Size, quality, condition and subject matter are the ingredients by which Berlin porcelain plaques are judged.
And, in purely commercial terms, they do not get much better
than the example seen at
Hansons in Etwall, Derbyshire on September 27-28.
While copies of Old Master paintings, sentimental biblical
scenes and topographical landscapes were once hugely popular with
19th century collectors, the 21st century marketplace values
plaques decorated with classical female figures in a state of
undress above all others.
One nubile young lady is good. Two are better. This example,
measuring a substantial 18 x 12in (46 x 29.5cm), had five, each
finely painted in a pose emblematic of motherhood, education,
vanity, appreciation and temptation and 'framed' within a border of
raised gilt anthemion.
The artist, who had signed it lower right was H. Dittrich, a
very able decorator whose name appears on a large number of plaques
and vases made by the Konigliche Porzellan Manufaktur or their
imitators. Typically the decorators of Berlin plaques bought them
'in the white' and were independent of the factories that made
In the early 20th century the plaque - that retained its
original Aesthetic movement black ebonised and gilt-ground frame -
had hung in The Sportsman's Inn in Harbourne, but Charles Hanson
was first shown it early this year when giving a talk at a bowls
club in Sutton Coldfield.
The owner had been a given a valuation of around £10,000 in 1988
and Mr Hanson had been happy to suggest it might be worth
£15,000-25,000 today. He heard back from him several months later
with his decision to sell.
His faith in the piece was rewarded by a strong UK commission
bid that was successful against a telephone bidder at £32,000.
It was a bullish sum. Back in the 1980s when they were the
quarry of Japanese businessmen it was not too unusual for a KPM
porcelain plaque to realise a five-figure sum. Today it is an
outstanding example that brings more than £10,000.
This, and the
13th century Kedleston Hall pottery pitcher sold at £30,000,
provided the headline lots at Hansons best sale to date.
A Lalique Vitesse car mascot had come in for sale following a
Lichfield valuation day. This model of a sensuous nude leaning
forward in the wind, symbolising speed, was made in a number of
different treatments in the 1930s (some in clear glass, others
frosted or with a hint of amethyst), but it is most admired in the
blue opalescent glass seen here.
It was not in the best condition (the poor girl had lost both of
her carefully sculpted nipples and was heavily chipped to the socle
base, but nonetheless demolished a conservative £1000-1500 estimate
to take £9800 from a UK bidder.
Yvonne Jones, author of the recently published Japanned Papier
Mâché and Tinware c.1740-1940, helped in the cataloguing of an 8in
(20cm) japanned casket by Henry Clay (fl. 1767-1812). Applied with
handsome white metal mounts - bands of thistles, roses and
shamrocks, four paw feet and two lion mask handles - a finely
engraved plaque set to the inside of the cover suggested a direct
link to the founder of the japanning industry in Birmingham.
Ribbons surrounding a portrait of Concordia and the crest of
William Selkirk of Birmingham were inscribed The gift of Henry
Clay Esq To Overseers in the year 1784 alongside a list
of the names (some of them recognisable as Birmingham artisans)
including J. Rabone, J. Marston, B. Redfern, S. Oatridge, S.
Bellamy and T. Grundy. A further plaque read The exterior
Embellishment the gift of Mr Wm Spooner. It was in tired
condition (the lid was detached and significant portions of inlay
were missing) but it was a singular object that doubtless tells an
Pitched at a very buyable £1000-1500, it sold at £7000 to a UK
Above: a detail of the engraved plaque affixed to the inside
lid of the japanned casket by Henry Clay sold at £7000 at