Friday - 24 October 2014

Wemyss comes up against a new sanity

30 August 2011Written by ATG Reporter

THE Edinburgh sales at Bonhams and Lyon & Turnbull in August both featured Wemyss wares, offering an opportunity to assess the current market.

Tempting as it is to hark back to the remarkable prices achieved earlier this century - including the £20,000 bid for the tabby from the Drambuie collection sold by Lyon & Turnbull in 2006 or £29,000 apiece bid at Sotheby's Gleneagles for two sleeping piglets in 2004 - the feeling is that today's prices reflect a return of sanity rather than a market collapse.

Tough luck for vendors, of course, but good news for true collectors in what has traditionally been a steady rather than spectacular niche area.

"Those record-setting prices were really flukes and there were all sorts of rumours about who was setting them," said Bonhams specialist Katherine Wright (Elton John was reportedly a fan). Here estimates reflected market realities.

Most of the standard domestic wares achieved three-figure sums at Bonhams' August 16-18 sale, but the best price, as expected, was for a rare sleeping piglet decorated with cabbage roses. Probably by one of Wemyss finest decorators, James Sharp, the 6¾in (17cm) piglet sold on its low £4000 estimate. Seemingly for this model we are back to the price levels of the early 1990s.

At Lyon & Turnbull the afternoon sale on August 16 comprised 210 items of Wemyss, 140 of which (66%) found buyers who were sometimes reluctant to meet vendors' expectations.

Top seller here was a rare rabbit figure dating from c.1900. Decorated with black spongeware and printed with the mark of London retailers T. Goode & Co, the 6¼in (16cm) rabbit suffered hairlines but is one of only two known examples.

Estimated at £3000-5000, it got away at £2600 to lead the sale.

Two post-1930, 17in (44cm) long pigs from the Bovey Tracy period, one decorated with cabbage roses, the other with black spongeware, went a shade above top estimates, each selling at £1600.

Among the non-animal offerings a couple of ewers and basins were popular.

One, c.1900 decorated by Karel Nekola with fruiting vines comprised a 10in (25cm) tall ewer and 15¼in (39cm) diameter basin. The other, dated early 20th century, a 6in (15.5cm) tall ewer and 11¼in (28.5cm) basin decorated with dragonflies by Edwin Sandland. Size was not a consideration for bidders, the larger example bringing a mid-estimate £1000 and the smaller the same sum against a £600-800 estimate.

Perhaps rather oddly, one of the best Wemyss prices this summer came not from Scotland but down in Essex where Sworders of Stansted Mountfitchet offered a pair of 13in (32cm) cats on August 2. The hectic days when a true pair such as this, decorated in an unusual marmalade colourway, could have brought a five-figure sum being over, the cats were estimated at £5000-8000 and sold on the lower figure.

Buyer's premiums:

Lyon & Turnbull: 25/20%

Bonhams: 20/12%

Sworders: 20%

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