auctioneers and valuers
Nic Saintey
On this page....
Torquay Pottery Grotesques – A Menagerie of Monstrosities
British Commemorative Ceramics and Bonaparte - The Bogey Man Returns
The Roy Paine Collection – Dating Torquay Pottery
Torquay Pottery: Aller Vale Boer War Commemoratives – Tommy Atkins a Local Hero
Torquay Pottery Auction: The Roy Paine Collection
A Staffordshire group the Death of Lt Munroe: More Zero than Hero?
Rhead Pottery: The Penny Drops!
Rhead Pottery: It’s obvious …isn’t it?
Frederick Rhead Pottery: Broken Pots aren't Useless Pots
Charlotte Rhead Pottery – Keeping it in the Family
The Rhead-Cronin Collection: Provenance, Provenance, Provenance
The Rhead-Cronin Collection: The Family Tree - Part One
Painted Porcelain Plaques: Attention to Detail
Chinese Porcelain: Lost in Translation
A Worcester Transparent Rock Butter Boat: Rarity in Abundance
The Portland Vase and Wedgwood: you couldn't make it up.
The Staffordshire Lion: King of the Jungle or Bit Part Player?
Symbolism and Chinese porcelain: a spot of Animal Magic
Kinkozan Sobei Satsuma: a city slicker or country lass?
Royal Doulton; Florence Barlow, Charles Noke and customer service.
Chinese porcelain: a Fanghu to the costly Mr Pronk
Josiah Wedgwood, Jasper and the Perfected Car
The innocent eye, Bow porcelain and a North Devon harvest jug
The Tryhorn Collection of 18th century porcelain: Beauty and the Beasts.
Bow porcelain, Plymouth porcelain and Kakiemon plates: I can only dream.
Chinese and Worcester porcelain and James Giles as well: Who’s who?
Worcester porcelain versus Bow: A score draw or a loss for London?
18th century porcelain: Ornithology, symbolism or just plain pretty?
Chantilly porcelain: What goes around comes around.
Saint Cloud porcelain for auction: A case of 'sour grapes'?
Bristol porcelain: The hard stuff takes a pasting again!
Longton Hall porcelain for auction: An Englishman’s home is his castle.
Plymouth porcelain: Hard stuff and hard luck!
Kakiemon porcelain for auction: Oh yes I’m the great pretender.
Chelsea porcelain for auction: The Chelsea flower show
Bow porcelain, turning Japanese.
Bow porcelain for auction, a Chinese Takeaway.
Bow porcelain, primacy, secrecy and science.
Staffordshire Pottery animals: Eating Humble Pie
Staffordshire Pottery: The Spoils of War – the other side.
Staffordshire Pottery – a collection of Staffordshire figures for auction: A bad change of career
Staffordshire Pottery – A Collection of Staffordshire figures for sale: Breaking bad habits.
Staffordshire Pottery Auction:Staffordshire Pottery Figure - Keeping warm in church.
Flawed beauty; Tulipmania; Broken Isnik Dishes
Carl Theodor: Frankenthal Porcelain and Best Intentions
Elsmore & Forster: Their role in sleepless nights
Wedgwood: The Ceramic Coffin
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About Nic Saintey
Nic Saintey is a director and a specialist in ceramics. His effervescent nature and wide experience has seen him regularly appear as an expert on the BBC's Bargain Hunt and Flog It programmes
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The material published in this web log is for general purposes only. It does not constitute nor is it intended to represent professional advice. You should always seek specific professional advice in relation to particular issues. The information in this web log is provided "as is" with no warranties and confers no rights. The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions.

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Review Entries for Day Saturday, October 25, 2014

Whilst Roy Paine’s collection of Torquay and South Devon pottery was a broad, he certainly seemed to have a soft spot for ‘grotesques’. Those who have read my earlier blogs will note I have already featured a Sea Creature jug and a thoroughly bizarre ewer. Certainly there are precedents for these beasties in the form of the disturbing taxidermy tableaux created by Walter Potter, during the latter half of the 19th century, which included kitten weddings, four legged hens, guinea pig cricketers and frogs on see-saws. So it seems pretty unsurprising that Watcombe might attempt to meet this fashion with an anthropomorphic frog and a banjo playing cat.


 a watcombe pottery frog and shell group, circa 1885-95 (fs24/457).

A Watcombe pottery frog and shell group, circa 1885-95 (FS24/457).


 a watcombe pottery winking cat circa 1900-20 (fs24/505).

A Watcombe pottery winking cat circa 1900-20 (FS24/505).

Adding to this both Aller Vale and Longpark used a menagerie of different dragons either coiled around candlesticks (FS24/467)  or passing effortlessly through the body of ewers (FS24/472), but this was subject matter covered by their commercial rivals in Barnstaple and everyone who has read a fairy tale is already familiar with these monsters. What is more interesting to collectors of Torquay pottery grotesques are those more ‘trippy’ flights of fancy.

Again it is safe to say there was already an established Victorian precedent for the fantastical; Lewis Carrol, inventor of the Jabberwock, wrote his Alice in Wonderland and the Hunting of the Snark in the 1860s and 1870s and in later decades the Martin Brothers are well known for their stoneware Wally Birds, grotesque reptilian spoon warmers and gloriously a dead parrot! Again the Torquay Potters, particularly Aller Vale, were able to satiate those more unholy desires with their lovably malign series of grotesque jugs and vases – be indelicate with them and you may never flower arrange again.


 aller vale grotesque face jugs a flower arrangers nightmare (fs24/471).

Aller Vale grotesque face jugs a flower arrangers nightmare (FS24/471).

However, it is perhaps the pieces designed by, sometime Torquay inhabitant, Blanche Vuillamy that really strike a chord amongst collectors they are truly the most bizarre. One could be forgiven for thinking that hers was a troubled mind, her creations seem to be Frankenstein like assemblies of mice, frogs and sea creatures with overly large mouths or ears with exaggerated facial features. You might find them disarming, but there are plenty in the West Country that are passionate about them, but as Walter Potter’s collection of taxidermy was housed in the Jamaica Inn, Bolventor for the last decades of the 20th century that’s hardly surprising is it?


an aller vale screaming mouse by blanche vuillamy (fs24/469).

An Aller Vale Screaming Mouse by Blanche Vuillamy (FS24/469).


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Saturday, October 25, 2014 10:22:15 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, October 22, 2014

It was in my blog dated 6th September 2012 that I mentioned ceramic portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte, and it seems two years later and just in time for Halloween that the Bogey Man has returned. I am still fascinated as to why the British would chose to make commemorative ceramic pieces celebrating arch enemies. Sure there are exceptions. Bovey Tracey produced a World War II series entitled ‘Our Gang’, which included soldiers, sailors, wardens and allied leaders, so it seems ‘sort of’ obvious that they would include figures of Hitler and Mussolini as well. The latter are subsequently pretty rare things, I guess either because they were poor sellers or poorly cared for impulse purchases.


a staffordshire pearl glazed bust of napoleon circa 1815 (fs24/439).

A Staffordshire pearl glazed bust of Napoleon circa 1815 (FS24/439).

There is of course always a space for a cheap joke and these tend to be at the ‘toy’ end of the market such as the novelty chamber pot cum ashtray, marked Fieldings (presumably for S Fielding & Co. of Stoke) illustrated above which has an portrait of Hitler on the interior which invites you to ‘Flip your ashes on old nasty’ and infers that you could make a far worse deposit on him.


 an unflattering feilding & co novelty.

An unflattering Feilding & Co novelty.

However, back to Napoleon - the joke need not always be a cheap one. The Cambrian pottery of Dillwyn & Co of Swansea, produced circa 1815, a very desirable jug decorated with a hilarious cartoon after James Brindley entitled ‘Bonapart Dethron’d’ in which our nemesis is taunted by locals and the devil beneath the speech bubble ‘Oh cursed ambition, what hast thou bought Me to Now’?


 a dillwyn (swansea) jug of napoleon dethroned.

A Dillwyn (Swansea) jug of Napoleon Dethroned.

I can understand why the British would wish to portray a defeated foe in a negative light, but for the life of me I cannot comprehend why a potter would wish to produce a flatteringly modelled portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte seemingly months, at most after his defeat by Wellington, and who at that turbulent time, would want to give one pride of place in their library? However, enough water has flowed under the bridge for it to be seen as a sensitively painted bust in which he seems reflective and melancholy, even regretful perhaps.


a diminuative gilt metal model of napoleon's coffin.

A diminuative gilt metal model of Napoleon's coffin.

Although not a piece of ceramic I can help including a small gilt metal novelty (presumably made for attachment to a fob seal or similar) that was consigned for sale recently, that rather shows Napoleon Bonaparte as a Bogey Man. A tiny thing scarcely bigger than a £1 coin it is a sarcophagus shaped coffin, the lid bearing a large ‘N’ within a wreath, presumably produced after his death in 1821. It has a button at one end which ejects a spring loaded and fully resurrected Napoleon.


the bogey man back from the dead.

The Bogey Man back from the dead.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014 7:12:12 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Torquay pottery collected by Roy Paine as previously mentioned does include Aller Vale, Watcombe, Longpark and other South Devon pottery containing frivolous items that would have appealed to West Country holiday makers as well as commemorative and practical pieces. However, whilst dipping a toe in all these fields I am going to concentrate on ‘the face’ of the Torquay potters and with my tongue firmly in my cheek!



 an aller vale matrimony mug (fs24/486).

An Aller Vale matrimony mug (FS24/486).


an upturned aller vale matrimony mug an ideal present for a holiday maker (fs24/486).

An upturned Aller Vale matrimony mug an ideal present for a holiday maker (FS24/486).

Hi I’m an Aller Vale matrimony jug and although it’s considered rude to ask how old I am, I can say I was born in the 1890’s. I live close to the Torquay, and could be your holiday romance if you kiss me quick. I can be silly (when things are going my way) but friends say I need careful handling and can be somewhat changeable and moody. I have been previously married, give me a second chance.



 an aller vale (torquay) gladstone commemorative face jug (fs24/485).

An Aller Vale (Torquay) Gladstone commemorative face jug (FS24/485).

Good day my name is William Ewart Gladstone, I have had a long and distinguished career in politics and if I say so myself I am highly thought of. I am often referred to as GOM. the ‘Grand Old Man’ although a political rival Disraeli said I should be known as ‘God’s Only Mistake’. I am something of a keep fit fanatic who is often seen outside felling trees indeed if I wasn’t so fit I wouldn’t have been Britain’s oldest prime minister at the age of 84. I am also a product of Aller Vale made in the 1890s.



 two watcombe (torquay) pottery cress heads (fs24/453).

Two Watcombe (Torquay) pottery cress heads (FS24/453).

