Old pottery makes fine figures
Humble Staffordshire folk art can fetch high-class prices in the saleroom. By Winifred Carr
Wednesday 01 May 1996
Both Burton and Baker were intrepid explorers in Africa but Burton also served as a diplomat in the Middle East and since one of the figures is wearing a bright green Ottoman-style turban and his wife an enveloping hijab headscarf, I would guess that the pair are more likely to be the Burtons than the Bakers. Although there is some restoration, the figures are expected to fetch between pounds 800 and pounds 1,200.
Victorian Staffordshire pottery, often simply modelled and usually vividly coloured, is cheerful English folk art at its best. It robustly reflects 19th century social history and has endeared itself as much to the great and the good of the 20th century as it did to the more humble classes more than 100 years ago. From kitchen dressers and mantle-shelves in modest Victorian homes it has reached Buckingham Palace where the Queen has a collection, and the reception rooms of 10 Downing Street, where there are displays of Staffordshire portrait figures of 19th century British statesmen which were collected by James Callaghan when he lived there and have been added to by successive prime ministers.
The popularity of Staffordshire pottery was boosted in the 1960s by the rise of the second home, says Jane Hay of Christie's. "People were looking for suitably rustic ornaments for their newly acquired country cottages and Staffordshire was ideal." Prices rocketed from pounds 10 to pounds 100 for a good pair of gilded spaniels, known as comforters, to sit in sentinel pairs on either side of the fireplace. A similar pair now would cost pounds 350 to pounds 400.
Prices have been bubbling along steadily in recent years with frequent spectacular eruptions such as the pair of restored Obadiah Sherratt figures of Venus and Neptune with Cupid and a dolphin, circa 1830, which were expected to fetch between pounds 400 and pounds 600 in February and reached pounds 2,475, and a pair of recumbent lions, also restored, which went for pounds 1,575.
But collectable pieces can still be bought for under pounds 100, particularly spill vases, cow creamers and pen holders modelled in the shape of a bird's nest, a greyhound, or a fox and hare. A collection can be started by concentrating on one of these groups and progressing as the bank balance permits to military figures on horseback and astride cannons, to sporting figures of boxers and cricketers, actors, famous murderers, preachers, kings, queens, and their children or pastille burners in the shapes of cottages and castles. The scope is wide and every group has its loyal followers.
Until about 1860, deep cobalt blue was the favourite colour on figures, especially for waistcoats, uniforms and bodices. By 1880 a new liquid gilding, "bright gold", was being used which maintained its bright finish after firing, but was not as attractive as the soft, pale gold on earlier pieces. In the early part of the 19th century children of seven or eight were employed as painters, and for two shillings a week decorated milkmaid's dresses with sprigs of flowers, zebras with stripes and spaniels with gilded chains, often decorating up to 400 items a day.
Most of the portrait figures were made in plaster of Paris press moulds. After a run of about 100, the detail on the pieces became increasingly blurred so one should look for the more desirable crisply moulded figures. Many individual figures and groups were moulded as "flat backs" with all the shaping at the sides and the front, so that the pieces would stand safely against a wall. But even these can have hidden delights such as a Death of Nelson group which has Nelson slipping to the deck, supported on one side by Hardy and on the other by his servant, who is holding a cup in one hand. Turn the group round and on the unpainted flat back is an outline of HMS Victory.
There are some areas of the antiques and collectables market where long- term investment can give a good return and the best of Staffordshire pottery is one. It also has the advantage that most pieces are bought because the buyer likes them and wants to enjoy putting them on display. If they gradually appreciate in value, then that is a bonus.
The Christie's sale of Staffordshire pottery will be at South Kensington on Thursday 9 May at 2pm. Telephone: 0171-581 7611/fax 0171-321 3321
13 September 2014 12:00 AM
30 August 2014 12:00 AM
05 September 2014 11:30 PM
30 August 2014 12:00 AM
The UK has slipped to 11th in the latest European league table of savers. Rob Griffin checks out the best options
22 August 2014 10:30 PM
Caroline Flint, the shadow energy secretary, says a Labour government would create a new energy regulator
22 August 2014 10:30 PM
16 August 2014 12:00 AM
16 August 2014 12:00 AM
Mark Dampier: An infrastructure fund that builds returns by taking different roads
Simon Read: Timeshare owners accuse Macdonald Resorts of land grab
Five Questions: Changes to car tax discs
How to save money: UK is crashing down the European league table for putting money away
Bargain Hunter: Win a new iPhone 6
- 1 Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?
- 2 Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
- 4 Matthew Miller: American sentenced to hard labour in North Korea 'wanted to be Snowden II'
- 5 Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
iJobs Money & Business
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...
Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...
£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...
To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...
Day In a Page
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize