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					British Ceramics

BA (Hons) Fine Arts valuation via DL Masterpieces of Minton Including selected items from the Minton Museum

Introduction This paper is an analysis of the sale of Minton pâte-sur-pâte ware that was part of a specialized sale of Minton ware called Masterpieces of Minton and was held at Bonham‟s, New Bond Street, London on Tuesday 5 October 2004. Aspects of valuation The valuation of antiques and collectibles with the subsequent ability to realise these estimates at auction is dependant on many variables. Not only must the valuer be concerned with the economics that relate directly to the antiques and collectibles market such as provenance, rarity, condition and desirability but he must be fully aware of the macro economic issues such as the global economy and politics that affect the auction markets which are largely beyond the control of the auction houses. The auction house itself plays an extremely important role in the success of the sale and in determining whether the piece in question is sold or not by the auction house. Its reputation, the expertise of the people involved in mounting the sale and its location all play an important part in this success. This sale was the third dispersal of pieces from the Minton Museum collection and was due in part to the financial restructuring of its parent company Royal Doulton Plc. Here it should be noted that the pieces had been selected by Joan Jones, the curator of the Minton‟s museum, and Bernard Bumpus, an expert in pâtesur-pâte, had assisted in compilation of the catalogue. What better provenance and authentification can be given to the pieces auctioned? Minton‟s are downsizing in Britain and moving production to the Far Fast. This is a trend that has been seen by many other companies in other industries over the last few years. The sales from the museum are part of its sale of assets of products from its archives. Previous sales had been conducted by Sotheby‟s in 1999 and by Bonham‟s, who held a major dispersal at its New Bond street auction house, in 2002. Clearly Bonham‟s experience in the previous Minton sale and its location ensured that this sale would also be equally successful. The sale proved to be a near sell-out at £605,315 with only 5 of the 118 lots not sold. One question to ask is “what will the closure of the Minton site, and the relocation of production overseas, do to prices of Minton wares when the Minton factory has closed? A similar question was asked by the Antique Trade Gazette1 over the closure of the Doulton factory “Will Doulton prices rise if the Burslem factory closes?” It was interesting to note that Clive Hillier a specialist at Louis Taylor speculated that the closure could spark renewed interest in traditional British ceramics. The gazette notes that “Whether or not it was a coincidence, following the closure of the Beswick factory a couple of years ago prices spiralled and have remained strong since”. This may be also the case with Minton wares.
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Antique Trade gazette, 16th October 2004. Page 30

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Peter Webb: 0054772

British Ceramics

BA (Hons) Fine Arts valuation via DL

This sale was a dedicated sale of Minton wares. It included a wide range, from simple charming early bone china, through to individual Secessionist and Art Deco wares as well as pâte-sur-pâte wares. It maybe important to question whether auctions dedicated to one maker or generalist ceramics auctions, that included wares from different producers, bring in the highest prices? Dedicated auctions would bring in the serious collector of Minton ware but generalist auctions may bring in more prospective customers. Clearly the dedicated auction won the day this time. Of all the aspects of ceramic valuation, one of the most important is the maker or factory name, and is one of the first marketing devices employed by the valuer to attract the attention of prospective buyers. It provides instant recognition to the market of the type of wares, including shape, decoration or technique that has been used. In order to discuss the type and values of the lots discussed in this paper it is necessary to place the Minton‟s factory and, in particular, its pâte-sur-pâte wares in their historical context relative to other ceramic producers. It will also aid with an understanding as to why Minton pâte-sur-pâte wares are so collectable today. Minton – a historical context The last decade of the 18th century was one of the most formative periods in the history of the English ceramics industry. In 1795 Josiah Wedgwood had died and his successors, no longer able to sustain the momentum, saw Wedgwood go into comparative decline. The high days of English soft paste porcelain production were over and Bow, Chelsea and Longton Hall had long since disappeared. While the Derby and Worcester concerns where flourishing, the Liverpool porcelain factories were nearing an end. However on a positive note new materials had been produced with the invention of bone china by Josiah Spode II and major advances in the techniques of under glaze blue printing. It was in this environment that Thomas Minton founded the world famous factory that bears his name to the present day. Minton‟s was established in 1793 at Stoke-on-Trent. Thomas Minton had been apprenticed to the Caughley factory as a master engraver and then independently made engravings for Adams, Wedgwood and Spode. A large proportion of early Minton wares were of transfer printed earthenware of high quality. Thomas Minton established the reputation of high standards and employed highly skilled decorators such as Thomas Steel, Joseph Bancroft and George Hancock from the Derby factory. Early wares included large bowls and tea sets with reserve panels of floral composition on a dark blue ground with gilt scroll work. Thomas Minton died in 1836 and was succeeded by his son Herbert Minton who joined in partnership with John Boyle and traded under the name Minton & Boyle. Minton porcelains, from the 1840‟s became more ornate, but were always of the highest quality. The year 1848 was a turning point when Léon Arnoux, the French potter, was engaged as Art director at Minton‟s. Majolica ware, with its coloured glazes over an earthen ware

