THANKS to a clever bit of detective work by one of its curators, the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle has been able to reunite a porcelain cup and saucer that have separated for over 200 years.
The museum, which is acknowledged as having the most important
collection of Continental ceramics in the North of England, has a
very fine collection of Meissen. Among the pieces is a Meissen
saucer c.1730 from the collection of the royal 'Japanese' palace in
Howard Coutts, the museum's Curator of Ceramics, who was aware
that the inventory number No.351.w was scratched on the
base of the saucer, spotted a cup of the same design, decoration
and number for sale at Bonhams in London on July 6.
A successful bid of £4000, funded with the support of the
MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of The Bowes
Museum, means that the museum has now been able to put the two back
"The inventory of the palace lists four cups and three saucers
of this pattern and number as being on the shelf in the gallery in
1770," said Dr Coutts. "The cups are slightly larger than average,
being described as 'coffee cups', a fact that would not be obvious
to us now."
The contents of the gallery were dispersed about ten years