Isamu Noguchi Radio Nurse, ca. 1937
I got this from an auction in Kansas.
And how long ago was that?
About ten years ago.
It's called "Radio Nurse." It was produced by Zenith, and it dates from around 1937. It is actually a kind of an early baby monitor. It sprang up out of the fear that was generated after the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. You've got two parts to it. You've got the guardian ear, which actually would sit in your baby's room, and then the speaker, which would go wherever you would want it in order to monitor it. What's significant about this piece is the design. It's an excellent example of modern design by a very famous Japanese-American designer called Isamu Noguchi. Noguchi was born in Los Angeles, but spent much of his life in Japan. Noguchi went on to design furniture, and he was influential to current American designers and architects all over the world. And this is very typical of his design. He's combining machine elements with the human form. I mean, it's called "Radio Nurse," and this looks like a nurse's head, you can see the face, and then you can see her kind of hat draped around the back to the side. And the reason it's so scarce today is because during the war, a lot of these were trashed because of the Japanese association with them. And Noguchi, as a Japanese-American designer, his stock continues to rise, and this has become, like, a classic icon of his work. And you see it in all the modern design collections in museums throughout the country. You often just see this speaker. It's not as interesting, this part, because it's not as interestingly designed. It often gets thrown away. And it's the original finish on it. It's pretty significant to have it. This case is okay-- it could be buffed up a little, but they're easily cracked, because it is Bakelite.
You remember how much you paid for it originally?
I believe it was $25, $35.
A piece like this, in the current market is easily in the $2,000 to $2,500 range, and I'm really excited that you brought it on, and thanks for bringing it in.
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