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First marketed by the Gardner factory near Moscow in the late 18th century, and thereafter produced by the Imperial factory and its variously named successors at Leningrad after the Revolution, their latest sighting was at Heaton Mersey, Cheshire auction house Capes Dunn (18% buyer’s premium) on May 30.

All four were 20th century pieces: three 8½in (21.5cm) tall Leningrad porcelain figures with colourfully enamelled costumes stamped Made in Russia and with a hammer and sickle in overglaze blue, and the other a 8in (20cm) Moscow tinted bisque figure of a peasant woman carrying a child with a red print mark.

Offer refused

They were estimated at £100-150 in the catalogue but Pamela Charara of Capes Dunn said: “We had a caller from the Ukraine who offered £1000 for them to be taken out of the auction and when we turned that down, kept raising his offer.”

Wisely, as it turned out, his offers were refused. Although he did take part in the auction, he was beaten to the figures by another buyer bidding online from eastern Europe, who took the four at £10,500.

Successful results were also achieved for domestically produced ceramics.

Bernard Leach has today put in the financial shade by the likes of Lucie Rie, Hans Coper and other later names. However, the ‘father of British studio pottery’ proved his worth with a trio of St Ives wares consigned from the same private collection.

A 12in (30.5cm) oviform vase decorated with brown slip and nine incised leaping fish took £2700 (estimate £500-700). A 14¼in (36cm) diameter buff-glazed shallow dish with a mottled brown/purple/ red abstract design took £1300 (estimate £400-600).

Best of the three was a 16in (40.5cm) tall stoneware oviform vase. Decorated to the buff glaze with 12 leaping fish and incised details, and impressed with the studio and BL seal marks, it was estimated at £800-1200 and sold at £7900.

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Bernard Leach St Ives stoneware vase – £7900 at Capes Dunn.

The three pieces went to different UK collectors.

Another of the great names in modern British design, Christopher Dresser (1834-1904), was represented at the sale by three Ault Pottery ‘Goat’s Head’ double-gourd, green/brown-glazed vases.

A single 10½in (28cm) vase had two chips to the foot rim and a 7in (18cm) tall, squat, loop-handled pair with raised factory marks and stamped signature had one handle reglued. Estimated at £1000- 1500, the three sold at £3100.