Copeland 1876 Centennial Exhibition vase, $15,000 (£11,900) at Strawser Auction Group.

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This model, first shown at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and then exclusively distributed by the New York retailer JM Shaw & Co, took $15,000 (£11,900) at Strawser Auction Group (19% buyer’s premium) in Kulpsville, Pennsylvania, on March 16.

The 1876 exhibition was an important one in the majolica story. Many British ceramics factories exhibited at the event with majolica proving a big hit with the North American public.

This 10in (25.5cm) vase has become arguably the most coveted of Copeland’s majolica output. It is modelled as three back-to-back grey eagles guarding the US flag with spears, and includes three cobalt blue shields with the words 1876 Centennial Memorial and Washington the Father of Our Country.

Examples appear for sale only very occasionally, although the (restored) vase in the Joan Stacke Graham collection sold by Doyle New York in April 2023 made $9500 (£7500).

Remarkable group

This was the second of three Strawser auctions dedicated to the remarkable collection of Edward Flower (1929-2022) and his wife Marilyn (1930-2017).

The Flowers began collecting majolica relatively late in life in the late 1990s but when the bug had bitten it bit hard.

Across a trio of sales (the first last August, the last later this year) more than 600 pieces will be offered. London specialist dealer Nick Boston has catalogued the collection for Strawser.

High expectations

Of the 185 lots offered here, two were expected to vie for top honours with guides of $25,000-30,000 each.

The first was a George Jones teapot, one of only a few known formed as a Chinese junk filled with cargo, with the cover modelled as a figure in Chinese costume. “In my 30 years of selling majolica this is the first one I’ve ever offered,” said Michael Strawser. It sold just short of expectations at $24,000 (£19,000).


George Jones teapot formed as a Chinese junk filled with cargo, $24,000 (£19,000) at Strawser Auction Group.

The second was a version of the Minton ‘Hare and Duck’ head game pie dish and cover, affectionately known among collectors as The Bunny Tureen. The model is one of several by the French émigré animalia sculptor Paul Comolera (1818-97) who worked at the Minton factory from 1873-77.


Minton ‘Hare and Duck’ game pie dish attributed to Paul Comolera, $20,000 (£15,800) at Strawser Auction Group.

Prices for these have soared over $50,000 in the past but, with several major collections sold in recent years, the market is now relatively soft. It hammered for $20,000 (£15,800).

Another Comelera design for Minton is the 2ft 9in (84cm) high umbrella stand modelled as a fawn nibbling oak leaves on a tree stump - a model based on sketches Comolera made of the fallow deer herd at the Duke of Sutherland’s residence near Trentham Hall, Staffordshire. With some restoration, the example at Strawser hammered at $3750 (£2950).

Several pieces in the Flower collection were recently part of the renowned Majolica Mania exhibition that was launched in New York in autumn 2021, travelled to the Walters Museum in Baltimore in early 2022 and finished in the UK at Stoke-on-Trent in autumn 2022.


Minton majolica tete-a-tete c.1875, $25,000 (£19,800) at Strawser Auction Group.

These included a Minton tete-a-tete in the chinoiserie taste, c.1875, that is one of just three complete sets known.

The individual elements (more commonly seen) are a teapot formed as a lychee, a gourd-shaped sugar bowl and cover, a thistle cream jug and two cups and saucers shaped as yellow fruit on leaves. All sit neatly on a quatrefoil tray with pierced trellis border.

In remarkably good condition (its only imperfection was a small nick to the teapot lid) it took a solid $25,000 (£19,800) - the top price of the sale.


Pair of rustic vases modelled with peacocks by William Brownfield, $3500 (£2800) at Strawser Auction Group.

Also shown at Majolica Mania were a rare pair of rustic vases modelled with peacocks by William Brownfield, c.1875, and a vase of around the same date formed as a pair of herons by Brown Westhead Moore & Co, possibly designed by Mark Marshall of Doulton Lambeth fame. They were estimated at up to $2500 and $2000 respectively and sold at $3500 (£2800) and $2500 (£2000).


Herons vase by Brown Westhead Moore & Co, $2500 (£2000) at Strawser Auction Group.

Another rarity, best known from the collecting literature, is a Minton ink well and cover, modelled as a bird on top of an upright pine cone. It is one of only three recorded with another pictured in Victoria Cecil’s influential 1982 catalogue Minton Majolica. The hammer price here was $5000 (£3950) against an estimate of $1500-2000).


Minton bird on a pine cone inkwell, $5000 (£3950) at Strawser Auction Group.

One of two known, a Wardle & Co garden seat modelled as an ivy clad tree trunk draped with a tablecloth sold at $4500 (£3500), despite some wear and restoration.


Wardle & Co garden seat, $4500 (£3500) at Strawser Auction Group.

The design c.1881, with the crisply modelled woodpecker clinging to the side, is among the best pieces from the factory that produced large quantities of majolica in the cheap and cheerful price range.


Charles Avisseau Palissy type teapot with a later cover, $3750 (£2950) at Strawser Auction Group.

It is an indication of collecting fashion that a large Palissy-style ‘art of the earth’ basin inscribed and dated Avisseau, Tours, 1856 for French ceramicist Charles-Jean Avisseau (1795-1861) had shared the top price of the first sale at a mighty $40,000 (£32,000).

The March 16 event included a similar teapot by the Avisseau modelled as a snake climbing an ivy-clad tree trunk.

After buying this piece in 2014, Ed Flower commissioned the contemporary ceramics sculptor, Jonathan Court and the decorator Nicola Rose, to recreate a missing frog cover. Both artists signed their names on the underside.

It came to auction with expectations of $3000-4000 and hammered at $3750 (£2950).

Naturalistic models

Continental European wares, once the slightly poorer relation to pieces by the best Staffordshire factories, were a strength of the first sale.

Particularly well received was a menagerie of large naturalistic models by the Massier Brothers, Choisy Le Roi and Hugo Lonitz factories. All had lived together cheek-by-jowl in the Flowers’ Bay Shore, New York, residence.


Hugo Lonitz model of a jay, $7000 (£5500) at Strawser Auction Group.

Highlights in Part II included a monumental 18in (45.5cm) model of a jay perched on a tree stump by Hugo Lonitz (estimate $4000- 6000).

One of only two known examples, it brought $7000 (£5500).