Joan Stacke Graham: A Passion for Majolica

03/27/2023     Furniture & Decorative Arts


NEW YORK, NY -- Doyle is honored to present the landmark auction of The Joan Stacke Graham Majolica Collection. Offered in two sessions, The Joane Stacke Graham Majolica Collection: Part II takes place on Tuesday, April 4 at 10am.

Doyle held the sale of Part I of this important and extensive collection in December 2021. With competitive bidding from both sides of the Atlantic, the sale surpassed its presale estimate and totaled $466,683 with an exceptional 97% sold by lot. Read coverage of The Joane Stacke Graham Majolica Collection: Part I in Antiques Trade Gazette.

The late Joan Stacke Graham (1934-2020) was a preeminent expert in the field of majolica – the brilliantly-hued ceramics that filled the hearts and homes of Victorian collectors. Joan began collecting majolica in the 1980s with her good friend Dr. Marilyn G. Karmason. Joan’s daughters Jill and Joyce recall that Joan began collecting ceramics as a way to ease her worry over an ill family member. Her passion for majolica grew so quickly that the collection’s prominence in the Graham home became the subject of daughter Jill’s college entrance essay.

Joan and Marilyn
Joan Stacke Grahm with
Dr. Marilyn G. Karmason
Joan and Marilyn amassed over 2,000 pieces of majolica in their combined collections and, in 1989, authored the first major book on the field entitled Majolica: A Complete History and Illustrated Survey. The book was a collaborative affair; Joan conducted the research, Marilyn wrote the text, and Joan’s husband and daughter provided the photography. The book remains one of the primary texts in the field.

Joan remained a generous friend and colleague in the field of majolica until her death in 2020. She lectured widely on the topic and frequently loaned out works from her collection. Many pieces from her collection were profiled in antique and home decor publications. Joan lived amongst her collection as it was exquisitely displayed in her New York apartment – including a grid-like display of 9 varied garden seats known as the “garden seat wall.”


The Joan Stacke Graham Majolica Collection

Joan was particularly beloved by her friends at the Majolica International Society (MIS), where she served as a founding member and President. Wanda Matthes, current President of the MIS, said of Joan, “She was a magnet...with friends from far and wide. She was dramatic, creative, musical, fierce and most of all fun! And, as her daughters put it, a ‘Majolica maniac’. She was our star... the glue that held us all together. She loved Majolica and The Majolica Society. She was our ambassador, our recruiter and our talent scout! She found new members and cultivated their friendships. She knew instinctively who was good officer material for the MIS.”

In 2020 and 2021, Joan and her family loaned significant parts of her collection to the long-anticipated Majolica Mania exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center and The Walters Art Gallery. Sadly, Joan passed away before the exhibition opened. The monumental three-volume exhibition catalogue is dedicated to Joan Stacke Graham.

The Joan Stacke Graham Majolica Collection Parts I & II will feature over 300 lots, comprising garden seats and garden pots, life-sized animals, soup tureens, game pie dishes, sardine boxes, oyster and strawberry plates, humidors and myriad other forms that originally filled the conservatories, dining rooms and parlors of Victorian collectors.



The Joan Stacke Graham Majolica Collection
The encyclopedic collection includes many works by Mintons, the firm that introduced majolica to great acclaim at London’s 1851 Great Exhibition, and by George Jones, whose majolica works are known for their great wit and whimsy. The Continental pieces in the collection include extraordinary and large-scale works by French ceramicist Delphin Massier, most notable among them a butterfly (that Joan was quite relieved to have acquired intact through eBay in South America) and two grasshoppers. The collection also includes American majolica by Griffen, Smith and Hill, Eureka and Morley Pottery.

The Joan Stacke Graham Majolica CollectionMelissa Bennie, ceramics expert and guest specialist for this collection says, “Joan was an inspiring and inclusive collector. She enjoyed sharing her knowledge and welcoming guests into her home to study pieces in-depth. She reveled in the nuance and history of each piece and designed her warm Manhattan apartment around their strong colors and bold design. Each carefully chosen new acquisition would spark inquiry, start a conversation among her extensive network of friends and broaden ties across international lines. For example, the day the Massive Delphin Massier butterfly arrived gave me and all who knew her a new meaning to the term ‘Butterfly Effect.’”

The many highlights in the collection reveal Joan’s significant and focused understanding of the material. They coalesce around her fascination with both Renaissance and Palissy ware antecedents, as well as a resounding appreciation of the beauty and ferocity of nature. Joan’s Minton majolica vulture and serpent teapot, which is currently on tour and will be featured in Part II of the auction, perfectly encapsulates this sentiment.

The Joan Stacke Graham Majolica Collection: Part II
Auction Tuesday, April 4 at 10am EDT
Exhibition April 1-3

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The Joan Stacke Graham Majolica Collection