WITH BREXIT in mind, and the debate over access to the European market and customs union reaching trigger point, I can only apologise for gently rubbing readers’ noses in it by introducing a rare pair of Minton ‘free trade’ vases.
The vases appeared at Bonham’s ‘Home & Interiors’ sale in Edinburgh on February 22, bracketed at £600-£800 – which I thought a touch conservative given the collectability of political memorabilia and the heightened focus on trade and markets across the country.
They also happened to be of fabulous quality.
Incorrectly dated, I think, to c1746 by the auctioneers – nearly a century later in my view – the single-handed vases with slender necks were just under nine inches in height and of the Minton factory’s ‘Pembroke’ shape.
Each were richly gilded on a pedestal base and inscribed with Free Trade principles, with both charmingly painted with architectural and pastoral scenes.
The inscriptions read: ‘Free trade between all nations of the earth, the sure remedy for slavery and war’; and, ‘Free trade in all the fruits of the earth, the right of every human being who lives by nature.’
Words, I suggest, which have not lost their meaning over passing centuries.
When these vases emerged from Minton’s kilns in Stoke-on-Trent, Britain was busy industrialising and comfortably held a dominant trading position among European rivals. Yet the country remained a protectionist state and, while free trade had been espoused by the likes of Kirkcaldy’s Adam Smith, it had failed to deflect Britain’s economic course.
Yet as the growth of British industry gathered pace in the 1800s, the attack on trade restrictions grew, as did the desire for a moderate tariff policy in international trade – something seldom far from today’s news headlines.
Political and propaganda porcelain grew in popularity from the 1700s, but I cannot recall seeing these Free Trade vases before.
Similar ‘Side Pembroke on pedestal plinth vases’, together with the illustrations from the ornamental shape book, are illustrated in the best work on this factory, Geoffrey Godden’s Minton Pottery and Porcelain of the First Period (1968).
That, as well as Minton’s loyal collecting following and the continuing popularity of commemorative ware, helped the elegant pair along to £1375.