The Beauty of Sèvres Porcelain

An ormolu mounted Sèvres porcelain potpourri vase and cover, circa 1780
An ormolu mounted Sèvres porcelain potpourri vase and cover, circa 1780

Beautiful objects have the power to transform our lives and lift our spirits and examples of Sèvres porcelain, particularly from the 18th century, fall into this category.

The French porcelain factory which became Sèvres began at Vincennes in 1738. The French nobleman Orry de Fulvy employed the runaway workers, Gilles and Robert Dubois, from Chantilly at the chateaux Vincennes, near Paris. In 1745 a company was formed and King Louis XV granted a royal privilege granting Vincennes an exclusive right to make porcelain decorated with figures and gilding. The privilege even prevented Vincennes workers being employed elsewhere.

In 1756 the manufactory was moved to new buildings at Sèvres. Success in making hard-paste porcelain of the type produced by Meissen and the Chinese remained elusive despite large sums of money being paid, often to false arcanists. In 1769 they achieved their goal, though little hard paste porcelain was made until 1772. Those pieces that were, were marked with interlaced L’s beneath a crown. The interlaced L mark was used at Sèvres in various forms until 1793.

The ormolu mounted Sèvres porcelain potpourri vase and cover dating from around 1780 with its pale green pointillé ground body, reserved to each side with gilt edged frames enclosing still lifes of gardening tools and utensils is painted in the style of André-Vincent Vielliard pêre (1717-1790) who was recorded at both Vincennes and Sèvres as a painter of figures, landscapes, patterns and flowers.

The ormolu mounts are in the style of artist and designer Jean Claude Thomas Chambellan Duplessis (c.1730-1783). The exquisitely modelled swan handles with outstretched wings beneath the pierced ormolu neck and the pierced rococo foliate scroll ormolu base add to the richness of this small jewel like piece.

A Sèvres porcelain plateau carré, circa 1758
A Sèvres porcelain plateau carré, circa 1758

The Sèvres porcelain plateau carré is earlier dating from around 1758. It is painted by André-Vincent Vielliard pêre in pink with a scene of a young girl in a garden. The blue border is delicately overlaid with gilt stippled coral branches, beneath a pierced Vitruvian scroll rim heightened in blue and gilt. Marked to the base with typically enamelled blue interlaced ‘L’s, it also bore the artist’s monogram.

Both pieces were sold in Toovey’s specialist auctions of English and European Ceramics. Prices for examples of this quality range from the high hundreds into the thousands of pounds.

It seems to me that it is part of our human purpose to make beauty in the world and it is right, therefore, that we should celebrate it.

Fine Jewellery at Toovey’s

A fine Ceylon sapphire and diamond set cluster ring
A fine Ceylon sapphire and diamond set cluster ring

There is some excitement in Toovey’s jewellery department as entries for their specialist auctions of Fine Jewellery on 2nd November 2022 continue to be received.

Amongst the star lots entered so far is a late 19th century necklace in the garland style set with emeralds, and old mine cut and rose cut diamonds.

As the 20th century approached the influence of Victorian tastes would continue but were reinterpreted in lighter more delicate styles.

France’s Belle Époque spanned from the late 19th century up until the start of the Great War in 1914. It was characterised by optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity, scientific and technological advances and an era where the arts flourished influencing the tastes of other nations including our own.

Jewellery from the period combines opulence with graceful lines set with a variety of gems, often in the garland style which influenced the production of almost all jewellery houses in the late 19th century and early years of the 20th century. Louis Cartier was considered the master of the garland style. In the early years of the 20th century Cartier opened his shop in London. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries England’s wealth was at its height and demand for fine jewellery had never been higher.

These influences and the fashion for the garland style is clearly recognisable in the acanthus leaf scroll and floral garlands of this exceptional necklace. The fluidity of design embraces both the classical and rococo and the necklace caries a pre-sale estimate of £20,000-£30,000.

