The Scottish Highlands & Royal Worcester

A detail from a potpourri vase painted with highland cattle by John Stinton

From the early 20th century the Royal Worcester porcelain factory produced hand painted porcelain of the finest quality.

The factory brought together many of the country’s leading painters on porcelain. Flowers, fruit, birds and landscapes were painted in exquisite detail. The work that was produced is gifted with a luminosity by the coloured enamels and porcelain. The three dimensional quality of the objects informs and contributes to the richness and life of this art. They were, and remain, highly prized by collectors.

The Scottish Highland scenes are amongst the most sought after of all the Royal Worcester subjects.

A fine pair of Royal Worcester porcelain two handled vases and covers, circa 1903, painted and signed by John Stinton

Royal Worcester acquired the Grainger factory in 1902 and with it the remarkable Stinton family of porcelain painters. John Stinton junior and son Harry painted highland cattle studies, whilst John’s brother, James, concentrated on game birds. They worked alongside Harry Davis and numerous other painters. The Stintons mixed oil of cloves with their paints to stop them drying too quickly. The smell was often remarked upon by colleagues working at the factory!

John Sinton junior did not begin painting on porcelain until he was thirty-five. He followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Henry, and his father, John. He painted scenes with English and highland cattle, as well as castles and historic buildings. The bodies of the magnificent pair of Royal Worcester vases and covers depict cattle at a water’s edge. It is characteristic of his work that the lower legs of the cattle are hidden from view by water and grass. Dating from 1903 the landscapes are as finely painted as the cattle. They sold in a Toovey’s specialist auction for £5000.

A Royal Worcester porcelain two handled vase, circa 1913, painted and signed by Harry Stinton

The detail of the two highland cattle shown here was also painted by John Stinton. It is taken from a potpourri vase which sold at Toovey’s for £3200. It displays the luminosity of these pieces. The scene is alive, the cows’ eyes glint and the grass appears to move in a highland breeze.

Harry Davis painted a wide variety of subjects including highland landscapes with sheep. He has been described as perhaps the finest ceramic painter of the 20th century. His exceptional natural ability and remarkable individuality can be seen in the small jewel-like potpourri jar and cover which he painted in 1912. The sheep are brought into focus by the marvellous depiction of mist and light on the hills beyond. It realised £1100 at Toovey’s

Harry Stinton was great friends with Harry Davis. Harry Stinton produced highland cattle scenes. His work can be differentiated from his father’s by the purples and autumnal tints in his palette. These can be seen in the study of two highland cattle in a landscape which he painted on the two handled vase in 1913. His work is also highly valued by collectors and it sold at Toovey’s for £1200.

A Royal Worcester porcelain potpourri jar and cover, circa 1912, painted and signed by Harry Davis

Neither John nor Harry Stinton ever visited Scotland. They worked from their imaginations and postcards. For many of us, like John and Harry, our understanding of Scotland is to a large degree informed by the paintings and writings based around the landscape and culture of the Highlands. It was Queen Victoria who placed the royal seal of approval on Scotland. Inspired by the writing of Walter Scott she built her castle at Balmoral which delighted her and Prince Albert. Balmoral and the Scottish Highlands continue to delight our Royal family to this day.

The Act of Union of 1707 brought Scotland and England together to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain. There was a desire amongst Scots to uphold their cultural distinctiveness and preserve what was unique and separate about Scotland. During Victoria’s reign our understanding of Scottish identity became romantically bound up with the Highlands. Indeed, this highland myth came to express the very spirit of the Scottish nation.

Our romantic attachment to Scotland endures to the present day which in part explains the delight we take in this porcelain. But in an age of mass production these individual and unique paintings on porcelain unite us not just with their subjects but also with these exceptionally gifted artists. Toovey’s porcelain specialist, Tom Rowsell, is passionate about these pieces and can be contacted at auctions@tooveys.com if you would like his advice.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 2nd September 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

The Delights of Tin Glazed Earthenware

An English delft flower brick
An English delft flower brick, probably London, circa 1750

Tin glazed earthenware describes the method of decorating fine quality pottery using a technique first developed in Baghdad in the 9th century. In an attempt to rival the glossy whiteness of Chinese porcelain the earthenware was covered with an opaque white glaze.

A pair of 18th Century Dutch Delft blue and white vases
A pair of 18th Century Dutch Delft blue and white vases, decorated after the Chinese, with ormolu mounts

The technique entered Europe through Spain which was under the rule of the Umayyad Muslim caliphate. Tin glazed earthenware arrived in Italy from Spain in the first half of the 13th century. From Italy the method spread throughout Europe.

