A routine house call in the Macclesfield area saw Cheshire auctioneer Adam Partridge return with a superb pair of Elkington & Co ormolu and cloisonné enamel vases in the boot of his car.
Measuring an impressive 2ft 3in (71cm)
high, one was decorated with two flamingos, two dragonflies and an
exotic bird among irises and water lilies, the other with a hawk
and garden birds among various flowering branches with a lakeland
The border decoration and the cast and
pierced gilt-bronze mounts similarly combined Oriental and European
motifs. Both were in first-class condition, retaining their
original lift-out liners, displaying only two small flaws to the
Vases such as these (both were signed
Elkington & Co in 'wires' within the design,
while one was stamped Elkington to the metal mount) were shown at
the Philadelphia Centenary Exhibition of 1876.
Elkington's were the only leading British silversmiths to show at
Philadelphia and a lithograph for The Art Journal showing their
display of cloisonné enamels includes a single vase very close to
this Macclesfield pair.
While their manufacture appears to
copy Japanese cloisonné wire techniques, the Birmingham firm made
their interpretations using electro-deposition (rather than wires)
to create cavities for the enamels.
They produced the line for only a few
years, as it ultimately proved more cost effective to import
decorative enamelwares from Japan.
The Macclesfield auctioneers pitched
the newly-discovered pair modestly at £2000-3000, a level that
attracted eight telephone bidders and more in the room on December
13. At £86,000 (plus 18% buyer's premium), they were purchased by a