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British Ceramics

BA (Hons) Fine Arts valuation via DL

body was one of his innovations. Minton Sèvres style wares were also produced at this time as well as Parian wares. It was however in 1855 when Léon Arnoux, wrote a glowing review of Sèvres pâte-surpâte at the Paris Exhibition that he wanted to introduce this technique in England at Minton‟s. His opportunity came when Marc Luis Solon came to England in 1870, in order to avoid the Prussian advance, and joined Minton‟s. Marc Louis Solon‟s contribution to pâte-sur-pâte will be elaborated in the text later when discussing individual pieces. Pâte-sur-Pâte is an extremely elaborate and expensive method of decorating porcelain in which a translucent cameo-like image is built up by the application of many coats of porcellaneous slip. At Sèvres a diluted white porcelain slip was applied on a coloured ground in contrast to Minton‟s where a Parian body and slip were used. This allowed it to be fired at lower temperatures and allowed many more colours which could not be used at higher temperatures. Unlike Wedgwood Jasper ware, that also offers white relief‟s on coloured grounds and is produced by mechanical means with each decorative element pressed by mould and stuck to the surface, pâte-sur-pâte is always an original and a copy could only be made by the artist who executed the first one. It had been developed during the 1840‟s at Sèvres and greatly refined over the next years by Leopold Jules Gely and Marc Louis Solon the undoubted international master of this technique. Due to the high production costs a decline, in its manufacture during the 20th century, was seen and Sèvres ceased making it in the 1930‟s. Minton‟s continued to produce until the outbreak of World War II. Since then attempts have been made to revive the process. In 1991 two vases were made, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Minton‟s. A number of other firms in England attempted to emulate the success of Minton‟s but without much success. The main one being Wedgwood who‟s decorator Fredrick Rhead made plaques in this technique, Moore Brothers and perhaps the most well know George Jones whose wares where intended for the less affluent and decorated by Fredrick Schenk. Pâte-sur-Pâte ware was also made on the continent at The Royal Saxon Porcelain Manufactory, Meissen from 1878 as well as KPM Berlin, Villeroy & Bosch, Mettlach and a number of other factories.

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British Ceramics

BA (Hons) Fine Arts valuation via DL

The Masterpieces of Minton Auction The 4 lots selected are Pâte-sur-Pâte vases by Charles Toft, Marc Louis Solon and Albion Birks.

Fig 1 A Minton Pâte-sur-Pâte vase by Charles Toft (Fig. 1) Dated 1880 In Islamic style, shaped like a mosque lamp with six loops at the neck, in coloured pâtesur-pâte with spiralling design of alternating bands of carnations edged with forget-menot flowers on a dark olive ground and starry sky decoration in dark brown, turquoise and gold, the rims and neck richly gilt also, signed „C Toft‟, 57.5cm, impressed factory mark and date code, printed globe mark in gold (crack to foot). £6,000 - 8,000 Footnote: Illustrated by Atterbury and Batkin, p. 311 Charles Toft Senior is best known for his „Henri Deux‟ work for Minton, but he was also very accomplished in the pâte-sur-pâte technique. Another vase of this same shape, with Islamic-inspired design signed Charles Toft was sold in these rooms 11 June 1986, lot 374. Others are illustrated by Joan Jones, p. 211 and by Bernard Bumpus, pg. 70. The estimated price for this vase has been given at between £6000 – 8000 by the valuer. It made at auction £40,000 and was the highest price realised at the auction. It even surpassed all of the prices realised by vases attributed to Louis Solon, the master of pâtesur-pâte both at Sèvres and Minton.