Hi we are Watcombe Pottery ‘cress heads’ and we don’t take life too seriously, as you can see from our bright smiles and equally bright skin tones. Whilst not classical beauties we consider ourselves something of catch – we are earthy gardening types who if you treat us well will reward you. Fill our hollow heads with water and sprinkle cress seeds on our grooves and in time we’ll provide you with lunch – or rather the garnish for your lunch. Better than mere eye candy for your mantelpiece we would consider ourselves a practical addition to your home.



an alle vale (torquay) sea creature jug (fs24/494).

An Alle Vale (Torquay) sea creature jug (FS24/494).

What can I say I’m something of a rarity and must appeal to someone? I’m a so called Aller Vale ‘sea creature’ jug, I’m not the kind who enjoys long evenings in front of a log fire.  However these large lips are just ideal for kissing and to be honest I’d be happy with any offers!

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014 9:30:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, October 20, 2014

Long before I was acquainted with the Torquay pottery collected by Roy Paine, I was aware of the Tommy Atkins pieces produced by Aller Vale but hadn’t really given them much thought. However, on reflection, I wondered why would Torquay produce pottery to celebrate the role of the humble soldier and who is Tommy Atkins anyway?


 tommy atkins - a torquay pottery hero.

Tommy Atkins - a Torquay Pottery hero.


Tommy Atkins had been used as a rather disparaging term for soldiers through much of the 19th century and earlier. I guess this was born out of the fact that those who ‘chose’ to soldier came from the lower end of society, and Devon primarily an agricultural county had its fair share of poor. However, Rudyard Kipling (who incidentally was schooled in Westward Ho! North Devon) did much to improve the profile of Tommy Atkins when he included Tommy in his 1892 Barrack Room Ballads, which included the ironic lines 

"For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an chuck him out the brute!’, ‘But it’s Saviour of ‘is country, when the guns begin to shoot".

Although a soldier's life was subsequently looked upon more sympathetically, it was still met with apathy. The Western Morning News, commenting on recruiting for the First World War, documents the response of a group of farm labourers from Buckland St Mary who said "We’ll go when the farmers’ sons go, Let them lead the way."

With regards to why Aller Vale would produce Boer War commemoratives, well the answer is startlingly obvious, both the 1st and 2nd battalion of the Devon Regiment, were deployed to South Africa in 1898. As a busy regiment recently formed in 1881, it had already seen overseas active service in Afghanistan, Burma and the North West Frontier of India – as now, a source of much angst for friends and family. The 1st battalion alone suffered 95 deaths and 85 injured at the siege of Ladysmith, plenty of whom would have come from Torquay.


 heart felt comments from an aller vale workman.

Heart felt comments from an Aller Vale workman.


So these Aller Vale commemoratives are a piece of potted social history made by locals for the families of fellow county men nearly 8,000 miles away, who were really just labourers and odd job men who happened to be in uniform. I‘ll leave the final words to Kipling:-

‘We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too’, But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you’


 an aller vale tommy atkins boer war commemorative (fs24/488). the palm tree is is less

An Aller Vale Tommy Atkins Boer War commemorative (FS24/488). The palm tree is less South Africa, but alludes to prior campaigns in India and Burma.

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Monday, October 20, 2014 6:58:54 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, October 15, 2014

As an auctioneer, one has to learn to travel everywhere with hope and expectation and not to carry preconceived ideas with you. Sometimes that is a difficult trick to pull off and so when I received a call to look at the collection of Torquay Pottery collected by Roy Paine, I imagined I’d be seeing a room full of ‘kiss me quick’ seaside souvenirs – not that I have anything against pottery produced for day trippers and holiday makers - it’s just not the stuff to set one's heart racing.


 a longpark torquay pottery grotesque ewer (fs24/460).

A Longpark Torquay Pottery grotesque ewer (FS24/460).


Well, when I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. Whilst being vaguely aware the output from Watcombe, Aller Vale, Longpark and others was varied, I had no idea how extensive their repertoire actually was. The collection includes what might be termed ‘high art’ pieces, grotesques, character jugs, some of the finest art pottery and even pieces designed by Christopher Dresser, Blanche Vulliamy and others.


 a more typical aller vale torquay pottery jug in the rare u3 pattern (fs24/498).

A more typical Aller Vale Torquay pottery jug in the rare U3 pattern (FS24/498).


The descriptive term ‘a lifetimes collection’ is one that is often over used, but the Torquay pottery, particularly that from Aller Vale, Watcombe and Longpark, that Roy managed accumulate over a thirty-six year period could genuinely boast to being a lifetime collection.


 a watcombe torquay pottery teapot after a design by christopher dresser (fs24/491).

A Watcombe Torquay Pottery teapot after a design by Christopher Dresser (FS24/491).


Ill health has meant that he has now decided it is time to disperse his collection, a decision he didn’t take lightly, but one he hopes will allow other collectors to acquire pieces that took him decades to find.

He kept a catalogue from 1976, when he acquired his first piece of ‘motto ware,’ and since then 1249 pieces have passed through his hands, each meticulous hand written entry stating when, where and from whom he purchased the piece, along with the asking price and what he actually paid, often along with personal comments about the piece.



High Art - Watcombe Torquay Pottery flask with Venetian scene (FS24/479).


Although not a founder member of the Torquay Pottery Collectors Society which formed the same year he acquired his first piece, he and his wife Gloria were both early members and avid collectors. After her death in 1995, his passion for rare pieces increased as did his attendance at the Society’s annual auction.


An Aller Vale Torquay Pottery armadillo ewer - Roy's Holy Grail (FS24/470).


His entry for Lot 470 which he acquired on 18th September 2004 is annotated ‘At last! Waited a long time, but worth it’! Part One of the Roy Paine Collection will be offered on Wednesday, 29th October 2014 as part of the pottery auction within our Autumn 2014 Fine Sale and if the bidders and collectors who attend the auction at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood in Exeter feel anywhere near as enthusiastic about their purchases, Roy would be happy that they have gone to good homes.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014 4:53:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, April 17, 2014

All too often the pages of the press are filled with embarrassing stories of celebrities, but a ‘nobody’ in a similar situation is unlikely to achieve much of a stir. So how did the hapless Lieutenant Hugh Munroe become the subject matter of the most desirable piece of Staffordshire pottery ever made? Answering an ill timed ‘call of nature’ rather too close to a nine foot tiger is unfortunate, but hardly front page news in India, even in 1792.

 the death of munroe a staffordshire group by obadiah sherratt

The Death of Munroe a Staffordshire group by Obadiah Sherratt

Lt. Munroe was the son of General Hector Munroe who twelve years previously had defeated Sultan Tipu’s father in the Second Anglo-Mysore War. As the self styled ‘Tyger of Mysore’ the Sultan was big on big cats, even making his army wear striped jackets, he saw Munroe’s demise as divine intervention and celebrated by commissioning, from local makers and the French (who we were also warring with), a fantastical wailing and roaring automaton depicting a prostrate figure being consumed by a tiger.

 a staffordshire group the death of munroe, the tiger in it's natural habitat

A Staffordshire group The Death of Munroe, the tiger in it's natural habitat

Tipu’s Tiger, as it became known, was captured by the British after the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1799 and was transported back to the East India Company’s museum in London where it was exhibited to rapturous crowds, eventually ending up in the Victoria & Albert Museum. It proved such a sustained attraction, that nearly thirty years after Munro got caught with his pants down, Obadiah Sherratt an enterprising maker of high end Staffordshire pottery immortalised the macabre event in his ‘Death of Munrow’ group; probably utilising parts from previous groups he had made – hence the rather stiff standing to attention (or lying in this case) posture of Munroe.

 the hapless lieutenant a detail of the death of munroe staffordshire group

The hapless Lieutenant a detail of The Death of Munroe Staffordshire group

I’m sure you will agree it is a dramatic piece, even if the choice of subject matter is questionable. The irony is that Munroe may have been spending a penny, but to own the group will cost you £1000’s.

Please use the hashtag #LtPantsDown if discussing the unfortunate fate of Lt Munroe on Twitter. We encourage your comments @BHandL

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Thursday, April 17, 2014 2:12:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ever since I first became involved with the Rhead Cronin Collection I have learnt what an earnest, erudite bunch you pottery collectors seem to be. I can only guess that the reason must be that the ‘good stuff’ doesn’t come up for sale that often.

A contributory factor seems to be that information on the Rhead family is somewhat thin on the ground; Bernard Bumpus’s ground breaking work is long overdue for a rewrite, even a newcomer can see that plenty of new information has surfaced since 1987. His work and much of the personal detail was gleaned from Katherine (Sister St Pierre) the only living sibling of Charlotte’s, who resided in France.

Ironically the current collection was owned by a virtually unmentioned and unnamed (by Bumpus) sister, Marie, living just down the road from here in Honiton, Devon.


 a 1906 letter to harry rhead whilst at wardle's from the louisana exhibition

A 1906 letter to Harry Rhead whilst at Wardle's from the Louisana Exhibition (FS21/584a)

Those of you that have followed my blogs will realise that the collection has thrown up fresh information and previously unrecorded patterns, which has made it a particularly exciting project to work on. Well, the surprises just keep on coming; I have just been given clearance to sell some archive material from the estate, which includes several of the black and white photographs used in my previous missives and more excitingly a 1906 letter to Harry Rhead whilst at Wardle awarding him a bronze medal from the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition! Wouldn’t you love to know what that was for?


 the bretby marks on a signed charlotte rhead vase

The Bretby marks on a signed Charlotte Rhead vase (FS21/543)

However, being immersed in this collection on a daily basis I have become over familiar with it so it was only yesterday, when I revisited a lot 543 that the penny dropped. It is a slip decorated, rather than tube lined, vase clearly marked Bretby and clearly signed L Rhead. Now a quick scan of the literature, a Google search and a peek at a couple of specialist websites and, as I suspected, there is no mention of Charlotte (Lottie) Rhead ever having worked for Bretby – how did I miss that? Decorated with a favoured motif of hers the galleon in full sail, see (FS21/569) for an example, and being retained by a family member, it must be her work.


 charlotte-lottie-rhead's signature on a bretby vase

 Charlotte-Lottie-Rhead's signature on a Bretby vase (543/FS21)

Now the sale has been on the Internet for nearly a month and the catalogues have been out for a few weeks and not one of you mentioned it, in fact I have only undertaken one condition report on it. Of course, you spotted it and you have probably been increasingly anxious for days, hoping that you were the only one and now you’re thinking damn the Internet. Still whoever, is going to write the new book on the Rhead family and several of you have told me that you have one in the pipeline, it looks like you have a bit of research to do.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014 1:48:47 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, December 13, 2013

Once one becomes immersed in such an interesting collection as that formed by Richard Harry Rhead-Cronin it does rather start to take over your life. Every new discovery is a reward, sometimes earned through effort at one’s desk and often as not falling into your lap whilst you have a mug of tea in one hand and a biscuit in the other! One can get quite familiar with the Rhead family and nonchalantly say – ah yes that’s the work of Frederick.

