Published: April 27, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Kinghams Auctioneers
MORETON-IN-MARSH, UNITED KINGDOM – Kinghams Auctioneers inaugurated its new salesroom in Moreton-In-Marsh with 234 lots from the collection of Richard Dennis and in doing so, celebrated 50 years since Dennis conducted his first selling exhibition of British ceramics in 1971. The sale exceeded expectations and achieved $940,360, with an international field of bidders and buyers from Europe, the United States, Australia, New Zealand in addition to ones from the United Kingdom. Online bidding on four platforms was supplemented by phone and absentee bids, with limited in-the-room bidding permitted.
Kinghams’ associate director, Adrian Rathbone, said, “Kinghams are honored to have been appointed to handle the Richard Dennis collection of art pottery. This was our inaugural auction held at our new premises in Moreton-in-Marsh, a picture postcard town in the heart of the Cotswolds…Overall, we were delighted with the results and signals growing strength in the decorative arts sector of the market with collectors and investors keen to invest in tangible assets.” Rathbone also commented that Dennis attended the sale and is “delighted with the outcome”; he anticipates selling more works from Dennis’ collection in the future.
Dennis’ 1978 exhibition of the works of Martin Brothers pottery is largely credited with cementing his career as a scholar and dealer; his collection featured no less than 29 lots by the Martin Brothers, whose sculptural vessels have become darlings of the market. The top 20 lots in the sale were all made by Robert Wallace Martin, with two sharing the top price of $71,291. One was a 14¾-inch bird jar, made in 1898 that had once been owned by Princess Catherine Yourievsky of Russia, daughter of Tsar Alexander II. It sold to an international private collector who ended up acquiring a total of ten Martin Brothers pieces. The other piece to share the top price was a slightly smaller 10-½-inch-tall bird jar that had also made by RW Martin in 1898. It would seem that 1898 was a good year for “Wally birds”; one standing 14-1/8 inches tall exceeded expectations and flew to $64,501.
RW Martin made more than just bird-form vessels and the sale featured several examples. A grotesquely modeled dog jar, made in 1885, ran to $67,896, just ahead of a spoonbill duck or penguin jar that had crossed the block at Christie’s South Kensington in 1993; it finished at $61,106. Another Martin Brothers piece that had passed through Christie’s South Kensington salesroom was a monkey jar, which was bid to $54,317. A few of the RW Martin models did not sell.
Despite the preponderance of Martin Brothers ceramics among the top lots, the sale represented a veritable “Who’s Who?” of makers of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century British art pottery. Among noteworthy results was a stoneware Guy Fawkes mouse figure group, done around 1885 by George Tinworth for Doulton Lambeth. The diminutive piece, which stood just 4¾ inches tall, fired up bidders and squeaked past expectations to close at $13,579.
A 13-5/8-inch diameter dish that was made for William De Morgan by Charles Passenger around 1890 depicted an antelope and fruiting tree with lizards relates to an example in the De Morgan Foundation Collection. It more than tripled its high estimate and sold for $8,487. Another piece that performed similarly well against its estimate was a 17-inch-tall vase with foliate mask made by Cassandra Annie Walker for Della Robbia in 1897. Bidders pushed it to $7,808.
Several Aesthetic Movement works made for Christopher Dresser for Minton got the sale off to a strong start, led by an owl vase, circa 1870, which flew to more than ten times its low estimate, finally landing at $6,450.
A Fairlyland luster vase in the “flambe pillar” pattern done circa 1920 by Daisy Makeig Jones for Wedgwood, heated bidders up to $5,771.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium and have been converted into US Dollars based on the conversion rate on the day of the sale.
Kinghams’ next auction will feature fine and decorative arts on May 14-15.
For additional information, www.kinghamsauctioneers.com.
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