David Rago on the Lewis Estate and the Present Lot

One of the enduring tales of the renaissance of early 20th century decorative ceramics is that, when the famed studio at University City, Missouri dissolved in 1915, Mabel and Edward G. Lewis absconded to Atascadero, California with the remaining unsold works created there during its brief existence. Masterpieces by the western world’s greats, such as Adelaide Robineau, Taxile Doat, and Frederick Rhead, comprised this trove, where it sat undisturbed for over half a century. Pieces of the fabled Lewis collection found their way to the market over the years, often in small groups or individual pieces in the antiques shops and swap meets of central California.  

The present lot is one such example, an extraordinary hybridization of the old and new world idea of Art Nouveau expressed in ceramics at the highest level. A rare gourd form, with a perfectly fired crystalline glaze, this vase has both an ideal provenance and the benefit of having been exhibited decades ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is offered here for sale for only the second time since leaving the Lewis’ personal collection.