 a pate sur pate plaque attributed to frederick alfred rhead

A pate sur pate plaque attributed to Frederick Alfred Rhead (FS21)

When looking at the unsigned oval pate sur pate plaque illustrated above an attribution to Frederick Alfred Rhead seems like a safe bet as it bears all the hall marks of someone who served his apprenticeship with Louis Solon at Minton.

 scimitar a pate sur pate plaque worked by lois witcomb rhead in 1923

Scimitar a pate sur pate plaque worked by Lois Witcomb Rhead in 1923 (FS21)

It might follow then that the circular pate sur pate plaque is also his work however on the reverse it bears a paper label stating that it was part of the 33rd Exhibition of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors in New York – so it seems the wrong guy and wrong country!

 label for pate sur pate plaque exhibited by lois rhead in the 33rd national exhibition of women painters and sculptors, new york

Label for pate sur pate plaque exhibited by Lois Rhead in the 33rd National Exhibition of Women Painters and Sculptors, New York (FS21)

It is however the work of Lois Whitcomb Rhead the second wife of Frederick Hurten Rhead and a pupil of Leon Solon (Louis Solon’s son). It all seems rather cosy, but would certainly account for the similarities between the plaques. The date and address seem to suggest it was when Frederick Hurten Rhead was working for the American Encaustic Tile Company.

 photograph of adolphine (dollie) rhead in her nurses uniform

Photograph of Adolphine (Dollie) Rhead in her nurse's uniform

My favourite discovery of the day has been a photograph, all rather unconnected except that it is another woman artist (albeit retired) and another Rhead. I couldn’t resist posting an image of Adolphine (Dollie) Rhead in her nurses’ uniform presumably whilst she was at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, circa 1915, I guess, she certainly has the family nose, don’t you think?

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Friday, December 13, 2013 8:21:24 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How many times as a ceramics auctioneer have I seen a rare pot only to turn it over and with a long sigh say ‘Ah if only it wasn’t damaged’. The cynics amongst you probably believe it is a turn of phrase used to diminish expectation at auction when faced with some small fault; I can assure you it’s not.

A second series Urbato Ware vase for Wileman & Co (EX81)

People who work with pots tend to be passionate about them so whilst working on the Rhead Cronin Collection I have been genuinely saddened when I have come across a flawed pot. However, at least one is comforted that these casualties can still tell a story as despite being imperfect they were retained by the owner.

 a wedgwood pate sur pate decorated vase, is this by a young frederick rhead

A Wedgwood pate sur pate decorated vase, is this by a young Frederick Rhead (EX81)

When faced with the Urbato Ware moon flask, designed by Frederick Rhead whilst at Wileman & Co, the desire to retain it is understandable, as although cracked it does ‘look’ perfect. There is also a Wedgwood vase painfully minus its neck, ‘Ah if only…’, that has pate sur pate panels on blue alternating with olive ground panels with stylised foliage. It raises the possibility that, although unsigned, this was made by Frederick circa 1877-87, why else would the family wish to retain it?

 a naturalistic woods elers ware vase by frederick rhead

A naturalistic Woods Elers Ware vase by Frederick Rhead (EX81)

Next there is another flawed piece of Elers Ware, a Wood & Sons range, undoubtedly the work of Frederick Rhead. Traditionally Elers Ware pieces have been more Art Nouveau and spartan in their handling whilst this small vase has a far more busy and naturalistic scheme. Has anyone seen this style of decoration on Elers Ware before?

 a marked woods & sons formosa pattern vase and an unmarked pate sur pate vase

A marked Woods & Sons Formosa pattern vase and an unmarked pate sur pate vase (EX81)

However, what intrigues me the most is a critically damaged and unmarked vase. The shape obviously Woods & Sons and cannot be anything other than the work of Frederick Rhead. Shortly after starting with them he was engaged to improve their range of fancy wares, hence the emergence of the Elers and Trellis patterns, but his decorative urges led him to experiment with pate sur pate ‘at prices well within reach of the average man’ to quote Bernard Bumpus.

 detail of the lobster pattern vase for woods by frederick rhead

Detail of the lobster pattern vase for Woods by Frederick Rhead (EX81)

The early pate sur pate was really just tubelining in disguise, but looking at this vase he did use the pate sur pate technique and by the look of these rather sumptuous lobsters rather successfully too. I guess that it never really went into full production as it was too labour intensive and costly. Other examples do exist as in recent conversation with Peter Mason it seems he may have unearthed evidence of another example.


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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 10:40:19 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, December 02, 2013

Original studies, sketches or notes that predate a finished work can often add colour and depth to an object or artwork. It can also provide a privileged insight into the creator’s thoughts. The Rhead Cronin Collection does allow such insight, but unusually it is into a whole family who it seems were particularly close.

 tennyson's idylls of the king and a signed charlotte rhead plaque

 Tennyson's Idylls of the King and a signed Charlotte Rhead plaque (FS21)

Certainly at one time, four of it’s members Frederick Alfred Rhead, Frederick Hurten Rhead, Charlotte Rhead and Dollie Rhead were all working under one roof for Wileman & Co and there are many times when two family members were working for the same company at the same time. Hardly surprising then to see the family both worked together and borrowed ideas and inspiration from each other. Three of the Rhead brothers George, Louis and Frederick provided the illustrations for an 1898 edition of Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress and the former pair also illustrated a version of Tennyson’ Idylls of the King in the same year. As you can see from the attached image, Charlotte in turn used one of the engravings of Elaine with the shield of Lancelot as inspiration for a tubelined pottery plaque of her own.

 a signed and dated charlotte rhead plaque and the source watercolour

A signed and dated Charlotte Rhead plaque and the source watercolour (FS21)

What is more intriguing is the watercolour of a bungalow, which with some artistic licence, has been used by Charlotte Rhead for another plaque, which she has signed and dated 1910 on the reverse. It raises a number of questions, was it family home and perhaps given as a gift? It may have been a commission but that seems unlikely.

 a charlotte rhead plaque tubelined with a baby

A Charlotte Rhead plaque tubelined with a baby (FS21)

The same questions could also be asked of the sensitively rendered portrait of a baby tubelined by Charlotte onto another plaque. It has all the look of a family photograph although I can’t get the ridiculous thought out of my head of Charlotte bag in one hand and blank tile in the other ‘tubelining from life’ She was certainly known to have used her pets as inspiration so I really believe that this infant must be related to her.

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Monday, December 02, 2013 9:06:03 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, November 28, 2013

In my line of business, I have heard the story ‘Granny was given it personally by Queen Victoria’ countless times and equally have drawn an incredulous face when I say ‘Can you prove it’. Of course, everyone wants their story to ring true, because previous or auspicious ownership can add value to an object. In short we are talking about provenance. The Rhead-Cronin Collection has provenance as good as it comes - the late Richard Harry Rhead-Cronin was the son of Marie Rhead, the eldest daughter of Frederick Alfred Rhead and sister of Frederick Hurten Rhead, Charlotte Rhead and Adolphine Rhead. So it means that the drawings, paintings and ceramics he accumulated were likely either to be gifted or retained within the family by intent.

 frederick alfred rhead an oil on board depicting a scene from the rubiayat of omar khayyam

Frederick Alfred Rhead an oil on board depicting 
a scene from the Rubiayat of Omar Khayyam (FS21)

One can only surmise why? There could be any number of reasons, personal pride in the work might be one, or maybe even the opposite…not sure about that one - lets put that back in a dark cupboard! They could be left over items from a spot of freelancing, private work on blanks removed from the factory or even personalised gifts passed within the family.

 frederick alfred rhead a pate sur pate vase depicting a scene from the rubiayat of omar khayyam

Frederick Alfred Rhead a pate sur pate vase depicting 
a scene from the Rubiayat of Omar Khayyam (FS21)

For me, the most interesting items are those accompanied by the original artwork things that tell a story of work in progress such as the oil on board painted by Frederick Alfred Rhead that appears with several adjustments in stunning pate sur pate on what looks to be a Minton blank. It depicts a line from verse forty eight of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. ‘And when the angel with his darker draught draws up to thee, take that and do not shrink’. One wonders whether the painting was actually intended as a working study for the vase or whether he sought inspiration from it at some later point. In transition from board to porcelain the colour of the cloak has changed, almost certainly to accommodate the limitations of the pate sur pate technique which is most effective in white and also it seems our angel has changed sex.

 frederick alfred rhead a source watercolour and a tubelined plaque

Frederick Alfred Rhead a source watercolour and a tubelined plaque (FS21)

Another watercolour by Frederick seems far more straightforward as an almost direct template that was subsequently used as a tile design although one wonders whether it was he or Charlotte that actually undertook the tubelining for it. I am pretty sure it is her work, but what do you think?

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Thursday, November 28, 2013 11:06:59 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Sunday, November 24, 2013

Having mentioned the Rhead family in my last blog, I thought I ought to add some bite sized detail of the principle family members starting with George Woolliscroft Rhead (1832-1908). He was part of a family associated with the pottery industry for many years, primarily remembered as an artist, illustrator and particularly an art teacher up until 1900, but was employed as a gilder by Minton. Three of his offspring George Woolliscroft Rhead Junior, Frederick Alfred Rhead and Louis Rhead also started out with Minton.

 a minton charger painted by george woolliscroft jnr

A Minton charger painted by George Woolliscroft jnr

The younger George Woolliscroft Rhead (1854-1920) served his time under WS Coleman, latterly at the Kensington Gore Studios, got a scholarship to study art and etching in London, gaining a teaching certificate along the way. Eventually teaching in London and also undertaking freelance painting and etching for Doulton and Wedgwood.

 a sumptious plaque attributed to louis rhead

A sumptious plaque attributed to Louis Rhead

Frederick Alfred Rhead (1856-1933) was perhaps the most dynamic. He studied under his father then at the age of thirteen he was apprenticed to Louis Solon, widely regarded as the master of the pate sur pate technique. In 1878, he was employed by Wedgwood, by 1887 he spent a brief period with James Gildea, a year later whilst at  EJD Bodley he was responsible for executing the Gladstone Vase (see my last blog). Shortly after this he was at Brownfield’s until 1897 before joining Wileman & Co as art director until 1905. Thereafter, he was freelance for three years before entering into the partnership of Barker Rhead & Co (Atlas Tile Works), which failed two years later in 1910 causing his family some considerable hardship, after which he decamped to America. However, in less than a year he returned taking up a post with Wood & Sons from 1912-27.

 a frederick alfred rhead pate sur pate plaque depicting the flatterers net from bunyans pilgrim's progress

A Frederick Alfred Rhead pate sur pate plaque depicting the Flatterers Net from Bunyans Pilgrim's Progress

Three years before joining Minton, in 1873, as a painter Louis Rhead (1858-1926) studied figure drawing in Paris. He joined his brother at Wedgwood in 1878, where he exhibited at the Paris Exhibition to acclaim. He continued his art education in London freelancing for Wedgwood until he emigrated to America in 1883 where he concentrated primarily on his artwork and book illustration.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013 8:02:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, April 22, 2013

