Thursday - 24 July 2014

Selling at £34,000, Limehouse at its absolute best

23 January 2012Written by Roland Arkell

THE small factory at Limehouse, operating on the banks of the Thames just to the east of the Tower of London from 1745-1748, was one of the pioneers of English porcelain manufacture.

Positive identification has only been possible since wasters and fragments were unearthed at the site at 108-116 Narrow Street in 1989.

This pair of 9in (22cm) sauceboats, with their lion-mask handles and silver shape, are typical Limehouse. They were consigned to Fieldings of Stourbridge as part of a deceased estate. The vendor's late mother, who lived in Herefordshire, was interested in antiques but probably had no knowledge of their origin.

The form is the same as another with chinoiserie decoration illustrated in Geoffrey Godden's English Blue and White Porcelain (and sold for £5200 at Bonhams in May 2011).

However, the rococo-style vignettes, one with a cottage viewed through trees, the other with a ruined monument, and roses and buds on leafy stems, are more akin to a relief-moulded sauceboat sold by Bonhams as part of the Godden reference collection in June 2010 for £6200. The line-drawn profile masks painted towards the lip have fewer parallels.

2025NE02A-12-01-23.jpg

Above: a detail of one of the line-drawn profile masks seen on the £34,000 Limehouse sauceboats.

Although initially catalogued as 'late 18th or early 19th century' and 'probably Chinese', research led the auctioneers to change their attribution and revise their estimate from £500-800 to £1500-2000 prior to their sale on January 14. The new guideline was still modest.

In contrast to the aforementioned pieces, both new discoveries were in good condition.

While they exhibited the fritting and firing cracks that characterise these experimental wares, a small chip to one was the only subsequent imperfection. Competition from six telephone lines (including two American buyers) and two bidders in the room saw them sell at £34,000 (plus 21 per cent buyer's premium), an auction record for the Limehouse factory.

The purchaser was Jupiter Antiques in East Sussex.

Remarkably, it is the second splendid pair of early English porcelain sauceboats to appear in the regions in recent years: in September 2009 Knutsford auctioneers Frank Marshall sold a pair of Chelsea blue triangle period sauceboats with polychrome landscape decoration c.1745-49 for a house record £41,000.

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.

Back to top