The auction of British ceramics at Bonhams on May 18 was the first at New Bond Street for six months and it was a big ensemble made up of the usual range of single-owner collections mingled with material from various vendors.
Here porcelain from the major 18th century Regency, early 19th
century and Welsh factories made up 280 of the 602 lots, getting on
for half the content. The remainder was given over the early
pottery discussed elsewhere on these pages and a selection of later
wares, Royal Worcester and pâte-sur-pâte from the Bernard Bumpus
Alongside the usual selection of early Worcester, Bow and
Chelsea, this sale was swelled by a particularly large offering of
Lowestoft from two different vendors.
Twenty-seven lots of blue and white came from the Geoffrey
Godden's well-known reference collection and followed on from the
pieces he sold last year and part of his single-owner auction in
June 2010. A further 37 lots of blue and white and polychrome
inscribed wares came from the Paul collection, formed by several
generations of the same family between the 1930s and '50s.
The two collections therefore complemented each other well, but
taken together comprised a very large number of pieces from this
factory in one sitting.
Lowestoft is a strong market with a very keen private following,
but its output and buying base is not as large as, say, Worcester
and the estimates were not there-to-be-sold giveaways. So the
burning question was, would the market be able to absorb it?
"We saw no reason to presume that the market could not take it,"
said Bonhams' Ceramics head John Sandon after the auction. It all
went, he said, adding that while it didn't make over estimate this
was because they had judged the estimates accurately for a field
that is collector dominated.
"We had plenty of material to base prices on." As well as last
year's slice of Godden Lowestoft, in 2007 Bonhams sold 52 lots of
blue and white Lowestoft in the Sutherland collection. "The market
hasn't been swamped even though we've thrown a lot at it," he
Certainly the results bore this out, for nothing failed to sell
in the Godden selection and only two lots were left without takers
in the Paul ensemble. Many Lowestoft collectors are quite happy to
come and bid personally for their prizes (although mindful that
many are locally based, Bonhams sensibly took a selection of pieces
to East Anglia to preview in their Bury St Edmunds office). As
predicted, the majority of the material went to private collectors
or to one or two dealers bidding on commission.
Every buyer, especially seasoned aficionados, will fight over
the rarities to fill gaps in their collection and at Bonhams this
was where the most notable results occurred.
A good illustration was provided by four small mugs in the Paul
collection dating from 1795, painted with polychrome floral motifs
and with a puce cartouche framing the legend A Trifle from
Heights ranged from around 4-4¾in (10-12cm) and estimates from
£1500-2000 up to £6000-8000 based on condition and shape. Prices
The most expensive was for the only barrel-shaped version (all
the others were cylindrical) and the only one with no damage. It
was published in Godden's Lowestoft Porcelain
and like many of the Paul collection's best pieces had featured in
the 1957 Lowestoft China Bicentenary Exhibition.
It duly topped that guide to take £11,500, the highest Lowestoft
price of the auction.
The cheapest of the quartet was the lowest estimated and had a
broken and restored handle and patches of staining. It just tipped
over predictions at £2200. The other polychrome versions realised a
within-estimate £3200 for a cracked and slightly stained example
and a double-estimate £6500 for the smallest and the least damaged
of the cylindrical versions with just a fine crack.
There was also a smaller 2½in (6cm) high underglaze blue version
in the Godden Lowestoft, regarded as very rare because most 'trifle
from..' mugs were polychrome, Similarly decorated but with a
cross-hatched interior border, and just one fine crack, it doubled
its estimate to take £7000.
Other rarities that got the collectors excited included an
underglaze blue pear-shaped coffee pot of c.1765 in the Paul
collection that was unusual for being applied in relief with
trailing flower stems as well as flat-painted motifs all delicately
picked out in blue. It came in at £9500, while the Godden property
featured a teapot of c.1790-95 decorated with a standard Two
Bird pattern in blue and red that unusually was applied to a
cylindrical shape, an unrecorded combination that was enough to
take it to £5000.
Not everything performed to expectations. A £6000-8000 guide on
a 3½in (7cm) diameter Paul collection birth tablet inscribed SS
1789 to one side and painted with pagodas on an island proved
too bullish and it got away at £5000. It had credentials of being
ex the Crisp collection and the 1957 bicentenary exhibition but had
a broken and restuck rim and John Sandon felt the fact that it was
inscribed only with initials and the painting was perhaps not the
finest, may have held it back.
Caughley and Limehouse
Lowestoft was not the sole purveyor of rarities in this sale.
Both the Paul and the Godden properties offered pieces from other
English factories as well.
One was a rare, finely moulded and underglaze blue-decorated,
5½in (13cm) high mask jug from Caughley c.1775, whose printed
circular mark to the base reading Salopian and Gallimore
Turner provides documentary evidence of the early c.1772
partnership of Ambrose Gallimore and Thomas Turner at the
Shropshire factory. An ex-Bernard Watney piece before entering the
Godden collection, this outstripped a £7000-10,000 guide to take
Among the other treasures that Geoffrey Godden was selling was a
very rare Limehouse teapot of c.1746-48, one of four that had
originally come from Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire, seat of the
Earls of Fitzwilliam. They had been sold as one lot by Christie's
in 1948, although at that time they were thought to be Lowestoft.
David Mannheim, the dealer who bought them at Christie's, sold them
on to Godden's father and Geoffrey purchased three of them from
Godden senior for £11.
Two of these sold in last year's Godden reference collection
auction for £28,000 and £6000 (for an example lacking a lid).
This third example, decorated with an array of oriental-inspired
precious objects, realised a lower-estimate £15,000. It was
impeccably provenanced and much published, it is true, but as John
Sandon explained: "However rare Limehouse is, we have sold a lot of
Limehouse". The air tends to be thin at the top for these trophy
pieces from factories with relatively small output.
Market freshness is also a factor and in this 18th century
section two or three notable failures in the Worcester had come
from the collection of David Butti, which was sold in the same
rooms as recently as 2006.
The other notably sticky section came with a small, eight-lot
group of Chelsea and St James porcelain scent bottles, none of
which found a buyer.
The buyer's premium was 20/12%.