img_8-1.jpg
John Wilkes creamware mug – £10,000 at Woolley & Wallis.

You have 2 more free articles remaining

It was underbid in the room by an English collector but is now going to the US.

The inscription Wilkes And Liberty No. 45 to the barrel-shaped mug is as good as a date as it refers to the publication of the 45th issue of John Wilkes’ sharptongued periodical The North Briton.

Wilkes was a hero to the likes of Samuel Adams and John Hancock and as both a critic of the government’s taxation policy in the colonies and a supporter of the rebels in 1776, he has considerable transatlantic appeal.

The buyer in Salisbury was Robert Hunter, editor of Ceramics in America and a long-time collector-dealer of English political ceramics. He said: “There are a lot of collectors interested in Wilkes-related objects in America as we associate him with the cause of Independence.”

The few surviving objects that bear his name carry a premium among political memorabilia collectors. In August 2016, Essex saleroom Sworders took an unexpected £2800 for a badly damaged creamware teapot with the same legend Wilkes and Liberty No 45.

A handful of Delftware plates carrying Wilkes’ portrait (often showing his best-known physical attribute – crossed eyes) have appeared in the past decade, including that sold for £4500 at Bonhams in 2014.

This rare and well-preserved mug also, it seems, reappeared at auction after a brief sojourn in a private collection. Remarkably, what is almost certainly the same mug was offered at Tennants in Leyburn as part of a ‘country house’ sale in September 2011 when, correctly catalogued, it slipped through the net, selling for just £300. Who said British ceramics were a poor investment?