PS: Issue resolved. Thanks to David Boyer and Ivan Mears for their help.
Do you own...
...the Christies South Kensington catalogue dated 4 March 1993? The subject would be Staffordshire Figures or something close. I am desperate to check an entry in that sale, so if you can help, please email me.
PS: Issue resolved. Thanks to David Boyer and Ivan Mears for their help.
A friend reminded me I hadn't shared these pictures with you. I love this little pair of figures. Don't they ooze charm?
These are not "Sherratt" but they are reminiscent of the Sherratt style. At 5" in height, they are not clunky, nor are they itty-bitty. And not a huge purchase by any means, but try to find another pair.
If you read my stream of consciousness that spills onto this blog periodically, you know I have been obsessed with why good things are not selling. Good news: I am feeling better. Quite a few items seem to have departed John Howard's site, and Andrew Dando had even more SOLD stickers as his Exhibition closed. Bottom line is that this is a very good time to buy lovely figures at great prices. Extraordinary figures will always command huge premiums, but things that are not super-rare are very well priced right now. The trick is finding them. John Howard sold two Walton bocage groups recently, titled Tenderness and Friendship. We all think of these things as common because we have seen them in books. But when have you last seen a great Walton group in the flesh? I can't recall seeing Friendship, good or bad, for sale for years--and I recall but one other example of Tenderness. And the same can be said for lots of other things. Building a great collection is not about having a lot of money, although money definitely helps. Educating yourself is what it is all about--that way you know when to pounce on something. I have seen lots of collections. The best ones belong to educated collectors who buy regularly and selectively. They own books and catalogs and they know what they want. They don't let good things get away. Be one of them!
I was excited to stumble upon this little figure. A small purchase, but she gives me goosebumps. The slide show shows front and back views.
This girl sleeping on a plinth is in the Sherratt style. The applied floral garlands are hallmarks of "Sherratt". Aren't they beautifully crisp and colorful? This figure was pressed from a sharp mold. Look at the bracelet on her wrist, the folds on her dress, and her hair. Coupled with happy colors, it couldn't be better. Yes, I know there are a few small chips, but I am not going to restore them. Personally, I would rather show a little wear than be described as 'restored'---and I think my figures feel the same way. As she is sleeping so beautifully, why disturb her?
This figure has a partner facing in the other direction, so now I am looking for that. It may take me a long time, but I will keep hoping. And yes, things we MUST have always turn up when we won't want to spend the money. It is a simple fact of life.
Girls sleeping on plinths were made by other manufacturers. The figure occurs on plain rectangular base, usually with a red line around it. I have seen four such examples, as well as two examples on square green bases. These are all now quite hard to find.
The same figure form occurs atop an earthenware box in Brighton Museum. The figure above is just over 3" tall, and I am not sure of the height of the box....but best I can recall, the figure atop was smaller, albeit seemingly identical.
Yummy, is it not? I have seen two such boxes. I believe they too are "Sherratt". The leafy sprigs applied to the left and right are formed exactly like those sprigged onto some of the "Sherratt" table base groups. The motif in the center of the box is a simplifed Royal Coat of Arms, with the Prince of Wales feathers in the middle, so I guess this box was made during the Regency of the 1820s.
I have a closely related box in my collection and I believe it too is "Sherratt".
I love this box. It really is one of my favorite treasures. Again, the leafy sprigs to each side are formed just like those on some "Sherrat" table bases. The perky little dog is a familiar sight on Sherratt groups. And the diagonal striations to the painting are encountered on the table in the center of Teetotal groups. I can't recall seeing that painting on anything other than a "Sherratt" piece.
You can see the distinctive painting on the table on Tee Total above. The leafy sprig lies along the scalloped skirt fronts of the base. Trust me, they utilize the same molds as the sprigging on my box.
I was very excited to find my box a few years ago, and now I am thrilled with my sleeping girl. Neither were major purchases, but they add enormously to my pleasure in collecting. I just never know what will turn up next, and what I will learn from it. And that's what makes collecting fun.
