Second sale of the Flower majolica collection blooms at Strawser March 16

KULPSVILLE, Penn. — The second of three auctions dedicated to the remarkable majolica collection of Edward Flower (1929-2022) and his wife Marilyn (1930-2017) will be held by specialists Strawser Auction Group on Saturday, March 16. The Flowers began collecting majolica relatively late in life, in the late 1990s, but the bug bit them hard. Across a trio of sales (the first held last August, the last to be held later this year) more than 600 pieces, mostly acquired in the last 20 years, will be offered by Strawser Auction Group via LiveAuctioneers.

Two items are expected to vie for top honors in the second sale – 185 lots in all – with estimates of $25,000-$30,000 each. The first is a Minton ‘Hare and Duck’ head game pie dish and cover, affectionately known among collectors as the Bunny Tureen. The model is one of several by the French émigré animalia sculptor Paul Comoléra, who worked at the Minton factory from 1873 to 1877.

The second is a George Jones teapot, one of only a few known formed as a Chinese junk filled with cargo, with the cover modeled as a figure in Chinese costume. “In my 30 years of selling majolica this is the first one I’ve ever offered,” said Michael Strawser.

A Copeland 1876 memorial vase was produced specifically for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia – an event where many British majolica factories exhibited their wares. The vase is modeled as three back-to-back gray eagles guarding the American flag and shown with spears and three cobalt blue shields. This design, among the most coveted of Copeland’s majolica output, is estimated at $4,000-$6,000.

Several pieces in the Flower collection were recently part of the renowned Majolica Mania exhibition that was launched in New York City in the fall of 2021, traveled to the Walters Museum in Baltimore in early 2022, and finished at Stoke-on-Trent in the UK in fall 2022.

These include a pair of rustic vases modeled with peacocks by William Brownfield circa 1875, and a vase of around the same date formed as a pair of herons by Brown Westhead Moore & Co., possibly designed by Mark V. Marshall of Doulton Lambeth fame. They are estimated at $1,500-$2,000 and $1,500-$2,000, respectively.

Another rarity, best known from the collecting literature, is a Minton inkwell and cover, modeled as a bird atop an upright pinecone. It’s one of only three known, with another pictured in Victoria Cecil’s influential 1982 catalog Minton Majolica.

It is an indication of collecting fashion that a large Palissy style ‘art of the earth’ basin, inscribed and dated Avisseau, Tours, 1856 for French ceramicist Charles-Jean Avisseau (1795-1861), shared the top price of the first sale at $40,000. The March 16 event includes a similar teapot by the Avisseau modeled as a snake climbing an ivy-clad tree trunk. After buying this piece in 2014, Ed Flower commissioned the contemporary ceramics sculptor Jonathan Court and the decorator Nicola Rose to recreate a missing frog cover. Both artists signed their names on the underside. It comes to auction with an estimate of $3,000-$4,000.

Continental European wares, once the slightly poorer relation to pieces by the best Staffordshire factories, were a strength of the first sale. Particularly well-received was a menagerie of large naturalistic models by the Massier Brothers, Choisy Le Roi, and Hugo Lonitz factories. All had lived together cheek-by-jowl in the Flowers’ Bay Shore, New York residence.

Highlights in Part II include a circa-1880 Delphin Massier elephant and howdah floor jardiniere, estimated at $6,000-$9,000, and a monumental model of a jay perched on a tree stump by Hugo Lonitz, estimated at $4,000-$6,000.