The Helen and David Milling Collection, featuring the finest British and American art pottery and glass from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, will be showcased at Bonhams this December. Over the span of half a century, the Michigan couple meticulously assembled an exceptional collection from some of the era’s most renowned potters, designers, and artists. This distinguished assortment comprises more than 350 lots, to be presented across three sales this December: 20th Century Decorative Arts and Ceramics on December 5 in London, Modern Decorative Art & Design on December 12 in New York, and the dedicated Helen and David Milling Online auction from December 8–18 at Bonhams Skinner.
Helen and David, both with backgrounds in the arts and architecture, cultivated a fascination for Arts and Crafts ceramics, Art Nouveau tiles, and American iridescent shades from an early age. Following their marriage, their passion for collecting deepened. United by their love for the Art Nouveau movement and inspired by Robert Schmutzler’s book, “Art Nouveau” (1964), they were drawn to vibrant colors and fantastical designs.
Their focus extended to English Art Nouveau tiles and American iridescent lamp shades crafted by Tiffany Studios, Quezal, and Steuben. Over time, their collection expanded to encompass Arts & Crafts designs, including ceramics by notable makers such as William De Morgan (1839-1917), Walter Crane (1845-1915), and Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898) for William Morris (1834-1896). The resulting collection pays homage to the Victorian era and reflects a lifelong commitment to acquiring high-quality works.
The December 5 sale in London will feature 79 works from the collection, including the noteworthy ‘Hearing,’ an Important ‘Senses’ ceramic figural panel designed by Walter Crane (British, 1845-1915) for Pilkington’s, circa 1900. Estimated at £8,000 – 12,000, this rare panel depicts a classical maiden cupping one ear with her hand and holding a lyre in the other. Also featured is the ‘Alfred Ye Greate’ panel, after Ford Maddox Brown, 1900 by Harold Steward Rathbone (British 1858-1929) for Della Robbia Pottery, estimated at £3,000 – 5,000. This molded ceramic panel in two sections depicts the Saxon King Alfred and is painted in colors and glazed.
The Modern Decorative Art & Design sale on December 12 in New York will include 52 works, with a highlight being a mosaic panel designed by Louis C. Tiffany, circa 1890, estimated at $30,000 – 50,000. Rare examples of Tiffany Studios’ mosaic panels commissioned for specific interiors and architectural projects are highly sought after. Another notable piece is William De Morgan’s (1839-1917) Three-tile Frieze, circa 1890-1900, estimated at $15,000 – 25,000, featuring fantasy birds in the triple-lustre-glaze technique introduced at the Fulham factory.
The online sale at Bonhams Skinner from December 8 – 18 will offer over 200 lots from the collection, showcasing a diverse range of ceramics and tiles primarily from Victorian England, extending to American Arts and Crafts. The collection encompasses works from renowned design firms of the period, including Royal Doulton, Martin Brothers, Maw & Co., Pilkington, and Wedgwood, reflecting Helen and David Milling’s broad interest in design movements such as Gothic Revival, Aesthetic Movement, Arts and Crafts, and Art Nouveau.
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world’s largest and most renowned auctioneers, offering fine art and collectables, collectors’ cars and a luxury division, which includes jewellery, designer fashion, watches, wine, and whisky. In 2021 and 2022, Bonhams made a number of important acquisitions which form the wider Bonhams network. These include: Bukowskis, Bruun Rasmussen, Bonhams Skinner and Bonhams Cornette de Saint Cyr.
Top lots for 2022 included a 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder (Sold for US$4,185,000), a pair of blue and white octagonal candlesticks (Sold for HK$30,453,00/ US$3,911,913), La femme en rouge au fond bleu by Chaïm Soutine (Sold for £1,842,300/ US$2,236,940), and a rare emerald and diamond Cartier bracelet (Sold for US$3,240,375).
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