Royal Worcester porcelain is one of those collecting areas which is plentiful enough in its many different ornamental styles to support a wide collecting base. There are buyers for all the different forms, from George Owen’s scarce reticulated vases to Doris Lindner’s equestrian models.
Values do, however, reflect changing tastes and fashions.
Broadly speaking these days, buyers favour artist-decorated pieces
that show virtuoso painting techniques, over the generic
Other areas that flourished in past decades, for example Dorothy
Doughty's birds and blush ivory figures by undesignated artists,
are much harder to sell now than in the heady 1970s and 80s when
such pieces were the backbone of Sotheby's Belgravia's 19th century
ceramics sales or Phillips' Blenheim Street auctions.
Another Royal Worcester collecting sector that is less voguish
and more affordable than in former decades is their novelty line of
porcelain candlesnuffers produced from the 1850s onwards and
variously modelled as children, animals, characters from fiction
Pieces like the presciently surreal Confidence and
Diffidence (showing the 'Swedish Nightingale' Jenny Lind
modelled with a bird's head like something from a Max Ernst
painting) can still make several hundred pounds. But it is also
possible to buy common versions for less than £100 at auction and
many snuffers are not valued highly enough to be lotted singly.
But, as in every field, there are exceptions. These are the
unusual colour variants, short production runs and trial models. In
a collecting area where many enthusiasts built up their holdings
long ago, these are the ceramic Penny Blacks and Reds that they
fight to add to their collections. And for these they are prepared
to spend handsomely as two recent sale results show.
One such example came up for sale at Bonhams Bond
Street on September 10. Dog Toby, a 3in (8cm)
high model of Mr Punch's canine companion sporting a Tyrolean hat
and bearing an indistinct date letter for 1882, is thought to be
one of a tiny production run numbering probably no more than 50
examples. Bidding on this went well past the £2500-3500 estimate to
£5000 (plus 20 per cent buyer's premium), with the hammer falling
to Tony Horsley, specialist Royal Worcester dealer and
candlesnuffer authority who wrote the 1999 publication
But just eight days later on September 18, that price was
surpassed when a yet rarer model known as The Lady
Motorist came up for sale at Bristol's Clevedon
Saleroom. It was part of large consignment from a deceased
estate and had the bonus of an enticingly low £250-350
The Lady Motorist is one of the factory's later models,
created in 1909 to depict the last word in Edwardian technology and
social change - a female motorist sporting a fur-trimmed long coat,
wide hat and goggles. It is, however, a super-rare snuffer, with
only four of these early models (three white and one coloured)
being recorded. Tony Horsley surmises the model never got beyond
the trial stage because the lady's large hat made the design top
His theory is reinforced by the presence of a brown factory mark
to the base indicating these pieces had not received a final firing
(post-kiln the mark would be puce). But it is also based on the
results of a later 1976 reissue of The Motorist, recreated
from the original moulds, which also proved unstable. As a result -
unlike reissues of Confidence and Diffidence and The
Monk - it never went into general production, making even
1970s Lady Motorist models rare, with only seven to ten
thought to exist.
Before the view, a number of prospective purchasers sought
verification that Clevedon's find was the earlier Edwardian version
(a rubbed brown mark confirmed this) although the catalogue did not
commit to a date.
With no auction precedent to go on, the final price was probably
anyone's guess, although it never looked likely to sell at the
On sale day there were around half a dozen bidders up to the
£600-700 mark. After this, it was a straight battle between two
serious contenders: Tony Horsley bidding on the phone and a
determined private collector who secured it at £5300 (plus 17.5 per
cent buyer's premium).
Mr Horsley is planning a new edition of his book that will
record the latest sighting of this 'distinguished
By Anne Crane
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