Bonhams Ceramics Department celebrates their most successful year ever

A very rare and important 82cm high porcelain figure of Hercules created at the Doccia factory in Tuscany in 1753-55 sold for £657,250 last week in Bonhams Fine European Ceramics auction, setting a new world record price for Doccia porcelain at auction. It was the first time that a Doccia figure of this size had come to auction and the piece far exceeded its pre-sale estimate of £300,000-500,000. It was the most expensive item sold at auction during Furniture & Works of Art Week in London.

Nette Megens, Bonhams European Ceramics Specialist, comments, "It was a great joy to have such a masterpiece in our sale, its price set a new benchmark for the fast expanding market for Doccia porcelain. Other figures of this importance are kept in museums around the world, so to be able to offer a previously unknown figure from a private collection was a huge thrill. It received the attention it deserved, and we are delighted with its sale."

This is a fantastic end to the year for Bonhams Ceramics department: as well as setting a new record for Doccia porcelain at auction, they also set a new world record for a porcelain snuff box at auction when a magnificent Meissen gold-mounted Royal snuff box made for Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland sold for £860,000 in the Helmut Joseph Collection sale (that's £4,000 per square cm). This snuff box was the second most expensive piece of Meissen porcelain to have sold at auction in 2011. Bonhams are still the only auctioneers to hold stand alone auctions of European Ceramics, and the department are looking forward to more successful sales in 2012.

The stunning figure of Hercules is based on the famous Antique sculpture of the Farnese Hercules, now in the Archeological Museum in Naples. The gesso model used in its creation has not moved since the 18th century, and is still kept in the Doccia factory museum. The Doccia factory was founded in the middle of the 18th century by Carlo Ginori, and is still operating in Sesto Fiorentino, just outside of Florence. The factory started making large-scale porcelain figures, a hugely ambitions task, in the late 1740s.

A second highlight from the sale was an immensely rare and important garniture of 5 Meissen Augustus Rex vases which sold for £541,250. This is an extraordinary five-vase garniture (set), comprising a central ovoid vase and cover, two smaller ovoid vases and covers and two bottle vases. It is likely that the five were originally part of a garniture of seven vases, and the fact that these five have stayed together since the 18th century is exceptional. They were created for the use of the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, Augustus III, and are marked with the AR monogram (for Augustus Rex). The Meissen factory was owned by Augustus and in the late 1720s and early 1730s produced huge quantities of porcelain for an elaborate porcelain palace on the banks of the Elbe River in Dresden, known as the Japanese Palace. This ambitious project was never completed, and some of the pieces produced for the palace were later removed for the use of Count Brühl, the powerful Prime Minister of Saxony. These vases remained in Count Brühl's family until they were sold at auction in 1926. After this they were in two distinguished private collections in Switzerland. For the last thirty years they have been on display in the Getty Museum in California. This garniture is exceptional for its highly detailed and original Oriental-style decoration, monumental impact and unbroken and impressive provenance.

The sale total was £2,023,688 with 90% of the lots sold by appraise. Other highlights included an important Meissen group of Colombine and Pantalone (£97,250), a very rare Meissen chinoiserie group on an ormolu base (£45,650) and a rare silver gilt mounted Meissen coffee pot and cover (£37,250).


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and appraisal services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

  1. Nette Megens
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 8348
    FaxFax: +44 20 7468 8252
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