The Holy Grail of English Porcelain comes to light in Dorset!

When Guy Schwinge of Duke’s in Dorchester carried out a routine valuation at a house in Dorset he spotted a pair of porcelain groups on a shelf, which have turned out to be the Holy Grail of collectors of English porcelain, with a possible link to David Garrick.

The porcelain groups belong to an exceptionally rare group of pieces traditionally described as “Girl in a Swing” porcelain, so-called after a figure in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. One depicts a shepherdess holding a lamb, with a man crouching at her feet and the other an elegant lady with a dove and a gentleman admirer.

They were originally thought to be made at the Chelsea Factory, but scholars have now identified them as having been made by Charles Gouyn at The Turk’s Head, Bennett Street, St. James’s, London, just behind the site of The Ritz Hotel. Gouyn helped Nicholas Sprimont set up the Chelsea Porcelain Factory, but around 1748 he severed his links and set up his own manufactory in St. James’s in competition.

Porcelain from the St. James’s factory is exceedingly rare and nothing comparable to the pair of groups going under the hammer at Duke’s has appeared on the market since the Second World War.

Guy Schwinge of Duke’s commented: “These documentary porcelain groups have descended in the same family since they were made. Isaac Solly (1724-1802) was a successful London merchant in the Baltic Trade. His son, Samuel, married Dorothea Rackett, the daughter of Thomas Rackett. This link presents a particularly exciting possibility in that Thomas Rackett was Executor to the widow of the great 18th century actor, David Garrick. The only surviving daughter of Dorothea and Samuel, Thomasine Rackett, married Chevalier Enrico Crisperi St.

Clair, but they had no children of their own, so when Thomasine died in 1881 their possessions passed to the then head of the family, Edward Harrison Solly. Bearing in mind Thomas Rackett was Eva Garrick’s Executor and residuary beneficiary it raises the tantalising possibility that these rare survivals may have once been owned by David Garrick. Indeed, this very real possibility is supported by the fact that the family retain many artefacts with a definite and proven Garrick provenance”.

The impeccable provenance of the porcelain figures is further supported by the existence of an early photograph showing the wife of Edward Harrison Solly in the drawing room of her house at Wimborne Minster, Dorset around 1900, with one of the groups clearly visible on the shelf behind her. This sort of visual evidence is particularly important to serious collectors.

Guy Schwinge of Duke’s went on to say: “These rare survivals are directly comparable with a pair of groups in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, USA. We have already received enquiries from a number of serious collectors and since this is a once in a lifetime opportunity we expect the figures to fetch a record price.”

Woo Gilchrist