When it comes to decorating porcelain plaques the Germans are at the forefront and particularly those at the KPM (Konigliche Porzellan Manufactur) manufactory in Berlin whose work was considered superior even to that at Meissen. The golden years were undoubtedly from 1840 through to around 1900.

 a k.p.m. berlin plaque of the young christ after hofmann circa 1890 - 1900

A KPM Berlin plaque of the Young Christ after Hofmann circa 1890 - 1900 (FS14/614)

The most popular plaques were painted with religious or mythological subject matter inhabited with coquettish maids or the scantily clad, but topographical scenes and faithful copies of existing paintings also featured. Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt and Guido Reni were amongst those most commonly mimicked. Whilst only copies, they were of exceptional quality – you might think it is hard putting a brush to canvas, but I guess painting on a plaque and seeing how it fares in the kiln is perhaps more unpredictable. Once completed, a porcelain plaque has the benefit of retaining all the brightness of colour it had at conception and unlike paper or canvas it will not fade.

 a french porcelain plaque halt during a hunt after watteau, mid 19th century

A French porcelain plaque Halt during a Hunt after Watteau, mid 19th century (FS18/558)

Painting on porcelain was also undertaken in France and in Britain to a lesser degree. Illustrated is a mid 19th century plaque which with a little artistic licence is a copy of a 1720 work by Jean Antione Watteau entitled Halt during a Hunt, which is currently part of the Wallace Collection. However, my job is all about attention to detail, so I noticed that the rifles depicted were percussion rifles (not flintlocks) which weren’t invented in 1720. More concerning is that the pastoral idyll is broken by the fact that all of the rifles are not only primed ready to fire, but are in the hands of children, was there no Health and Safety?

detail of a french porcelain plaque halt during a hunt after watteau

Armed with a weapon from the future (FS18/558)

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Monday, April 22, 2013 1:14:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Sunday, April 21, 2013

You may have wondered why so much Chinese porcelain is referred to in French terms, anybody with a passing interest is familiar or should I say ‘au fait’ with the terms famille rose when referring to a palette of porcelain decoration that is primarily red or pink and famille verte if the choice of enamel is biased towards the green. These weren’t Chinese terms and weren’t used by them. The answer lies in the fact that the first European to document Chinese porcelain was Pere d’Entrecolles, a French Jesuit missionary who did so in a series of letters ‘back home’ in 1712.

  a chinese porcelain famille rose tureen and cover, qianlong 1736-96

 A Chinese porcelain famille rose tureen and cover, Qianlong 1736-96 (FS18/490)

Pere Entrecolles known as Yin Hongxu was something of an industrial spy who used technical knowledge, sharp observation and his influence on Catholic converts to gain knowledge of porcelain production whilst tending to his flock in Jingdezhen. It is ironic that Josiah Wedgwood who was so concerned about spies availed himself of Entrecolles published work and copied extracts into his commonplace book.

 a pair of chinese porcelain vases decorated in the famille verte palette, 19th century

A pair of Chinese porcelain vases decorated in the famille verte palette, 19th century (FS18/493)

Two thoughts have just occurred to me firstly whilst the terms famille jaune and famille noir are used why isn’t blue, which comprises the bulk of Chinese porcelain production, called famille bleu? The second rather more random thought is had Marco Polo, who was in China in the early 14th century, dictated the story of porcelain rather than a self aggrandising tale whilst in his prison cell we might have using terms like famiglia rosa  and famiglia verde to describe Chinese porcelain.

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Sunday, April 21, 2013 12:37:20 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, April 18, 2013

I was having something of a bad day when up pops an email request for a valuation that was titled ‘Blue and white pin trays’. I groan quietly to myself and opened the message wondering what form of words I was going to select in order to let the sender down gently. One can be blunt when delivering good news as it is always well received, but through experience, auctioneers have a tactfully extensive vocabulary for delivering disappointing news.

 a worcester porcelain butter boat in the transparent rock pattern circa 1758

A Worcester porcelain butter boat in the Transparent Rock pattern circa 1758 (FS18/550)

On opening the images, I was delighted to see a pair of First Period Worcester porcelain butter boats, not pin trays, but quaintly unnecessary leaf shaped cups for containing melted butter. Pleasantly surprised, I pulled down the relevant volume to find that they were a rarity from 1758 in a pattern known as The Transparent Rock. Named on account of there being a large piece of quartz in the foreground of a rather quirky landscape containing a tiny house…. and the book said the illustrated example was the only one known; quite a rarity and ironic as quartz is the second most abundant mineral on earth.

 the underside of a worcester porcelain butter boat with tiny workmans mark on the handle

The underside of a Worcester porcelain butter boat with tiny workmans mark on the handle (FS18/551)

So in our fine sale next week, there are two rare Worcester porcelain butter boats in the Transparent Rock pattern, or so I thought. My book is a 1981 first edition and it seems several more have since come to light including, can you believe it another being sold on the same day as ours? Just like buses, you wait ages for one, only for three to turn up all at once.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013 11:23:10 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The original ‘Portland’ vase was a tour de force of Roman cameo glass making that was first recorded circa 1600 and has since then had a colourful history. Amongst these was Cardinal Barberini the nephew of Pope Urban VIII whose family retained the vase for 150 years before it was sold to clear the gambling debts of the Princess Barberini-Colonna to a Scottish antiques dealer called James Byres in 1780. He treasured the vase so much that he had sixty plaster copies made by James Tassie which he sold along with the original.

 a pair of wedgwood pale blue jasper ware portland vases

A pair of Wedgwood pale blue jasper ware Portland vases (FS18/514)

Passing via William Hamilton it was purchased by the eccentric Dowager Duchess of Portland who was said to be ‘intoxicated only by empty vases’. On her death in 1785 her son the 3rd Duke of Portland purchased it at auction allowing Josiah Wedgwood to make porcelain copies of it provided he didn’t bid for it. Unfortunately even before Wedgwood got his hands on it, it was broken twice, and presumably this was when the beautifully carved, but obviously errant base was stuck on.

 wedgwood's copy of the errant base added to the original portland vase before 1785

Wedgwood's copy of the errant base added to the original Portland vase before 1785 (FS18/514)

The 4th Duke of Portland left it with the British Museum for safe keeping where in 1845 whilst on view, it was comprehensively smashed by an intoxicated Irishman. It was glued together, although thirty seven pieces could not be found. The 7th Duke failed to sell the vase at auction, but subsequently sold the vase to the museum in 1945, luckily the missing pieces were found shortly afterwards.

detail of a wedgwood portland vase showing the myth of peleus and thetis

Detail of a Wedgwood jasper ware Portland vase showing the myth of Peleus and Thetis (FS18/514)

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013 10:46:06 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, April 15, 2013

Having mentioned the leonine characteristic of the rather bizarre kylin I thought I may stray into less fantastical territory and focus on the depiction of lions in Staffordshire pottery. However, having said as much I have found that the lion was considered a symbol of Resurrection because medieval belief had it that lion cubs were born dead for three days until their father breathed life into their faces.

 pair of staffordshire ralph wood lions, circa 1780

Pair of Staffordshire Ralph Wood lions, circa 1780 (FS18/509)

A more commonly held belief is that lions are masters of the animal race and are symbolic of fortitude and strength. In Chinese art they were sculpted by the entrances of buildings to ward off demons. They were also popular motif for the British whose demons were probably ‘The French’. They appear in both ferocious mode like the pair of Ralph Wood lions illustrated as well as the rather unsubtle political stance depicting the British Lion and Napoleon III. (for an image see my blog of 14th August) The lion is a motif that has stayed the course one only has to look at our national football or cricketing shirts or even the name of the British rugby team.

 a staffordshire perlware performing bear group circa 1820

A Staffordshire perlware Performing Bear group circa 1820 (FS18/508)

But back to our Staffordshire potters it seems that they were not averse to recycling the lion in a somewhat ignominious way. If you look closely at the Staffordshire performing bear group you will note that the handler’s dog is in fact a miniature lion forced to be a bit part player. How the mighty have fallen.

 detail of a staffordshire performing bear group, how the mighty have fallen

Detail of a Staffordshire Performing Bear group, how the mighty have fallen (FS18/508)

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Monday, April 15, 2013 8:32:31 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, April 12, 2013

Many Western eyes are aware of the symbolism suggested by the appearance of certain beasts in art there can be few who don’t see the dog as a metaphor for fidelity, or who recognise piety when a pelican is indicated or perceive temptation or something evil afoot when faced with a serpent.

 a chinese porcelain dragon dish, guangxu mark and period 1874-1908

A Chinese porcelain dragon dish, Guangxu mark and period 1874-1908 (FS18/338)

Unsurprisingly, whilst we may not be familiar with it, the Chinese also attribute similar implicit meanings to their pictorial bestiary. The Latin word draco signifies both our aforementioned serpent, but also the dragon a popular beast on Chinese porcelain. The dragon is the lord of the skies and emblematic of strength, authority and fecundity everything that one might expect from an emperor, but curiously being cloud based it is also seen as a bringer of rain, not necessarily a useful skill set for its fire breathing European counterpart. Initially a five clawed dragon represented the emperor and those with less digits individuals of lesser rank, but this rather specific detail was largely defunct by mid 16th century.

 a pair of late 19th century chinese porcelain phoenix

A pair of late 19th century Chinese porcelain phoenix (FS18/475)

The ideal stable mate for a dragon is the phoenix being emblematic of the empress, the warmth of the sun and harvest. Though something a little more confusing is a Kylin often referred to as a lion dog, as the latter suggests they have leonine characteristics and are said to tread so lightly on the ground they leave no marks. Despite having a name formed from the words qi-lin (which translates literally as he-she) they are seen as symbols of great wisdom and administration.

 detail of a canton porcelain vase showing kylins competing for a pearl

Detail of a Canton porcelain vase showing Kylins competing for a pearl (FS18/492)

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Friday, April 12, 2013 3:05:08 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, April 11, 2013

There is often a perception that pottery is the poorer country relative to porcelain, but if you believe that you would be guilty of trying to compare oranges with apples. Some people may prefer the earthy charms of a country lass rather than the polished finish of a metropolitan socialite and to my mind the former can if necessary put on the airs and graces to get by in the smartest of circles. Certainly when Satsuma earthenware is at it’s best it can hold its head in any company.

 a dramatically decorated, but unsigned satsuma vase

A dramatically decorated, but unsigned Satsuma vase (FS18/500)

Satsuma was first produced in the late 16th century in Kagoshima province on the southern island of Kyushu, Japan its soft white appearance and crazed glazing quickly becoming popular. Named after the Prince of Satsuma production eventually moved to Kyoto in the 19th century and became very popular in Europe after the opening up of Japan and the subsequent 1873 Vienna World Fair.

 a satsuma box and cover by kinkozan sobei vi

A Satsuma box and cover by Kinkozan Sobei VI (FS18/498)

