Collecting

It is many years since I have mentioned my DIY skills, but last weekend they once again came to the fore. My wife had decided that the repositioning of some of our paintings was imperative and so my drill was searched for, dusted off and along with a somewhat frayed extension, plugged in. Unlike many men, I only possess one drill bit and mainly through lack of interest, have never managed to acquire the correct plastic plug to fill the hole in the wall it makes. The result; my holes are a mess and only half of them are successful.

“I think they look fine where they are” I suggested. “Fine” was a silly choice of words and a discussion ensued. My argument was that we should put our efforts into researching some new artists and genres and replacing some of the paintings we have. This, I explained, would be a double helping of joy as we would have the excitement of the sale and the satisfaction of the purchase. I have to say I did well and we are now looking for some new pictures to hang on existing hooks.

The whole episode made me think generally of the joys of collecting. Collecting is different from investing, financial gain is not the object. Pick a subject that is of interest or has always held a fascination. Don’t choose a genre that is so rare examples never appear or one so common the market is flooded. Enjoy the research and always keep the first piece purchased, this will show how far the collection has progressed in the years that follow.The investor is always interested in the perfect example, but the collector is interested in just the example.

The auction room is a wonderful place to expand knowledge and enhance collections. In these present Covid times everything is virtual, but descriptions are still there and bidding is possible, full catalogues with numerous illustrations are available. With fingers crossed, post vaccination, things will get back to normal and that is the time to touch and examine as many examples as possible.

One word of warning. All collectors must learn to recognise when someone is losing interest in the collection they are waxing lyrical about. Nothing is more interesting than hearing an informed collector on a subject that is of interest to the listener. But, nothing is more boring…….

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering in auction, or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website.

Vinaigrettes

Recently, before Covid, on an Irish holiday of track, trace and view my wife’s relatives, the evening meal found her reminiscing long hot summers (we never seem to remember short cold summers) on the farm and the smell of silage that no one in the farmhouse seemed to notice. I said a vinaigrette would have proved useful, just as they were to the Georgian ladies as they traversed the smelly city streets.

At the end of the 18th century a combination of poor personal hygiene and disastrous sewage control made walking through streets a rather smelly business. Enter the vinaigrette. Used by many in polite society, it was a tiny hinged box which opened to reveal a decorative grill trapping a perfume soaked sponge. When held close to the nostrils the smell was considerably more pleasant than the surrounding odours.

The earliest vinaigrettes were simply the tiny boxes already described. The interior of the box was gilt lined to prevent the acidic liquid from destroying the metal. A side ring would be added, which enabled the owner to wear it as a pendant on a necklace or as part of a bracelet.

As the earliest vinaigrettes were so small their decoration was little more than simple engraving or bright cut patterns. However by the early 19th century vinaigrettes had grown somewhat and now at an enormous 4cms there was room for much more elaborate decoration. They were decorated with intricate scrollwork, flowers and foliage and figural and animal designs. The borders were often cast raised with flowers and shells and the lids could sometimes be engraved with initials or personal Coats of Arms.

The basic rectangular form was eventually abandoned in favour of more exciting shapes and designs. These varied widely from tiny purses and fob watches to books, flowers, fish, animals and shells. These are the details that make the collecting of vinaigrettes such an exciting and vibrant hobby for today’s collector and why they always sell so well in the saleroom.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Murano Glass

As a man with no talent whatsoever for the practical or the artistic, I am both jealous and in awe of the lucky gifted individuals who possess these gifts. The world of art and design is full to overflowing of just such talented individuals and Paulo Venini is a perfect example.

Murano is one of a compact group of Venetian islands and has been manufacturing glass since the eleventh century. Glassmakers were forced out of Venice for two main reasons. Firstly because of the ever present risk of fire and secondly to keep some of their most innovative techniques secret.

The eleventh century is a long time ago and from then until now Murano has seen some of the best glassmakers in the world. One of the very best came along in the early twentieth century, his name was Paulo Venini and he was born in 1895.

In adult life Venini was a disillusioned lawyer and he gave it all up to become a glassmaker. In 1921 he purchased a partnership in the Murano glasshouse of Glacomo Cappelin and by 1925 he had overall control and renamed it Venini and Company.

He abandoned the Revivalist styles of other Venetian glasshouses, but never departed from the essential traditions of Venetian glass. Very quickly he established himself as the leading manufacturer of high quality decorative and table glass in Italy.

Not only was Venini brilliant, he employed some brilliant designers. Such people as Taplo, Wirkkala and Ponti.

When he died, the factory was taken over by his widow and his son in law, Ludovico de Santillana and the tradition for excellence lived on.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Ocean Liner Memorabilia

During these troubled times when travelling anywhere is challenging, it might be pleasant to contemplate a luxury, multi person type of travel. What about the ocean liner?

