Carp tureen, impressed maker’s mark WEMYSS WARE/ R.H.&S. Length 48cm the Sotheby’s Belgravia Gallery from November 17 to 23, 1976. The exhibition was to be made up of pieces loaned by all the foremost collectors, supplemented by the extensive collection of Rogers de Rin. I had never heard of Wemyss ware before and at the time could not pronounce the word properly, but after reading the article and looking at the pictures, I thought that this was something I could collect.
BUILDING THE COLLECTION Who could resist the charm of the tabby cats or the character of the pigs? These animals are rare and sought after – a sleeping pig has achieved the highest price ever paid for an item of Wemyss ware. I tried to restrict my collection, as far as possible, to the Scottish period, but the odd piece may have crept in as key designer Joseph Nekola worked in both Scottish and English potteries, with his script mark “Wemyss” found on both. With a little experience, and by
Nekola’s earliest piece A few years after I started collecting, I was introduced to dealers called David Holmes and Barry Smith, who bought items for specific customers. One day they arrived with a large plaque of Wemyss Castle painted in blue. On the reverse side it had the painted mark of Fife Pottery, dated 1882, in blue. After they left, I sat down to examine the plaque and on the front left hand side I could see the signature “Nekola.” There is an identical plaque of the castle in Kirkcaldy Museum but painted in a dark brown colour. I do not know why he painted two plaques of the same subject; perhaps it was experimental, as the museum piece looks far sharper than mine. As far as I know, this is the earliest piece signed by Karel Nekola. Previously, the earliest piece was thought to have been another plaque, signed KN and dated 1883, also in Kirkcaldy Museum, of Dysart and St Serf’s Church.
Left Large pig, painted by Karel Nekola with cabbage roses. Impressed maker’s mark WEMYSS, painted Thomas Goode & Co. retailer’s mark
Above The magazine that got Bellamy into collecting Wemyss ware back in 1976
Below Karel Nekola decorating an umbrella stand
CARP TUREEN Only three of these carp tureens are known to exist. This one came from the Rogers de Rin shop in London in May 1987, and marks the most important piece of Wemyss ware I have ever seen. The tureen was modelled from a scarce Qianlong-period Chinese porcelain carp from Wemyss Castle, and painted by Karel Nekola. Victoria de Rin told me the tureen had come from Karel Nekola’s granddaughter, and I have since seen pictures of the original Qianlong Chinese carp, which sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds at auction (Christies, November 2006). People often ask me which is my favourite piece. I always say that it’s the carp tureen. There are only three examples: one at Huntly House Museum in Edinburgh, another example (without its lid) was sold at the Iris Fox dispersal sale, and I have the third.
‘Signing on pots by the decorators was not allowed at either pottery, so signatures can only be found on pieces made for family and friends.
Signed pieces are rare, but the decorators can sometimes be identified by the way they wrote
“Wemyss” on the underside of their pots’
Left Large pig, its enthusiastically painted eye lashes and loosely painted style pointing to the prolific decorator Edwin Sandland
Unmarked. Length 44cm
ANTIQUE COLLECTING 13