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27 Aug 2014, 12:00 AM

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Wall Masks

  • Mark Hill
  • 10 May 2010

<a href='/a-to-z/beswick/'>Beswick</a> flying ducksA row of three ceramic ducks flapping their way across a living room wall has been a symbol of suburbia since the 1920s, a period when purely decorative ornaments became all the rage amongst stylish homeowners. Competing for wall space with this familiar flying formation was often something less well known today – brightly coloured Earthenware wall masks, modelled as the faces of fashionable young women.

Beswick wall mask1920s and 1930s ceramic masks, usually around 20-30cm in height and decorated in bold colours, could be picked up for next to nothing until relatively recently when they became a hot collecting field. Masks typically depict women with chic hairstyles or contemporary headwear, and each evokes the everyday glamour of the period. As well as the colourful appearance, the appeal of these faces lies in the simple lines and chunky moulding of Art Deco stylisation.

<a href='/a-to-z/cliff-clarice/'>Clarice Cliff</a> maskThe high demand for ornaments for the home meant masks were produced at a number of factories all over Europe. In Britain, Staffordshire makers included J.H. Cope of the Wellington China Works and John Beswick, both based at Longton. These mask typically fetch around £100-200 at auction, but large, unusual and striking examples can sell for far more. The prolific 1930s ceramic designer Clarice Cliff also produced a small selection of fine wall masks, although these can be hard to come by, making competition fierce. A ‘Face-on’ wall mask, depicting Chahar, an Oriental lady with an ornate headdress, could be worth £800-1,200 or more, whilst her slightly less colourful ‘Marlene’ mask (pictured) could fetch around £300-400.

Goldschieder maskAmong the most popular and valuable wall masks are those produced by Goldscheider of Vienna before WWII. One of the few Austrian makers of modern ceramics, the company produced a wide range of figures in bright colours and flamboyant dress, as well as other decorative pieces. Goldscheider wall masks are recognisable by their elongated form and bold palette. Faces are typically topped with stylised ringlets made from individual ceramic curls, and examples are often marked “Goldscheider”. Prices tend to start at around £400 for a small mask measuring around 11cm in height, and rise to £800-1,200 for a more typical, larger example. From the late 1930s, masks were produced for Goldscheider by the British firm Myott, Son & Co. These later examples, marked “Goldscheider made in England”, tend to be less valuable.

When buying, collectors tend to seek out more unusual examples and avoid more common designs such as Spanish ladies or religious figures. Be aware of the large number of modern reproductions currently on the market – although these can happily cheer up an empty wall, they are missing that distinctive 1930s charm.