Unlike the sparse decoration on Kakiemon porcelain or Japanese woodblock prints, Satsuma is both richly gilt and profusely decorated, often the backgrounds being embellished with precise and minute dots. Perhaps the finest exponent of the art was Kinkozan Sobei VI who headed up one of the largest Satsuma manufactories in Kyoto. However, having extolled the virtues of Satsuma, even Kinkozan Sobei could be inconsistent though this was largely as a result of buying in undecorated blanks from elsewhere. So if I was to continue the metaphor I started with it would seem that even the sassy city lass could get caught with a pair of wellies getting as mucky as anyone else.

signature of kinkozan sobei vi

Signature of Kinkozan Sobei VI (FS18/498)

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Thursday, April 11, 2013 10:28:19 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Although something of a Cinderella company that appeared on the English ceramics landscape somewhat later than the likes of Worcester, Wedgwood and Derby one cannot help but have admiration for Royal Doulton. Formed in 1815, it’s most consistent output, initially was salt glazed stoneware a resilient body used for the ‘pub’ and hotel trade for mugs and jugs, but also for sanitary wares and the tiles used outside.

 a large pair of doulton lambeth pate-sur-pate vases by florence barlow

A large pair of Doulton Lambeth pate-sur-pate vases by Florence Barlow (FS18/538)

But I guess what is most impressive is the sheer diversity of Royal Doulton, it wasn’t long before this practical stoneware was used for art pottery and if you have ever seen the work of George Tinworth, the Barlow sisters, Mark Marshall, Harry Barnard, Eliza Simmance, you would know how adaptable and innovative this most utilitarian of bodies could be. It didn’t stop there either Doulton also made porcelain tableware, commemorative and advertising pieces as well jardinières and fountains on an architectural scale. And of course the ubiquitous character jugs and figures.

 a royal  doulton dickens dream jug by charles noke

A Royal Doulton Dickens Dream jug by Charles Noke (FS18/540)

Embracing diversity and employing some of the best modellers and decorators secured Royal Doulton’s longevity, but as we all know how you treat your customers is also important. In the forthcoming Fine Art Sale on 25th April 2013, we have a ‘Dicken’s Dream’ jug designed by Charles Noke, but with it are also two letters, one type written, responding to a customer query about the level of the limited edition and the other a hand written note from Charles Noke embellished with a pencil sketch of Fagin. Now that’s customer service.

a hand written letter by charles noke regarding the dickens dream jug he designed.

A hand written letter by Charles Noke regarding the Dickens Dream jug he designed (FS18/540)

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013 9:23:46 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, April 09, 2013

For collectors of Oriental porcelain with more modest pockets there are still plenty of interesting items to spend your money on, not everything is out of reach.

 a chinese porcelain taper stick after cornelius pronk circa 1740-50

A Chinese porcelain taper stick after Cornelius Pronk circa 1740-50 (FS18/469)

Take for instance the rather charming taper stick holder in the form of a chubby child’s arm. Although decorated in a rather garish palette it doesn’t look entirely Chinese, but Chinese it undoubtedly is. After a design by Cornelius Pronk, a topographical artist employed by the Dutch East India Company in 1734, this ‘chine de commande’ was initially popular but hideously expensive. A set of Pronk plates would cost the same as a house in Amsterdam. The original order for these taper sticks was in1740 – ironically the year that Pronk’s contract was terminated as it proved just too expensive for even the deepest of pockets.

 a chinese porcelain vase of fanghu form circa 1874-1908

A Chinese porcelain vase of Fanghu form circa 1874-1908 (FS18/483)

Another piece of Chinese porcelain worthy of note is the Gaungxu (1874-1908) mark and period Fanghu vase. Being of a traditional archaic bronze form, Fanghu translates literally to mean square base. A striking and bold shape typically under flambé and lavender tinged glazes is mentioned as being of a form used as an award of special merit to deserving individuals. I’m sure you’ll agree it is a beautiful thing although I’m rather amused at the idea of receiving a Fanghu as a thank you.

detail of fanghu vase showing shape and colour

Detail of Fanghu vase showing shape and colour (FS18/483)

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013 7:41:40 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, April 08, 2013

Josiah Wedgwood was an arch experimenter when it came to ceramic bodies and perhaps his most ubiquitous invention was jasper ware. The Dictionary of Wedgwood states it as ‘the most significant innovation in ceramic history since the Chinese invention of porcelain’. It sounds something of an exaggeration, but Wedgwood thought so highly of it that he would only pass the secret recipe to his colleague Bentley in 1776, in code, in two separate letters, however as England was then a hot bed of industrial spies there was wisdom in his actions.

 a pair of wedgwood pale blue jasper ware portland vases

A pair of Wedgwood pale blue jasper ware Portland vases (FS18/514)

Another body championed by Wedgwood was Black Basalt; ironically the principle constituent of this fine body was ‘Car’, sediment carried in the water drained from coal mines! First trialled in 1767 it took the addition of manganese and Devon china clay and a couple of years to perfect. Had Wedgwood not found a skilled carver to ‘tinker all the black vases that are crooked’ and provide the factory seconds with blackened or bronzed wooden bases he would have been bankrupted.

 wedgwood black bassalt plaque king james crowned by peace and justice above the body of discord

Wedgwood black bassalt plaque King James crowned by Peace and Justice above the body of Discord (FS18/516)

Whilst many other producers of fine porcelain looked to the Orient Wedgwood favoured Greco-Roman mythology and intaglio or cameo portraits of European worthies as his primary source of artistic inspiration and wasn’t afraid to use the best pottery techniques of engine turning, polishing, laminating and polishing to enhance his finest porcelain.


a wedgwood pegasus vase with medusa handles depicting the apothiosis of virgil

A Wedgwood Pegasus vase with medusa handles depicting the Apothiosis of Virgil (FS18/510)

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Monday, April 08, 2013 2:54:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, April 05, 2013

I believe it was the art historian Ernst Gombrich who suggested that nobody can look at an art object with an innocent eye, meaning that it is futile to try and look at something without bringing to bare all ones personal prejudices be they positive or negative.

 two early bow porcelain figures of fish sellers circa 1755-62

Two early Bow porcelain figures of fish sellers circa 1755-62 (FS18/548)

I can appreciate the workmanship that went into the pair of early Bow porcelain fish sellers in our forthcoming sale on 25th April, colourful, well modelled and charming examples of early English porcelain, but ultimately they where rather over sentimentalised bourgeois things. Give me something in which the hand of the maker is obvious, something like a North Devon pottery harvest jug.

 a documentary north devon pottery harvest jug

A documentary North Devon pottery harvest jug (FS18/507)

To consider it solely as rustic country pottery is a disservice. Dug from the red soil of North Devon and brim full of all the agricultural and maritime symbolism you might expect from the county, decorated with a galleon in full sail, compass, sun, moon and stars, fish, birds and foliage. As well as a Bideford attribution, a local name and dated too! What more could you want?

 a north devon pottery harvest jug inscribed for richard ching, bideford, 1855

A North Devon pottery harvest jug inscribed for Richard Ching, Bideford, 1855 (FS18/507)

Having waxed lyrical about this North Devon pottery harvest jug, you might be forgiven for thinking that I once lived in Bideford, well I just couldn’t say.


a north devon pottery harvest jug showing typical scroll terminal and thumrest

A North Devon pottery harvest jug showing typical scroll terminal and thumrest (FS18/507)

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Friday, April 05, 2013 11:52:37 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Today was a success which apart from a couple of lots, which will find homes tomorrow, was a 100% sold - the 154 lots totalling just over £100,000. The personal favourites mentioned in yesterday’s blog, the pair of Kakiemon porcelain dishes certainly did well selling for £3000 (obviously I have taste)! However, they were ‘pipped to the post’ for top spot by lot 3 the Bow porcelain bottle vase in the Kakiemon manner which sold for £3100 with yet another Bow porcelain bottle vase taking third spot at £2700.

 a bow porcelain vase with kakiemon decoration circa 1755

A Bow porcelain vase with Kakiemon decoration circa 1755 (FS17/3)

After that honours seemed pretty evenly spread amongst Worcester, Longton Hall, Chelsea and Champions Bristol each having a couple of candidates above the £1400 mark. But rather than make this a roll call of prices achieved I guess I ought to tell you how the two ‘ugly ducklings’ I also featured yesterday got on. The ‘comely’ Bow porcelain cream jug, achieved £340 and the ‘ugly’ Plymouth porcelain cream jug £640 it seems I am not the only pragmatist in town.

 a champion's bristol porcelain teapot circa 1770-75

A Champion's Bristol porcelain teapot circa 1770-75 (FS17/41)

Were there any surprises? The answer is yes, but we had to wait till the last lot of the day. It seems that the Japanese porcelain dish painted in blue with rather windswept cranes and a silver lustre repair might have been earlier than late 17th century and made for the Chinese market somebody rated it enough to pay £1850 for it.


a 17th century arita porcelain dish  for the chinese market

A 17th century Arita porcelain dish  for the Chinese market (FS17/154)

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013 6:18:49 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, January 28, 2013

With a day to go till we sell the Tryhorn collection of 18th century porcelain I shall allow myself a little indulgence, having been so intimately involved with it and will try and narrow down my favourites. After much wrangling I have settled on four pieces.

 a bow porcelain craem jug circa 1758

A Bow porcelain craem jug circa 1758 (FS17/36)

Firstly I just love the Bow porcelain cream jug, it’s a real ‘double take’ - is it ugly pretty or just pretty ugly? Either way it has that well grounded, stable comely shape that you could take home to your and besides it probably has a great personality.

 a plymouth porcelain cream jug circa 1768-70

A Plymouth porcelain cream jug circa 1768-70 (FS17/50)

Next as a local man I just cannot refuse the flawed appeal of the rather smoke damaged Plymouth porcelain cream jug, if the Bow was a ‘wall flower’ this is downright ugly, so why do I love it so much? Well I’m a pragmatist and it doesn’t feel out of my league.

 a bow porcelain jar circa 1750-52

A Bow porcelain jar circa 1750-52 (FS17/28)

At the smart end it has to be the Bow porcelain oviform vase, a copy of a Chinese famille rose example, but rather than thin and precise in its execution the decoration is bold and confident, thickly applied and almost glutinous, it requires more than an admiring glance it needs to be handled.

 a pair of japanese kakiemon dishes, late 17th century

A pair of Japanese Kakiemon dishes, late 17th century (FS17/141)

Finally if there are ‘super models’ in the Tryhorn collection then they are the pair of Japanese Kakiemon dishes, their decoration is sparse, but the broad expanse of pure white accentuates their Spartan and aloof  beauty. If ever ‘less was more’ this is it and they are in perfect preservation. A pair of 300 year old Geisha’s, dream on Nic!

detail of a japanese kakiemon dish, late 17th century

Detail of a Japanese Kakiemon dish, late 17th century (FS17/141)

