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Judith Miller

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A Closer Look at Wemyss Pigs

  • Judith Miller
  • 18 Aug 2010

Wemyss ware was first produced in 1882 at the Fife Pottery. It was the brainchild of Robert Methven Heron, who was assisted by master painter Karel Nekola. The ware was aimed at owners of country houses, exhibiting a back-to-nature style that gloried in the fruit, flowers, birds and animals of the British countryside. The range, which was sold exclusively by the London firm Thomas Goode & Co., is best known for its pigs, cats and cabbage rose decoration.

Here we examine a rare sleeping piglet, decorated with cabbage roses.

Wemyss sleeping piglet
  • The pigs were designed for children’s nurseries and some had a slot in the back so they could be used as a moneybox. Others were personalised with a child’s name and birth date. Smaller versions were designed to be used as paperweights – these are rarer still.
  • Collectors are attracted by Wemyss’s naïve charm. This piglet has a contented smile on its face as it sleeps
  • The sleeping piglet is probably the rarest and most desirable of all Wemyss ware. Large pigs like the one pictured below right (which is 17.75in/45cm long) are also extremely sought after, but can't compare with the rare piglet.
    Wemyss pig
  • The naturalistic decoration stands out on the clear white background and the more colorful, rare and well-painted the design, the more desirable the piece is likely to be. A sleeping pig decorated with shamrocks sold for over £19,000.
  • This piglet has minor restorations. Condition is very important: to create the vibrant colors the pottery was fired at a low temperature and this means it is susceptible to chips and cracks, and restoration is expensive. As a result, pieces in perfect condition command a premium.

Price Guide: Large pig £2,500-3,000 ($4,000-6,000); sleeping piglet £12,000-15,000 ($20,000-25,000)

Images courtesy of Lyon & Turnbull.