The technique remained relatively unchanged into the 18th century. After the pottery has been fired it emerges from the kiln as a brownish earthenware. It is then dipped in a glaze made up of oxides of lead and tin combined with silicate of potash. This porous white coat can then be decorated with various metallic oxides, capable of withstanding the high-temperatures of the kiln needed to unite them with the tin glaze and fuse it to the surface of the clay. Blue comes from cobalt, green from copper, purple from manganese, yellow from antimony and orange from iron.

An English polychrome delft circular bowl
An English polychrome delft circular bowl, mid-18th Century, of deep circular form, painted a Chinese pavilion beneath a tree

The colours are absorbed into the glaze as soon as they are applied. No corrections to the painted design is possible. Many art historians liken the process to that of fresco wall painting, rare Saxon examples of which are to be found in a number of Sussex churches. Once decorated the vessel is then given a second firing. This fixes the glaze to the object’s body and melts it to a glossy surface. Lead glaze is commonly applied before firing to enhance the finish.

Tin glazed earthenware is often known as delft. The name derives from the Dutch town of Delft which by the mid-17th century had become the most important centre for the manufacture of tin glazed earthenware. The pair of Dutch Delft vases shown here are decorated with figures in the style of Chinese vases from the 17th century Kangxi period.

An English delft colander bowl
An English delft colander bowl, probably London, circa 1770

Many of my favourite examples of tin glazed delft are those from the 18th century made in the British Isles. Like the Dutch vases they are frequently stylistically influenced by the Chinese imported porcelain of the same date.

The English delft circular bowl, circa 1750, employs the manganese purple, cobalt blue and antimony yellow so typical of high temperature glazes in its depiction of a Chinese pavilion beneath a tree. The restraint and composition of the scene is captivating.

The English delft colander bowl’s exterior is painted with cobalt blue Chinese landscapes. The bands of pierced heart shaped drain holes delight with the flowing foliate decoration. You can see the pouring hole on the inner rim. It is at once beautiful and useful.

A British delft octagonal dish
A British delft octagonal dish, probably Dublin, mid-18th Century, painted with a Chinese style chrysanthemum

There were centres of delft manufacture in Bristol, Liverpool, London, and across the British Isles. The octagonal dish illustrated was probably made in Dublin in the mid-18th century. The chrysanthemum, trellis and flower panels once again show the influence of the Chinese and are beautifully conceived.

I love delft flower bricks. The faces of the rectangular form of this example from the 1750s are delicately painted with flowers. They are confident little objects designed to hold cut flowers.

The finest examples of delft tin glazed earthenware realise tens of thousands of pounds but examples like these can still be bought at auction from between £300 and £1000. They have a delightful provincial quality. Whilst their decoration often reflects the regions in which they were made they connect the collector with the international stylistic influences of their time. Their prices are beginning to rise once again. Perhaps it is time you discovered the delights of collecting tin glazed earthenware!

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 4th March 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Anyone for Tea?

Rupert in the Toovey’s silver department
Rupert in the Toovey’s silver department with an Art Deco silver teapot

I have to own that I am passionate about tea. It is not just the diverse varieties of tea, or that it restores and revives, it is also the ritual. Each morning I delight in warming and filling my silver tea pot, allowing the tea to steep beneath its cosy before pouring the first cup of the day and preparing my thermos. Nothing beats the flavour of tea made in a silver teapot!

Tea has been drunk in China for some 4000 years. However, it was not introduced to Britain and Europe until the 17th century.

On the 25th September 1660 Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary that he ‘did send for a cupp of tee (a China drink) of which I never drank before’. It is thought Thomas Garroway of Exchange Alley, London, first sold tea in England in 1657. It was made fashionable by Charles II’s Portuguese queen, Catherine of Braganza who brought her love of tea to the English court.

Early English teapots from the 17th and the early 18th centuries are rare and tend to be small as tea was very expensive. By the later 18th and early 19th centuries tea had become a little more affordable whilst maintaining its fashionable status.

A Flight Barr & Barr Worcester porcelain part tea and coffee service
A Flight Barr & Barr Worcester porcelain part tea and coffee service, circa 1820
A George III Scottish silver of inverted pear form
A George III Scottish silver of inverted pear form, Edinburgh 1777

Tea related objects proliferated including porcelain. Take for example the Flight, Barr & Barr Worcester porcelain part tea service illustrated here. The Worcester factory had been formed in 1752 when the factories of Benjamin Lund and Dr John Wall had been united. Dr Wall retired in 1774 and in 1783 the factory was purchased by the firm’s London agent, John Flight. His son, Joseph, would enter into partnership with Martin Barr in 1792 and the company became Flight & Barr. As the partnership evolved so did the name and after Martin’s death in 1813 the company became Flight, Barr & Barr. During this last period the quality of the wares was outstanding and included tea services typified by fine, restrained decoration. This tea service dates from around 1820. The bands of brown and gilt leaf sprays are united with the form of the pieces, the design brought alive by the small red flowers. It realised £1900 at a recent Toovey’s specialist auction.

