Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The first of these European ceramic sales, held on October 9, had a bumpy ride and disappointment was expressed by Sotheby’s specialist Simon Cottle: “It’s just a nightmare at the moment.”

He attributed the 49 per cent take-up to wider political events than to any dip in the market for European ceramics. “It was not a true reflection of the market and I think the adverse conditions that abound at the moment may have had an effect.”

The market relies heavily on European, not UK, and American buyers who favour decorative 19th century entries. With America’s retaliatory bombing of Afghanistan well underway by the sale date, there were fewer people in attendance than usual. The 276-lot sale netted a modest £224,270.

However, the star turn proved that not all was doom and gloom. Bidding took off for a Strasbourg faience part table service, c.1760. Each of the 27 pieces (a cracked oval two-handled tureen, restuck cover, stand and 24 plates) were painted with a chinoiserie vignette.

“Faience is not a hot seller at the moment,” said Simon Cottle, and the lot was given a modest £5000-7000 estimate. The set had decorative as well as academic appeal. It had been exhibited at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, in 1932 and was formerly in the now dispersed Van Der Elst collection. Two telephone bidders went head to head before it was secured at £42,000.

Elsewhere, three Paris porcelain green-ground centrepiece baskets, mid-19th century, sold anonymously at a triple-estimate £8000 while a Creussen pewter-mounted stoneware armorial flask, dated 1687, enamelled with allegorical figures brought £7200.

Two late-19th century Meissen entries were amongst those secured by UK dealers. A pair of large late-19th century figures of a gallant and companion brought £3800, as did a large Meissen clock case.