Have ceramics ever been so elegant?
Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn studies the history of this picturesque porcelain...
As we enjoy the longer, warmer early summer evenings, I wonder if any of our sophisticated readers are preparing for a May ball? This thought was inspired by the recent arrival in the centre of two refined young ladies, dressed for a warm evening’s promenade.
These are two statuettes by Lladro, a real favourite (not to say obsession!) with porcelain figurine collectors.
In the mid 1950s, farming brothers Juan, Jose and Vicente Lladro took ceramics evening classes as a means of improving their prospects.
Their porcelain figurines became so popular at the local market, they opened a shop in 1955, and factory in 1958.
Today, the factory covers a million square feet and employs over 2,000 people, but remains a family business.
Lladro porcelain is known for high quality handcrafted workmanship, ranging from delicate, detailed, handmade figurines to large complex designs.
Most people associate Lladro with the large range of figurines (now numbering into the thousands) in more than 20 different categories.
However, they also produce animals, vases, jugs, candleholders and tableaux.
These are rarer to find in the UK, and can make interesting collections and investments.
To combat the high number of imitators which grew up as Lladro’s fame increased, a new logo featuring a blue flower above the ancient symbol for alchemy was introduced in 1974.
Prior to that, ‘Lladro’ and ‘Spain’ were incised into the base of each piece.
Early pieces from the 1950s feature the brothers’ signatures, which can raise the heart rate if you spot one, but beware: they used a variety of signatures that proved easy to copy!
The most valuable and desirable Lladro figurines are the early designs, limited and numbered editions, and ‘retired’ lines.
Eye wateringly expensive, however, are the large ‘tableaux’ scenes, which fetch tens of thousands of pounds.
If you haven’t seen one, don’t be surprised: just 100 copies of the incredibly intricate ‘Carnival in Venice’ were produced in 2016, with a current price tag of £165,000!
So enjoy looking for those early or large pieces, and ‘May’ your collection continue to blossom!