Tea related objects were often made in silver. In the later 18th century the rococo taste was fashionable. The George III Scottish silver tea pot is of inverted pear form and was assayed in Edinburgh in 1777. The chased decoration reflects the fashion for the rococo at this date with its opposing scroll cartouche and flower festoons. It sold for £950.

A set of three George III silver graduated tea caddies
A set of three George III silver graduated tea caddies, London 1766 by Thomas Foster

The three early George III silver tea caddies reflect the value of tea in the mid-18th century and are also in the rococo taste. Their flower finials and rectangular bombé outline are decorated with chased, spiral reeded bands and cornered foliate borders. The scroll and scallop aprons incorporate scalloped feet. Made by the silversmith John Foster and assayed in London in 1766, with their contemporary walnut case they realised £5100 at Toovey’s.

The fashion for tea related objects is once again in revival. Silver tea pots can still be bought reasonably at auction but prices have risen. Perhaps it’s time you treated yourself to tea and enjoyed the delight in silver and porcelain. After all tea always tastes better when it has been made in a silver teapot and is savoured in porcelain cups!

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 25th February 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Wedgwood – The Most Important English Potteries

A set of six Wedgwood blue printed plates
A set of six Wedgwood blue printed plates, circa 1820

I was delighted when the news broke last week that the internationally important ‘Wedgwood Collection’, housed at the Wedgwood Museum in Stoke, had been saved for the nation at a cost of £15.75 million. The final £2.74 million was raised through the Art Fund by public appeal in just a month.

A Wedgwood creamware pierced oval dish
A Wedgwood creamware pierced oval dish, late 18th century

The Wedgwood Collection, one of the most important industrial archives in the world, has been saved, thanks to the generosity of thousands of individuals, businesses and a number of grant-making foundations.

A Wedgwood black basalt combined bough-pot and pastille burner, 19th century
Detail of a Wedgwood black basalt combined bough-pot and pastille burner, 19th century

The seeds of the collection were sown by Josiah Wedgwood (1730-95), who in 1774 expressed an aspiration to preserve examples of the objects created by the Wedgwood pottery which bears his name. Josiah Wedgwood’s inventiveness combined his artistic taste and scientific knowledge with a gift for administration and business acumen. He took the manufacture of ceramics to extraordinary heights. These qualities have led many art historians to claim that he was the most distinguished English potter of his age. His reputation was certainly international. Amongst his patrons were the British Royal Family, Catherine the Great of Russia, the Queen of France and the King of Naples.

His early appreciation of Neo-Classicism and his eye for young artists with real ability, like John Flaxman and George Stubbs, enabled him to produce ceramics which fitted with this style and decoration. There was an industrial, modern efficiency in the way that he organised his factory and by 1782 he was employing the use of steam power.

The simple, elegant patterns of Wedgwood’s cream-coloured earthenware appealed to buyers with a taste for Neo-Classicism. In honour of the factory’s patron, Queen Charlotte, these wares became known as Queen’s Ware. These creamwares were painted, like the late 18th century pierced oval dish illustrated, delicately enamelled with groups of shells and seaweed, or transfer-decorated, like the plates seen here, generously decorated with passion flowers, geranium and iris within borders of convolvulus.

A pair of Wedgwood two colour jasperware cups and saucers
A pair of Wedgwood two colour jasperware cups and saucers, late 18th century
A Wedgwood pale blue jasper dip 'Pegasus' vase and cover
A Wedgwood pale blue jasper dip 'Pegasus' vase and cover, circa 1871, decorated after George Flaxman’s The Apotheosis of Homer

The Wedgwood pottery became famous for its vitreous stonewares. The first of these was the red stoneware examples known as ‘rosso antico’. By 1769 the black basalt wares were in production, like the early 19th century black basalt combined bough pot and pastille burner shown here. In this detail you will note the Neo-Classical decorative motif of the band of anthemion sprays. Anthemion is, of course, honeysuckle in the modern vernacular, such a romantic flower. From 1774 Jasper Ware, the most famous of these vitreous wares, was being made. These pieces, with their exquisite forms and white, classical relief decorations against blue, green, lavender or yellow grounds, delight in their bold restraint. The beautiful proportions and forms were often copied from ancient Greek examples of vases, which were defined as Etruscan at that time. Indeed, the Wedgwood factory’s name, Etruria, was taken from this term. The pair of Wedgwood two-colour jasperware cups and saucers date from the late 18th century. The Wedgwood pale blue jasper dip ‘Pegasus’ vase and cover is later, dating from around 1871. It is ornamented in white with The Apotheosis of Homer, after the artist Flaxman. The square pale blue jasper base is decorated with classical maidens, each canted corner relief decorated with winged mythical beasts.

