This magnificent pair of Staffordshire Pottery Cats came together by luck and good fortune. They date to about 1835.
The sponged version came first. It was listed as an “Old Pottery Cat” with a very modest opening bid. I recognized it as being from one of the Staffordshire potteries but at that time I had no concept of what the value might be. I simply thought it was the best cat model I had ever seen. I placed my bid, fully expecting that others would see what I saw and push the price beyond my reach. I checked the auction each day with nervous anticipation. In the end, there were no other bidders. This beautiful figure failed to make it on anyone else’s radar.
One day while I was sitting across the room from it, one of my real cats, a small domestic short hair, took the same pose on a different shelf close by. It was uncanny. My eyes kept moving from the one to the other. I couldn’t find any inconsistencies between the two. Their forms were a perfect match. That proved to me what an incredible model this Staffordshire cat was.
Some time after that, another sponge painted example turned up on the site of a prominent UK antique dealer. It turned out I had made a much better buy than I realized, the sort of story people tell on the Roadshow.
The striped version turned up online just a couple months after that. I happened on it minutes after it had been listed. Described as “Staffordshire?” with a buy-it-now that was hard to resist. I gave the pictures the once over and hit the button. If I had taken any more time to think about it, I am sure it would have gone to someone else.
Both cats are press moulded earthenware with enamel painting. Each measures just under 36 cm in height. The sponge painted example has a glued ear but all the original material looks to be there. A good candidate for restoration. The striped cat is in excellent undamaged condition.
I don’t imagine there are too many pairs out there. Similar examples of each type can be seen in Myrna Schkolne’s “Staffordshire Figures 1780 to 1840, Volume 3” published by Schiffer Publishing in 2014.