The Della Robbia Pottery was founded in 1893 by painter Harold Rathbone and sculptor Conrad Dressler at premises at Birkenhead. It was inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, and Harold followed the ideas of the movement’s founder, William Morris. In addition to the Arts and Crafts ethic, Harold was also influenced by Italian art and wanted to bring the style of the decorative pottery often seen in Italian churches to Britain. He named his new enterprise Della Robbia after Italy’s most famous family of 15th and 16th century potters.
Della Robbia plaque - sold for £3,600
Harold and Conrad took on another sculptor, Giovanni Carlo Manzoni, and also a local team who they trained in the art of making pottery. This resulted in a distinctive style, decorated with coloured slip glazes and sgraffito (Italian for ‘to scratch’), a technique which involves scratching off a coloured layer to create a pattern and reveal the red clay underneath. The resulting pottery was very popular, and was distributed through Liberty’s of London and William Morris’s own company. The pottery closed in 1906.
Della Robbia pottery is very popular with collectors due to its colourful, visual appeal. Among the most sought after pieces are those using Rathbone’s characteristic, bright turquoise glaze, and those by guest designers Ford Maddox Brown and Robert Anning Bell. Genuine Della Robbia pottery is marked with a galleon and ‘D R’, and the market’s buoyant for good examples. As with all pottery, the value of the individual item is largely dependent on the age, condition and rarity. Any damage reduces value considerably, but good, clean examples with no chips or cracks are in demand.
Della Robbia charger - sold for £1,200
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On the right of this page you will see a few highlights of Della Robbia items we've sold - to see more, including prices and dates, search our sold lot archives.