The Fairyland lustre Bubbles II Malfrey pot that led Freeman’s first sale of the Rubin collection at $16,000 (£13,335).

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Dr Ellis F Rubin and Suzanne Borow Rubin were avid collectors of Wedgwood.

They enthusiastically joined numerous societies, attended seminars and befriended collectors, dealers and curators, deepening their knowledge and travelling the world in their pursuit of pieces from the famous English factory.

Over the space of 60 years they built up a collection that filled their home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

The Rubins collected Wedgwood products across the board from basalt, jasper and creamwares of the 18th and 19th century right up to modern production pieces of the 20th century. Their interests incorporated not just the general range of the factory’s production but also its pieces designed by named artists such as Keith Murray, John Skeaping and Eric Ravilious along with studio pottery and works by contemporary ceramic artists.

Now, however, they have decided to disperse their long-standing collection offering it in a series of auctions at Freeman’s (26% buyer’s premium) in Philadelphia. The first section, numbering around 250 lots, took place on February 15.

In Fairyland

Early (18th and 19th century) and more modern 20th century pieces both featured among the top-sellers.

Almost half of all the top 20 prices were paid for nine lots of Fairyland lustrewares designed by Daisy Makeig-Jones, a relatively short lived interwar niche production for Wedgwood but one that is deemed highly collectable today.

These included a 9in (23cm) diameter Bubbles II Malfrey pot that topped the sale at $16,000 (£13,335) and several plaques, among them a Torches example measuring 13¼ x 10½in (33.5 x 27cm) including the frame which realised $5500 (£4585).

Plenty of Wedgwood’s famous jasperware was on offer in the sale but the most expensive lot was a 20th century, rather than antique example: a pair of large 16½in (42cm) high solid green water and wine ewers from the 1990s. These stood 16½in (42cm) high and were marked WEDGWOOD MADE IN ENGLAND 99, MASTERPIECE COLLECTION PAIR OF WATER AND WINE EWERS c.1780 No 20 IN A LIMITED EDITION OF 25. They easily outpaced their $1500-2500 guide to take $14,000 (£11,670).


Black basalt vase of c.1790 with encaustic decoration that took $5000 (£4165) at Freeman’s.

Some earlier pieces of dry-bodied Wedgwood also featured among the top lots. A 19½in (50cm) solid black jasper Pegasus vase and cover from the 1880s decorated with The Apotheosis of Homer after John Flaxman and a 14¾in (37.5cm) high black basalt covered vase of c.1790 with hand-painted encaustic decoration of the Laocoon each realised $5000 (£4165).

Another of the top-priced pieces, albeit at somewhat less than estimated, was an 1870s piece designed by Christopher Dresser (1834-1904). Dresser produced avant garde designs in various media for a number of different firms.


An 1870s stoneware fish vase designed for Wedgwood by Christopher Dresser, sold for $10,000 (£8335) at Freeman’s.

The Rubin collection piece was a 6½in (16.5cm) high brown rhomboid shaped stoneware ‘fish’ vase enamelled to the body in bright colours with piscine decoration and impressed Wedgwood and ZHA (the date code for 1872). Like many pieces in the collection, it had been acquired from Skinner auction house in Boston. Estimated in the Freeman’s sale at $12,000-18,000, it sold for $10,000 (£8335).


Large Persian charger decorated by Millicent Taplin from c.1920, sold for $4000 (£3335) at Freeman’s.

A notable result among the 20th century pieces was the $4000 (£3335) paid for a large 21¾in 55cm) diameter earthernware charger of c.1920 painted by the Wedgwood ceramic decorator Millicent Taplin (1902-80) with a Persian pattern of flowerheads and leaves. This realised $4000 (£3335).

But, equally, this sale provided many opportunities to purchase Wedgwood wares from across the time range for much more modest three-figure prices, as a couple of the items in the selection pictured here demonstrates.

The next instalment of works from the Rubin Collection will be offered for sale at Freeman’s on July 12.

£1 = S1.20