John Shearer 10th November 1924 - 15th May 2010
John Shearer was born in Wellington, South India, the son of Brigadier Eric James Shearer of the Indian Army. After attending Eton and Sandhurst, in 1944 he joined the Scots Guards, becoming Captain of a tank brigade fighting in France, Belgium and Germany. In the years following the war he was stationed in Italy, and after leaving the army he worked as a financier for a ship insurance company, Thomas R. Miller, in London. He eventually became a partner and he also set up their Bermuda office.
John began forming this extremely choice and personal collection in the late 1960s. Most unusually he combined Meissen porcelain with pieces from Vincennes and Sèvres - factories which rarely sit together in collections. The quality of the pieces he acquired was consistently high, and for help with this he turned to 'Bob' Williams (1923-2014), arguably the finest dealer of their generation and a family friend.
He began by collecting Meissen, and among these early purchases are pieces with unusually fine maritime scenes, reflecting his life-long interest in all things seafaring (even as a boy he had been passionate about steamships). He was particularly fond of the two slop-bowls, lots 37 and 45 (especially the bowl with the elephant), and also the teapot (lot 43), all of which have exceptional decoration. His love of Vincennes and Sèvres porcelain followed a little later. A large number of these pieces reflect his great love of bird paintings, with numerous ornithological scenes exquisitely executed in either gilding or enamels. One of the most noteworthy is the dèjeuner du roi painted by Louis-Denis Armand l'Aîné, widely regarded as a master of bird painting (lot 19). There are also pieces with innovative and playful patterns, and it is particularly fitting that the collection should include the exceptionally fine Vincennes pot à bouillon (lot 3); as its Meissen-inspired decoration is a visible connecting point between Meissen and Vincennes.
John Shearer derived enormous pleasure from this very unusual and important collection. His family's hope is that after their dispersal, these beautiful pieces will find worthy homes, giving joy and fulfilment to other generations of collectors.
Recent Archival Discoveries and the Redating of Vincennes and Sèvres Porcelain
Following the publication of the talk entitled ‘An examination of Vincennes and early Sèvres date letters’ given by David Peters at the French Porcelain Society study day on 17 June 2014 we have changed our basis for dating Vincennes and early Sèvres porcelain. Following a close examination of surviving components of two services (the Nivernois and the Bedford service) Peters presents compelling new evidence to justify a realignment of the early date letters A to J. The author conducted a close examination of these services, which bear the date letters I and J, against the Sales Registers; with this he was able to establish that date letters I and J appear to have been in use concurrently and represent the same year, 1762, rather than the years 1761-2 (I) and 1762 (J) as previously thought. The artists working on pieces made during 1762 may have been free to choose whichever date letter they preferred. With this being the case then date letters A to H can be moved forward one year to correspond with the years 1754 (represented by date letter A) to 1761 (represented by date letter H). Peters then needed to look for evidence as to the significance of letters A to H. He reviewed the factory Kiln Books and Sales Registers in relation to specific identifiable pieces bearing date codes representing years prior to 1762. He was able to conclude that, ‘apart from a few isolated pieces, more indicative of anomalies rather than practice, there is no evidence that early date letters might have been in use for part of one year and part of the next’. In the absence of such evidence there is a strong argument for a return to calendar years ‘with the simple onward adjustment, suggested earlier, of A to H that results from assigning I and J to the same calendar year, namely 1762’.