January 22, 2016

A Meissen Masterpiece, going to the NGV

A recent discovery by Moorabool Antiques was a very large example from the fabulous Sulkowsky service, made between 1734-38.  

Regarded as the first of the private commission services at Meissen, it is a remarkable piece of ceramic history with a fascinating tale to tell.

Prince Alexander Joseph Sulkowski, 
from an 18th century painting 
in Leszno city museum.

Alexander Joseph Graf von Sulkowski  was Privy Councillor, Minister of State, and a Cabinet Minister to the King, Frederick Augustus. He was deeply involved in the Meissen factory, taking responsibility for the deliveries of porcelain to furnish the newly built ‘Porcelain Palace’ in Dresden, and also being responsible for the King’s treasure vaults in Dresden, known as the ‘Green Vaults’.
His origins & ascent to power is a tale in itself. Born to Polish gentry, rumour has it his mother fell under the spell of Augustus II ‘The Strong’, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland ( and creator of the Meissen porcelain factory!). Augustus II  was known as ‘The Strong’ for his musculature, a nickname reinforced by his favourite party trick of apparently ripping iron horseshoes in half with his bare hands….. But there is another aspect to his nickname, the results of which were a debatable 354 illegitimate children!
Augustus II
'The Strong', detail from
a 19th century copy of a
portrait of circa 1720 by
Louis de Silvesre
Rumour has it that Alexander was one such child, and certainly Augustus II cared for the youth who came to the Royal Court at Warsaw in 1711 as a page. He entered the service of the crown prince, Frederick Augustus, who was one year younger, and they grew up together. He received his first title in 1712, ‘Master of the Horse’, and for the next seven years he & the Crown Prince went travelling through Italy, France, and the other German states. A couple of teenagers seeing the sights of Europe together, who can imagine what adventures they had…. certainly it would have been a bonding experience, and so Augustus was well established to rise in status in the court.  He became a ‘Gentleman of the Bedchamber’ in 1726, married a court Lady-in-waiting in 1728, and became a Count in 1732. On 1st February 1733, Augustus II ‘The Strong’ died, and his heir Frederick Augustus ascended the throne. Straight away, Alexander was made Privy Councillor, Minister of State, Cabinet Minister and an Imperial Count. He also became a Count of the Holy Roman Empire. He was a Pole, and the only Pole to achieve such a lofty position in the court at that time. Like a Shakespearian play, the scene was set for his fall.....

What is fascinating is that this very service has been blamed for his descent; it was so much showier & desirable than the King’s own services, and more importantly, he had not asked permission from the King – the owner of the works – before putting in his order. Certainly, he lost favour at the exact same time the pieces began to be delivered, and so Sulkowski lost his many positions of privilege & responsibility to another of Frederick Augustus’s ministers, Heinrich Graf von Brühl. Brühl takes on most of Sulkowski’s titles, including Director of the Meissen works, and straight away commissions his own grand, Baroque service – the delightful & iconic ‘Swan Service’.

Meissen Sulkowsky Service plate, Rosenberg Collection, Geelong.
Sulkowsky Service charger, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

The National Gallery already has a magnificent charger from Brühl’s service, and these two marvelous Meissen chargers will soon be housed together in the same cabinet – let's hope they get along, and let past disagreements of their respective owners remain as history!

March 13, 2015

A Sèvres porcelain artist 'discovered'....

Thanks to the interested  Sèvres connoisseurs who contacted me to point out the slight problem with the following 'revelation': some-one else has already made the same 'discovery'!
10 years ago, David Peters published 'Sèvres plates and services of the 18th century' (2005) , in which he clears up the previous discrepancies about this artist & his mark. I'm pleased to learn this; it's like being at University again, with a master supporting my hypothesis! 

The lesson here is : do not believe everything you read on the internet; there is a lot of 'junk' out there without academic support. I'm just pleased that this post, although incorrect in describing a 'new' discovery, is still accurate & a useful description of how a researcher can still discover fresh insights into this fascinating field. 

Maybe next time I will be first.....