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Peter Webb: 0054772

British Ceramics

BA (Hons) Fine Arts valuation via DL

A first note on the catalogue entry and photographs is the amount of space given in the catalogue to pâte-sur-pâte items in general and to this item in particular. The picture of this vase commands one whole page in the catalogue alone and two quarter pages dedicated to details from the vase. This may be due, in part, to the fact that the pâte-surpâte ware in general received far higher estimates values than other wares such as early bone china and Parian wares and the auction house was bringing particular attention and importance to this type of ware. The vase is described as in Islamic style. In fact in the Dictionary of Minton2 they refer to Persian Influences rather than Islamic style. This maybe confusing to collectors especially as many collectors use the Internet to search for items of a particular style or type however he may have used the term Islamic rather than Persian as this is a term in general use today. They may not have found references to this piece if they searched on “Persian style pâte-sur-pâte”. It is also good practise to put the major keywords in the title of the description. For instance the title could be changed to “A Minton polychrome Pâtesur-Pâte Islamic style vase by Charles Croft” which would have been a better description and have helped locate this type of item especially while using the Internet. Persian styles occur quite frequently in the Minton shape books and items with reference to particular Persian sources occur from the early 1860‟s. Wares in „imitation of Persian pottery‟ were included in the 1862 exhibition and the Art Journal3 of 1870 was able to report „The imitations … of the various kinds of pottery classed as Persian, which have issued lately from the manufactories of Minton in England and Collinot and Deck in France, have done much to popularise this beautiful ware‟. It is surprising that the valuer has not expanded on the influences of Islamic style in his description as this would have provided added interest to this vase. It would have also proved more appealing if he had referred to Theodore Deck and Christopher Dresser who both had influences on Minton during the last half of the 19th century. Dresser designed Persian and Far eastern ware for the company between 1860 until the 1880s. The shape of the vase is described by the valuer as „shaped like a mosque lamp with six loops at the neck‟. While this is true it should be remembered that Islamic mosque lamps were made from glass and that this would have been a copy of a glass lamp. Possibly the description should be changed to reflect this. The fact that the loops have been jewelled with paste the same colour as the carnations has also been ignored. The height of the vase at 57.5cm is also very appealing and would be acceptable to many collectors.

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By Paul Atterbury and Maureen Batkin page 159

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Quoted in the Dictionary of Minton , Paul Atterbury and Maureen Batkin page 159

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British Ceramics

BA (Hons) Fine Arts valuation via DL

Fig 2 Details of the decoration The general overall description of the polychrome decoration has been competently achieved (fig. 2) describing it as “in coloured pâte-sur-pâte with spiralling design of alternating bands of carnations edged with forget-me-not flowers on a dark olive ground and starry sky decoration in dark brown, turquoise and gold, the rims and neck richly gilt also”. This description really gives an excellent feeling to the whole piece. It is such a pity that he has left out the dark blue background to the starry sky decoration as well as the turquoise Islamic inspired strap work to the upper rim in his description.

Fig 3 The C.TOFT signature Charles Toft is the decorator of this piece and this is clearly noted in the text of the catalogue description as well as in a photograph showing the signature “C.TOFT” (fig. 3). This is clearly seen located between a leaf of the carnation and the curved banding to the bottom of the body of the vase. Clearly there is no question about the attribution of his item to C. Toft who had been working for Minton‟s when this vase was made. However there is some question as to which Charles Toft we should attribute this vase to as there were a number of C. Tofts employed as apprentices to Solon when the vase was made.

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British Ceramics

BA (Hons) Fine Arts valuation via DL

The valuer in a postscript has noted that the vase is „illustrated by Atterbury and Batkin, p. 311. Charles Toft Senior is best known for his „Henri Deux‟ work for Minton, but he was very accomplished in the Pâte-sur-Pâte technique. This note clearly indicates that the valuer attributes this piece to Charles Toft senior. Charles Toft Senior (1828-1890) was, according to his son, working for Minton‟s for a period of fifteen years from 1867 until 1883 and worked almost exclusively on the production of Henri Deux wares. He left in 1883 and started his own pottery company where he is said to have made inferior versions of Henri Deux wares, slip ware and rustic brown pottery. From this description it would seem highly unlikely that he would have been active in the highly intricate and time consuming process of pâte-sur-pâte. Charles Toft Senior had a son, also known as Charles (Charles Toft Junior) who was active at Minton‟s in the 1870‟s. It is known that Charles Toft Junior worked on pâte-sur-pâte wares under Louis Solon as there is a reference in the estimate book that shows that a pâte-sur-pâte flower holder was decorated by „C. Toft‟ in July 1886. This was probably Charles Toft Junior since the Toft Senior had left in 1893 to set-up his own pottery.

Fig 4 Islamic style vase attributed to Charles Toft Junior by Atterbury and Batkin The confusion arises because of the reference “illustrated by Atterbury and Batkin, p. 311”. If this reference is followed the vase illustrated in Atterbury and Batkin (fig. 4) has the description “Vase decorated with pâte-sur-pâte in Islamic style by Charles Toft Junior, 1880. This has led to the confusion of whether it was Charles Toft Senior or Junior decorated this vase.

