It was another classic make, Royal Worcester, in the spotlight when two collections were sold recently by Melbourne-based salerooms, both of them built up over many years by enthusiasts who made their purchases at home and overseas.
Items from the Wheeler collection were offered by Phillip Caldwell (20% buyer’s premium) on November 13, while the second instalment of Royal Worcester from June Harris’ collection went up for sale at Gibson’s (22% buyer’s premium) on November 27.
Electrical chemist Terry Wheeler and his wife Tena emigrated to Australia in the 1960s, settling in Perth where Terry established a successful business in mining.
In the late 1990s a chance encounter with a local antiques dealer resulted in a visit to an auction selling Royal Worcester. After making their first purchase on a whim they were hooked and, having enough funds, were able to pay top Aussie dollar to amass a substantial collection of the best examples.
“It probably helped that I had a brother in England who I saw every year and could time those visits to coincide with porcelain sales of the leading auction houses such as Bonhams and Christie’s,” said Tena.
Also on their shopping list in the UK for suitable pieces were auction houses such as the West Midlands firm Walker Barnett and Hill, Hutchinson Scott in Yorkshire and Lyon & Turnbull of Edinburgh and McTear’s in Glasgow, plus specialist dealers, while back home in Australia they bought from Leonard Joel and Phillip Caldwell.
The Wheelers are now in their eighties and with their family not interested in keeping the collection they asked Caldwell to sell 85 pieces.
They were offered in an onsite sale from the Wheelers’ home near Perth in Western Australia. Pieces by the factory artists Charles Baldwyn, Harry Davis and George Owen were particularly well represented, the latter known for his delicate examples of reticulated wares, with no fewer than 16 on offer.
One of these was the Wheelers’ star piece and a particularly impressive example: a 15½in (40cm) covered vase decorated in turquoise, pink and gold and finely pierced with filigree work. This was made for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893, and was inscribed to that effect underneath.
It is also recorded in the Royal Worcester invoice book now at the Dyson Perrins Museum in Worcester and was formerly in the Wales collection also sold by Caldwell. Offered with an estimate of Aus$200,000-400,000, it sold towards the lower end of that guide at Aus$215,000 (£122,860).
Most of the lots in the sale found a buyer and although there was interest from the US and the UK, Caldwell said that most of the winning bids came from Australia.
Other top-priced pieces included the opening lot of the auction: an 11½in (29cm) high lidded pot pourri, one of the works painted by Charles Baldwyn. In a departure from the swans which so often populate his pieces, this featured a more unusual scene of seagulls and terns in flight over the ocean. It was signed CH Baldwin, had a date mark for 1906 and went at Aus$40,000 (£22,857), the upper end of the Aus$20,000- 40,000 guide.
Another unusual painted subject, this time by Harry Davis, was a continuous arctic scene with two polar bears seated on an ice floe on a slender baluster shaped covered vase measuring 22in (56cm) high. Signed by the artist and with an 1898 date mark, it found a buyer at Aus$44,500 (£25,430), slightly under the lower end of the Aus$50,000-100,000 estimate.
June Harris, who was based in Hobart, Tasmania, and died recently at the age of 96, had collected from a young age – spending her first pay packet on a piece of porcelain. She had been an avid collector of Royal Worcester for the last 30 years, buying while on her travels across Australia and internationally.
Gibson’s in Victoria sold the first instalment of her collection in July this year and a further 44 lots formed part of its spring auction series live sale on November 27.
These were mostly examples of Royal Worcester by the likes of Davis, the Stintons, Baldwyn and Richard Sebright plus a selection of wares from other British factories such as Royal Doulton, Copeland and Ridgway.
It was a work by Baldwyn from 1899 that made the highest price in this second outing: a 16in (41cm) high ewer painted with his trademark swans in flight against a blue ground and featuring elaborately moulded scrolling handles painted in gold and pale colours. Signed faintly lower right and with a green backstamp, this sold for a double-estimate Aus$9500 (£5430).
A ewer of identical shape from 1901 but painted with doves in flight rather than swans had led the first instalment of the collection when it sold last July for Aus$20,000 (£11,430).
£1 = Aus$1.75