The 17th century London delft dish that made £45,000 at Bonhams.

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Sited in Southwark near the eponymous quayside, the pottery was founded by in 1618 by Christian Wilhelm, a Dutch immigrant potter, and its initial Chinese export-inspired decoration soon gave way to a more distinctive style incorporating oriental and European elements.

As one of the earliest known English wares, Pickleherring delft is scarce and consequently costly when it comes up for sale, especially larger pieces thought to have been special commissions (although there are signs this market is not as heated as it was in the 1980s and '90s).

Nonetheless, the discovery of a hitherto unrecorded example in a house in East Anglia with close stylistic links to a group of Pickleherring wares thought to have been made in the mid 17th century, when Richard Newnhan was manager, was bound to create interest in pottery circles.

The discovery took the form of this 15in (39cm) diameter underglaze blue decorated dish which came up for sale at Bonhams Bond Street on December 10.

The distinctive shape compares with three others: in the Longridge collection and the Fitzwilliam and the Brighton Museums - all of which seem to have been cast from the same mould. The Dutch delft-derived decoration, combining landscapes with Dutch ships, appears on two other smaller dishes also in the Fitzwilliam.

Several other pieces in this group bear armorials, some for City Livery companies. Bonhams' latest discovery bears elaborate arms for Markham impaling those of Faringe, but the auctioneers' pre-sale investigation did not turn up a marriage between the two families.

Perhaps its new owners will be able to research it further. It was bought in the room for £45,000 by London dealer Jonathan Horne on behalf of Milwaukee Art Museum. They have been looking for a piece of early British delft to complement their extant collection and used money provided by the Virginia Booth Vogel Acquisition Fund to make their purchase.

By Anne Crane

More London ceramics results are reported in this week's London Selection in the ATG printed newspaper. To subscribe, click here.