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British Ceramics

BA (Hons) Fine Arts valuation via DL

As noted earlier Bernard Bumpus, who also assisted in the cataloguing of the pâte-surpâte in the auction and is also author on a definitive guide on this subject4, clearly asserts on page 111 that “There is clearly confusion between the two Tofts, but Rheads‟s first hand evidence that the father made pâte-sur-pâte must be correct. Toft is associated with a range of items, mainly vases; decorated in coloured pastes in Islamic style which he signed „C. Toft‟. Clearly both Toft Senior and Junior were working at Minton‟s at the same time and if Bumpus is correct they both worked in pâte-sur-pâte. Therefore without further research it can only be supposition as to which one made this vase. The postscript reference pointing to the books by Joan Jones, Bernard Bumpus and by Atterbury and Batkin clearly adds credence to the high standing of this piece and has been added in the hope of getting a higher price. However if collectors had clearly read these references they would have become confused as to the actual decorator. The vase has been fully marked with impressed factory mark, date code, printed globe mark in gold that allows the valuer to date it accurately to 1880. Accurate dating can only enhance the value and indistinct marking or lack of it would affect the value. The vase has suffered some damage, as noted in the description, as “crack to foot”. It can also be seen from the photograph there is some loss of gilding to base and rim which has been ignored in the description. However without further inspection it is not possible to know whether this would affect valuation. Perfection in ceramics is important, since a perfect item is instantly saleable whereas a damaged one may prove difficult to sell. This vase sold for £40,000 including premium and after adding VAT would have been over £50,000 to take out of the auction room compared to a valuation of £6000 – 8000. There is a clear disparity between the estimation and the actual realized price. It may be worthwhile to reflect on what may have been the reason for this. It is certainly an extremely appealing piece. It was the only polychrome item in the auction; it was of form and decoration, in Islamic style, which is very collectable today. It was in near perfect condition but, while Minton Islamic style vases are rare, they are by no means unique or unavailable. The vase was sold to John Andrews a Kent dealer on behalf of clients5The valuer sights “Another vase of his same shape, with Islamic-inspired design signed Charles Toft was sold in these rooms 11 June 1986, lot 374” however it has been impossible to get the description of the piece or the price reached.

4 5

Pâte-sur-Pâte The art of Ceramic Relief Decoration, 1849-1992 Antiques Trade Gazette 23rd October 2004 Page 13

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British Ceramics

BA (Hons) Fine Arts valuation via DL

Fig 5 Toft vase sold by Rosebery‟s A near identical piece6 (fig. 5) was sold by Rosebery‟s, West Norword in their sale of 1617 September 2003. The catalogue description is in the footnote. The piece more than doubled the estimation and realised £12,000 but was nowhere near the price reached in this auction. The description also has some serious flaws; the flowers are described as chrysanthemums while it is clear from the illustration they are carnations; there is sparse description of the decoration; no information is given concerning the factory markings and date marks with only a comment that it is circa 1880; the decorator is this time given as Charles Toft Junior. The Antiques Trade Gazette7 notes that it was sold to the specialist ceramics dealer Nicolas Boston and goes on to note „the disparity between the two prices is remarkable. So, was Rosebery‟s vase cheap or Bonham‟s expensive?” One final note, an almost identical vase has been entered into the 8 December 2004 Fine British Ceramics, Glass and Enamels auction at Bonham‟s, New Bond Street as Lot No. 4018. This time the vase has shrunk by 1 cm, to 56.5 cm, and the valuer has noted the raised gold border around the neck and but no detail is given to say whether it is signed or not. However what is remarkable is that the estimation has skyrocketed from £6000-8000 to £25,000- £30,000. It is clear that Bonham‟s have learnt a lesson since their October sale.

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The item details are described as A Minton‟s pâte-sur-pâte decorated in Islamic style circa 1880, of baluster form with loop handles to the neck, decorated by Charles Toft Junior with spiralling bands of flowering chrysanthemums, 57.5 cm high. Estimate £4000-6000. Realised price £12000 7 Issue 1661 week ending 23rd October 2004 Page 13 8 The cataloguer has provided this description A remarkable Minton Pâte-sur-Pâte vase by Charles Toft dated ca. 1880 in Islamic style, shaped like a mosque lamp with six loops applied to the neck, decorated in coloured pâte-sur-pâte with spiralling design of bands of carnations and forget-me-nots on a dark olive ground, alternating with starry sky decoration in dark brown, turquoise and gold, raised gold border around the neck, 56.5cm, impressed factory mark and date code, printed globe mark in gold, (some slight ware to the gold), Estimate £25,000 to £35,000. Footnote: A very similar vase from the Minton Museum collection sold in these rooms on 5 October 2004, lot 60. This was signed „C. Toft‟. Others are illustrated by Bernard Bumpus, Pâte-sur-Pâte, p 70 and Joan Jones, Minton p 211. Charles toft Senior is best known at Minton for his „Henri Deux ware, but pieces such as this lot show his great accomplishment in the Pâtesur-Pâte technique

