Sculpture is an area of enormous variation, having been a medium for expression since pre-history; add to this their appeal as 3D, displayable art and sculpture becomes a key component of many collections. Collectors look for sculpture in all kinds of media and most are also valued as decorative pieces to the general market. The key to a sculpture’s special value may lie in its maker, its rarity or its subject matter but aspects such as condition will always also have an impact.
Valuing Ceramic Sculpture
Ceramic sculptures come in all shapes and sizes and deciding whether an item should be valued as a ceramic piece or strictly as a sculpture is not always straightforward. Some Parian pieces made by a major factory, such as Copeland, and cast from a desirable model may be attractive to both ceramics and sculpture collectors. It’s for this reason that earlier Parian sculptures, which are broadly considered more artistic than later, more generic busts are the most valuable examples in that medium. Marks on Parian pieces are usually easily identified, but date marks can be misleading as they usually relate to the statue from which the mould was taken, rather than the piece itself.
Ceramics such as porcelain, terracotta earthenware have been employed in many different styles of sculpture as studio ceramics over the past 150 years. In cases such as Art Nouveau sculpture, bronzes are most popular, but many sculptors worked with ceramics too and so big names can appeal to collectors associated with that milieu too. The lower value of the material, however, makes the quality of the piece even more important. Marks can be hard to identify as many sculptors used various, sometimes an expert is required to confirm the sculptor.
In general, bronzes hold a relatively high value because of their material, especially in the cases of gilt or silvered-bronzes. Bronzes are not uncommon, however, and so there is a great difference in value dependent on the maker, age, condition, form and even size. Often unusual pieces by a good sculptor are valuable is they live up to the standards of other pieces; this can include sculptures utilising different materials such as ivory, gemstones, shell or marble and particularly large or intricate examples. Bronzes sometimes come in pairs and will have enhanced value when sold as such. The quality of a piece is to do with the execution of the piece and whether the design reflects the period from which the piece came. Often times this means accurate anatomical detail of a typically period subject, often stylised such as the female form in motion in Art Deco bronzes. The condition of bronzes is universally important; the original patina of a piece will enhance its value greatly, particularly to collectors, so the care and cleaning of (or lack thereof) bronzes is crucial to anyone looking to sell.