Leading factories such as Meissen, Sèvres and Vienna were amongst Wedgwood’s imitators.

Today examples like those illustrated can be bought at auction for between £50 and £2000, whilst the rarest and finest examples realise vastly higher sums.

Josiah Wedgwood was a man of liberal and humanitarian views, a supporter of the American Revolution and an advocate for the abolition of slavery.

The ‘Wedgwood Collection’ preserves this unique record of British history and global commerce in one place. It contains over 80,000 works of art, ceramics, manuscripts and letters, pattern books and photographs covering the 250-year history of Wedgwood. The Collection will soon be gifted to the V&A and remain on display at the Wedgwood Museum.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: ‘This amazing show of public support for the Wedgwood Collection has made this the fastest fundraising campaign in the Art Fund’s 111-year history. It demonstrates nothing less than a national passion for Wedgwood – its history, its quality, its brand, its continuity…’

The ‘Wedgwood Collection’ represents Wedgwood’s extraordinary legacy and position in British industrial and art history.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 15th October 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Following in the Footsteps of Picasso to Provence

A collection of Picasso Madoura editions ceramics, from left to right: ‘Bunch with Apple’, ‘Bull and Picador’ and ‘Two Dancers’

I’m just back from my holidays in the south of France following in the footsteps of Pablo Picasso, who in the summer of 1946, while staying with his friend, the engraver Louis Fort, decided to visit the annual potters’ exhibition in the provincial village of Vallauris in Provence. There he met Suzanne and Georges Ramié, the founders of the Madoura workshop, who were keen to persuade him to come to Vallauris.

Rupert Toovey admires the Pablo Picasso bronze ‘L’Homme au Mouton’ in the square outside the Musée National Picasso, Vallauris
A Pablo Picasso white earthenware 'Face in an Oval' dish

Picasso returned in July 1947, bringing his extraordinary imagination and creative energy to ceramics. He was first attracted by the large, almost rectangular dishes in the workshop. Here Picasso took the everyday and transformed it into high art, painting and incising with a richness of expression which still causes my heart to race. Favourite themes included figures, bullfights, still lifes and faces, as depicted on the plates, jug and dish illustrated here. In each you see the free, graphic rhythm which typifies Picasso’s ceramics. These pieces are Picasso Madoura editions. They were made in two ways; the first involved making an authentic replica of an original work by exactly repeating the size and decoration. The second method transferred an original subject, by means of an engraved, hardened plaster mould, to a fresh ceramic sheet, which would be applied in order to take a clay impression. These editions are authenticated by a stamp to the base. Their close connection with Picasso’s hand, like a handmade print, attracts the attention of an international group of collectors. Prices are strong. The dish ‘Face in an Oval’ was produced around 1955, number 74 in an edition of 100. It sold at Toovey’s for £3,400. The plate ‘Two Dancers’, from an edition of 450, and the jug ‘Bull and Picador’, one of 500 copies, were both made in 1956 and would realize around £8,000 and £3,500 respectively at auction today. Picasso’s relationship with Madoura and the Ramiés grew and between 1948 and 1955 Picasso lived at Vallauris before moving to Cannes.

A Pablo Picasso white earthenware 'Vallauris' dish

Picasso resurrected the ancient tradition of the all-round artist, exploring painting, sculpture, graphic art, engraving and ceramics. He revived the tradition of the Renaissance artist, many of whom worked in a variety of these disciplines and sometimes even as architects. Picasso delighted in the craft of the ceramicist and quickly began to talk with the Ramiés using the technical language of the potter. The Ramiés, for their part, indulged the often extremely unorthodox practices of the artist, including his forms, his glazes and his methods of firing. Take, as an example, the plate ‘Bunch with Apple’, made in 1956 in an edition of 400; it was decorated with oxidized paraffin. A plate like this would realise around £3,000 at auction today.

The white earthenware ‘Vallauris’ round dish, dated 1956, has an impressed mark and is numbered 42/100. With its marvellous abstract faces, it sold in a Toovey’s specialist sale for £7,400, despite being broken and repaired.

You approach the Musée National Picasso at Vallauris through a square filled with shops and restaurants. Amid the life of the village stands the Picasso bronze ‘L’Homme au Mouton’, given by the artist in 1949. Inside the museum there is a jewel-like array of original ceramics made by Picasso, guarded fiercely by the museum staff. The pieces have a life to them which speaks to my heart with a sense of joy. I have a real feeling of the effect that the light and warmth of Provence had on Picasso after the war years in Paris.

The vitality of Pablo Picasso’s oeuvre has the power to move collectors across continents.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 10th September 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.