Dirk Van Erp Lamp, ca. 1910
Appraised Value: $40,000 - $50,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (3:39)
Pottery & Porcelain
Rago Arts & Auction Center
APPRAISER: So you said you bought this piece with your mother?
GUEST: Yes, we went to an auction in Eastern Kentucky, and for some reason she really liked it, so she bought it at the auction. Probably 20, 25 years ago.
APPRAISER: And you said you paid how much for this?
GUEST: About-- I think it was about $100 or $150. I do know it's made by Dirk Van Erp...
GUEST: ...but I don't know anything about the history of him or where he's from or-- I don't know anything about the lamp.
APPRAISER: Dirk Van Erp was a San Francisco Bay Area metalsmith. He defined what coppersmithing was for the Arts and Crafts movement in America. He had many people who followed in his wake, but this fabulous wrought copper mica schist lamp was what Dirk Van Erp was known to have created and popularized. This is an early version of a Van Erp lamp. He made them for a number of years, starting at around 1908. His son was still making them into the '30s and '40s, from what I'm told. There's several ways we know this is an earlier lamp. Number one, the structural detailing. You see the way these straps or struts come up to the top...
APPRAISER: ...and then they're riveted into place?
APPRAISER: On a later lamp, this strut would be on the outside on the bottom and on the inside at the top.
APPRAISER: So you wouldn't have this detail work. It would be a lot faster and a lot easier to make. These darker patinas tend to be on earlier lamps, too. This is almost a black patination. Now, there are some later lamps with darker patinas, but by and large, when you have a patina this dark on a Van Erp lamp, it's an earlier version. Third, these are panels of mica schist that have been curved. This orange color that we're seeing right here?
APPRAISER: This is typical of an earlier Van Erp shade. This is what we look for.
GUEST: The orange.
APPRAISER: Deep chocolate brown and kind of an orange-y mica. I'm gonna pop the shade here and show you this from the inside. These clips that we're seeing here-- if this mica had been replaced, a lot of these clips would have been bent back. They're just little strips of copper holding it in place. That's how I know this mica's all original to the piece, because those copper strips are bent once by Van Erp when this was made around 1910.
GUEST: Oh, really?
APPRAISER: Another thing I wanted to show is this gentle curve to the arms that we're seeing here.
APPRAISER: That's typical of an earlier lamp. The later ones tended to have straight arms rather than curved light. These are the original sockets without the original pulls-- the original pulls would have had little acorns at the bottom-- but that's okay. We're happy with the original sockets. Originality is a big thing. Number one, the original mica, and number two, the original patina. Whatever this lamp is worth, it'd be worth one-fifth of that if these things had been altered. One more thing I want to show is that underneath it, we have... the Van Erp mark.
GUEST: The marking.
APPRAISER: We know it's early 'cause this mark is the windmill with Dirk Van Erp, and around that mark is a rectangular box that's completely closed. That dates to before 1912.
GUEST: Oh, really?
APPRAISER: If the box had been open at all, it'd be a later mark and a later lamp and not as good.
APPRAISER: So these are all the attributes that denote this as an early Van Erp lamp. What determines the value, in addition to originality and the beauty of it, is the scarcity of the form. I've never seen this Van Erp lamp before, and I've probably seen-- I've seen hundreds of these things.
APPRAISER: I've never seen this form before. Van Erp was the ultimate in coppersmithing.
APPRAISER: This lamp is a tribute and a symbol of the heights to which he took that craft. I'm going to give you an auction estimate. What it sells for at auction comes down to what two or three people decide they want to pay that day. If I was going to put this at auction, I would estimate it for about between $40,000 and $50,000. And I got to tell you, because it's such a rare lamp, it could go for double, triple that.
GUEST: Oh, my gosh.
APPRAISER: You just don't know what they're going to bring. This is such a rare lamp, it's anybody's guess.
GUEST: Oh, that's fabulous.
APPRAISER: Thank you so much. It's great to see it.
GUEST: Thank you so much.
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