Sunday - 14 February 2016

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%

Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.

Written by

ATG Reporter

Back to top