Czarist Vases Sell Privately for $2.7 Million Pre-Auction

Buttram Russian Vases
Two 4.5 foot Russian vases formerly belonging to Frank and Merle Buttram. They will be auctioned in Texas on April 17. Source: Randy Buttram via Bloomberg

April 11 (Bloomberg) -- Two large 19th-century Russian vases sold for $2.7 million today in a private transaction less than a week before they were to be auctioned with a much lower estimate.

“Interest in the Russian Imperial vases has been very strong and has come 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, arranged 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 Randy and Preston Buttram, whose grandparents bought the vases in the mid-1920s from the Bernheimer Gallery in Munich and installed them in the foyer of their Oklahoma City house.

“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.

The grandfather, Frank Buttram, 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.

The auction, Antiques, Fine Art & Estate Jewelry, will take place as planned on April 17 and will include diamond rings, Rolex watches and a baby grand piano.

Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars, Warwick Thompson on music.

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at