The market for Clarice Cliff may not be the spirited beast it was five or six years ago when Christie’s South Kensington’s specialist sales could routinely expect to boast 80-90 per cent selling rates by lot.
Nonetheless, these bi-annual outings still attract enough dyed-in-the-wool enthusiasts - Clarice Cliff Collectors' Club members; private UK buyers and specialist dealers - to make it as safe an auction as any to launch the firm's new Sunday sales initiative.
Held on February 20, the South Kensington firm hosted a Saturday afternoon gallery talk for Clarice Cliff Collectors' Club members (a number of whom attended the Sunday sale), and CSK specialist Joy McCall reported positive feedback from private buyers as well as from some dealers about the Saturday viewing and the new Sunday scheduling. She also encountered some new blood.
"There were a lot of private buyers at the sale that I was not familiar with," she said.
Interest notwithstanding, buyers bid selectively and the 267-lot sale fielded a fairly par-for-the-course 76 per cent take-up by volume and £119,520 total.
However, there was healthy competition for the top lot pictured here: a complete Appliqué Orange Lucerne sandwich set for eight, consigned as a one-off lot from a private UK vendor.
Amongst Clarice Cliff's most expensive range of ceramics, the sandwich set's enticing £1500-2000 estimate and superb condition proved irresistible to a number of UK private buyers and dealers who contested it up to the £6000 mark. After this, bidding boiled down to a two-way battle between a private buyer and a dealer, with the former securing it at a punchy £9000.
"I would have been disappointed if it had made less than £5000," said Ms McCall.
With good quality Cliff increasingly difficult to source, a Latona Dahlia charger measuring 18in (46cm) in diameter proved an encouraging find for the vendor at a local car boot sale. Purchased for £1, it went on to fetch £1600 despite a hairline crack.
Given its specialist collector-based audience, the occasional shopper seems unlikely to make a major impact on statistics at a Clarice sale. More of a litmus test of Christie's new drive to woo private customers at the weekend will be their more general Living with Objects sale on Sunday April 24 featuring light fittings, sculpture and other decorative furnishings.
• Sharing the same catalogue as the Clarice Cliff (but few of the same buyers) was the 210-lot British Decorative Arts sale that followed on Monday.
It boasted a solid 82 per cent take-up by volume and £83,295 total, but no five-figure blockbusters, the strongest prices centring on Wedgwood's Fairyland lustre ware by Daisy Makeig-Jones.
Foremost was a Sunset fairyland lustre Jumping Faun footed punch bowl measuring 9in (24cm) in diameter. With flame lustre a perennial favourite with collectors and Jumping Faun one of Wedgwood's less frequently employed designs, it topped its upper estimate, selling at £4900.