The original circular pencil and sepia wash drawing of a large eagle beside a bird defending her nest forms part of the V&A collection and is pictured both online and in Martin Greenwood’s The Designs of William De Morgan (1989).
Painted in both ruby and gold lustre on a white ground, this was one of a group of six De Morgan dishes from a private collection offered by Guernsey firm Martel Maides on November 25. They were picked up from a near-derelict house – all hanging on the wall with wire hangers – shortly before lockdown. They were thought to have been bought by the former owner of the house at London auctions in the 1960s.
Remarkably, this piece retains its original purchase label from the 1890s still stuck to the reverse of the dish. Printed with the Hanover Square address of Morris & Company’s London store, it is inscribed R.358 D.M. Dish C H.Y.Y and has the price tag of £8. Morris & Co products were famously not cheap: that is more than £1000 in today’s money.
The design is unusual but a similar dish was offered by Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury in December 2010 when the hammer price was £8500.
This Channel Islands example did rather better. Estimated at £3000-5000, it attracted many bidders up to around £12,000 but two others took the chase to £27,000 (plus 17.5% buyer’s premium).
The winning bidder from Turkey bought five of the six pieces that together totalled £53,700. It is one of the highest prices for De Morgan in recent years and bettered only by a handful of spectacular tile panels.