The best examples of classic 18th century European porcelain from the major factories still have a ready market among collectors – as demonstrated by recent sales held at either side of the globe.
Dealer and collector
The personal collection of Robert Compton Jones (1932-2020), a dual-citizen dealer who divided his life between Australia and the UK, took place at Leonard Joel (25% buyer’s premium) in Sydney on May 30.
Jones, who with his wife and business partner Judy traded under the name Woollahra Trading, was a familiar face as an exhibitor at events such as the Olympia Art and Antiques Fair.
He sold some major pieces to institutions around the world including a painting by Bernardo Strozzi to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, a Pair of Sèvres vases to the Château of Versailles and a Mennecy porcelain portrait plaque of Louis XV to the British Museum.
Primarily an Old Master dealer, he was also interested in and collected aspects of the decorative arts such as furniture and ceramics.
The small but select 81-lot auction at Leonard Joel reflected this.
Although it was divided more or less equally into furniture and ceramics, it was the latter that proved to be the main attraction here with some fine pieces of porcelain from Continental European factories of the 18th century, something that was reflected in the choice of items selected to illustrate the catalogue cover.
The top lots all fell into this category headed by the rare Sèvres reticulated vase cornet from 1762 pictured and discussed in ATG No 2596, painted by Charles Nicolas Dodin with a Boucher-style arcadian landscape to one side and a display of fruit and flowers to the other. This realised Aus$170,000 (£89,080).
A second piece of 18th century Sèvres from just a few years later commanded the second-highest price of the auction.
This was a cuvette à fleurs à tombeau or shaped rectangular flower vase (pictured top) of c.1770 in what is known as the second size measuring 10in (25cm) in width. The front and side panels of this piece were painted in monochrome en grisaille with trophies and a battle scene set against a bleu nouveau ground highlighted with gilding.
Other examples of this shape can be found in the Wallace Collection in London, the Royal Collection in the UK and the Metropolitan and the Getty museums in the US.
Condition-wise, the piece had a firing crack through the base into the lower sides, chips to two feet, some enamel scratches and wear to the gilding. It was knocked down for Aus$110,000 (£57,895) a multiple of its Aus$10,000-15,000 guide.
Examples of ever-popular Meissen porcelain were among the best sellers here.
In 1730 Augustus the Strong, the Saxon Elector who bankrolled the factory, ordered a dinner service that was to be delivered to his famous Japanese Palace (a showcase for his huge porcelain collection). It became known as the yellow hunting service due to the similarity of the yellow ground to the hunting livery of the Saxon Court huntsmen and is the only Meissen dinner service with a coloured ground.
Two 9½in (24cm) plates from the service featured in the Compton Jones collection. One had multiple professionally restored breaks and wear to the inventory number on the back but they nonetheless realised Aus$50,000 (£26,315) against a Aus$12,000-18,000 guide.
Making Aus$60,000 (£31,580) was a figure group of a sultan riding on an elephant, a Kändler and Reinicke model of c.1745 measuring 11in (28cm) in width which Robert Compton Jones had acquired at a sale in Christie’s London rooms in 2003.
The figure lacked one tassel to the elephant’s saddle cloth, had minor chipping to the mace held by the Sultan and some flaking to the enamel on the cushion.
Notable among the examples of porcelain from other factories in the collection was a lot of two 7in (17cm) wide tureens or open dishes of irregular organic form set on scallop shell bases and painted in yellow, puce, green and blue.
Catalogued as probably from the Italian Doccia factory and dated to the mid 18th century, these had some faults (one had a firing crack and interior discolouration, the other grey infill to the base and small frits and a chip).
They ended up making Aus$20,000 (£10,525), a multiple of the modest Aus$800-1200 guide.
Meissen sells well in Germany
The dinner service produced for the Saxon minister Count Aleksander von Sulkowski and his wife Maria Anna Franziska von Stain zu Jettingen in 1735 was one of the first large orders that was not made directly for Augustus the Strong.
This was also one of the first in which Johann Joachim Kändler was directly involved as a modeller.
It is not known how large the order was but it is assumed that a total of about 600 pieces were produced, mostly plates, platters and shallow bowls.
Production came to an abrupt end in 1738 because the Imperial Count fell from grace and was banished from court.
Items from commissioned named services tend to attract a premium over general factory production pieces and a couple of these von Sulkowski dishes offered in the Lempertz (26/20% buyer’s premium) sale of silver and ceramics on May 19 in Cologne certainly attracted attention.
These were ozier model dishes measuring 15in (38.5cm) decorated with indianische blumen and the count’s armorials to the centre, while the reverse featured blue crossed swords mark, a blue dash, impressed cross and dreher’s mark.
The dishes had come from a private collection in Westphalia having been acquired from the specialist ceramics dealer Röbbig of Munich in 1996. They sold for €32,000 (£227,825) against a guide of €6000-8000. Just under two years ago, in June 2021, the auction house sold an identical bowl for €5000 (£4740).
The section of the auction given over to earthernwares featured an interesting 2ft (62cm) high faience model stove or oven from the Abtsbessingen faience factory in Thuringia, which started in the mid 18th century.
Fired in one piece and of architectural form, this was moulded with pilasters, masks and shells.
The model, which was dated to the early years of production and bears the factory’s blue fork mark and also a K to the back, was painted by Johann Gottfried Keil and is decorated in blue with a central depiction of Hercules and Omphale and panels of landscapes that are allegories of the seasons.
An unusual feature of the model is an aperture the back and the finial which enables the piece to be used as a perfume burner.
Bärninghausen’s publication on Abtsbessinger Faience has found only two other models of ovens that are smaller, more sparsely decorated and do not have the perfume burning facility.
The Hercules and Omphale is also very similar to a mythological scene on a cachepot attributed to Kiel and dated 1747, suggesting a contemporary date for this piece.
It had made a previous appearance at Lempertz back in 1993 and since then had been in a private Rhineland collection. Offered with a guide of €10,000-15,000, it more than trebled that level to take €38,000 (£33,045).
£1 = Aus$1.90/€1.15