The vessel’s sensuous shape also seduces brother Leslie, who stops by on a break from his senior vice presidential duties at Sotheby’s. The special, rapid-fire rap of twins makes it impossible to tell who said what, but both agree that the “organic modern form” conjures up visions of “fecundity.” The burl itself, however, is actually an irregular growth, “like a wart on a tree,” Leslie explains. But in the hands of able craftsmen, the wart turns into a beauty mark.
The duo value this bowl for its outstanding design—swooping lines, raised, beveled handles that curve in, and an earthy red surface that shows its age. Besides, the bowl smells as good as it looks. “It’s a buttery-doughy-spicy scent,” says Leslie, who shuts his eyes and sniffs. Add to this some killer provenance: It was once owned by artist Andy Warhol protégé Baby Jane Holzer and displayed in her Southampton home, Chestertown, built by Winterthur founder Henry Francis du Pont. “It’s a keeper,” says Leigh, who nailed it at Christie’s for $180,000, a record price for American burl at auction.