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Peter Webb: 0054772

British Ceramics

BA (Hons) Fine Arts valuation via DL

The Antiques Trade Gazette notes that Mr Boston was also at this sale but did not manage to secure the item discussed. Is it just possible that he has decided to sell the Rosebery‟s vase for a quick profit at Bonham‟s?

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British Ceramics

BA (Hons) Fine Arts valuation via DL

Fig 6 ‘Closed Gates’, A Minton pâte-sur-pâte vase and cover by Louis Solon (fig. 6) Circa 1895 Of tapering form on an unusual tripod base, decorated with Cupid standing between the posts of an elegant chain fence, each post surmounted by a lyre-shaped motif, his wings outstretched, the chain wrapped around both wrists and a key hanging from his belt, the reverse with a tall lily, 34.7cm, indistinct impressed marks (2) £7,000-10,000 Footnote: One of a pair of vases and covers titled „Open and Closed gates‟. They appear in Minton Archives pâte-sur-pâte record book with a note that Solon worked on the pair for 6 days. Illustrated by Joan Jones, p 190 (right) This vase realised a price of £17,000 with an estimation of £7,000-10,000.

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British Ceramics

BA (Hons) Fine Arts valuation via DL

Fig 7 Marc Louis Solon working on a vase It is attributed to Louis Solon, although the correct name is Marc Louis Solon (fig 7). He did sign his pieces MLS or L. Solon and was the most renowned and technically accomplished artists in pâte-sur-pâte style at both Sèvres and Minton. Solon joined Minton‟s in 1870 after working on pâte-sur-pâte wares at the Royal Manufactory of Sèvres from the 1850‟s. He retired reluctantly from Minton in 1904 but continued to work at home until his death in 1913. A collector will take into account a number of factors when buying a pâte-sur-pâte vase including: its size, where generally larger size will be preferable to smaller ones; the complexity of the decoration and if a pair the complementary nature of the form of decoration; the ground colours used and any contrasting polychrome decoration. This is in addition to rarity, the decorator and condition. His work so appeals to collectors because each piece is unique and he was a totally original artist. The process was so laborious it took significant time to produce each one and at great expense. The valuer notes in his footnote that they appear in the Minton archives and that Solon worked on the pair for 6 days (fig. 8).

Fig 8 page from Minton pâte-sur-pâte book showing the entry for “Open & closed gates It had been assumed, up until Minton tried to re-introduce the technique in the 1970‟s, that each piece had been individually hand-decorated but the discovery of some moulds

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British Ceramics

BA (Hons) Fine Arts valuation via DL

in the Minton archive supports the belief that some element of slip casting was also used. This has in no way affected the marketability or desirability of these pieces. Solon took his design inspiration from many sources: Pompeiian or Etruscan; Neoclassicism; the Renaissance and Mannerism; and Oriental art as well. It is clearly an oriental shape that has inspired the design of this body. The valuer only gives us the comment “of tapering form on an unusual base” without any indication to the origin of this design. The description of this pâte-sur-pâte work is extremely competent describing one of Solon‟s own unique compositions. Most of his works depict love‟s struggle with maidens being tormented by Cupids. This piece is no exception to the theme. Being one of a pair, named “Open and Closed Gates” and is an allegory of the gates to love being open and closed. Solon used many variations on complimentary pairs of subjects such as „fire and water‟, „day and night and „arrival and departure‟ in his works. It is unfortunate that the valuer has not chosen to mention the ground colour or the gilding. Also no picture of the “tall lily” on reverse is shown. We can only assume that there is no damage to the gilding on the vase as no mention has been given. In dating this piece the valuer notes “circa 1895”. It would be interesting to understand why only “circa” has been used. Minton at this time clearly date stamped their wares and also entered them into their pâte-sur-pâte record book. A photograph of the entry is shown in the catalogue. Was it because of the “indistinct impressed” marks that did not allow the valuer to give a precise date? This vase is mentioned in the Minton Archives and surely this would have allowed him to have given a more accurate dating. The valuer has not provided details regarding Solon‟s signature on the vase and it is known that he signed all his pieces. This information is important to collectors. Solon had a number of apprentices9 who decorated parts of his designed wares that were then signed by Solon. When one apprentice asked why he could not sign a piece he received the following reply”Sign it! What for? My poor boy, people do not want to know if you have done it, all they want to know is that I have not done it.”10

Regarding valuation, this vase is only one of a pair and in normal markets a pair of matching vases would command more than two single vases especially since they are described as one of the pair entitled “Open and Closed gates”.

