There are signs that last year’s publication of ‘The Della Robbia Pottery’ by Peter Hyland has given a lift to the market for the distinctive wares produced in Birkenhead by Harold Rathbone and Conrad Dressler between 1894-1906.
London ealers The Fine Art Society reported strong sales for Della Robbia among the John Scott collection which they exhibted this summer, while Woolley & Wallis (22% buyer's premium) posted noteworthy results for the small handful of wares in their latest Arts & Crafts sale in Salisbury.
An impressive charger, dated 1904, decorated with a large carnation flowerhead to the well and to the rim with a frieze of Art Nouveau tulips, in green, yellow and red, more than doubled the low estimate to bring £3200.
Measuring 20in (50cm) across, it carries a number of typical incised marks including the date 1904 and the monogram ELL - a thus far unknown artist who signed a comparable charger pictured in Mr Hyland's book.
An oak-framed plaque titled Undine, measuring 18 x 8in (45 x 20.5cm) and incised and painted with a nymph in blue, green and yellow, was probably designed by Rathbone. It had some professional restoration (Della Robbia's terracotta body is particularly prone to chipping) but sold at £1900 at the sale on June 18 (estimate £1000-2000).
Estimated at £700-900 but sold at £2600 was a large 21in (53cm) triangular pilgrim's vase and cover with a monogram for Ruth Bare, dated 1900. This flattened form with cast Bacchanalian mask handles and a body incised with heart-shaped Art Nouveau foliage in green and buff is that pictured in the Encyclopedia of British Art Pottery by Victoria Bergesen (a similar version is pictured in The Della Robbia Pottery). It had only minor professional restoration to the neck rim.
A small group of Della Robbia sold by Peter Wilson (24% buyer's premium) in Nantwich on July 10 included an 11in (28cm) ewer incised with grapes and vine leaves divided by a zigzag band. Illustrated in the Hyland book, the piece has marks for 1897 and the monogram JS to its base for Jessie Sinclair. The painting is thought to be by Liz Wilkins.
It sold for £2700, more than five times its top estimate, to a private collector living in the Liverpool area.
A 9in (23cm) twin-handled 'Moorish' vase incised and painted by Annie Smith in 1896 with a parakeet and a cockatoo perched on a branch with swallows flying in the background, was estimated at £200-300 but sold for £900.