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Peacock surprise

The Roseberys (25% buyer’s premium) Design: Decorative Art from 1860 to the Present Day sale is typical of the genre. It covers pretty much the time range of the title, from the Aestheic movment to Memphis.

At the more traditional end of the collecting sphere is Moorcroft. However, the 31 lots of tubelined wares offered on March 3 did yield one of the days surprises.

Dated c.1900, the 6in (15cm) tall Peacock vase was signed in green W. Moorcroft and bore the Macintyre print. It had a firing blemish to the foot, some old marks and some crazing the glaze but, against a £400-600 estimate, sold at £5800.

Although some of the heat has gone out of the market, a Martinware grotesque stoneware bird topped the bidding.

Signed H.W. Martin & Bros, London & Southall and dated 1904, the 7¼in (18.5cm) tall bird with cream plumage came on an ebonised stand. It had a small chip to the underside of the tail.

The estimate was £5000-7000 and this proved a pretty accurate assessment of the market when the bird sold at £9200.

Running on Empty

Top lot among the more recent material was a rare set of 10 Empty Chairs by Ron Arad (b.1951), the multi-award-winning British-Israeli industrial designer.


Five from a set of ten Ron Arad 'Empty Chairs' – £7800 at Roseberys.

The design was supplied by Arad & Associates, London, for Driade, the Milan workshop, design brand and retailer, in 1994.

Each 3ft (93cm) tall chair with black lacquered birch plywood seats on chromed tubular legs was numbered and one was impressed Empty Chair Made in Italy. Offered for sale by the owner who purchased them in 1999 with a modest £2500-3500 estimate, the set sold at £7800.

Bring on the Critters

Although occasionally anachronistic, furniture by Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson has long been a staple of 20th century design sales at Leyburn auction house Tennants (20% buyer’s premium). It was in keen demand at the February 29 sale.

Top-seller was a desirable early piece from the Kilburn workshop: a 1930s adzed oak hall table.

With a 3ft 11in x 20in (1.19m x 51cm) rectangular top above a frieze draw on four turned octagonal legs, it was pitched at £2500-3500. Against strong private competition, it went to the UK trade at £5700.

Collectors on more restricted budgets bought post-1960 Mouseman work (there were 43 lots on offer) while others are turning to the critters – the host of craftsmen, often former apprentices at Kilburn, working in a similar style while adopting their own signatures.

At Leyburn, an oak cupboard by ‘Gnomeman’ – the highly rated Thomas Whittaker of Littlebeck – went way beyond expectations.

With a 3ft x 19in (91 x 48cm), rectangular top above a frieze drawer and two cupboard doors, the 2ft 6in (76cm) high piece was estimated at £500-700 but sold to the UK trade at £3700.

Twenty of the 217 lots came from the Taggart Tile Museum in Cambridgeshire, which closed two years ago. This was the second tranche of material.

Highlights included 30 tiles, (mostly Minton) one of which was an 8in (20cm) tile decorated with blue tits – a well-known Christopher Dresser design c.1870.

It helped lift the lot from a £200-400 estimate to a £1200 bid placed via thesaleroom.com.

Art Deco items included a Lenci pottery figure, Liu Tu, the Balinese Dancer modelled wearing only an elaborate headdress. Signed Lenci Made In Italy 8-11-32, and with a painter’s monogram and partial label, is a Helen Konig Scavini design.

The 17in (44cm) tall figure (with some of the damage associated with Lenci) had been given to the vendor’s grandmother to display in her Helena Rubinstein beauty salon in Newcastle in the 1930s. It had been a gift from Rubinstein herself.

It attracted Italian interest but went to a UK private buyer at a mid-estimate £3800.

Post-war material included a combined work by the two greatest names in British studio pottery: a stoneware tea service by Dame Lucie Rie and Hans Coper.

It comprised six cups, six saucers, a milk jug and sugar bowl, some of which had potter’s seals, others unmarked, all with oatmeal glaze interiors and manganese glaze exteriors.

Such joint efforts by the mistress and her, at the time, ever-improving apprentice typically sell for considerably less than individual works. Against a £3000-3000 estimate, the service went to a UK collector at £4000.