Regular readers of ATG saleroom reports will be all too aware of the recent price explosion of Minton’s pâte sur pâte ceramics. This highly distinctive, almost cameo-like form of carved slip decoration was perfected by Louis-Marc Solon who had his own special iconography of nymphs and putti engaged in a bewildering array of quirky pursuits.
A critical mass of material for enthusiasts to collect and the
emergence on the market of some blue-chip examples (not least those
in Bonhams' two dispersals from the Minton Museum) has drawn some
big spenders into the market. Pâte sur pâte has fans across the
world with collectors in the US, UK, Australia and the Far East and
the determination of these deep-pocketed enthusiasts to secure
their prizes has resulted in telephone number prices.
Last month we were treated to a new price hike when the monumental
3ft 2in (1.67m) high vase, pictured right, sold at Christie's in
New York, for $260,000 (£144,440), getting on for double the
previous high of $160,000 set in the same rooms only last October
by a pair of chocolate ground Solon-decorated vases delighting
under the titles of Fires Lit and Fires Extinguished.
But there is an even more interesting coda to this latest record
breaker. This was an international exhibition piece. One of a pair
titled Frise D'Enfant in Solon's workbook, they have massive bodies
featuring putti demolishing iron chains to replace them with rose
garlands set on bases fashioned as four platinum-finished putti.
Combining the talents of Albert Carrier-Belleuse for the shape and
Solon and two assistants who carried out the many hours of
decoration, they were conceived as a grand showstopper for the 1878
Paris Exposition Universelle to put Minton's name on the
international map. The factory duly won the Exposition's Grand
Prize and, as Christie's specialist Melissa Bennie pithily
explained last week, "put Minton and Solon in the driving
According to Bernard Bumpus, the pair was separated virtually at
birth. Tiffany's bought this example directly after the Exposition
while the other returned to the well-known London retailers Thomas
Goode where it remained until 1991.
At some stage the vase offered last month at Christie's passed
from Tiffany to the Daourd Collection in Atlantic City from whence
it was acquired by Christie's vendor in 1975.
But what of its companion chez Thomas Goode's? A spokesman for the
firm said he recalled this and all the other period ceramic pieces
at the retailers being acquired by a Swiss-based purchaser,
probably in the 1990s, although he could not elucidate further. One
rumour in the trade is that it is now in private hands, perhaps in
the Far East. The Goode's vase also appeared as the photographic
'pin up' for June on the Minton factory calendars for 1999. Now,
though, the trail seems to have run cold.
There are, however, a number of people who would like to know its
whereabouts, among them Melissa Bennie, who would understandably
love to offer another version for sale, and the Kent dealer John
Andrews of Scottow Antiques, who paid the record-breaking sum last
month on behalf of a British-based collector and would dearly like
to reunite the long-separated duo.
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