Part of the revolutionary series of electroplated domestic wares created by Dresser for the Elkington factory in Sheffield, c.1885, its strikingly modern form presages the Art Deco period by close to 40 years.
Michael Whiteway’s book Christopher Dresser 1834-1904 (2001) pictures a page from the Elkington & Co pattern book for 1885 (now held in the Birmingham Library) in which the original design appears. It is sometime referred to as Model 247.
An exaggerated drawing of this bowl appears in Dresser’s Principles of Design article for The Technical Educator, in which he outlines his design process.
“Such a sugar basin as I have suggested would not stand without legs; but I see no reason why the legs and handles should not be combined; hence I propose three feet formed as to serve as handles throughout their upperparts, they being convenient to hold. After much consideration, I have arrived at the conclusion that the [conical shape] best fulfils the requirement for the vessel, for in them the sugar is always collected together, and the dust sugar separates itself from the lumps.”
The example pictured here was the choice lot in the sale of the collection of David Bonsall offered at Bonhams (27.5/26/20/14.5% buyer’s premium) in London on February 14 with the Dresser-inspired title Unity in Variety. Estimated at £15,000- 20,000, it made £34,000.
Bonsall has been window dresser, clothing trader, supplier to film and television, decorative arts dealer and collector, record shop owner and DJ. Long a keen admirer of 19th century design, he said: “Dresser for me is the great pioneer. His ability to consider all aspects of design and the variety of mediums in which he was able to work is astonishing.”
His sugar bowl, stamped on the rim Elkington & Co, and to the feet Rd.22865 and 247 1A, had been exhibited on a number of occasions, including as part of the Shock of the Old: Christopher Dresser’s Design Revolution show held at the Cooper Hewitt in New York and the V&A in London in 2004.
Seldom do these appear for sale, although the example in the collection of Dresser metalwork assembled by former Fine Art Society director Andrew McIntosh Patrick Collection sold by Lyon & Turnbull in April 2005 made £21,000.
Equally rare is the Crow’s foot spoon warmer made by Hukin & Heath in 1878. Only a handful of these are known, some plain, others with engraving. The example offered at Ipswich auction house Lockdales (19.5% buyer’s premium) on February 1-2 had the maker’s mark to the base, the registration number 2362 and a band of geometric style engraving and a floral spray. It was estimated at £150-250 but sold to a London collector at £1450.