Paul Rosenberg, April 2015.

February 27, 2015

Exhibition & Catalogue Update

Set of Meissen 'Seasons' busts, c. 1755
We’ve been burning the midnight oil at Moorabool….. literally. Our 2015 Exhibition is now scheduled for March 28, and the lavish catalogue is well underway - just an endless stream of photographs, research, and information to insert.

With over 500 items, spread out over 64 pages, there is a fantastic variety of quality items - for all budgets.

We delayed the catalogue to include an extensive collection of porcelain pickle dishes from an Australian collection. Amassed over many years, it is a comprehensive array with almost all known English pickle-dish makers represented.

Rare Limehouse pickle dish, circa 1747
There’s Limehouse, Isleworth, Vauxhall, Bow, Plymouth, Bristol, Liverpool (various….) Derby, Caughley - and of course, pleanty of Worcester!

We’re very pleased to be able to offer this collection, and they will have their own dedicated website in the very near future. If you’re interested in anything, make certain you are signed up to our mail list: we will let you know when the Pickle Collection is online, and of course there are the other 500 pieces of ‘Fresh Stock’ about to be launched….. 

January 22, 2015

A Remarkable Discovery

There’s ‘rare’ and then there’s ‘supremely rare’. These bottles illustrated here belong to the ‘Supremely Rare’ catagory, particularly the smaller engraved one.  

Brought in to Moorabool by a local, they were family pieces, handed down through several generations with origins in Holland, and the Dutch East Indies Company. 

These wine bottles are of typical mid-17th century form, although in a vivid emerald green colour rather than the more often-seen deep black/green. My assessment was: nice early pieces, a few thousand dollars worth. But something was nagging the back of my mind; looking back through some photos taken at the Victoria & Albert Museum ( late last century!) I realised why the engraving was familiar; I had admired & photographed one there. 

Theirs was signed & dated, and sure enough, this example bears a tiny engraved signature, “WillemVan Heemskerk” and the date - 26th February 1677!

Willem Jacobz. van Heemskerk (Leiden, 1616-93) was actually a cloth merchant, but in his spare time he practiced the art of caligraphy - using diamond-point engraving on glass vessels. His verses are described by the authorities as ‘pithy’ - often biblical, or drinking toasts, often with a touch of humour. "The lamp of life is but a vapor” reads one, while others appeal to the mercantile Dutch sensibilities: "Eat silently", i.e. keep quiet when making gain, and "He who brags about his success, often loses his gains” , both quotes from a Statesman of the time, Jacob Cats (1577-1660).

The bottle we have is a very charismatic piece, and needs to be handled to truly appreciate the beautiful (as yet un-translated) script. However, it has now been locked away in a very safe place, as I will explain:

The real shock came when I looked up auction prices…. they head into the 6-figure range!

Our example is comparable to this one, sold at Christies in 2013:

It seems there are only around 80 of these beautiful pieces known, and they are considered to be the most desirable of their kind. The Rijksmuseum has 25 of his works, while the Museum Boijmans in Rotterdam has 8; the Getty has 1, the V&A has one, and our own National Gallery of Victoria here in Melbourne has a clear glass goblet by him, purchased in 1989.  

Moorabool is very excited to be able to offer this rarity, along with its simpler un-engraved relative, in our 2015 ‘Recent Acquisitions’ Exhibition.   

The best way to enjoy it is to have a look at the video I have posted on YouTube.


January 18, 2015

A Tournai Bacchus group, c.1765

A Large Tournai figure of Bacchus & his merry band, Circa 1765.

Measuring almost 40cm high, this is a very large piece of 18th century porcelain. Modelled in the round, it was intended as a table-piece, to be placed in the center of the table. Bacchus sits astride a barrel raising his cup, accompanied by several cherubs….. rather young to be drinking! One is raising a small glass, while the other is filling a bottle from the bung of the barrel. Moving around the figure, there is a semi-clad woman with a basket of pears….. what her significance is I am not sure, but she doesn’t appear to have a drink: another cherub is approaching her around the rock pile, holding up a bottle while riding a goat backwards; clearly under the influence!

