A last-minute fundraising drive has ensured that a rare piece of British art pottery has entered the public collection of Williamson Art Gallery & Museum.
The artwork – a large charger plate decorated with angels and the inscription “Peace on Earth and Good Will Towards Men” was made at the Della Robbia Pottery in Price Street, Birkenhead, in 1894. It is amongst the earliest works made at the Pottery and was painted by its founder, Harold Rathbone.
The Della Robbia Pottery ran in Birkenhead from 1894 to 1906, making a significant impact on the art world of the time with its colourful and innovative ceramics, handmade by local men and women who were trained at the Pottery.
The artwork was auctioned at Byrne’s Auctioneers in Chester on Wednesday 28 September. The Williamson prevailed amidst fierce competition with a £4,800 bid, thanks to funding pledged by the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Decorative Arts Society, and Williamson and Priory Friends.
Williamson curator Niall Hodson commented, “When I saw this beautiful plate coming up for auction, I knew we had to do everything we could to bring it into a public collection. We are grateful to the organisations who gave money to enable us to buy it.
“Della Robbia ceramics made and signed by Harold Rathbone are particularly rare, as he generally took on a consultative and managerial role at the Pottery and left decorating work to others. This must have been an important piece to him; perhaps made as a gift for a friend or family member.
The artwork is currently on display in the foyer of Williamson Art Gallery, Slatey Road, Birkenhead.
Main image: Niall Hodson with new acquisition