An early 20th century fine emerald and diamond and diamond set necklace in the garland style
An early 20th century fine emerald and diamond and diamond set necklace in the garland style

The Ceylon (Sri Lankan) sapphire and diamond set gold ring is another highlight of the sale. The ring is thought to have been acquired by the current owner’s mother in the 1930s when it seems likely it would have been made. The sapphire is described as transparent blue within a double border of circular cut diamonds. Sapphires from Sri Lanka are often still fondly referred to as Ceylon sapphires. These stones are celebrated for their luminosity and lively vivid blue colour which gifts them with such life and light. This beautiful ring carries a pre-sale estimate of £6000-£9000.

Sarah Harwood, of Toovey’s specialist jewellery department, is always pleased to offer advice whether you are interested in selling or acquiring jewellery, and entries are still being accepted for the Fine Jewellery auction on 2nd November 2022 and the Christmas Jewellery auction on 30th November 2022. Sarah can be contacted on 01903 891955 or at

Foraging and Halloween at Borde Hill

Head of Horticulture at Borde Hill Garden and Parkland, Harry Baldwin
Head of Horticulture at Borde Hill Garden and Parkland, Harry Baldwin

As autumn approaches the change of season always seems to bring a burst of golden light and where better to enjoy this than Borde Hill gardens.

This week I am in the generous company of Borde Hill’s current custodians, Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke and his wife Eleni.

The gardens at Borde Hill were first laid out by Andrewjohn’s great grandfather, Colonel Stephenson R. Clarke. He purchased the house and land in 1893. Between 1893 and 1937 he sponsored many of the Great Plant Collectors’ expeditions. They returned with rare specimens brought back from their travels in the Himalayas, China, Burma, Tasmania and the Andes. Many of these plant species are still at the heart of the collection which make up the seventeen acres of formal gardens.

This spirit of adventure is still apparent today. Eleni, a geologist and trained horticulturalist, admits that it is the gardens which most inspire her. She says “This has always been an experimental garden, a place to try new plants. Borde Hill is constantly changing and looking to the future.”

We walk out into the gardens in search of Head of Horticulture at Borde Hill Garden and Parkland, Harry Baldwin, and find him tending a border filled with vibrant colour, texture and movement. His enthusiasm for the collection and gardens is infectious. He and his team are busily preparing for a series of autumn events.

This coming Saturday morning, 8th October, Sussex Forager Sarah Watson will lead a guided woodland foraging walk through Borde Hill’s Warren Wood so you can find out how to use autumnal shoots, roots, seeds and fruits as flavourings in your dishes and drinks; and how to forage responsibly and safely, identifying edible plants and fungi. Sarah will also be giving tips on how to use foraged fare in delicious recipes, as well as a chance to try some wild preserves like vinegars and syrups.

The Italian Garden at Borde Hill

Half-term at Borde Hill provides a week of activities centred on Halloween with trails, prizes and adventure for budding young Ghost Hunters and their families. The Ghost Hunters will have to answer riddles, solve clues and navigate ghost ships as fast as they can to solve the secret of the hauntings for poor Sir Haunt-A-Lot and Miss Crimson Nightshade in her mysterious library! And if your little Ghost Hunters still have energy to spare after that then there’s always the Adventure Playground and the Gardener’s Retreat Café with its autumn treats.

To find out more and to book your tickets visit

Chinese Porcelain Treasures discovered and sold in Sussex

A pair of Chinese coral-ground famille rose porcelain bowls, mark and period of Qianlong (1735-1796), height 5.9cm

Collections in Sussex continue to yield Chinese treasures like the Chinese famille rose porcelain jar and cover and the pair of tea bowls sold at Toovey’s.

Much Chinese porcelain is marked with reign marks relating to a particular emperor and period. But some reign marks do not match the workmanship or period of the object on which they are found. This does not necessarily indicate a fake or forgery. Reflecting China’s long and illustrious history of ceramic production artisans would use reign marks from earlier periods as a mark of respect to those who had gone before them whose decoration and designs inspired them and they copied. It also displayed their reverence for former emperors.