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Monday, January 28, 2013 9:18:35 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Sunday, January 27, 2013

For the uninitiated porcelain must be a minefield, it seems difficult enough to sift the Japanese and Chinese from the multitude of European ‘usurpers’ decorated in mimicry. Although I have used it before the matched Japanese and Chelsea porcelain tea bowl and saucer is a good example.

 a chelsea porcelain teabowl circa 1752 and a protoype japanese saucer

A Chelsea porcelain teabowl circa 1752 and a protoype Japanese saucer (FS17/60)

However, it can become more perplexing when one gets ‘subsequent’ European decoration on Chinese blanks (undecorated porcelain). With over decorated blue and white it is straightforward as the decoration becomes an amalgam of the original Oriental (often less than perfect) that is almost obliterated by heavy and opaque colour that is hiding the underlying flaws whilst remaining broadly true to the original Chinese scheme. But with a blank you can start from scratch and paint anything – as long as it is a seller and sometimes the results are glorious, just look at the bees on the saucer below.

 a london decorated chinese porcelain saucer circa 1760   detail of a london decorated chinese porcelain saucer circa 1760

A London decorated Chinese porcelain saucer circa 1760 (FS17110)

James Giles is perhaps the most admired 18th century porcelain decorator, operating out of the same workshop in Soho, London from 1743 until 1777. Initially buying undecorated Chinese porcelain at auction he eventually purchased most of his blanks direct from Worcester. However, if you believe he was buying seconds and ‘tarting’ them up with second class decoration you would be wrong. His work speaks for itself, he was in business for over three decades and his ledger book was something of a role call of royalty and the titled. Below is a James Giles London decorated Worcester porcelain saucer with pseudo Meissen marks – work that one out if you can.

   a worcester porcelain saucer decorated by james giles circa 1765     a worcester porcelain saucer decorated by james giles circa 1765 - with pseudo meissen marks

A Worcester porcelain saucer decorated by James Giles circa 1765 (FS17/101)

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Sunday, January 27, 2013 7:17:49 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mention English 18th century porcelain to anyone and I guess most people think of Worcester. Whilst a handful of factories including Bow stole a march on Worcester by several years, they all fell fairly quickly by the wayside, leaving it to prosper right into the 21st century.

 a worcester porcelain bowl circa 1755 in the chinese manner

A Worcester porcelain bowl circa 1755 in the Chinese manner (FS17/86)

As the first factories struggled to perfect their art it is often difficult to discern a consistency in the paste or body, Bow for instance can often be quite opaque, (lot 19) other times a muddy orange (lot 12) and sometimes almost translucent white (lot 13). Worcester porcelain on the other hand quite quickly got their act together and their paste is ‘relatively consistently a pale blue/green or a straw colour when a light is shone through it.

 a worcester porcelain two quails cup in the kakiemon palette circa 1758

A Worcester porcelain Two Quails cup in the Kakiemon palette circa 1758 (FS17/92)

Bow meanwhile had a fairly consistent range of palettes favouring either blue and white, famille rose or Kakiemon to decorate their predominantly Chinese or Japanese inspired porcelain. Worcester however, seem to display a very broad and versatile range and style of decoration. It might be argued that because Bow was, in comparison, short lived it never had the opportunity to diversify, but the pieces shown here where all made within five years and overlap with Bow porcelain.

 a worcester porcelain saucer with 'european' flowers circa 1760 in the meissen manner

A Worcester porcelain saucer with 'European' flowers circa 1760 in the Meissen manner (FS17/95)

Maybe that is why Worcester survived, it had a consistent product, but was able to produce Chinese, Japanese and European inspired pieces whilst retaining the ability to come up with innovate decoration of their own. Maybe they were just bigger with a larger pool of decorators, or they just got lucky, what do you think?

a worcester porcelain coffe cup with 'novel' european landscape decoration circa 1755

A Worcester porcelain coffe cup with 'novel' European landscape decoration circa 1755 (FS17/97)




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Saturday, January 26, 2013 7:47:02 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, January 25, 2013

 a longton hall porcelain cup in the goose pattern circa 1758-60

A Longton Hall porcelain cup in the Goose pattern circa 1758-60 (FS17/79)

Bird watching, twitching or whatever devotees call it seems, unless I am wrong, a curiously Northern European or American hobby, perhaps it is the migratory instincts of birds that make them so fascinating. Exotic visitors from far off places can cause a stir and provide a link to another culture and geography. Porcelain was likewise an exotic Oriental visitor to these shores, so it is little wonder that birds appear regularly on 18th century porcelain.

 an early worcester porcelain cream jug in the strutting bird pattern circa 1752-53

An early Worcester porcelain cream jug in the Strutting Bird pattern circa 1752-53 (FS17/82)

The bird most familiar to both is the Quail, a good source of food and admired by the Chinese for its strength of character and ability to fight it was used by Meissen, Chantilly, Bow, Chelsea and Longton Hall to name a few. Longton Hall porcelain also produced a rather ‘domestic’ Goose pattern, though it does seem a little over colourful in its conception. Worcester porcelain also have an early pattern called ‘Strutting Bird’ though there can be little doubt that this design in the Chinese idiom is a crane – a symbol of longevity that carried the souls of Immortals bridging the gap between this world and the next, the cranes that appear on the Arita dish certainly look more celestial.

 a late 17th or early 18th century arita porcelain dish

A late 17th or early 18th century Arita porcelain dish (FS17/154)

If you are looking for something a little more imaginary then the so called ‘Soqui’ birds that feature on Plymouth porcelain one might passably consider them pheasants and emblematic of matrimonial pairing. Whether you buy into or understand the bird symbolism or not they are a real flight of fancy.

a plymouth porcelain mug circa 1768-70 decorated with 'soqui' birds

A Plymouth porcelain mug circa 1768-70 decorated with 'Soqui' Birds (FS17/44)

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Friday, January 25, 2013 1:35:48 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, January 24, 2013

 a chantilly porcelain beaker circa 1740-50

A Chantilly porcelain beaker circa 1740-50 (FS17/122)

Like other European royalty, Louis-Henri de Bourbon the Prince de Conde was a collector of Kakiemon porcelain, but as luck would have it he met, in 1725, an ex employee of the Saint Cloud manufactory called Cirou who ‘knew the recipe’. So having plenty of cash and the secret to making porcelain the prince was free to make as much Japanese porcelain as he liked from his chateau in Chantilly. In 1735 he applied for a privilege, which can’t have pleased Saint Cloud too much, but being ‘family’ the prince got one. A moot point really as Saint Cloud made imitation Chinese and the privilege granted to Chantilly was for imitation Japanese porcelain.

 a chantilly porcelain mustard pot circa 1740-50

A Chantilly porcelain mustard pot circa 1740-50 (FS17/120)

The bulk of early production was of course Kakiemon inspired with the Two Quails and Banded Hedge patterns being favourites. The prince died in 1740, though Cirou continued production until several of his workforce gave him a taste of his own medicine and took off to a new rival concern of Vincennes – one that had the benefits of royal patronage and the deep pockets no longer available to him.

 a chantilly porcelain cup and saucer circa 1740-50

A Chantilly porcelain cup and saucer circa 1740-50 (FS17/116)

 Cirou died in 1751 and shortly after this, in 1752, Chantilly received something of a death sentence, an edict from Louis XV, banning the manufacture of any porcelain and further still forbidding the decoration of imported blanks – a fairly blunt move to allow his concern at Vincennes to gain primacy. Whilst Chantilly continued to operate in one guise or another up until 1800, its subsequent output finds little favour with collectors.


a chantilly porcelain bowl circa 1740-50

A Chantilly porcelain bowl circa 1740-50  (FS17/125)

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Thursday, January 24, 2013 9:59:28 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Established in 1664 to make faience and imitate porcelain – it seems rather successfully to have managed the latter. In 1697 Haudicquer de Blancourt wrote ‘the best porcelain comes from China, the best imitation of this porcelain is presently being made in Saint Cloud’.

 a saint cloud porcelain trembleuse circa 1740

A Saint Cloud porcelain trembleuse circa 1740 (FS17/133)

Saint Cloud was awarded a fifteen year Royal Privilege to produce porcelain (which was latterly extended twice) in 1697. There can be no doubt that Saint Cloud eventually made the real thing (very similar in appearance to Blanc de Chine of Dehua) the soft paste evidence is there to be seen, but when did this transition from faience, to ‘looky likey’ to porcelain occur?

 a saint cloud cup circa 1740 displaying typical blanc de chine appearance

A Saint Cloud cup circa 1740 displaying typical Blanc de Chine appearance (FS17/130)

Tschirnhaus visited in 1702 and purchased several pieces of ‘porcelain’ which according to him ‘fell apart by themselves’. If it was porcelain it wasn’t particularly stable and Meissen’s crown remains intact, if it was then his comments are ‘sour grapes’. Certainly by 1722 several pieces of blue and white decorated porcelain are recorded as being in the collection of Augustus the Strong. Maybe I am wrong, but there doesn’t seem to be a recorded eureka moment, but perhaps just like everyone else Saint Cloud worked hard to keep the secret.


saint cloud porcelain snuff boxes, both devoid mounts and covers circa 1730-40

Saint Cloud snuff boxes, both devoid mounts and covers circa 1730-40 (FS17/132)

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013 3:31:27 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, January 22, 2013

 a champion's bristol porcelain teapot circa 1770-75

A Champion's Bristol porcelain teapot circa 1770-75 (FS17/41)

Nearly every English porcelain manufactory had its roots in secrecy and sleight of hand though Richard Champion’s Bristol concern seems to have been straightforward in its conception. As early as 1765 he expressed a working interest in hard paste porcelain and was an intermediary in sending the legendary unaker or Cherokee clay to Worcester – although that did not result in any viable porcelain.

 a champion's bristol porcelain trio from the ludlow service circa 1775-80

A Champion's Bristol porcelain trio from the Ludlow service circa 1775-80 (FS17/52)

However, in 1770 after the relative failure of Cookworthy’s concern they joined forces forming ‘The Plymouth New Invented Porcelain Manufactory’ (in Bristol) - a sensible business decision surprisingly free of subterfuge, with Cookworthy transferring his patent to Champion in 1774. Wishing to protect his investment he sought to extend the period of his patent which was due to expire in 1782 – the application was met with fierce opposition by the trade and particularly Josiah Wedgwood who slated his competitors ability and knowledge. Eventually the extension was granted after much rancorous argument.

 a champion's bristol porcelain mug circa 1770-75

A Champion's Bristol porcelain mug circa 1770-75 (FS17/54)

Unfortunately it was not the panacea he had hoped for. Despite Wedgwood’s ‘bad mouthing’ Champion did manage to make some exceptionally good hard paste porcelain before personal finance got the better of him. The ‘trade’ eventually won buying much of his remaining stock at knock down prices on 28th February 1780 – with the patent sold on to New Hall in Staffordshire two years later.

