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Two exceptional private collections of European ceramics at Christie's King Street in July
A meissen group of harlequin and the Quack Doctor, circa 1741. 8 1/8 in. (20.6 cm.) high. Estimate: £40,000-60,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012.

LONDON.- Christie's announced two private collections of European ceramics which will both go under the hammer on 5 July 2012 at Christie’s King Street: LA MARCHE COMIQUE Porcelain from the Patricia Hart Collection and THE POTTERY OF PRINCES: An Important Private Collection of Italian Maiolica. Both collections offer the opportunity to acquire very different important pieces of European ceramics.

LA MARCHE COMIQUE Porcelain from the Patricia Hart Collection
This extraordinary collection formed over thirty years by Patricia Hart, tells the vibrant story of Italian street theatre, or Commedia dell’Arte, through porcelain sculpture of the 18th century. Comprising 54 lots this collection is expected to realise in excess of £700,000. Drawn to the distinctive colourful costumes worn by the different characters in the troupe and their amusing playfulness, Patricia Hart travelled across Europe and her native America in search of the finest porcelain figures. This collection contains examples from the leading porcelain manufacturers including Meissen, Höchst, Nymphenburg and Fürstenberg. An exquisite Nymphenburg White Figure of Donna Martina, one of a series of sixteen comedy figures, is an exceptionally crisp example suggesting that it is an early cast from the moulds (estimate: £60,000-80,000). A Meissen Group of Harlequin and the Quack Doctor (estimate: £40,000-60,000) shows the most recognisable figure from the cast of comedy characters; initially depicted as a simpleton, he was popular for his wit and physical agility, and his playful pose and colourful chequered suits are immediately identifiable.

Meissen was Europe’s leading porcelain factory in the 18th Century and their figures were frequently seen adorning the elaborate dining tables of the courts; the blurring of reality, illusion and artifice was a popular theme in court entertainment during the 18th century. Additional highlights of the sale include a Höchst Figure of Mezzetin (estimate: £30,000-50,000) and a Fürstenberg Figure of Pantalone (estimate: £40,000-60,000).

Appreciated by audiences throughout Europe, the vitality and playfulness of the Commedia dell’Arte was perfectly captured in the refined beauty of porcelain by the great modellers of the 18th century. The Hart collection gathers a dazzling array of these masterpieces of porcelain sculpture, and the collection illustrates how modellers in different parts of Europe brought life and fun, as well as exquisite art, to the dining table.

THE POTTERY OF PRINCES: An Important Private Collection of Italian Maiolica
On the same day the sale of 40 lots of Italian maiolica from an important private collection is expected to realise in the region of £2,000,000. The sale spans the development of maiolica and includes examples of works created over the 15th to 16th centuries.

Leading this collection is an Urbino Istoriato Charcher, circa 1530-32, attributed to the 'Apollo basin painter' (estimate: £300,000-500,000). Further highlights of this collection include an Urbino Documentary Armorial Istoriato charger, dated 1539, from the workshop of Guido Durantino which is estimated at £200,000 – 300,000.

Unlike frescoes or other paintings of the period, the stability and permanence of the colours on maiolica give us a window from the 21st century directly onto the vibrant colours and designs of the Renaissance, unchanged from the day that they were created. Giorgio Vasari, the Renaissance painter, writer, historian and architect, who is well known today for his biographies of Italian artists, commented on this quality and also on the quality of the decoration itself. Vasari considered maiolica painters as ‘eccellentissimi maestri’, and in his eyes Italian maiolica was achieving something truly new and far superior to the pottery of Antiquity. Maiolica of this period bridges the functional and the beautiful, and it also opens up the Renaissance to us in all its brilliance.

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