Mottahedeh urn with eagle medallion is 20th-century copy of Chinese antique

CURIOUS COLLECTOR

June 27, 1993|By Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen | Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen,Contributing Writers

Q:My 14-inch high, covered, two-handle ceramic urn (missing its finial) is decorated with a blue and gold swag and an American eagle in a medallion. It's marked "A Mot tahedeh Design 7001 Italy." A friend thought it might be old and valuable. Is it?

A: Mottahedeh & Co., the Stamford, Conn., based creator and importer of porcelain dinnerware and decorative accessories, has been reproducing antique china and decorative accessories since 1927, specializing in licensed reproductions for institutions such as Winterthur, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Historic Charleston, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. They're marked to distinguish them from the originals and sold nationwide in department stores and gift shops and through decorators. Your vase, faithfully copying a circa 1785 Chinese Export pistol-handled urn made for the American market, dates from the 1970s and was produced in Italy. Its last retail selling price was $190 in 1977, according to old Mottahedeh catalogs.

Mildred Mottahedeh, the firm's 84-year-old co-founder and a renowned collector of antique porcelain, generally advises people to take "the last retail selling price and multiply by three" -- to determine the value of out-of-production Mottahedeh pieces like yours. That's probably true for some of her larger and rarer reproductions, but many others sell for around what they cost new, assuming they're in good condition, according to auctioneer William Doyle, of William Doyle Galleries, 175 E. 87th St., New York, N.Y. 10128, (212) 427-2730, where Mottahedeh reproductions often come up in estate sales. Your urn's value is reduced greatly by its missing finial and the fact that it's a single piece rather than a pair. It probably would fetch under $50 at auction, Mr. Doyle said.

Q: Is my hand-colored Wallace Nutting photograph titled "Returning from a Walk" valuable? It's a lovely interior scene of a young woman sitting at the foot of a staircase with a straw hat in her hand.

A: Photographer Wallace Nutting (1861-1941) produced millions of hand-colored "platinotypes" (photographs printed on platinum paper) like your circa 1915 image taken while residing in Massachusetts. It was one of his more popular pictures and thousands of copies were made and sold. Still fairly common, it's worth about $200 to $300, assuming it measures around 14 by 17 inches and is in mint condition, according to Michael Ivankovich, who holds semi-annual auctions devoted entirely to Wallace Nutting photographs, books and furniture.

' Solis-Cohen Enterprises

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