The Margaret Cadman Collection - Preview: The short supply of good quality period ceramics (indeed of all antiques) compared to the golden era of past collecting is a constant lament these days and one often wonders just what has happened to all of them? For several thousand pieces the answer is that they have been squirrelled away for decades in a large Victorian house on the South Coast.
This ceramic cache came to light earlier this year when Christie’s were called in to clear the Brighton seafront house of Mrs Margaret Cadman, who died last year in her early nineties. They found several thousand pieces of pottery, porcelain and other objects crammed into cupboards and stuffed into almost 500 packing chests. It took Christie’s Rodney Woolley a week to unpack and even now that everything is back in the auctioneers’ warehouse being catalogued for sale this autumn, he is still finding new discoveries.
Mrs Cadman began a long career as an antique dealer over 70 years ago. She had two shops: in Ship Street, Brighton and in London’s Beauchamp Place and was a regular exhibitor at antiques fairs up and down the country, including those at Grosvenor House. She bought widely from auctions and from other dealers, and the invoices that came with her collection from major names past and present in the ceramics world including A.J. Filkin, Manheim, Geoffrey Godden and Albert Amor.
Many of the pieces were purchased in the 1960s and ’70s adding to today’s perception that good ceramics were easier to come by in former times.
Although Mrs Cadman did not confine herself to ceramics, favouring a range of smaller decorative items, pottery and porcelain were her main focus.
As an Old School dealer, her tastes ranged right across the ceramics spectrum from rare pieces of Chelsea to 19th century Staffordshire figures and Meissen tea services to Wedgwood plaques.
Vast in size, this is not an academic assemblage, rather it is characterised by its electicism based on what took Margaret Cadman’s fancy and what was available and there is hardly any British factory not represented in her ceramic repository.
While some of it was stock, other pieces seem to have been kept for personal preference like the white Bow figure that she bought back in 1940. Curiously, some of it seems not to have seen the light of day for literally decades. “We were unwrapping pieces in newspapers that were 30 or 40 years old,” said Mr Woolley. Although the collection is characterised by diversity, Mrs Cadman obviously had particular preferences. Regency porcelain, miniature wares, Staffordshire figures, Bow and Lowestoft are particularly well represented. (There are over 20 Lowestoft creamboats in the collection, for example, and the Bow holdings include a group of the currently fashionable early famille rose decorated wares.)
With somewhere between 2000 and 2500 lots to offer, varying considerably in rarity and condition, Christie’s were aware of the dangers of flooding the market, so Mrs Cadman’s property is being divided among several sales, either single-owner dispersals or as part of mixed-owner auctions. First off on October 10 will be a sale of her Staffordshire figures, featuring around 350 lots. This will be followed the next day by a smaller 180-lot sale featuring a selection of her best pieces. There will be a separate single-owner auction with more of a house contents feel on November 20, which will feature her furniture, a collection of Regency tea caddies and various selections of works of art, silver and jewellery as well as ceramics such as large vases and services. More affordable routine ceramics will be placed in the auctioneers’ mixed-vendor ceramics sales throughout the year, while some of her grander Continental pieces will feature in a ceramics sale
at King Street in December.
Christie’s reckon the entire property will fetch somewhere in the region of £1m. The sale on October 11 will feature some of Mrs Cadman’s rarest English ceramics.
Star billing goes to a rare, dated London delft mug of 1660 painted with a portrait of Charles II, which is estimated at £40,000-60,000. There is also a rare pair of Bow candlesticks of c.1760, which are the quintessence of the Rococo, with their swirling outlines derived directly from silver shapes, but here picked out in the factory’s characteristic puce and blue. Althoough both sticks have been restored, non-figural candlesticks in English porcelain are rare – a pair rarer still. These are expected to make £6000-8000.
The unusually extensive Lowestoft holdings include numerous small miniature pieces and rarities like a pair of polychrome figures of pug dogs estimated to fetch in the region of £6000-10,000. An attractive entry among her Regency porcelain and one of the few pieces that was not wrapped away in her house is a Chamberlain’s Worcester garniture of a bough pot and two vases, published in Geoffrey Godden’s book on the factory and estimated at £2000-3000.
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