First Eleven. Cricket, anybody?
I have a good library of books on figures. Many of the books are old, but I have yet to find a book that has not been worth every penny I paid for it. One of the oldies that I page through periodically is Collecting Staffordshire Pottery by Louis T. Stanley. Old books are replete with comments that we now know to be wrong, and Stanley's is no exception. He has dubbed ALL figures that reflect everyday life "Walton school." Ouch! Stanley must have been a cricket fan, for he decides to list a team of his 11 favorite "Walton school" figures. So here is his first eleven! Pictures are from my archive and are not necessarily the very figures Stanley had in mind.
1. "Sherratt group representing a wedding at Gretna Green."
2. "Group known as The Offering of Isaac."
Courtesy Andrew Dando.
3. "Group known as Teetotalism."
4. "Polito's Menagerie"
5. "one of the charming studies under the general heading of Courtship."
Stanley illustrates a pair of dandies to fill this slot, but we can do better.
6. A bull-baiting group
Courtesy John Howard
7. Romulus and Remus.
8. "The equestrian figure. I nominate the one showing a lady."
And I would want a pair!
9. "William Corder standing next to Maria Marten, the girl he murdered and buried in the Red Barn, whilst further along the base is the solitary fugure of Corder standing before the judge."
Hmm... a rare sighting. Wonder where Stanley saw this one?
Photo: Bonhams, London.
10. "A primitive group known as Almsgiving."
From current stock of Andrew Dando.
11. The Tithe Pig group
Start thinking about your own list. What if you could only have 11 figure groups? Are there 11 you still badly want to acquire? On the other hand, life is short and we must grab all the pleasure we can....so if your list is more like 111, that too is OK.
Email to Andrew Dando
I loved your Exhibition. Admittedly, you and Jan have yet to have an Exhibition that I don’t love, and the thrill of seeing so many new figures at once makes paying for one of them a pleasure. I noticed SOLD signs popping up on the Exhibition pages quickly on items with both the biggest and smallest price tags, but I am mystified as to why a couple of things are apparently still looking for homes. Mystified is too gentle a word. I almost need to go into therapy to have this explained. Could it be that you haven't updated the site? The items on the first page are eye-candy and ALL should be sold.
A pair of marked WALTON sheep. Every collection should have a pair, but they--and all marked figures--are increasingly difficult to find. Unless the restoration looks like chewing gum, why no SOLD sign?
This tithe pig group is simply dazzling. I tell myself that perhaps most collectors already have a tithe group and that’s why nobody has grabbed this one. But just look the beautiful enamel palette, the glowing glazes, the stunning bocage. Few tithe pig groups beat this one. Surely there is a collector out there who has been waiting for this?
A sweet subject and a sharp mold on this figure—not the more common porridgy version, and it's a long time since I have even seen one of those. Yes, I photographed this figure for my book (book plug moment) and I have yet to see a better one. BTW, your zoom pictures are great. I love being able to see the gorgeous blue-tinted glaze here.
That this archer marked SALT is sitting unsold at the paltry price of GBP345 tells me something is wrong. Is a site update needed? I have a SALT archer and paid more than this for it. I wouldn’t part with it for GBP345! Mine has a pink dress, but, like yours, it is just so very Staffordshire and charming. No restoration, a maker’s mark, a low price. What more can buyers want?
I know the world is sunk in an economic funk. Today we in the US mail in estimated income tax payments--or at least the 50% of us who are eligible for the privilege of paying income taxes can write a check! After I have balanced my check book, I will be cruising your site yet again. Book sales are chugging along, so we have more collectors AND they are reading. Demand for fine objects of all sorts will surge when we get over our economic malaise---but when that happens, figure groups like these will be even harder to find. There are more and more people in the world, but the stock of antique treasures is, at best, static.