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The names of the following apprentices are noted in Victorian porcelain by Geoffrey Godden: Albione Birks, Lawrence Birks, H. Hollins, T. Mellor, A. Morgan, Frederick Rhead, T.H. Rice, H. Sanders and C. Toft. 10 Victorian Porcelain, Godden Page 175

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British Ceramics

BA (Hons) Fine Arts valuation via DL

A rare Minton‟s two-handled polychrome pâte-sur-pâte vase11 (No image available) was sold at Sotheby‟s, New Bond Street on 8 November 1999. It was slightly larger at 42.5cm but had a similar theme. Originally one of a pair entitled „Door Open‟ and „Door Bolted‟ it was estimated at £5,000-7000 and the hammer price including Buyer‟s premium was £18,400. This clearly shows that prices have not increased for this type of vase in the 5 years since the auction. It is interesting to note from the prices realised for the Louis Solon vases (see tables below) that the vases sold in pairs, while realising a price within the estimated price range, they all realised a price to the lower end of the price estimates. What is more astonishing is the underestimates made for the single vases. All greatly exceeded their price estimates and Bonham‟s will seriously need to examine their strategy for estimating prices of single Louis Solon pâte-sur-pâte vases as they assumed a far too high a premium on pairs of vases. Pairs of Louis Solon Vases sold at auction Lot Number Title 48 „Ripe Fruit‟ and „Faded Blossoms 50 „Epilogue‟ and „Prologue‟ 55 „The Leading Strings

Estimated Price(£) Price Realised 25,000-35,000 28,000 25,000-35,000 20,000-30000 24,000 24,000

Single Louis Solon Vases sold at auction (*Part of a pair) Lot number Title Estimated Price Price Realised 44 „Exchange‟ 8,000-10,000 14,000 47 „Cupids Bathing‟ 12,000-15,000 37,000 49* „Lost‟ 4,000-6,000 13,000 51* „Closed Gates 7,000-10,000 17,000 52 „Ladder‟ 4,000-5,000 18,000 53 „Arrows‟ 5,000-7,000 7,200 54 „Butterflies‟ 10,000-14,000 32,000

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The Auction catalogue entry: A rare Minton‟s two-handled polychrome pâte-sur-pâte vase circa 1878 decorated by L.M. Solon, signed, with four cherubs about a cage suspended within a surreal architectural perspective, flanked by satyr‟s mask handles, within Pompeian-inspired borders, all reserved against a pale lavender ground, highlighted in gilding impressed factory marks, gold printed Paris exhibition mark for 1878, applied paper labels 42.5cm., illustrated and discussed by J. Jones, Minton The first Two hundred Years of Design & Production, p. 193. This pair of vases was originally entitled, Door Open‟ and „Door Bolted‟ and were exhibited at the Paris Exhibition 1878. The Minton Estimate Book details thirty guineas as the cost of production of the pair. The retail price would have been sixty guineas. The pair to this vase remains in the Minton‟s Museum collection. Provenance: Formerly in the collection of Sir Bernard Eckstein, Oldlands Hall, Fairwarp, Sussex.

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British Ceramics

BA (Hons) Fine Arts valuation via DL

fig 9 A pair of Minton Pâte-sur-Pâte vases and covers by Albion Birks (fig. 9) Circa 1880 Modelled in rococo style after a Sèvres model, ovoid with scrolling foliate handles and pierced scrollwork feet on integral shaped bases, the turquoise ground reserved with olive green panels decorated with pairs of putti in pâte-sur-pâte, both signed AB, one with a flower basket in a wreath of fruiting branches to the reverse, the other with a love trophy within a laurel wreath, all richly gilt, 34.3cm, printed globe marks in gold (one vase restored at base and slight re-gilding to neck, the other with one handle re-stuck) (4), £10,000-15,000 The vase realised a price of £20,000. Footnote: The original Sèvres model was a „pot pourri à bobèches‟. It is unusual to find Minton‟s traditional Sèvres shapes with pâte-sur-pâte decoration. Louis Solon avoided such forms, whereas Birks‟ love of all-over ornament is perfectly suited to the rococo shapes.

