Diplomatic Triumph

A large Berlin porcelain vase given to British diplomat Sir Andrew Buchanan by the King of Prussia in 1864 and retained by the family ever since sold for £137,563 yesterday (4 December 2019) at Bonhams Fine European Ceramics sale in London. This was against a presale estimate of £25,000-30,000.

The distinguished 19th Century Scottish diplomat, Sir Andrew Buchanan, had an unusually wide-ranging career. From his first posting in Constantinople, he served in Rio, St Petersburg, Copenhagen, Florence, Madrid, and The Hague, ending up, successively, as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the King of Prussia, ambassador extraordinary to Russia, and finally ambassador to Austria. Widely admired for his formidable negotiating skills, he earned the gratitude not only of UK governments but of the nations in which he served. The King of Prussia so valued Buchanan's abilities that he presented him with the large Berlin vase and a very rare Berlin oval plaque depicting the Prussian Royal Family. The plaque also featured in the sale, achieving £9,437.

Bonhams Head of European Ceramics, Nette Megens said, ""Sir Andrew was a fascinating man and the wonderful provenance combined with the exceptional rarity of the vase excited a great deal of interest. The strong bidding on the phone, in the room and on the internet was reflected in the impressive result."

Other highlights in the sale include:

• An exceptionally rare pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service commissioned by Madame du Barry, the final maîtresse-en-titre of Louis XV. Sold for £68,813.

• A Nymphenburg Commedia dell'Arte figure of Mezzetin dressed as a Harlequin, circa 1760-65. Sold for £37,563.

• A rare Meissen figural clock case and stand, circa 1730. Sold for £35,063.

• A service of 18 plates by the Royal Copenhagen factory, with scenes after famous designs by Bertel Thorvaldsen given to Buchanan by the Danish King Frederick VII to express his gratitude for Buchanan crucial role in securing a maritime free trade agreement for Denmark, sold for £12,563.

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