The central Bacchus with the barrel & the child filling the bottle is a good recreation of a Meissen model, by Johann Joachim Kaendler, circa 1745. (Moorabool had one such group in the late 1990’s). The rest is the creation of the Tournai artists, who were particulary skilled at creating an ‘island’ of rocks on which the figures are placed, along with foliage to soften the composition; in this case, there are grapevines growing rampant. 

Unmarked, it links clearly to other pieces attributed to the porcelain works at Tournai, such as these examples in the Victoria & Albert Museum, South Kensington;



This amazing piece is a part of Moorabool Antique Galleries ‘Recent Acquisitions’ Exhibition, to be held in our Geelong premises in March 2015.

November 09, 2014

2015 Catalogue.....

We're excited to announce our next catalogue, to be launched early 2015. Over the past year, we have accumulated a host of interesting items, mostly ceramics. They will be well documented with painstaking research, and beautifully illustrated in the colourful format of catalogue we have pursued over the past few years. The items in the catalogue will then be the core of our 2015 'RECENT ACQUISITIONS' exhibition, to be held in our Geelong shop. This will be February some time.... date still to be announced. Join our email list on www.moorabool.com   to be alerted when items are viewable.

Meanwhile, here are a few of the pieces currently being processed: we'll post more as the year draws to an end.

above:  a gaggle of English coffeepots, all 18th century.  left to right: Wheildon type (ex Zorensky Collection); Jackfield type with beautiful cold-painted decoration, a rare survivor; Pearlware Chinoiserie; Redware (ex Rosenberg Collection).  

Lots more to come.... photography begins this week.

November 07, 2013

Clem Ainslie of the Harvey School: An important discovery for Australian Pottery fans.

A Slight Deviation.

While we've always been focussed on the earliest ceramics, there's a whole world out there called the 20th century.....
It recently caught up with us, and it was a remarkable experience. I have always admired the Martin Brothers pottery, and the associated Arts & Crafts movement potters, who went back to basics and created hand-sculpted pieces in the earlier manner, turning their backs on the mass-produced 'ceramics for the masses' of the later 19th century.
      In Australia, this idea takes root in Brisbane, in the classes of Mr L.J.Harvey who taught at the Brisbane Technical College during the 1920's and 30's. One of his main ideas was that each pot should be unique, and so he did not teach or allow the wheel to be used: the results of wheel-made pots were all too alike. It was from this hotbed of creativity that a young lady discovered her passion for sculpting pots, and it was our good fortune to discover her daughter living in Geelong with an amazing collection of 40 of her mothers creations.
But there is a mystery: she is not in any of the books on this interesting period of pottery in Australia.
She is an unknown potter, and we are delighted to have re-discovered her.

The Kookaburra Vase, by Clem Ainslie of the Harvey School, 1927

Introducing Clem Ainslie

Isabella Clementina Ainslie was born in Brisbane in 1888. She had an artistic temperament, and it was only natural that in 1923, she found the classes of Mr Harvey most agreeable, so much so that she continued to go along for the next 14 years. In this time, her daughter estimates she produced a few hundred pots, many as gifts, and as special orders from people who had seen others with her work in their drawing rooms and wanted their own.
The Crane Vase - by Clem Ainslie 1924

Her style was varied, and follows the Harvey School tradition with 'exercise' pieces showing her honing her skills at sculpting clay. She does a series of excellent pots in the Australiana taste, such as the Kookaburra Vase above. However, her most intriguing show her exploring her own creativity; the Crane Vase of 1924 and the Egyptian pieces illustrate her talents. The latter, from a time just after the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb, are apparently unique in the field of Australian art pottery from the period.

