Wemyss tabby cat

Wemyss tabby cat, £18,000 at Lyon & Turnbull.

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The auction house dispersed the Wemyss collection of George Bellamy in Edinburgh on January 24 and many of its highlights were pictured in the book Scottish Wemyss Ware 1882-1930: The George Bellamy Collection published in 2019.

A strong auction overall (146 of the 160 lots were sold on the day for a total just over £220,000, with all others getting away via after-sales), it was led by this 12½in (32cm) high tabby cat, modelled, Gallé-style, in a seated upright position with smiling face and applied green glass eyes.

The form comes in a wide variety of different decorative treatments from monochromes to cabbage roses but the naturalistic tones of the tabby is among the most appealing. Wemyss collectors flocked to it and bidding shot to £18,000 (estimate £6000-8000).

The records for Wemyss were set two decades ago when a remarkable £29,000 was bid twice for two sleeping piglets at Sotheby’s in 2004.

However, £18,000 (plus 26% buyer’s premium) is a muscular price for a Wemyss cat, almost matching the £20,000 paid for another tabby as part of the Drambuie collection at Lyon & Turnbull in 2006 and the same sum for a cat decorated with circles and hearts in green against a pink ground at Sotheby’s in 2003.

The Bellamy collection included four Scottish Wemyss felines. The other three also took five figures: a marmalade tabby (£11,000), one with black and white sponged decoration (£10,000) and another with Wemyss thistles (£13,000).

Head of sale John Mackie told ATG: “We are delighted with the results of the auction – a near total sell-out and a testament to the years of careful selection by George Bellamy.

Wemyss baluster vase

Wemyss baluster vase decorated with hollyhocks and bees, signed KN 1915 for Karel Nekola, £12,000 at Lyon & Turnbull.

“His Wemyss collection was characterised by its variety and quality of painting, which was something he was particular about, and there were many rare and exceptional examples, built up over nearly 50 years. It was the perfect antidote to the winter weather, a taste of the countryside in the summer, and collectors old and new turned out to buy, which is just what he would have wanted.”