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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 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 Wednesday, December 04, 2013

It is always satisfying when one can add to the sum total of knowledge about a particular subject it makes the job all the more rewarding. So it is pleasing that the Rhead Cronin Collection has provided some physical confirmation that Adolphine (Dollie) Rhead covered for her sister Charlotte Rhead at Burgess & Leigh when she went on holiday in 1928 to visit her brothers, Frederick Hurten Rhead and Louis Rhead, in America.

dollie rhead's signature on a burleigh ware sandwich set

Dollie Rhead's signature on a Burleigh Ware sandwich set (EX81)

It was always known that Dollie Rhead stood in for her sister, but if I’m correct, the image below is the first time a signed and dated piece from this period has been seen. What makes this discovery even more exciting is that the pattern has not been previously recorded and rather raises the question that Dollie ‘may’ actually have designed pieces rather than being solely a hired hand. Furthermore, the tubelining is proficiently undertaken which, when you bear in mind that she had left the potteries to pursue a career in nursing some eighteen years earlier, is no mean feat. For those of you that are interested a more in depth discussion of the piece then go to the blog at www.rheadpottery.com

 a burleigh ware sandwich set in a previously unrecorded pattern

A Burleigh Ware sandwich set in a previously unrecorded pattern (EX81)

The collection also contains a number of other previously unseen painted patterns which includes a rather curious bowl and matching plate with an Isnik inspired design of tulips and stylised leaves in black on a turquoise ground. Although marked enigmatically ‘E Fired’ to the underside of the plate it is almost certainly the work of Frederick Alfred Rhead for Bursley Ltd, as he is attributed with other patterns in the same idiom namely Bagdad, Benares and Arabian. One can only guess that these pieces never got past the prototype stage.

 is this a rejected frederick alfred rhead pottery prototype for bursley ltd?

Is this a rejected Frederick Alfred Rhead pottery prototype for Bursley Ltd? (EX81)

There is, however, no doubt that the following plate is by Frederick Alfred Rhead, as it bears his initials to the underside, and looks to be a direct copy of an Isnik pottery plate painted with typical saz leaf, stylised blooms and pomegranate within a wave scroll border. Whilst I don’t believe this was intended as a prototype several elements of it (the saz leaves, the leafy fronds at the base, the pink florets and the border scheme) appear in the Burgess & Leigh Persian pattern 4013.

a direct copy of an isnik dish painted by frederick alfred rhead used as inspiration for other pieces.

A direct copy of an Isnik dish painted by Frederick Alfred Rhead used as
inspiration for other pieces. (FS21)

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Wednesday, December 04, 2013 11:29:44 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 Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Frederick Alfred Rhead’s marriage to Adolphine, the daughter of Charles Frederick Hurten (a flower painter latterly employed by Copeland) produced six offspring four of whom ensured that the Rhead dynasty remained active in the ceramics industry for a further generation.

The eldest Frederick Hurten Rhead (1880-1932) was apprenticed to his father at the Brownfield Guild Pottery moving with him when he left for Wileman & Co when at the age of nineteen, in 1899, he was appointed art director at Wardle & Co. Within three years, however, he had left for America working for a series of concerns in the following decade or so that included the Avon Pottery, Roseville and the American Encaustic Tile Company as well as a number of teaching posts and setting up his own pottery.

 an early example of frederick hurten rhead's work for wardle & co.

An early example of Frederick Hurten Rhead's work for Wardle & Co. (FS21)

Harry Rhead (1881-1950) had a journey very much in his brother’s footsteps as he also went to Brownfield’s under his father, followed him to Wileman & Co and took over at Wardle & Co when his elder sibling emigrated only to do the same and take over at Roseville from 1908-1917 before going his own way in America setting up his own tile business in 1923.

 a charlotte rhead for bursley ware pottery ewer circa 1922

A Charlotte Rhead for Bursley Ware pottery ewer circa 1922  (EX81)

Charlotte (Lottie) Rhead (1885-1947) really had no choice about her career with both her brothers immersed in the industry and her father bringing home his work. From an early age, she and her younger sister Adolphine (Dollie) Rhead (1888-1981) were introduced to tubelining.

In 1903, at the age of sixteen, she and her sister were competent enough to join her elder brother and father at Wileman & Co. When he left he found the girls places at Keeling & Co, but as they didn’t use tubelining, this proved to be a stopgap until they joined the short lived Barker Rhead & Co concern. When this collapsed in 1910, Dollie Rhead trained as a midwife (although never forgot her tubelining skills) and Lottie Rhead continued decorating tiles for T & R Boote before joining her father in 1912 at Wood & Co (Bursley Ware). She finally got her independent break as a designer for Burgess & Leigh (Burleigh) in 1926, only to leave left four years later to fulfil a similar post at AG Richardson (Crown Ducal) until 1941 where she completed her career with HJ Woods.

 a houseproud frederick alfred rhead and his wife adolphine

 A houseproud Frederick Alfred Rhead and his wife Adolphine

By way of adding a little ‘colour’ to the story, I have also added a black and white photograph of Frederick Alfred Rhead and his wife Adolphine outside a chalet bungalow named Crosby – it isn’t mentioned as one of the six properties the family inhabited in either of Bernard Bumpus’ books, does anybody know where it is?

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013 9:02:12 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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