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Rare 330 year old English Delftware cats are cream of the crop at Bonhams British Pottery Sale
An extremely rare English delftware model of a cat, circa 1660-80. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- Bonhams Fine British Pottery sale will take place on 21st May in London’s New Bond Street. 17th century Staffordshire slipware dishes and two 330 year old delftware cats claim the top spots in the sale.

An extremely rare English delftware model of a cat reclining, probably created in Southwark, dates from circa 1660-80 and is estimated to sell for £40,000-£50,000. It is possible that this 330 year old cat lost one of its nine lives in the 1666 Great Fire of London. Most of the recorded cat models in English delftware are in the form of jugs and only one similar example of a reclining cat is known, in the Fitzwilliam Museum. This model, with fur carefully painted in manganese and blue to represent tabby markings, lies content with front paws tucked under its body and tail curled around its side.

Another feline model sits among the highlights; an important English delftware cat jug, dated 1677, is valued at £35,000-45,000. The cat is seated upright, with its tail around its left side, and is decorated in manganese, yellow and light blue with a coat of stars. A number of dated delftware cat jugs are recorded that date from between 1657 to 1677. These seem to have had a decorative purpose and were perhaps associated with marriage gifts as some examples bear initials painted in triangle formation. Fragments of these jugs have been excavated in London associated with delftware kilns in Southwark and Vauxhall and this example was probably created at one of these locations in the mid 17th century.

English delftware is the name given to tin-glazed pottery made in the British Isles between 1550 and the late 18th century. English tin-glazed pottery was named ‘delftware’ as it copied the famous pottery from the Netherlands.

The top valued lot in the British Pottery sale is an important slipware dish by Thomas Toft, dating from circa 1670-90 which is offered with estimates of £60,000-£80,000. Thomas Toft is the best-known of the slipware potters of North Staffordshire and examples of his work very rarely come onto the market. The plate is decorated with light brown slip with the arms of the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers on a ground of honey-coloured glaze. This is the only recorded example of a Staffordshire slipware dish bearing the arms of a London livery company.

A slipware dish by Ralph Simpson circa 1689-90 is decorated with light and dark brown slip to show the full length portrait of King William III in coronation robes and valued at £40,000-£55,000. Another example of a dish of this form with the initials WR is held by the Victoria & Albert Museum.

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