Russian buyer pre-empts Dallas Auction to buy Tsarist vases for US$2.7m

Apr 13th, 2013 | By | Category: Journal

Two 4.5 foot Russian vases formerly belonging to Frank and Merle Buttram.

Two large 19th-century Russian vases were sold for $2.7 million recently in a private sale less than a week before they were to be auctioned with a much lower estimate in a Dallas Auction.  This disappointed many Russian buyers who had been considering buying at the sale.  The buyer of the vases is unknown but trade rumours have suggested Yelena Nikolayevna Baturina (Еле́на Никола́евна Бату́рина), Russia’s richest woman, who is known to have a passion for Tsarist porcelain of this type.  Baturina’s husband, Yuri Luzkhov, was mayor of Moscow from 1992 to 2010.

Frank Buttram

Frank Buttram.

Buttram and his wife Merle bought the two 4.5 foot Russian vases at the Bernheimer Gallery in Munich during their tour of Europe in the mid-1920’s and installed them in the foyer of their Oklahoma City home.

“Interest in the Russian Imperial vases was very strong and came from around the world,” said Scott Shuford, president of Dallas Auction Gallery, in an e-mailed statement.   The auction house, which had assigned an estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million to the pair, agreed to the private sale.

The bandeau-shaped vases stood 4.5 feet tall and featured deep burgundy ground and gilded ornaments. Their origins in St. Petersburg’s Imperial Porcelain Factory were confirmed by Ekaterina Khmelnitskaya, curator of porcelain at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

The sellers were grandsons of Frank Buttram, Randy and Preston Buttram.

“While the Buttram family was excited about offering the vases at auction, it was our responsibility in representing them to reflect any private offers that might come in,” Shuford said.

Frank Buttram, the original owner, was a rags-to-riches oil magnate and founder of Buttram Energies Inc. Born in a log cabin in Oklahoma’s Indian Territory, he made his fortune before turning 30 and was one of five founding members of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

Tags: Frank and Merle Buttram, Imperial Russian Vases, Russian art market., St Petersburg Imperial Porcelain factory, Tsarist Vases, Yelena Baturina

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