Stephen Smith and I were debating the issue of collecting recently. He pointed out that older people collect and don't use the Internet--and most collectors are older. (I have officially reset my age to ensure eternal youth.) I know lots of older people wend their way to Bradford-on-Avon to enjoy your Exhibition over an extended period, and I expect they will wisely pounce on these figures. I wish I could be there too, but know that I am always with you in cyberspace:)
Email to John Howard
You probably don't remember, but a few years ago I bought a little spill holder from you--the one below.
This group wasn't on your site, but a friend spotted it on your stand at the NEC and called me about it. He and I know of only one other group like this, and it is in his collection. My friend's collection is huge, yet this is his favorite figure. He told me he thought your price was very reasonable--and my friend isn't known for overpaying. I was thrilled to be able to buy this spill holder. And, to top it all, my spill holder is nicer than my friend's example, which is on p114 of my book People, Passions, Pastimes and Pleasures: Staffordshire Figures 1810-1835, (what self-respecting author misses a book-plug opportunity?)
Now my dilemma is this: you have a small pair of leopards on your site that I think would look awfully good alongside my little spill group. I am wearing out my mouse by clicking on your site to look at them.
Clearly your leopards are from same pot bank as my spill holder, and the leopard on the left was formed from the very mold used for the leopard on my spill holder. Tiny, at 2" ("just darlin" is the phrase used by ladies in the southern US!). My leopard has a yellow coat, and your leopards are kind of tawny, so I told myself I could resist them...but I keep coming back to them and wondering if I am shallow to focus on that detail. I can't pop in to your shop and see how the trio looks, so I had to do the next best thing: Photoshop.
Note the update added to the posting of 5/30 on feldspathic stoneware, and thanks to Raymond Parkin for great information.
Relationships and marriage
Have you looked at Andrew and Janice Dando's Exhibition? Some of the nicest are looking for homes as I write, so don't miss out. Also, Stephen and I have been emaiing back and forth about the Internet's impact on collecting. He has posted interesting thoughts on his blog. I agree totally--and as it is obviously easier to detect damage on plaques than it is on bocage figures, a dealer's guidance is even more important for figure collectors.
When I first started buying at auction, I did so through a dealer. I needed experienced eyes to guide me. And today I often still use a dealer, paying a premium for the expertise. Please be wary of Internet sites selling antiques. If you want to buy, check that the seller is a bona fide dealer rather than an amateur with a hobby.
A collector recently bought an item from a UK Internet site. Many weeks later, the item still hasn't arrived. The seller says the buyer will have to await the outcome of a claim filed with the UK post office. He adds--and this gets me!--that he will no longer sell to the US because he has heard of other parcels going missing en route to the US. Hold on here: why is this a US problem? We have lots of problems in the US, but postal theft is not one on them. And theft of Staffordshire pottery is definitely not an issue in the US because our thieves are dumb. I could put my whole collection on my doorstep and any self-respecting US thief would push through it to steal my television. The same cannot be said in the UK, where thieves are aware of the value of antiques. Instead of blaming the US, why does this seller not refund the buyer and claim from his insurance company? Proper dealers carry insurance, they track the parcels they mail, and they refund promptly for breakage or loss.
A sure way of getting into trouble is buying a reproduction figure. The arbor figure group below is The Real Thing, and that's because dealer Roger Deville knows the difference and wouldn't stock a reproduction. The plaque reads THE NEW MARRIAGE ACT JOHN FRILL AND ANN BOKE AGED 21 THAT IS RIGHT SAYS THE PARSON AMEN SAYS THE CLERK.
This arbor group was made circa 1823 to commemorate the passage of The New Marriage Act. Among other things, the New Marriage Act made it no longer possible for couples to annul their marriage on the grounds that one or other of them had lied about age at the time of marriage--meaning that the marriage should not have been allowed to take place. After passage of the New Marriage Act in 1823, things changed. Thus when John Frill and Ann Boke attest to being aged 21, their marriage becomes final, whatever their age. Amen!