a new hall porcelain cream jug circa 1785

A New Hall porcelain cream jug circa 1785 (FS17/605)

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013 1:45:26 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, January 21, 2013

a longton hall porcelain crossed fence pattern cream jug circa 1756-58

A Longton Hall porcelain Crossed Fence pattern cream jug circa 1756-58 (FS17/80)

Something of an enigmatic factory based in the ‘Potteries’ it was formed by William Littler perhaps as early as 1749 until flourished until 1760. When Longton Hall was wound up the auction of the retained stock amounted to some 90,000 pieces of porcelain. Where has it all gone, we don’t see much of it now, so someone’s been pretty careless?

 a longton hall porcelain coffee cup circa 1754-55

A Longton Hall porcelain coffee cup circa 1754-55 (FS17/74)

Based in the ‘Potteries’ where there was the greatest concentration of ceramic skills in the country it ought to have lasted longer. However, as the potteries primarily produced earthenware and stoneware not all the skills were transferable, perhaps with the exception of modelling – so there is little surprise that much of the early production was for figures.

                a longton hall porcelain castle painter coffee can circa 1756-58

   A Longton Hall Castle Painter coffee can circa 1756-58 (FS17/72)

Longton Hall also produced a wide range of decorative wares including leaf shaped dishes, vases and tea wares. In the latter group my favourite has to be the unnecessarily fussy (but beautiful) leaf and bud handles of their cups. When decorated in the Chinese idiom the blue is particularly vivid, but it is with the polychrome wares that Longton Hall excels and the zenith of these has to be the work of the so called ‘Trembly Rose Painter’ and the ‘Castle Painter’.


a longton hall porcelain dish by the trembly rose painter circa 1756-58

A Longton Hall porcelain dish by the Trembly Rose painter circa 1756-58 (FS17/76)

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Monday, January 21, 2013 10:17:47 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Sunday, January 20, 2013

During the 18th century in Britain all the porcelain produced was of the soft paste type, William Cookworthy of Plymouth (and latterly his antecedents at Bristol and New Hall), made ‘true’ hard paste porcelain similar to the Oriental . As a local man I doff my cap to him for at least trying to make a dent in the seemingly London centric porcelain industry especially as china clay and petuntse were both found on the doorstep in Cornwall.

 a plymouth porcelain cream jug circa 1768-70 with 'typical' smoke staining

A Plymouth porcelain cream jug circa 1768-70 with 'typical' smoke staining (FS17/50)

From the beginning he was beset by problems not least of which was getting the recipe right. The higher temperatures required to make hard paste meant Cookworthy initially used coal, but this caused his saggars to crack (letting in smoke) and damaged his kiln, causing a collapse, which led to some pieces being sent to Bovey Tracey for firing. Tantalisingly Nicholas Crisp who had produced porcelain at Vauxhall (albeit in soft paste) was operating in Bovey Tracey at the time. Using wood seemed sensible, but a consignment of poorly seasoned timber led to further smoke staining and failures in the kiln leaving a lot of second rate ‘toffee coloured’ stock.

 plymouth porcelain sauce boat cira 1768-70 proof that cookworthy was capable. 

A Plymouth porcelain sauce boat cira 1768-70 proof that Cookworthy was capable (FS17/46)

The Chinese took centuries to perfect their paste, unfortunately Cookworthy had only two - starting his Plymouth concern in 1768 but moving to Bristol by 1770, selling up shortly afterwards. Whilst his venture was ultimately a failure he did manage to produce some beautiful pieces.

 a vauxhall porcelain mug circa 1758-60 courtesy nicholas crisp

A Vauxhall porcelain mug circa 1758-60 courtesy Nicholas Crisp (FS17/109)

Rather neatly Cookworthy was born in Kingsbridge the very place that the Donald Tryhorn the late collector of these pieces resided.


a plymouth or bristol porcelain figure group circa 1770

A Plymouth or Bristol porcelain figure group circa 1770 (FS17/48)

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Sunday, January 20, 2013 2:52:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Saturday, January 19, 2013

As I alluded to, in my previous blog, the lack of availability of Japanese porcelain made it highly desirable from the 17th century onwards and more so during the 18th century. Whilst the original is far superior in potting, design and enamelling I am speaking from the point of view as someone who is familiar with the nuances of porcelain. By comparison when someone points towards a horse and admires its movement and confirmation I can only see a big, brown, hairy beast.

I cannot help, however, to be charmed by the many Kakiemon pretenders and have been smitten by the rather ‘custardy’ appearance and feel of Chantilly porcelain. I confess an Englishman is uncomfortable with a pause in conversation, he feels the need to fill it with unnecessary dialogue. Similarly our European cousins don’t like to see the sparse, designs and the limited palettes of ‘true’ Japanese, so tend to make Kakiemon designs a little busier.

But hey enough of the clues! Today’s blog is a quiz for you – I confess that the collection has been a fantastic opportunity and unlike you I have had the opportunity to handle it, bite, prod, scratch and do whatever it takes to make it indelible to my tactile memory. I have used images uncaptioned purposely, but hover over the image in the line up below and all will be revealed. They are Japanese, Chantilly, Saint Cloud and Worcester examples. No cheating now!


a saint cloud porcelain dish in the kakiemon manner circa 1740 a (japanese) kakiemon porcelain saucer dish early 18th century a worcester ‘kakiemon’ vase in the banded hedge pattern circa 1753-55 a chantilly porcelain peach shaped dish in the kakiemon palette circa 1735-40


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Saturday, January 19, 2013 10:58:03 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, January 18, 2013

It seems difficult to imagine Chelsea was once a village though less difficult to imagine as the place for the ‘movers and shakers’ of the 18th century to live in, semi rural, cheek by jowl with market gardens and of course the Chelsea Hospital. Little wonder then that Nicholas Spirmont chose it as the site for a porcelain factory. Though I wonder what the well heeled inhabitants felt about a dirty, smoke producing manufactory on their doorstep even if it was the most aristocratic of porcelains.

a chelsea porcelain teaplant beaker circa 1745-50

A Chelsea porcelain Teaplant beaker circa 1745-50 (FS17/58)

Spirmont was originally a silversmith and pieces bearing his London marks date 1743-47 there seems to be little doubt that porcelain production coincided, in part, with these dates and unsurprising that his earliest porcelain (amongst them crayfish table salts) were based on silver prototypes.

 a chelsea lady in a pavillion pattern teabowl circa 1752 and an earlier and similar japanese saucer

A Chelsea Lady in a Pavillion pattern teabowl circa 1752 and an earlier and similar Japanese saucer (FS17/60)

Chelsea, like others, favoured the Kakiemon palette, but it also made direct copies of Japanese prototypes, though also pioneered more novel decoration, perhaps the earliest example being tea plant beakers. Perhaps it was the proximity of Hans Sloane’s Physick Garden that was the reason that insects, butterflies and a host of domestic flora and fauna inspired the Chelsea porcelain decorators.

a chelsea porcelain 'red anchor' cup and saucer with butterfly, insect and bird decoration circa 1755

A Chelsea porcelain 'red anchor' cup and saucer with butterfly, insect and bird decoration circa 1755 (FS17/56)

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Friday, January 18, 2013 3:11:52 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, January 17, 2013


Whilst Chinese porcelain was widely available during the 1750’s and their patterns and decoration were familiar to all, Japanese on the other hand was much less available after the policy of ‘sakoku’ or closed country. Little wonder then that Bow followed Chelsea (and Meissen, St Cloud and Chantilly) in using Japanese decoration to satiate the demand for the ‘real thing’.

 a chelsea 'raised anchor' 1752-53 saucer with kakiemon inspired decoration (fs17/61)

A Chelsea 'raised anchor' 1752-53 saucer with Kakiemon inspired decoration (FS17/61)

The Kakiemon palette proved to be very popular, but whilst the colours used were broadly similar, rather than following the typical sparse and asymmetric decoration, Bow, and less so Chelsea, couldn’t help but produce busier patterns for the domestic market.

 a bow porcelain dish decorated in the kakiemon manner circa 1755 (fs17/33)

A Bow porcelain dish decorated in the Kakiemon manner circa 1755 (FS17/33)

The archetypal Bow pattern, in the Japanese idiom, though has to be the Two Quails pattern, although prized as fighting birds, admired for their pugnacious character and courage they do seem to appear in a rather sentimentalised fashion as a couple of fluffy footballs in an idealised landscape, but always within a dense and narrow leafy band. The Two Quails pattern certainly struck a chord at Bow as by the mid 1750’s it was recorded as their best seller.

a bow porcelain dish in the two quails pattern circa 1760

A Bow porcelain dish in the Two Quails pattern circa 1760 (FS17/23)

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Thursday, January 17, 2013 10:09:44 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Every porcelain producer in mid 18th century European, sought to emulate the established Oriental market. The foremost influence was Chinese and particularly blue and white. From the Bow porcelain factory the collection has set patterns such as the Cross Legged Chinaman, the Desirable Residence and several others in the Chinese idiom such as the pickle dish with peony and bamboo.

 a bow porcelain mug in the cross legged chinaman pattern circa 1753-55 (fs17/30)

A Bow porcelain mug in the Cross Legged Chinaman pattern circa 1753-55 (FS17/30)

My favourite though has to be the ‘Golfer and Caddy’ whilst I am aware that the pattern name was attached later I have no idea what it depicts, but it still makes me chuckle and estimated at £50-70 it seems very little for a piece of English social history.

 a bow porcelain plate in the golfer and caddy pattern circa 1760 (fs17/27)

A Bow porcelain plate in the Golfer and Caddy pattern circa 1760 (FS17/27)

However I guess the ‘blue and white’ export market was still very strong in the 1750’s so Bow had to work hard to become competitive. There seemed to be a greater hunger for enamelled wares – thickly and boldly decorated with prunus, chrysanthemum and peony in typical rich pink, green and blue hues. With this famille rose decoration, Bow seemed to have the edge over their main rivals at Chelsea who made very little.

a bow porcelain vase with famille rose decoration circa 1750-52 (fs17/16)

A Bow porcelain vase with famille rose decoration circa 1750-52 (FS17/16)

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013 9:04:36 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Thomas Frye and Edward Heylyn are credited with primacy for porcelain production at Bow – in late 1744 they lodged a vague patent for ‘a new method of manufacturing a certain material whereby a ware might be made the same nature or kind, and equal to, if not exceeding a goodness and beauty, china and porcelain imported from abroad’.

a bow porcelain jar circa 1750-52 (fs17/28)

A Bow porcelain jar circa 1750-52 (FS17/28)

Pretty short on scientific detail, but I just love the idea of legal eagles quantifying ’a certain material’ had ‘exceeded in goodness and beauty’ and therefore a patent! Certainly in April 1745, a specification was lodged mentioning unaker (white Cherokee clay) from the Carolinas and by 1748 a more specific Bow patent includes a new method of making wares not inferior to China, Japan or porcelain ware.

 a bow porcelain leaf pickle dish circa 1752-55 (fs17/37)

A Bow porcelain leaf pickle dish circa 1752-55 (FS17/37)

Despite this one cannot be sure when porcelain production actually started most place it at some point around 1747, but the recent discovery of an enigmatic ‘A class’ of porcelain, that was incised or painted with an ‘A’, seems remarkably similar to the Frye & Heylyn patent and suggests Bow porcelain existed as early as 1744. Without this earlier date the crown must surely pass to Chelsea or Limehouse?


a bow porcelain cream jug circa 1752-54 (fs17/25)

A Bow porcelain cream jug circa 1752-54 (FS17/25)

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013 8:32:49 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Well today was one of those rarities not one unsold lot and with a sale total of £107000, but enough of the self congratulation. I have to eat Humble Pie after my disparaging feline comments a couple of blogs ago!


