Doulton wares have been produced for getting on for 150 years and cover a huge range of different products, not all of them fashionable.
Demand for the Burslem figures that 20 years ago used to command
entire auctions has fallen dramatically and only the prototypes and
rare colourways are on the up now. Likewise, while George
Tinworth's quirky rodents or Hannah Barlow's scarcer animal
subjects still have a determined collector base, more standard
Lambeth stonewares and faience are harder to shift and need careful
This being the case,
Bonhams had clearly got the balance right for their 140 lot
offering that formed a large part of the Ceramic Design sale held
in their New Bond Street rooms on March 16.
Certainly when one looks at the Doulton high flyers, they fell
into the fashionable category of inter-War pieces with experimental
glazes. In the auctioneers' Ceramic Design sales last year there
was a noticeable preference for unusual or experimental glaze
variations, and especially anything lustred or flambéd.
That trend continues. Perhaps the best example this time around
was provided by the catalogue cover lot, a mid 1920s vase by
Charles Noke and Harry Nixon decorated with experimental
Chang glazes and modelled with a dragon coiled sinuously
around the body. It carried a £10,000-12,000 estimate, but in its
favour, felt Mark Oliver, was its pristine condition without the
usual wear to the scales or the tips of the horns seen on other
examples he has encountered.
Nonetheless, it came in just under estimate at £9800, a
reflection of the fact that this was a lot on which VAT was
additionally payable on the hammer price.
The sale also included a whole series of non-sculptural wares by
the same duo covered in similar characteristic thick colourful
dripping Chang glazes. Varying in size from 3 to 11½in (8
to 29cm) high, these ranged in price from £750 up to £5500.
Above: two Chang-glazed pieces at Bonhams. Left: a 4¼in
(11cm) high globular vase that sold for £750. Right: a flared
vessel, 6¼in (16cm) high, that made £2000.
There were also some more standard Doulton figures whose
attraction lay in the variant of an experimental glaze like a
hitherto unrecorded version of HN51 (Spook) covered in a
Titanian glaze that realised £3600, or a Titanian-glazed version of
HN380, a seated gnome. This went for £5000, which was £500 more
than was paid for another Titanian-glazed version in the equivalent
sale last year.
A Sung vase with a lion and lioness signed by Arthur
Eaton and Noke was impressive at 12½in (32cm) high but was held
back by some surface scratches which kept the price just under the
low end of a £6000-8000 estimate at £5200.
The Lambeth wares were thin on great Hannah Barlow animal
subjects and quirky pieces of Tinworth's anthropomorphism this
time, leaving as the best seller a large plaque conventionally but
very finely painted by Florence Barlow with a study of a large
macaw and three manakin birds perched on a branch. This swept past
its £3500-4000 guide to take £6500.
Much of Bonhams' sale last autumn was given over to the mammoth
Richard Wright collection of Moorcroft, a 290-lot ensemble that
contributed £290,000 to that sale's overall coffers. This March
offering wasn't quite in the same league in terms of size or value,
containing two smaller single-owner properties and a smattering of
mixed-owner wares, but the selling rate was just as high as for the
Wright ensemble with all bar 18 of the 135 lots changing hands.
Nothing quite reached the height of the £16,000 paid in the
Wright sale for the rare Moorcroft advertising plaque, but there
were substantial prices paid for rare or desirable patterns,
unusual glazes or colourways, most of which came from a small,
18-lot collection consigned from New Zealand.
This included a rare 6in (15.5cm) high example of a landscape
vase with a brilliant flambé glaze that went for £6500; an early
and very unusual landscape vase decorated with a pattern of poplar
trees pictured in ATG No 1980 that despite restoration outstripped
its £800-1200 guide to take £5500, and a Moorcroft octagonal clock
case in the Eventide pattern, also previewed, at £4000.
Topping all these at a within- estimate £9800 was an 8in (20cm)
high, two-handled squat vase from another source painted with the
Waratah pattern. This design, made for the Australian market, is
one of Moorcroft's more desirable patterns, but what picked this
version out was its flambé variant glaze and good
The buyer's premium was 20/12%.