Getting Sotheby’s Olympia’s (20/12% buyer’s premium) 288-lot April 2 sale of British and European Ceramics off to a brisk start was a well received section devoted to early Italian maiolica, Dutch Delft and other tin-glazed earthenwares.
All bar two of the 22 lots changed hands and it provided the top price of the day when the 13in (33cm) high two-handled maiolica vase pictured right sold to a London dealer for £30,000, much the biggest overall contribution to the final £360,000 total. This was made in Gubbio c.1530 and decorated with copper lustre, a speciality of the area.
As the final selling percentages of 71 per cent by lot and 83 per cent by value suggest, there were plenty of other well-received areas in the rest of the auction, even if it wasn’t a total sell-out, with demand from US, UK and Continental dealers and collectors.
Strongest performances came from the 18th century Sèvres – a sell-out section – the early English delftwares and the 18th century English porcelain. For later English wares and for Continental material from the smaller factories the response was more selective.
Plates from specially commissioned services always command a premium, especially if the client is royal. Cases in point here came from that sellout Sèvres section, two dessert plates from a service commissioned on March 7, 1856, by Prince Napoleon (Napoleon-Joseph-Charles-Paul-Bonaparte). The decoration was conceived in the Pompeian style with central enamelled scenes set against a brick red ground with white and gilt borders embellished with neoclassical motifs. These dessert plates, one of which is illustrated right, bear marks for the gilder L. Guyonnet, and were amongst the most extravagantly decorated elements of the service, costing about 76 francs each (compared to Fr9 for the larger dinner plates).
The two plates were offered with estimates of £1200-1800 apiece and doubled the low estimate, each selling for £2400.