It’s every antique buyer’s dream: acquire a piece for peanuts and then sell it on two years later for an unimaginable sum. The vendor of a damaged teapot, which was acquired for just £15 at an auction in Lincolnshire in 2016, is proof dreams can become reality after the blue and white porcelain pot recently sold for a staggering £575,000 at an auction in Wiltshire. It turns out the piece, which as well as being damaged has a “wonky handle”, is the only known surviving teapot made by John Bartlam, America’s first porcelain manufacturer. Hailed as a ‘US national treasure’, the good folk at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art felt they had to get their hands on it at all costs and instructed a Mr Roderick Jellicoe, an expert in British 18th Century antiques, to bid for it on their behalf. However, they were not the only ones who were keen to acquire the teapot and a bidding war ensued, ensuring the pre-auction value of £10,000 was smashed to pieces. Eventually, the Met’s bid of £460,000 won the day which, when commission costs are added, brought the total cost of acquiring the damaged teapot to over half a million pounds. Speaking after the auction at Woolley and Wallis Salesrooms in Salisbury, Mr Jellicoe said: ‘It’s incredible that something like this has turned up. I’m sure the vendor will be very pleased. It is very rare for something like this to be discovered these days. This teapot is a very important part of American history and is a national treasure.’ According to Clare Durham, a ceramics specialist at the auction house who was interviewed by the BBC, the teapot ‘was made in Cain Hoy, South Carolina, by John Bartlam who had come from Staffordshire in about 1760, using what we think is probably a British recipe [for porcelain]. This is the first time they were producing porcelain in America in the 1760s, so it’s kind of a birth-of-a-nation object.’ Well that goes along way to explaining why the Met went so potty over it.
March 13, 2018