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Former design professor's 50-year collection of holiday antiques takes the auction spotlight at Morphy's
Schoenhut Christmas clockwork picture of Victorian family around a Christmas tree as Santa peers in from behind a curtain, 1880. Est. $4,000-$8,000.

DENVER, PA.- For decades, cherry-cheeked Santas and cackling witches stood compatibly alongside Easter bunnies and turkeys in the Dolph Gotelli holiday collection. Now the colorful parade of characters will cross the auction block together at Morphy’s, on October 24-25. The 818-lot single-owner sale selection showcases both antique and high-quality contemporary designer pieces, each one reflecting Gotelli’s discerning eye for color, form and whimsy. All forms of bidding will be available, including live online via Morphy Live.

Gotelli, who is active in the Golden Glow of Christmas Past, a club whose 2,000 members are enthusiastic buyers of Christmas antiques, has spent more than half a century pursuing his passion and curating his collection from the standpoint of a qualified art expert.

“For 35 years, Dolph was a professor of design at the University of Califormia, Davis. He’s an internationally renowned authority and lecturer on Christmas-related subjects and has certainly earned his nickname of ‘Father Christmas,’” said Dan Morphy, president of Morphy Auctions.

At the core of the Gotelli collection are Victorian holiday treasures, including toys, dolls, decorations, ephemera and folk art. One of his top prizes is a 31½-inch German clockwork Santa nodder dressed in an ankle-length hooded robe with a basketful of vintage toys suspended from his rope belt. An example whose condition would be hard to improve upon, it is estimated at $5,000-$10,000.

A most unusual candy container, one of possibly only two known, is a figural depiction of Santa in a hooded green coat with flocked boots. On his back is a yellow woven basket whose lid opens to access candy. In excellent-plus to near-mint condition, the 11½-inch-tall candy container is expected to make $3,000-$5,000.

American antiques dealer and holiday specialist Cheryl Mackley, who cataloged the Gotelli collection for Morphy’s [together with dealer and ephemera expert Scott Bullock], said she expects strong bidder interest in two circa-1880 Christmas clockwork pictures by Schoenhut. “In all my years in the business, I have never before seen those two particular pictures,” Mackley said. “They’re truly exceptional.”

When wound up, each of the artful productions – which Schoenhut called “moving pictures” – is a mini Christmas scene brought to life. Lot 565, estimated at $2,000-$6,000, shows Santa coming down a fireplace and a child in bed, who pops up in surprise, then lies back down. Lot 566 is a charming scene of a family engaged in various activities by the Christmas tree, while Santa peers in from behind a curtain. It is entered in the sale with a $4,000-$8,000 estimate.

Another endearing clockwork item is the large German wind-up Santa trade stimulator that depicts Santa in a purple hooded robe, standing in a snowy setting. When wound up, Santa’s head moves back and forth as he pulls a jumping jack out of his toy bag, pulls the string to activate it, then drops it back into the bag. Three small children look on, two of them with motion. Estimate: $4,000-$6,000

“Not surprisingly, Dolph always favored antique ephemera, games, puzzles and sets of lithographed blocks, which all Christmas collectors are drawn to because of the wonderful late-19th and early 20th century artistry,” Mackley said. Among the finest examples in the Gotelli collection are two boxed games by McLoughlin Brothers: “The Visit of Santa Claus,” $2,000-$4,000; and “Aunt Louisa’s Cube Puzzles, patented in 1884, $2,000-$3,000. An early and very desirable embossed-cardboard die-cut of Santa with a bag of toys, which Mackley described as “extremely hard to find,” carries a $2,000-$3,000 estimate.

Within the 28 lots of Halloween treats, bidders will find both vintage material and superbly designed and crafted artists’ creations. An impressive German witch helmet mask of painted gesso is masterfully sculpted with all of the characteristics associated with the classic Halloween character, including large, frightening eyes and a snaggle-toothed mouth. Estimate: $1,000-$2,000

There are several outstanding contemporary creations by artist Jack Roads, whose imaginative themes and imagery reinterpret traditional Halloween concepts and characters and transport them into a new realm of fantasy. Roads’ extraordinary witch standing nearly four feet tall is clothed in antique fabrics and holds a pumpkin with a built-in lever. When the included beanbag is tossed and lands successfully inside the pumpkin, the lever is tripped, causing the bats on her shoulders to move up and down. This remarkable artwork made in 1993 is estimated at $2,000-$5,000.

The Oct. 24-25, 2018 auction of the Dolph Gotelli holiday collection will start at 9 a.m. Eastern Time at Morphy’s gallery in Denver, Pa. All forms of bidding will be available,

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