Ocean liner memorabilia brings alive the more glamorous era when the only way to travel the world was by ship and in style. It is nostalgia from a bygone era and it is that that attracts the collectors.

At the beginning of the 20th century the giant luxury liners of the shipping companies such as Cunard, White Star Line and Canadian Pacific plied the transatlantic trade. In general collectors focus on the best known liners and their memorabilia command the highest prices. Memorabilia from the lesser known companies or those that didn’t travel the transatlantic route are usually less costly.

Notable ships include the Olympic, and the Mauritania, but by far the most desirable collectables come from the ill fated Titanic. The market for such memorabilia increased dramatically after the love affair of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1997 film. Items owned or used by survivors or rescuers such as, watches, spoons, menus and plates generally realise the highest prices.

Postcards and photographs are often the most reasonably priced items as they were produced in high quantities. Hand written cards are collected and value depends on the condition, the message and the sender.

Essential ocean liner memorabilia for any collector includes playing cards featuring the liner or company logo, timetables especially those with period artwork and menus especially first class or special occasion. Other items of value are original fixtures and fittings, brochures and souvenirs. Items taken from the ship as a memento tend to be more valuable.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Meigh Pottery

Collectors are some of the most interesting people to talk to, partly because they love their subject and partly because they love talking. Some of the most interesting collectors are those with a very narrow field and a very deep knowledge. Recently I ran into a fascinating fellow who collected nothing but Meigh pottery jugs.

Meigh Pottery was run successfully by Charles Meigh from 1834 when he took over from his father, Job. Job Meigh worked out of Old Hall Pottery, Hanley, Staffordshire from 1805 producing high quality stoneware and earthenware. Charles continued this business.

The most popular and well known of Charles’ work were the white stoneware jugs with relief decoration. The decoration was primarily Gothic Revival motifs. The designs were actually formed as part of the mould before the pieces were cast. The ‘Minister’ jug was one of the key designs of the time sometimes referred to as ‘Minister Jug’ or ‘York Minister’ although the religious design has no known association with York Minister. Religious scenes in general were common in Meigh’s work as were scenes of sporting events and drinking activities. Larger examples are always more sought after by collectors realising higher prices.

Charles Meigh was greatly admired for the high quality of his designs and intricate moulded work with his factories acknowledged for casting crisp three-dimensional designs that few could rival at the time. Meigh exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and went on to win a medal in 1886.

Charles Meigh traded under many names from starting out in 1834 to the closure of the factory in 1902 and the marks used change accordingly. Up until 1849 there were various marks used but all incorporated his name or initials, when he entered into partnership in 1850 changing the company name to ‘Charles Meigh, Son & Pankhurst’ these initials, CMS & P, were included on the marks, later losing the ‘P’ in 1851 when he traded under simply ‘Charles Meigh & Son’. In 1861 the name changed again to ‘Old Hall Eartheware Co Ltd.’ and finally ‘Old Hall Porcelain Works Ltd.’ in 1886 until closure in 1902.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Loetz

The Loetz company was established in 1840 by Johann Loetz in the Czech Republic and after his heirs sold it on, it eventually came under the leadership of Max Ritter von Spaun in 1879 who guided it to international fame and recognition. During the 1880s and 1890s, Loetz iridescent glass designs typified the Art Nouveau style.

Often referred as ‘The Austrian Tiffany’, Loetz was actually just producing Tiffany- style glass made and marketed at much lower prices after realising there was a real market for it. Indeed some of their work was barely distinguishable from the real Tiffany available at the time. Tiffany patented their iridescent favrile glass designs in 1894 and Loetz was not far behind obtaining patents for their iridescent glass with a ‘metallic shimmer’ in 1895 and 1896.

Loetz, however, didn’t want to be merely remembered or acknowledged for making excellent copies of others’ work and set about creating its own designs of which their most famous and highly-acclaimed series, Phanomen, was to be born. Phanomen pieces are characterised by their trailed combed threads or bands, often referred to as rippled or featherlike and their metallic iridescence. This clever design, where by hot glass threads were wrapped around the hot molten base and then pulled onto the object’s surface to achieve this wave effect while the glass was still malleable, was patented in 1898.

Other key characteristics of Loetz design include blue colour iridescence as well as what is often described as a gleaming oil-on-water effect and many of their motifs follow stylized Art Nouveau examples such as plants, feathers and nature in general.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Table Lamps

The spot lights in our bathroom have been failing at an alarming rate lately and this has resulted in a visit to a well know DIY store. After being assured by an assistant that the new bulb I chose would ‘probably’ fit (a stance confirmed by his superior), I hurried home with enough bulbs to bring light into our darkness.

I replaced the missing bulb, which fitted, but emitted a curious yellow glow in contrast to the three working white bulbs. Undeterred by this setback I battled on. The next failed bulb proved more difficult to extract and I broke the fitting, which now hangs in darkness some inches from the ceiling. I also broke the third fitting, but managed to change the bulb, so that hangs fully lit roughly the same distance from the ceiling. Unfortunately I was not allowed to continue.

