John Otar Box Humidor
John Otar Box Humidor
Designer: John Nicholas Otar (1891 – 1939)
Item: Cigarette Box Humidor
Manufactured by: John Nicholas Otar
Country of origin: United States
Year made: Circa 1928
Materials: Copper and brass
Dimensions: 5 ¾” x 6 ½” x 6 ½”
Condition: Very good vintage condition. Retains all its original components. Two corners of bottom base plate are slightly bent upward.
References: Tigerman, Bobbye, ed. A Handbook of California Design, 1930-1965: Craftspeople, Designers, Manufacturers, MIT Press, (2013); Kaplan, Wendy, ed. Living in a Modern Way: California Design 1930 – 1965, MIT Press (2011); Duncan, Alistair, American Art Deco,Abrams (1986); Brave New Worlds: America’s Futurist Vision, Exhibition Catalog for The Mitchell Wolfson Jr. Collection of Decorative and Propaganda Arts (1984).
Description: Here is a rare and exceptional copper and brass Art Deco machine age era cigarette box humidor designed by John Nicholas Otar circa 1928. It consists of individual copper and brass triangular plates that are stacked in a twisting spiral form, with a round copper lid and brass finial. This is an earlier example of Otar’s work, because it is signed on the lid and on the bottom in a triangle: “Otar, USA, Pat. Pend”, which means it was created prior to Otar obtaining his patent in 1933 for his “flexible” construction technique. This example is medium to larger sized and one of the more sophisticated twist designs. It retains its original internal cigarette holder attached to the lid, which are often missing. Otar’s boxes can be found in many important museum decorative arts collections such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Dallas Museum of Art. In April 2019 a smaller, and in our humble opinion, stylistically inferior example sold at Heritage Auctions for $2,750 (includes buyer premium).
Otar was a Russian immigrant who moved to the United States and settled in Santa Cruz, California, in the early 1920s. Contemporary publications noted Otar’s studio produced iron, copper, and brass lamps; door-knockers; fire screens; chandeliers; sconces; hinges; brackets; and other items for both residential and commercial clients, but relatively few of these early works have been identified. He remained active in Santa Cruz until his death in 1939.