Staffordshire Pottery: a rare pair of Saluki

As the world is divided into dog lovers and cat lovers I admit to being in the former camp so was pleased that the pair of Staffordshire pottery Saluki made £980 and that Billy the Rat Catcher has gone back to his former stomping ground in London for £740, but they pale in the shadow of Lot 70 the Staffordshire pottery ‘fat cats’ that made a ‘bankers bonus’ selling at £1700.


Staffordshire Pottery: the cats that got the cream

In fact it was the animal kingdom that won out over the portrait figures with both giraffes and lions beating Lady Hester Stanhope into 5th place and even then she was perched on a camel, and Florence Nightingale into 10th spot.



Staffordshire Pottery: Lady Hester Stanhope, Queen of the desert

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012 6:09:25 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, September 04, 2012

As I have already shown the Crimean war coincided with the period of highest productivity from the Staffordshire Potteries so there are plenty of portrait groups of the upper echelons, but ‘ordinary’ soldiers and sailors from other conflicts were also popular source material.


The front of a Staffordshire jug depicting Wellington being cheered by his troops

I guess we are all familiar with the motivations of individuals wishing to be part of the Armed Forces. Whilst some may wish to do the morally right thing, for others it is just a job and for some it is a means of seeking out excitement.


Staffordshire Pottery figure Sailor's Return showing our hero stood on a chest of dollars and dutifully handing over his purse

During the 19th century there was also the chance to make a little extra at work which is dealt with subtly in ‘The Sailor’s Return’ where he is depicted kneeling on a chest of dollars and handing over a purse to his wife and less subtly on the Peninsular War jug where the soldiers are happily filling a chest marked ‘Plunder’ (which contains a crucifix) I guess by today’s standards that’s a war crime.



The other side of the Staffordshire Peninsular War jug showing soldiers collecting plunder

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Tuesday, September 04, 2012 9:23:08 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Captain Matthew Webb as most school boys know was the first man to swim the English Channel unaided and really clever school boys remember that in the summer of 1875 it took him nearly 22 hours to swim from Dover to Calais.

Whilst the Channel is only 21 miles wide at this point owing to strong currents Webb swam nearly 39 miles and was stung by jelly fish on the way so if any schoolboy knew that they are far too clever for their own good!


Staffordshire pottery figure: a rather louche looking Captain Webb

His new found fame led him to leave the Merchant Navy and become a professional swimmer unfortunately whilst floating in a tank of water for 128 hours was an easy stunt his new career floundered when he drowned swimming the Niagara Rapids.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012 2:38:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ohio born John Solomon Rarey was perhaps one of the earliest horse whisperers who specialised in the rehabilitation of violent horses. In 1858 he accepted an invitation to Windsor Castle to tame one of Queen Victoria’s horses..

 a-staffordshire- pottery-wild-stallion

The press sensing a story scoured the country for the most vicious beast they could find which turned out to be a breeding stallion called Cruiser. Rarey against advice shut himself in the stable only to appear several hours later leading the pliant stallion behind him. The owners gifted Cruiser to Rarey and the pair travelled throughout Europe and America.

staffordshire-pottery-portrait-group-of-john-rarey-and -the-subdued-cruiser

Ironically the Rarey technique did not involve ‘whispering’, but strapping up one leg thus making it easier to lay a horse down using only his hands – though there is some suggestion that it could be more brutal than that. Once a horse was subdued he would then lie unthreateningly upon its hooves. Rarey died in 1875 and unfortunately Cruisers bad habits returned.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012 9:02:51 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, August 13, 2012

When it comes to satirical I prefer something a little more subtle. Whilst these earlier 19th century Staffordshire pearlware figures are not necessarily meant as critical pieces they do rather make the clergy look like jobbing individuals rather than ‘hell fire and brimstone’ spiritual leaders.

staffordshire pottery - vicar-and-moses-group


First there is the Vicar and Moses group which depicts the dozing Vicar having had a little sip of something to keep away the cold leaving his clerk ‘Moses’ to continue the sermon. Next is a group sometimes called the Parson and Curate here it seems their efforts to keep out the cold night air have been a little too successful.

staffordshire pottery - the-parson-and-the-curate


Both are gloriously coloured and well modelled and the satire is a little more subtle, there is no villain here, just flawed human beings and I think we can all empathise with that.



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Monday, August 13, 2012 7:29:57 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, February 10, 2009

When I started out on this, my second incarnation, a life that centred on antiques I was asked at a very early age – so what are you going to specialise in? I hadn’t initially given it much thought, but then for a number of reasons mostly boring I decided on ceramics, probably driven by the fact that every house has pots in it so you are never short of something to do.

So in my time I have kissed a hell of a lot of frogs and as a result found just a few princesses. So it was, just recently, though my relationship with Lot 23 in our sale of 28th January was a fleeting one full of hope, desire and admiration, but alas ultimately out of my reach. True platonic love some would say. I am unsure whether these dishes came from the reign of Selim II or Murad III, however despite their age these dishes were far from naively decorated having stark simple, recognisable, but striking renderings of, amongst other plants, carnations and tulips. Tulips were an indigenous species of Turkey a flower that created a mania amongst the European glitterati at the time – they were the must have item of the 16th and 17th centuries. Despite being no horticulturalist these Isnik dishes were truly beautiful despite some pretty large chips and more than a few good old fashioned rusty staple repairs.

 isnik dishes


They were broken, but gorgeous and as a result of their less than perfect nature I thought they might be the achievable object of my desires, but alas it was not to be. What would you prefer a flawed beauty or perfect banality? I leave the final sentiments to Leonard Cohen ‘There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’.
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009 3:56:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Sunday, January 25, 2009

Of all the major porcelain manufactories in Germany perhaps the least known and the shortest lived was Frankenthal. Karl Hannong the brains behind a French faience workshop moved his staff in the late 1750’s to an empty army camp in Frankenthal. After a difficult start the death of Karl and an internecine struggle over the secret recipe for ‘porcelain pots’ meant that the surviving brothers Joseph and Peter had to rely increasingly on Carl Theodor Prince Elector, Count Palatine and Duke of Bavaria.

It was not long before Carl a long time patron of the arts and founder of a Science Academy took over the administration of the Franthenthal works. This led to a period of relative stability and arguably produced some of the best quality porcelain outside of Meissen during the 1760’s. 

 carl theodor frankenthal porcelain boar


So its Hats off to Carl, patron of the arts and all round good guy – unfortunately as a monarch and politician he rather failed at his day job by leading his country into some ill considered conflicts and dodgy blue sky thinking when he proffered a playground swap for the less interesting bits of his country with the then neighbouring Austrians. Eventually when he shuffled off this mortal coil after suffering from a stroke, did his citizens rush out in patriotic fervour and buy up all his remaining pots as future antiques and collectors items? No, apparently not , instead they celebrated for three days, so much then for best intentions.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009 9:23:02 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I don’t know about you, but I often wonder what singular piece of inspiration caused the first person to consider using ground up swim bladder to clear wine. What arbitrary series of events occurred in the mind of the individual who mixed tobacco spit and urine because it made a ‘nice pattern’ on Mocha Ware – a man could lose sleep over things like that.

So it is with Lot 365 in tomorrow’s sale. I have nothing against pottery jugs, how could I, they are inoffensive enough and are often beautiful works of art in their own right? Elsemore & Forster were a rather small concern based in Tunstall between 1853 and 1871 that made useful objects in Ironstone (a sort of robust pottery that has some of the characteristics of porcelain). Don’t get me wrong it is a great jug, a little on the large size, probably on the edge of being practical when full, but who in their right mind conceived the decorative scheme on it. Who stood back and said yep that’s good, I’m pleased with that?

elsmore & forster grimaldi jug

Often referred to as a ‘Grimaldi’ jug in deference to the two passable portraits of the late great celebrated British Clown it also has a rather sweet if eclectic series of  domestic and wild animal portraits that a nightingale, cats, frogs, bears, zebras, tigers, a race horse and others including a rather distressed beached whale. It looks like the kind of jug a Victorian child might covet, a pleasant distraction that had the advantage of passing educational value.

That is it would have been had not the design department of Elsmore & Forster considered that the ideal decoration for the rim was a series of cock fighting prints that include gory images of the ‘Knock Down’ and ‘The Kill’. Was this just a collage of spare or off cut transfers,  it seems not, several similar have come to market in the last few years? Was this a jug for grown ups – maybe? However this jug has a name and a date 1860 which indicates it was a present for a youngster, perhaps for a birthday. I wonder if master Joseph Morgan had nightmares, whether he grew up to be a pillar of society, or whether he sought solace in pulling the legs off spiders?
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009 2:30:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, January 12, 2009

If I told you that Josiah Wedgwood was buried in a ceramic coffin you would probably be right to distrust me. However, whatever vessel he resides in he must surely be spinning in it now with the very sad news that his once proud ‘pottery business’ has gone the way of nearly every other domestic ceramic concern in this country.

Josiah Wedgwood the man who invented Black Basalt and every conceivable colour of Jasper Ware, the individual who improved the quality of fine bodied Cream Ware made pottery not just a poor cousin to porcelain, but a very real competitor to it in every sense.

 wedgwood blue jasperware      wedgwood keith murray 'annular' vases.    wedgwood ravilious 'garden implements' pattern.

Even better I just loved the idea that even a grand ‘art house’ concern such as Wedgwood also made toilets, sanitary wares, tiles and things of a more mundane nature, something that should have made it a resilient business.

The company continued it's enterprising spirit through the 19th and on into the 20th century with Wedgwood employing striking and radical designers such as Keith Murray and Eric Ravilious and on occasion the downright bizarre if you consider the ‘Fairyland Lustre’ of Daisy Makieg Jones!  Just where did it all go wrong?

Is the concept of a ceramic coffin equally as bizarre? Apparently not, several examples have been unearthed in the Hamadan area of Iran, most recently in 2001. 

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Monday, January 12, 2009 3:36:50 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, December 08, 2008

Nic Saintey will start blogging shortly.

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Monday, December 08, 2008 5:13:41 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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