This whole sorry tale reinforces the beauty of the table lamp and the uncomplicated ease with which a bulb can be replaced. In the late 1870s Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan both produced their own versions of the light bulb and by the turn of the century the electric table lamp was an item.

The beauty of the table lamp is in the shade and classic designers like Tiffany, Lalique and Gallé all produced some wonderful Art Nouveau and Art Deco lamp shades. A table lamp can transform the ambience of a room and a shade from these and other talented designers styled with overlay or leaded glass or incorporating differing reflective techniques can transform it even more.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Thomas Sheraton

My wife and I have just had new windows fitted. That is windows to the property in which we live, rather than new lenses to our spectacles. Now, we love our new windows and we marvel at the speed and efficiency with which they were fitted, but sadly it has caused my wife to suffer a relapse in a condition I have been managing to keep under control, with careful nurturing, for many months. Namely her “let’s change the room round” affliction.

As with most wives, once her bonnet has entertained a bee there is little anyone can do. However I have to say that on this occasion the moving of an Edwardian inlaid mahogany display cabinet to another location in the room has caused me to fall in love with the piece all over again.

The Edwardian period was the host to many different styles, including the wonderful Arts and Crafts and the inspirational Art Nouveau, but our lately unloved display cabinet is an often forgotten gem from Edward VII’s time in office, namely Revival Sheraton.

Thomas Sheraton was a very gifted designer, born in Stockton-on-Tees in 1751, who designed some wonderful neoclassical style furniture between the 1780s and 1820s. Also during that time he published two ground breaking books, “The Cabinet Dictionary” and “Cabinet Makers and Upholsterer’s Drawing Book”, illustrating his designs.

Our display cabinet typifies the Sheraton style, with delicate neoclassical lines, contrasting wood inlays and a beauty, which thank goodness, we love again. If only everyone else could see the joy of Sheraton what a revival the furniture market would experience.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Chelsea Porcelain

The Chelsea Factory was established sometime between 1743 and 1745 by Nicholas Sprimont. Sprimont’s background as a silversmith is evident in many of the Chelsea designs, particularly the early pieces. He ran a hugely successful and innovative company until 1769 when he sold to William Duesbury of the Derby Porcelain factory who maintained Chelsea until 1784, producing what is commonly referred to as Chelsea-Derby ware. In 1784, the Chelsea workshops were demolished with the majority of the moulds destroyed and a few removed to Derby along with some of the workers.

Chelsea Porcelain is very clearly divided into four periods defined by the marks used. The first period; the triangle period (1745-49) saw pieces marked with an incised triangle. Wares from this period have a glassy white body due to a proportion of crushed lead glass in the soft paste that can appear to have ‘pinholes’ in it when held to the light. Designs tended to be based on silver work with particular Rococo influence.

By the raised anchor period (1749-52) marked with an applied anchor on a small oval medallion, there had been some improvement in the quality of the glaze with less translucency. Many designs had a Meissen influence and scenes from Aesop’s Fables were popular. A small red or occasionally brown anchor defined the Red anchor period (1752-56) which saw fashions favour decorative tableware with designs such as fruit, animals and vegetables becoming popular. Figures from this period are particularly notable; the best produced by Flemish modeller Josef Willems. Finally the Gold anchor period (1757-69) where the small anchor was now painted gold saw an increased use of gilding and coloured grounds, the return to Rococo designs and many more elaborate figures produced.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Flying home for Christmas

Forgetting this week’s escapades and traumas at Gatwick Airport which unfortunately affected hundreds of thousands of people, this Christmas many families will board many aeroplanes all over the world and fly all over the world to spend time with relatives. How lucky we all are to have such easy access to air travel.

Back in the 1950s foreign travel was much more exotic and dare it be said much more exclusive and from that very time came one of the lots in our last ‘Floats, Flies and Drives’ specialist model auction held in December. It was an aluminium Travel Agent’s display aircraft. What a wonderful thing it was too, with a 77cm wing span the model depicted a Douglas DC-7C Seven Seas Airliner bearing the ‘Viking’ logo of Scandinavian Airline Systems or SAS as it is more commonly known. Our model would have graced a Travel Agent’s window in the late 1950s.

SAS was formed in 1946 following an agreement between airlines in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The DC-7C under the SAS livery holds a unique place in civilian aviation history because in 1957 it was used to launch a regular service from Copenhagen to Tokyo. The difference with this service was that it flew over the North Pole and saved over 18 hours of flying time and 2000 miles, compared to the traditional route.

With relatively few Travel Agents at the time, original display aircraft are rare and highly sought after. This particular model was in good condition and attracted a great deal of interest finally selling for £1200 including premium.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website