A drawing for the shape, called gobelet lizonné à relief, is preserved in the factory archives.
The decoration comprised relief moulded prunus branches (a common motif on Chinese porcelain) and blue floral sprays painted using a pigment developed at the time by Jean Hellot (1685-1766), president of the Académie des Sciences, based on cobalt recently found in the Pyrenees.
The painter’s mark H has traditionally been thought to stand for Pierre Houry (1725-55) who is first recorded at the factory in December 1746, as a ‘mouleur’ receiving 48 livres a month. In 1751 he is listed in the ‘Etat des frais’ as a ‘répareur’ earning 60 livres, increased to 66 livres in January 1754. By July 1754 he had become a flower painter, at the same salary.
Only a handful of similar gobelet lizonné à relief are known, including another in the British Museum collection. Keys’ example had suffered from ‘fritting’ in the kiln and showed some areas of discolouration.
After a phone battle between a collector and a dealer, the cup and saucer sold at £5500.
Early Meissen with animal appeal scored well at Keys. A mid-18th century camel, a textbook Johann Joachim Kändler model just 2¾in (7cm) tall, carried a tempting £300-400 estimate.
“It is a rare figure in excellent condition and two serious UK collectors were looking to acquire a piece not yet in their collections,” said Keys’ ceramics specialist David Broom after it sold at £4200.
Spotted in London
Meanwhile, a c.1750 figure of a snarling leopard led a menagerie of Meissen animals at Matthew Barton’s (25% buyer’s premium) London sale on November 20.
Three years ago a pair of slightly larger leopards made £32,000 at Christie’s but the single, 5¼in (13.5cm) high beast at Barton’s auction had some restoration. Pitched at £1200-1800, it sold to a Continental buyer at £3000.