The Qianlong emperor (1735-1796) was prolific in his collecting with an exceptional personal connoisseurship. His collection numbered more than a million objects. He took a personal interest in porcelain production and was an ardent patron.

The Chinese famille rose enamelled turquoise ground jar and cover bore the mark of the Emperor Qianlong but actually dated form the early 20th century Republic period (1912-1949). We often discover Republic period Chinese porcelain in Sussex which, because of its quality, is celebrated by collectors.

A Chinese famille rose enamelled turquoise ground jar and cover, mark of Qianlong but early 20th century Republic period, height 37cm

Whilst the cover was in good condition the body, painted with butterflies amidst flowering scrolling tendrils with green and yellow seed pods, had been broken into some twelve pieces and glued together in an amateurish way. Despite this the quality of the object and the vibrant enamelling resulted in a remarkable price of £38,000.

The pair of Chinese coral-ground famille rose porcelain bowls came from another Sussex private collection. They were identified by Toovey’s Chinese porcelain Tom Rowsell as Qianlong mark and period. The steep sided exteriors of the bowls were delicately enamelled with three evenly spaced yellow ground panels enclosing pink peony flowers framed by colourful floral sprays and foliage against the rich coral-red ground. With a repair to the rim of one and rim chips and hairlines to the other bowl they nevertheless realised £24,000.

This flourishing of Chinese porcelain manufacture allows us to glimpse the energetic and creative gifts of the Chinese people which has gifted them with cultural prominence over millennia.

Toovey’s Chinese porcelain specialist, Tom Rowsell, is always pleased to offer advice whether you are interested in selling or acquiring Chinese objects and can be contacted on 01903 891955 or at

HM The Queen’s Life Celebrated at Goodwood

Graham Hill’s Ferrari 250 GTO/64 with its pale blue nose leading a pack of remarkable Ferraris at the 2022 Goodwood Revival

Motor Racing enthusiasts gathered from across the United Kingdom and from overseas at the 2022 Goodwood Revival to find scenes reminiscent of the early part of HM Queen Elizabeth II’s reign in the 1950s and 1960s.

HM The Queen’s life was celebrated and honoured across the three days with Union Jack’s flying at half-mast around the famous race track. A short film of The Queen at Goodwood was followed by a minute’s silence across the three days – moments of reflection for all who gathered. The Goodwood staff and many who came wore black ties and armbands, queuing to sign the books of remembrance.

Through both the joys and sorrows of life whatever the Queen faced she pressed on and it was in that spirit that the Goodwood Revival community came together in reflective mood.

The Goodwood Revival remains the most iconic international Historic Motor Racing event in the calendar and we are so blessed that it is held here in the heart of Sussex.

Rupert Toovey at the Goodwood Revival

The Stirling Moss Memorial Trophy saw Aston Martins and Ferraris challenged by AC Cobras and Jaguar E-types. British Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button interviewed on the Friday owned that he had understandably been a little distracted by his honeymoon and hadn’t had time to practice – the tightness of line and skill with which he drove the no.22 E-type was all the more impressive.

Ferrari played a leading role in this year’s Revival with a parade for the Scuderia featuring a breath taking array of cars from this most iconic of marques, many of which also featured in the racing across the weekend.

You couldn’t fail to notice the pale blue nose and beautiful lines of Graham Hill’s Ferrari 250 GTO/64 which raced in period at Goodwood, Hill winning the TT. It was very successful in the 1960s, including at Goodwood, and has been in the same ownership since 1969. The car united the old and new traditions of motor sport at Goodwood and has raced at every Revival since the first event in 1998.

As evening drew in and the skies filled with a rich autumn light the unforgettable sound of Rolls Royce Merlin engines roared above us as three Spitfires flew in formation marking the approach of Battle of Britain Sunday.

So much of HM Queen Elizabeth II’s reign had been embodied in this remarkable motor sport event and her life celebrated and honoured.