A REMARKABLE Chelsea porcelain bust with the potential to establish a new record for English porcelain will be offered for sale by Bonhams on April 18.
Fergus Gambon, department director of
British ceramics at Bonhams told ATG he was moved to tears by his
first sight of the work in an English private collection last
"My heart stopped. I knew that the only
known example of the model was in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford,
regarded as a jewel in the crown of the ceramics collection there.
No other example was recorded. Yet here was another - and somehow
even better. I was immediately struck by its radiance and
The identities of the subject and the
sculptor of this iconic 8in (20cm) model made in the late 1740s
have been much discussed by scholars and collectors.
Head of a Laughing Child is
sometimes said to represent Sophie Roubiliac, daughter of the
sculptor Louis François Roubiliac (1702-62). Sophie was the
goddaughter of Nicholas Sprimont, proprietor of the Chelsea
In contrast to the Ashmolean example that is
decorated (probably at a later date) in polychrome enamels,
Bonhams' new discovery has been left in the white as the potter
intended and as fashion c.1748 would have demanded. It was slip
cast as a single piece.
Mr Gambon added: "The child's smiling face
and thick, curly hair are beautifully modelled, beneath a glaze as
smooth as silk. The result is a piece of sculpture of great
delicacy and pathos."
While Bonhams have published a 'refer to department' estimate -
in saleroom terms at least this is an incomparable object - he
believes the head has the potential to break the world record price
for early English porcelain at auction, which stands at a
premium-inclusive £223,650 paid for a Chelsea hen and chicks tureen
at Christie's in 2003.