Constance Spry vase

A Fulham Pottery Crown and Lion vase designed by Constance Spry and Oliver Messel and made for the 1953 Coronation. 

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After the abdication, the royaltythemed designs were used instead during the crowning of George VI and again reproduced for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 when Spry’s team arranged the flowers at Westminster Abbey and along the processional route from Buckingham Palace.

This Crown and Lion vase has an impressed facsimile signature and a stamp reading Made in England ER 1953. Handwritten in black paint are the words C Spry Decs. It was part of the collection of Spry vessels owned by author and mid-century design specialist Andrew Weaving that were offered for sale at Roseberys in south London on September 14. Estimated at £2000-2500 it took £10,000 (£13,000 including buyer’s premium) – a record for a Spry vase.

Base of Spry vase

The base of the Fulham Pottery Crown and Lion vase with a series of impressed and painted marks appear to the base.

This piece and others had provided the core of the display at the exhibition Constance Spry and the Fashion for Flowers that ran from May to September last year at the Garden Museum.

The exhibition noted the contribution of Spry’s art assistant Florence Standfast in the design process: “Spry tasked her art assistant Miss Standfast to develop wide-mouthed bowls to allow for an abundance of blooms and foliage.” By 1935, the Fulham Pottery was engaged to create the range for sale, producing Standfast’s outsized classically inspired designs in a Devonshire earthenware. Typically, they were only biscuit fired (Spry liked the plaster-like finish that could be painted if desired) with a glaze only applied internally to make the vessels watertight. They remained in production into the 1950s.

Market comeback

In purely commercial terms, these vessels have had a remarkable return to form in the past decade. Keenly sought after by decorators and Spry devotees, most of the large boat-shaped vases are now priced in three figures with others, seemingly made in small numbers, bringing rather more. Back in February a two-handled vase took £8500 at Shropshire firm Brettells.