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This was the late 17th century, c.1680, English delft blue dash charger shown above right,
polychrome decorated with an armoured equestrian figure thought to represent General Monck, first Duke of Albemarle, in classic baton-carrying pose. The fresh-to-market privately entered piece was contested to £17,000 by two London dealers in early English pottery: Garry Atkins and Jonathan Horne, with the hammer falling to Mr Horne who was bidding on behalf of a client.

The 14in (33.5cm) diameter dish was cracked through the centre, then rivetted, but even so the £1500-2500 estimate seemed low to this correspondent and to both buyer and underbidder, especially in the light of what some later, 18th century, delft dishes and chargers have been
making in the rooms recently.

Sotheby’s conceded that the estimate was probably overmodest but explained that they had been very cautious on account of the condition.

And to set the piece (and price) in a broader context, the most closely
comparable example is probably the blue dash charger illustrated right from the Chorley Collection that sold in Christie’s New York back in January 1993 when the English delft market was at its zenith, with several wealthy enthusiasts building up their collections. This had a very similar equestrian armoured figure (catalogued as Charles I) and was dated to c.1640. It also was admittedly a couple of inches wider and in better repair, but came with a $20,000-30,000 estimate which it duly trounced to sell to a London dealer for $90,000, then around £58,000.

From English to Italian tin-glazed earthenware, another of Sotheby’s top lots was the c.1530 dish from Faenza pictured above right. This 91/2in (24cm) diameter dish decorated in blue with highlights in white, yellow and ochre was in a visibly worse state than the English piece, with two large chunks taken out of its rim, but it was an attractive and classic piece of Renaissance art with its central figure and distinctive Berretino-type decoration to the deep rim. It sold to a Continental dealer for £5000 against an estimate of £1000-1500.

Overall, around 75 per cent of the ceramics found buyers, which the
department reckoned was a good 10 per cent higher than for their earlier sales this year.