This vase, as stated by the valuer, is modelled after a Sèvres model with the original model stated as „pot pourri à bobèches‟. It clearly is inspired by rococo ornamentation and the valuer has described it very accurately as „ovoid with scrolling foliate handles and pierced scrollwork feet on integral shaped bases‟. The ground colours of turquoise ground reserved with olive green panels are very appealing and are very collectable today. Also the comment that „it is unusual to find Minton‟s traditional Sèvres shapes with pâtesur-pâte‟ would add to the perceived rarity of these vases. Unfortunately the description of the pâte-sur-pâte decoration is very sparse noting only „decorated with pairs of putti‟.

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British Ceramics

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A more detailed description would have provided added interest to potential buyers. A more detailed description of the reverse decoration is given but no illustration is shown.

Fig 10 Portrait of Albion Birks, from his obituary in the Pottery Gazette and Glass Trade Review, August 1941 Both vases have been signed AB for Albion Birks (fig. 10). This is of course extremely important for collectors. Birks (c1862-1941) was born in Fenton in the potteries and was the son of the Pratt‟s Pottery manager Henry Birks. He was apprenticed as a surface modeller and after completing his apprenticeship worked as a pâte-sur-pâte artist under Louis Solon. Godden notes12 that “he was to continue the tradition of Mintons‟ pâte-surpâte well into the twentieth century and gain himself a reputation second only to Solon. As noted previously, Solon did not give much recognition to his apprentices and only allowed the most gifted to sign some pieces with their initials. In the production of the Jubilee vase that Mintons, made and presented to Queen Victoria to commemorate her Golden Jubilee in 1887, Solon recorded that he worked for 78 days but did not note the assistance of Albion Birks who is believed to have worked another 93 days on its decoration. It is therefore worth asking the question as to what other works of Solon contained considerable input from Birks. It is surprising that the valuer has not expanded on the association between Birks and Solon and that Solon has not been mentioned in the descriptive text. Bumpus13 also states that Minton, during the 1890‟s, did not appear to have considered that work by Albion Birks, or by any of the other apprentices, would attract potential buyers and omitted any names except Solon in their May 1894 catalogue of a sale at the Imperial Institute, London. While Birks did not have the creative genius of Solon, basing many of his decorations on Solon designs, he continued after Solon‟s death decorating vases, plaques and high-class wares and is also credited with the development of pâte-sur-pâte table and dessert wares.
12 13

Victorian Porcelain Geoffrey A. Godden Page 173 Page 140

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He is also known to have used slip casting to increase the speed of production of his wares. These vases, at first sight, seem to be significantly damaged with „one vase restored at base and slight re-gilding to neck, the other with one handle re-stuck‟. However this does not seem to have affected the sales price

fig 11 For comparative pricing a pair of Minton pâte-sur-pâte vases by Alboin Birks14 (fig 11) was sold by Bonham‟s in a Fine British Ceramics and Glass auction on 10 September 2003. However there are a number of differences; they are dated circa 1910, a 30 year difference with the vases reviewed circa 1880; they are much smaller at 19.5 cm instead of 34.3cm; they are plainly shaped. They fetched £4,000 against estimates of £4,000£5,000. This was not however a specialist Minton auction. Another pair of Minton pâte-sur-pâte vases and covers15 (No image available) was sold by Sotheby‟s, New Bond Street on the 21 November 2000. This time they are of similar height and are dated within a 5 year time span. Clearly the estimations given to these Birks vases (£3,000-4,000) as well as the price realised (£9,000) has increased since 2000 and this maybe as a reappraisal of his work.

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Catalogue entry: A pair of Minton pâte-sur-pâte vases by Alboin Birks, signed, with classical subjects, one with Venus teaching Cupid to shoot a bow and arrow, the goddess whereas diaphanous robes and holds a quiver of arrows, the reverse with a heart target pierced with arrows, the other with Minerva, also teaching Cupid to shoot, both wearing helmets, the reverse with a trophy of weapons and other instruments of war, the rims with running designs of foliage in gold, 19.5cm. Gold globe marks (2) Estimated £4,0005000. Price realised £4000 15 Catalogue entry: A pair of Minton pâte-sur-pâte vases and covers circa 1905 by A. Birks, signed, each elongated shield-shaped body with flared neck and applied wreath handles, decorated with panels depicting Cupid in attitudes, the reverse with flowers and trophies against a each-blue ground, flanked by bands of masks and formal ornament reserved against an ivory ground, enriched with gilding, the domed cover with bud knop (4) 34.4 cm., 13 5/8 in., the bases plaster filed for weighting, minor rubbing to gilding. Price estimate £3,000-4000 Price realised £9,000