Reproductions of arbor New Marriage groups abound. Some of them were made in the earlier part of the last century, but they lack charm. They are nasty objects, and the modeling is very wooden. From a picture, the later color palette is not always apparent to an amateur. One tip: look at the lettering. On repros, the letters do not have serifs (the little lines at the ends of the strokes that make up letters). Then look at the faces of the figures. On The Real Thing, the expressions are so life-like. Sometimes, the anguish on the little clerk's face is comic and the vicar can look so bored.
I don't have a large picture of Roger's group, but I expect the characters to be every bit as delightful as those below. Look at the blue-tinted glaze that has puddled in the indentations of this figure. Any doubt you are looking at The Real Thing?
Below, look at the pained, pinched, bland faces on the figures that comprise a repro group. Which one would you want??
It seems that more than one pot bank may have made arbor New Marriage groups, because we find variations. The plaque can be placed anywhere within the arbor and the back of the arbor may be painted quite differently. This variation is also The Real Thing.
If you find an inexpensive arbor New Marriage Act, count on it being a later figure. But even a high price is no guarantee of authenticity. Buy from a reputable dealer and you should not make a mistake. If in doubt, ask me.
It is increasingly difficult to find figures on the market. Where have all the figures gone? A decade ago, figures were everywhere: they starred in several annual London auctions and were well represented in the stock of a good number of specialist ceramics dealers who stood at leading shows. But times have changed. Figures now come to auction sporadically and the trade has dwindled. Go ahead, blame the Internet! Fortunately or unfortunately, the Internet has revealed what is ordinary and what is extraordinary. The discovery that Victorian Staffordshire figures abounded can be credited to the Internet....and the Internet can be blamed for the plummet in price of Victorian figures (or the least the mundane ones, and that means most of them!). But the Internet has also taught us how rare earlier figures are, and that fine examples are not easy to find. As a result, people who own these figures are holding onto them.
I heard a report on TV on the fine art sales this season. Paintings did not bring the anticipated grand total. Hard times? No, not a lack of money. Apparently, the offerings were mediocre. People are holding onto their finest paintings, knowing they will retain value in the expected inflationary era that is anticipated. I believe the same is true of good figures: people are holding onto them. But if you had a few great pieces and needed cash, where would you go? I would go to the top end of the trade, perhaps to the very dealer I bought the items from. Others are doing just that, and that is why the best dealers can still get fine stock. I know these dealers have to pay top dollar to get good stock--and that ensures good things continue to hold their value. If you see a great figure, buy it. Don't pass by a beautiful bocage, a marked figure, a great pair, or something that takes your fancy. Another may never come along. Carpe Diem.
And in the midst of this figure drought, I struggle to write. So I looked at my picture archive, where I keep thousands of figures filed by subject. The subject list is extensive, with titles that are flexible to say the least. There are over 100 folders, but when all else fails, I have a folder titled MISCELLANEOUS.
I call this figure "Girl with Hat"...or should it be "Hat with Girl"? You just can't miss that hat, but she is among only two dozen figures that defy categorizing. What else but miscellaneous?
This lady with att-i-tude, courtesy Andrew Dando, also remains homeless/miscellaneous in my e-filing cabinet..
Don't forget the Dando's Exhibition online this Saturday at noon, UK time.
Another homeless person is this sweet figure, courtesy Richard Gould Antiques. I love the red jacket. I have seen this figure with a low bocage to either side, but alas that example was off its base. Who is he and what is he doing? I have no idea, so he remains Miscellaneous.
Each to his own, and some of you might just love mansion house dwarves. I don't....and I am seeking an excuse to not save their pictures at all. Meanwhile, these too hang out in Miscellaneous.
This pair are clearly the stars of my MISCELLANEOUS folder. They are in the Brighton Museum and they are stunners.
I haven't filed this couple under DANDIES because they are not dressed so. Their attire is a little earlier. Stella Beddoe, who knows her museum collection so well, believes that the lady's hat suggests she may represent Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire. All collectors who want figures restored to 'perfection', please take a moment to ponder the untouched beauty of this pair.
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