The 102 lots of European ceramics that rounded off Christie’s (17.5/10% buyer’s premium) December 13 furnishing sale at King Street had, despite a degree of softness to the Meissen market, a generally high take-up for that factory, with 18 of the 25 lots of tablewares and figures changing hands and some strong individual results.
As well as the apparently unrecorded commedia dell’arte figure of The Greeting Harlequin of c.1740, which fetched £75,000, there was another sought-after Meissen commedia dell’arte subject: a 63/4in (17cm) Kändler-modelled Pantaloon and Columbine group of the same period, which realised £22,000, and an attractively coloured Shepherd and Shepherdess group of c.1745, which realised a quadruple-estimate £30,000.
Top price amongst the Meissen tablewares was the c.1744 lobed dish, painted and moulded with floral sprays and with a double-headed Imperial Eagle from the ‘St Andrew the First Called’ service, given by Augustus III to Elizabeth I Petrovna, Empress of Russia when her nephew married Sophie August von Anhalt Zerbst, later Catherine the Great. Of the 440 pieces listed from this service in a contemporary Imperial inventory of 1745, 145 are still at the Hermitage, although some others have been sold including examples at Christie’s.
The auctioneers sold a pair of plates in September 1991 in London and a single oval dish two months later for £3600 and £3000 respectively, so this version compared favourably at £11,000.
Another piece from a service made for Catherine the Great, in Wedgwood and Bentley creamware this time, led the 30-odd lots of British material that rounded off the day. This was a 91/2in (24.5cm) diameter plate from the famous Frog service ordered by the Empress from Josiah Wedgwood, which, as an attempt to represent the essence of Britain, was decorated with topographical views painted in sepia, (in this case Burstall Abbey). This had been broken into four sections and restuck, had some edge chipping and enamel wear, but the infrequency with which these pieces appear on the market still prompted a £5000-8000 estimate, which in the event was comfortably exceeded at £14,000.
Virtually all the British material comprised tablewares and only four lots failed.The most difficult section of the sale was the 37 lots of French porcelain. A large Sèvres dinner service had been divided into 29 lots for sale, only nine of which changed hands, while the preceding Vincennes section saw just two of the six lots sell. The main financial failure was a mammoth 1770s Vienna dinner service bought in at £65,000.
It was British only material the day before at Bonhams (15/10% buyer’s premium) when the auctioneers offered just over 300 lots of glass, pottery and porcelain in their New Bond Street rooms to the tune of £238,310. Here two thirds of the material found buyers with the casualties spread pretty evenly throughout all sections. The day’s highest price was £13,000, paid on two occasions and a multi-estimate sum in each case. The first was for the opening lot, the rare 7in (17.5cm) highonion shaped glass serving bottle pictured here which is applied with a seal inscribed AP 1713. The other came with the 51/4in (13.5cm) high campana-shaped vase shown below, one of three late-19th century elaborately gilded and jewelled Crown Derby ornamental pieces painted with flowers and exotic birds on a dark blue ground by Désiré Leroy
There was a sizeable section of around 130 lots devoted to 18th century porcelain, which featured representations from most factories and was notable for a Chelsea red anchor lobed circular dish 9in (23cm) diameter painted in puce camaieu with a classical landscape attributed to Jeffreys Hammet O’Neale, which sold for £8500 – treble the £3200 paid in the same rooms in December 2000 for the slightly more worn companion dish.
There was also a rare early Bow salt of c1748-50 set on a base of shells and seaweed with the bowl formed as a large scallop shell painted in blue with a Chinese scene, which realised £7000. Victorian majolica provided the highest pottery prices but the early delft section produced some decent prices for drug jars that were comfortably over their modest esitmates, while a barber’s bowl which the auctioneers had described tentatively as, probably English, 18th century, with a £400-600 estimate, saw its homegrown provenance confirmed by a price of £3400.
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