At the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1878 the firm put on a spectacular display, building an elaborate façade on the Street of Nations replicating the architectural terracottas of its newly completed Lambeth headquarters (Southbank House built between 1876-78). Sir Henry Doulton was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur shortly afterwards.
Among the items on show was this monumental vase from the relatively new ‘faience’ range. Standing 4ft 4in (1.3m) high, it draws on a number of fashionable artistic genres – including the Arts & Crafts movement and historicism – in a decorative scheme inspired by classical mythology.
To the body, sirens mourn the departure of a rowing boat, while sea creatures, mermen and mermaids populate the neck and the foot. As well as impressed Doulton Lambeth marks, it is inscribed Exposition de Paris 1878.
The decoration (apparently unsigned) is probably by two graduates from the nearby Lambeth School of Art: John P Hewitt providing the painting and George Tinworth the modelling. Doulton’s ‘Rembrandt of Clay’ created a series of works for the 1878 exhibition including a fountain based on subjects from the New Testament sold for £22,000 at Bonhams in 2008.
This vase was lot number three in the mammoth Adam Partridge sale held in Macclesfield from February 15-18 and part of a large collection of exhibition-related memorabilia. It was in generally good condition, although the iron rod that would once have held the three sections together is missing. Estimated at £800-1200, it took £15,000 (plus 20% buyer’s premium inc VAT). It sold to one of two private collectors in the room competing against five phone bidders.