Dresser’s genius brings happy returns

Electroplated teapot made by James Dixon & Sons to a design by Christopher Dresser, $320,000 (£246,000) at Christie’s New York.

The Design sale at Christie’s New York (25/20% buyer’s premium) on December 13 included the return to the auction room of one of the famous series of electroplated teapots made by James Dixon & Sons, Sheffield, c.1879, to designs by Christopher Dresser.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Roland Arkell

By the early 1870s, Dresser, one of the most creative and influential minds of the 19th century, was designing for a range of British manufacturers (including the metal shops of Benham & Froud, Hukin and Heath and Elkington).

However, the series of radical teapot designs made after a three-month journey to Japan in 1876 are perhaps his most memorable creations. While intended for large-scale production, few of the prototypes made it into general production.

Just three examples of this particular model, known by its serial number 2275, are known including that in the permanent collection of the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Measuring just over 8in (20cm) wide and impressed with both the manufacturer’s mark and the logo CW. Dresser 2275 FR, its form (prefiguring the Modernist designs of the Bauhaus by several decades) contrasts an undecorated drum-shaped body with a long rectangular handle made of ebonised wood.

It had last been sold at Christie’s in London in 1990 when it was acquired by the vendor at £100,000 plus premium. It re-emerged in New York as part of a catalogue dubbed An Enquiring Eye: Property from a Distinguished Private Collector. Offered at $80,000-120,000, it sold at $320,000 (£246,000), a record for Dresser metalwork.

Letter rack

A Dresser designed electroplated letter rack by Hukin & Heath, £700 at Hansons.

A far more common and more affordable example of Dresser silver plate is the letter rack with a curved base, moveable struts and bun feet made by Hukin & Heath of Birmingham (model number 2556). Designed in 1881, it was made in some numbers until c.1900.

The latest example to appear for sale had been spotted by a shop assistant at a Cancer Research shop in Cardiff who drove 144 miles to bring it to a Cheltenham valuation event organised by auction house Hansons (20% buyer’s premium). At the firm’s Country House sale held in Bishton Hall, Staffordshire, on December 12-13, it took £700 with all proceeds going to the charity.