook and the word Rookwood sold for $26,400. Such dealer tiles were not meant for commercial sale. It was mounted in period frame and had minor nicks to two corners. The tile itself measured 4-½ inches by 9 inches.

Selling within estimate was a Handel floor lamp with a paneled cattail shade that reached $36,000. Standing 63 inches tall, it had a three-socket fluted bronzed base with sphinx.