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fig 12 A Minton Pâte-sur-Pâte vase by Alboin Birks (fig 12) Circa 1905 Of classical tapering shape with raised loop handles, the turquoise ground decorated in pâte-sur-pâte with Cupid, speeding through the ether on a wheel sprinkling hearts on the mortals below, signed „A Birks‟, the rims and handles gilt, 14.3cm, printed globe mark and England in gold. £1,200 – 1500 This vase realised £1,200 This is the final vase by Minton‟s in pâte-sur-pâte that will be discussed. It is again by Alboin Birks and dated circa 1905. It was not part of the Minton museum pieces but a number of other items by Minton from other owners were also included in the auction. Louis Solon had been retired from Minton‟s in 1904 due partly to the economic situation at Minton and the decline in popularity of pâte-sur-pâte wares. He continued to work from home. Alboin Birks was now the leading pâte-sur-pâte artist at Minton. He concentrated mainly on pâte-sur-pâte decorated tableware for the American market. This however initially caused problems since pâte-sur-pâte had only been applied to Minton‟s Parian body which was unsuitable for tableware that required a more robust body. Birks overcame this problem by first working the pâte-sur-pâte decoration on Parian panels which were then applied to the bone china body. Birks also devised a method whereby the preliminary decoration work could be carried out by a moulding process which was then finished off with the traditional pâte-sur-pâte technique.

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Fig 14 Vase with pâte-sur-pâte decoration by Albion Birks, c. 1905 (Bumpus page 147) The vase described is of very simple classical tapering shape and the decoration very simple compared to those shown in Bumpus (page 147) (fig. 14) which show similar vases but on gilded bases. The decoration, while the pâte-sur-pâte is well executed, seems to just hang on the side of the vase as if it had been pasted there. This is in contrast with the valuer‟s comment „Birks love of all-over ornament is perfectly suited to rococo shapes‟ that he made to the previous piece.

Fig 15 A Minton Pâte-sur-Pâte lidded vase with twin handles on a square base (fig 15) was sold by Peter Wilson, Victoria Gallery, Nantwich on 27 November 2002. It was described as

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after Alboin Binks entitled „Nymph with Cupid in Armour. Clearly a problem with the name as this should have been Birks and it is only attributed to him. This was much larger at 33cm but however had a very uninteresting light blue ground colour which was also not mentioned. It was estimated at £300-500 and realised £320 showing that it may be possible to find cheaper pâte-sur-pâte wares in the provinces than in London. Conclusion This was a very successful auction for both Bonham‟s and Minton‟s with only 5 lots failing to change hands. A comparison of the Minton museum pâte-sur-pâte pieces sold showed that only 5 sold for less than their estimate, 4 were within estimate, and a total of 23 exceeded estimate. The Antiques Trade Gazette should probably have the last say on this auction. Anne Crane, of the Gazette, notes “Toft‟s masterwork aside, it was Solon‟s particular mastery of the pâte-sur-pâte technique that dominated here. There was a keen sense that technical skill, the effectiveness of the design and condition were being recognised and rewarded……..When prices stayed closer to estimate, it is often down to features such as damage or a less exciting ground colour”. Bibliography Atterbury, P and Batkin, M The Dictionary of Minton Antique Collectors‟ Club ltd, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1990 Bumpus, Bernard Pâte-sur-Pâte The Art of Ceramic Relief Decoration, 1849-1992Barrie & Jenkins Ltd, London, 1992 Cushion, J & M A collectors History of British Porcelain Antique Collectors Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk 1992 Godden, G Godden‟s New Guide to English Porcelain Millers, London, 2004 Litchfield, F Pottery and Porcelain Adam and Charles Black, London, 1957 Godden, G Victorian Porcelain Herbert Jenkins, 1961 Pinot de Villechenon, M Sèvres Porcelain from the Sèvres Museum 1740 to the present day Lund Humphries, London1993 Godden, G Minton Pottery & Porcelain of the first period 1793-1850 Herbert Jenkins, London 1968 Godden, G An Illustrated Encyclopedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Barrie & Jenkins, London, 1966 Hughes B & T The Collectors Encyclopedia of English Ceramics Abbey Library, London, 1968 Mankowitz, W and Hagger, R The Concise Encyclopedia of English Pottery and Porcelain Andre Deutche, London, 1968 Trench, L Materials & Techniques in the Decorative Arts An illustrated Dictionary John Murray, London 2000 Internet Resources www.sothebys.com www.antiquestradegazette.com www.bonhams.com www.christies.com

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Description: Masterpieces of Minton