A multi-faceted person, Kate was one of London’s pre-eminent dealers in European ceramics, with clients including many of the principal museums in the US as well as private collectors around the world.
Joining Sotheby’s Works of Art Department in 1959, she developed her formidable knowledge of European porcelain, working under the legendary TH (Tim) Clarke and Jim Kiddell. She travelled widely for Sotheby’s, and set up the Munich office.
In 1973, she established the firm of Kate Foster Ltd, with premises in Ryder Street, St James’s. Later she shared a shop in the Halkin Arcade, Motcomb Street, Knightsbridge, with silver dealers Brand Inglis and Timothy Schroder.
One of her loves and specialities was for the earliest Meissen porcelain from the Böttger period.
Publishing the book Scent Bottles in 1966, she was the first to recognise and separate examples of scent bottles from the Charles Gouyn’s Saint James’s factory (or ‘Girl in a Swing’ as it was then known) from those of the Chelsea factory.
Kate was one of the original exhibitors and lecturers at Brian and Anna Haughton’s International Ceramics Fair and Seminar, established in 1982. She also exhibited at other antiques fairs, both in the US and Europe, importantly Valkenburg, the forerunner of TEFAF in Maastricht.
She founded the French Porcelain Society in 1984 and was a member of The English Ceramic Circle and Die Gesellschaft der Keramikfreunde and contributed to all their journals.
A great traveller, from the 1960s Kate was an early visitor to eastern Europe where she had entrée to many of the famous collections in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. This included the legendary Just Collection in Prague which inspired the book Utz written by a fellow Sotheby’s colleague, Bruce Chatwin.
The daughter of Ludovic Foster and Pamela Wilberforce, Kate was brought up near Pulborough in Sussex. Educated at Downe House School, near Newbury, she then attended a secretarial college before learning Italian in Perugia.
She was proud to be the great-great-great grand-daughter of William Wilberforce and was prominent in the bicentenary celebration of Britain’s abolition of the slave trade in 2007.
In 1975 she married Christopher Davson, (1927-2004), giving up her London shop in 1991, but continued to work from their home in Rye. Becoming Lady Davson in 1998, she still liked to be known as Kate. Her husband Christopher was a keen archaeologist which created a perfect union of their specialities. They made many happy trips to Egypt and the Holy Land. Kate was a committed Christian, and a passionate believer in Ecumenicism.
A talented flautist, she served as chairman of the Rye Festival in the late 1980s and consolidated its reputation for quality music-making. She introduced Sir Jeffrey Tate, the eminent conductor (having initiated him into the world of porcelain collecting), in collaboration with Mitzuko Uchida, the world-renowned pianist to the festival.
A commanding figure with a deep voice, she could appear formidable but a whole generation of Sotheby’s colleagues, collectors and curators treasured her friendship and owed an incalculable debt to her for the extraordinary generosity with which she shared her knowledge. She had no children, but was a devoted step-mother and grandmother.
Pamela Klaber, Daniela Kumpf, Oliver Fairclough, friends and colleagues