The Egyptian Vase by Clem Ainslie, 1927

Each piece is marked quite clearly, and yet she doesn't appear in the publications on the subject of Australian Pottery. 
Moorabool has taken it on themselves to rectify this situation, and has published a beautifully illustrated book, titled 'Isabella Clementina Ainslie of the Harvey School'. For more info, many illustrations, and the ability to purchase your own copy, visit the website set up to promote this once forgotten lady potter:

Clem Ainslie's Website

March 12, 2013

Avarian Antics

Moorabool has recently become home to quite a number of exotic birds.
Berlin Birds.....
This remarkable pair of White Partridges are incredibly rare, being the product of a short lived factory in Berlin Known as the Wegely factory after its founder, it only lasted for 5 short years, 1752-57.
Any pieces from this period are rare, but a pair of charismatic birds are the ultimate.

Rare pair of White Partridges, by Wegely of Berlin 1752-7

From Meissen comes this delightful group, known as the 'Billing Doves' - modelled by Kaendler in the early 1740's, this group circa 1745.
Meissen 'Billing Doves' by Kaendler, circa 1745
Derby Bird Service plate by Dodson, circa 1820

Our cover art for our 2013 catalogue was this rather bright Derby dish circa 1820. From a bird service painted by the well respected Derby artist Dodson, it depicts a turkey, a parrot, and an odd flying bird about to crash into them. The turkey has had a colour make-over, and is either rather small in size - or the parrot next to it is HUGE!

Chelsea Gold Anchor rococo vases, c. 1765
This pair of Gold Anchor Chelsea vases circa 1765 is pure rococo in form, and bears its birds as gold silhouettes - the details being inscribed to a very fine standard.

 This detail and the one below comes from a Meissen knife handle of the 1760's, and has charming farmyard birds painted to the grip on either side. The image you are seeing is enlarged, the originals are miniature works of art.....

This knife handle is Chelsea circa 1760, and shows an unusual composition of two birds within rococo frames.

Bow candlestick bird groups, circa 1765

 This pair of candlesticks are remarkable, being made at the Bow factory in London in around 1765. They have two yellow birds each, who are guarding a nest of hatchlings hidden in the flowery branches - while at the foot of the tree a dog and a lamb sit patiently. The sconces are original, and are formed as tulips - exotic and expensive items at this period of history - and are supported on original tole (tin) leaf supports, rare survivors. An interesting discovery relating to these will be discussed in a future blog post - one bird is actually a 19th century English Bone China restoration!

Vienna sucrier, circa 1765
 This sucrier (sugar box) is Vienna porcelain, and dates to the 1760's. It has a rather pleased bird eyeing off a bounty of fruit spilling from a basket.

Meissen cup & saucer with bird studies, c. 1745
A Meissen cup & saucer with superb ornithological studies dates to the 1740's.

These two would have been copied from an ornithological work of the period, and appear to represent a European Kingfisher and possibly a American Woodpecker?  

Just for fun, these tiny miniature chickens and quail are Meissen porcelain - watched with interest by a Meissen cat! While these versions are 19th century, the originals were conceived in the 18th century.

These remarkable 'pith paintings' are Chinese, and date to the mid 19th century. 

What makes this example remarkable is that it is still bound within its original black lacquer covers - all 32 illustrations fold out as a continuous frieze. One side has colourful pairs of birds, the other has the story of tea - from planting the bush to packing it in the chests bound for Europe. 
Chinese pith paintings - the story of tea, mid 19th century.

Last but not least, this is an American decoy duck of great character. Hard to date, but has clearly been used, probably early 20th century.  

These items are all to be found within the covers of our 2013 catalogue -
also listed on our website, unless already sold.
Feel free to email us any questions.

February 22, 2013

Moorabool's 2013 Exhibition has started with a bang!

Busy times at Moorabool Antiques!
On Saturday 23rd February, 2013, the annual Moorabool Antique Galleries exhibition of recent acquisitions was opened. A good crowd attended, with many items being quickly 'red spotted' by keen collectors.

Taking place in our upstairs gallery, there were over 500 fresh pieces to chose from.

This was also the revealing of our new Picture Hallway- a new space that makes anything placed I it look smart!

My next post will detail some of the interesting pieces in the display, including this fabulous pair of Chelsea Gold Anchor vases.

All items in the exhibition are now listed on the Moorabool website.