Anticlimax follows anticipation

A few posts ago I wrote about the excitement and anticipation of being asked to have a look at our friend Anne’s late mother’s ceramics collected in France.

We went.  We saw. A bit of an anti-climax.  I was right in thinking that Helen had had good taste: very attractive stuff, but nothing outstanding or valuable.  Here was a table covered in pottery and porcelain, perhaps about 50 pieces, not all French, some British, a few Chinese and one or two Japanese.   I was able to sort pretty quickly through it all, advising Anne which pieces were of little value but suitable for donation to charity shops, and which might have sufficient value to be of interest to an auctioneer, either as single-lot items or as groupings of related pieces.

The charity stuff included a Susie Cooper part tea-set and a few items from a transfer-printed Mason’s dinner, and some other odds and ends, pretty and useful tableware but of little or no interest to collectors.

The pieces I recommended for auction were a mixed batch:

  • Some charming French faience ware including planters, plates and smaller items. Several of these had similar decoration featuring a cornucopia, although with variations in pattern and date, so I guess she must have set out to accumulate items with this motif;
  • a small Italian Cantagalli maiolica two-handled bowl;
  • three lovely English porcelain coffee cups from the early nineteenth century, one marked Bloor Derby and one marked Copeland & Garrett;
  • a few miscellaneous “cabinet” cups and saucers which would sell as a group;
  • three twentieth century Chinese bowls. Two of these had Chinese characters on the base and were decorated in a slightly unfamiliar style, one with peonies and the other with cockerels and butterflies.  I wondered if these were perhaps made for a non-European market, and wasn’t surprised when Anne said that they had been brought back from New Zealand, where her parents had lived for some years.  The third and biggest bowl had “Made in China” on the base and was unremarkable;
  • a tiny and delightful Chinese tea bowl with a similar but mismatched saucer, both probably from the time of the Kangxi Emperor in the early eighteenth century. These probably started out in life as simple blue-and-white wares but were imported new into Europe (likely Amsterdam) where they were “clobbered” – the technical term for over-painting in coloured enamels and gold to suit the European rococo taste of the period.  Interesting pieces, and the little bowl, no more than 6 or 7 centimetres in diameter, was by far my favourite item in the whole batch.  But sadly it’s not uncommon and won’t bring in a fortune for Anne and Bill.

I’ve had a think about which local auctioneers would be most likely to get a good price for the collection and have given Anne a few suggestions of salerooms which will do a fair job of cataloguing and give the stuff appropriate exposure.  My estimate would be that they might achieve net proceeds of perhaps £200 – £300 for the whole batch. We don’t see her very often and it’ll probably be quite a while until I learn the outcome.

So overall, an interesting exercise, and a chance to see and handle some nice things while doing a favour for a friend.  But sadly for Anne, no Random Treasure.

And of course it was lovely to see Anne and Bill.


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