1. Spode White Star Line cup and saucer – £6000
Chipped to both elements, a Spode cup and saucer made for use on White Star liners sold for £6000 at Richard Winterton in Lichfield on February 15.
It was estimated at £800-1200.
Spode created a number of designs for White Star (the pattern books list the first in 1899) but this particular design bearing the gilt monogram for the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company was the most luxurious. Bearing the registration number R4332 and the name of the Liverpool retailer Stonier & Co, it was introduced in 1911 for use on the grandest ships of the day. Importantly, this is the pattern believed to have been used in the First Class dining rooms or the private promenade suites on the Titanic, the Olympic and the Majestic.
Pieces have been recovered from the Titanic wreck site. Others, such as this one found in Sutton Coldfield, were sold at the time as White Star souvenirs, given as gifts by the company, or remained in use until the Olympic was broken up in 1935 at the time of the merger with Cunard.
Auctioneer Richard Winterton commented: “We had a tremendous amount of national and international interest in this lovely little cup and saucer, with people joining the auction online from all over the world. It was an exciting moment in the saleroom as bids flew in, finalising at £6000 from the winning bidder in the US.”
Several of these have been offered at auction before – including one sold by Bonhams in 2011 for £3500 and another that made £8400 at Adam Partridge in Liverpool in July 2020. However, both of these two examples were in better condition.
2. Silver teaset – £27,000
Evidence of the rising interest in the best colonial era silver, Chiswick Auctions sold this extraordinary Indian silver three-piece teaset by Peter Orr and Sons for £27,000 (estimate £800-1200) on February 14.
It formed part of the white-glove sale of the Stewart collection of Indian and Burmese silver of the Raj period that had been collected across the previous 20 years. The same teaset had sold at Bonhams in September 2016 for £2000.
The Orr and Sons department store, that still trades from Anna Salai in Chennai, was founded by Scotsman Peter Orr in 1846 and initially sold primarily jewellery and silverwares. It was the place where first Rolex watch was sold in India (for 198 rupees).
As pictured in Wynyard Wilkinson’s seminal book Indian Silver 1858-1947 (published in 1999), the design for this bachelor’s teaset, marked P Orr and Son Madras Silver, appears in a sales catalogue of c.1880. The bodies are embossed with the Jagannath procession at Puri with the handles formed as coining serpents with a seated female figure.
The teapot features a cast and chased spout formed as the head of a mythical bird and a domed lid surmounted by a detachable cast finial of Vishnu.
3. Christopher Dresser sugar bowl – £34,000
Dr Christopher Dresser’s conical sugar bowl with three angled leg-like supports is one of the great ‘eureka’ moments in Victorian design. 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 article for 'The Technical Educator', 'Principles of Design', 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 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 commented: “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 Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 2004.
Seldom do these appear for sale although the example in the collection of Christopher Dresser metalwork assembled by former Fine Art Society director Andrew McIntosh Patrick Collection sold by Lyon & Turnbull in April 2005 made £21,000.
4. Glove marking Lafayette’s visit – £750
The visit of ‘Revolutionary Wars’ hero, Gilbert du Motler, the Marquis of Lafayette, to the United States of America in 1824 spawned a large number of commemoratives. This rare white kid leather glove carries printed portrait medallions of George Washington and Lafayette, captioned 'Lafayette - Grateful Welcome to the Friend of our Illustrious Washington, Duty entered According to Act of Congress’.
It came for sale with an old letter of provenance inscribed 'Lafayette Glove, Presented to George Starbuck by Mrs. Myers, who received it from the United States of America - I believe. Mrs. Myers is the wife of one of the Ministers'.
This glove, a type often worn by women who met Lafayette during his tour, came for sale at Catherine Southon at Farleigh Court Golf Club, Selsdon in Surrey on February 8 with an estimate of £400-600. It made £750.
It was part of a remarkable archive of material from descendants of the Starbuck family, a Quaker whaling family influential in both the abolitionist movement and the founding of Nantucket as a whaling centre. Loyalist members of the family emigrated to Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire after independence.
5. CRW Nevinson print – £8000
Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson’s most famous work Returning to the Trenches was conceived in 1914-15 and exists in a number of forms – as a painting, as drawings, as a woodcut that appeared in the second issue of Blast magazine and also as a drypoint.
The latter was published in 1916 in an edition of probably 75. In it the soldiers, a column of cubistic French Territorial Infantry, are portrayed simply as cogs in the war machine. As a depiction of modern warfare, it was far removed from the tradition of glorified war art. “My attempt at creating beauty was merely by the statement of reality, emotionally expressed as one who had seen something of warfare and was caught up in a force over which he had no control.”
This particular impression, offered for sale at Mellors & Kirk in Nottingham on February 16, was not in the best condition. Unframed and not laid down, the sheet was now an irregular size and slightly stained. However, it was signed and dated CRW Nevinson 1916 in pencil and its appearance would be improved with a professional clean. Estimated at £2000-3000, it took £8000.
Copies of the drypoint have sold for as much as £60,000 at Bonhams in 2014 although recently another offered at Christie’s as part of a sale of property from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in November 2021 made $28,000.
6. Staffordshire Dr Syntax group – £3000
Estimated at just £50-80, a rare Staffordshire figure group sold for £3000 at Clarke Auctions in Semley, Dorset on February 10. The pearlware model of Dr Syntax playing cards is dated to c.1830 and is one of the most detailed and vibrant of its day.
Measuring a relatively large 22cm across, it depicts the comic character made popular by Thomas Rowlandson seated in a high-backed chair enjoying a game of bridge. The story of Doctor Syntax at a Card Party appeared in The Third Tour of Doctor Syntax published in 1821. A handful of versions of this subject are known (a similar group with the two figures reversed is in the Willett Collection in Brighton) and there is another with a ‘Sherratt’ type table base.
Most survivors have some damage to the extremities, including this example offered in Dorset that was missing the arm of Syntax’s opponent.
The figure was offered with a more common pearlware figure of around the same date marked for the Walton factory. This group of a young boy with chickens seated beneath a tree had several breaks and repairs.