Q: This vase came from my husband's great-aunt and is about 12 inches tall. It was originally in her home near Detroit. Any information would be appreciated.
A: The green sprawl across the bottom is the signature of English potter William Moorcroft (1872-1945), who was an art school graduate and son of a professional china painter. In 1897, Moorcroft went to work as a designer for the James Macintyre and Co. pottery in Burslem, Staffordshire.
Within a year, Moorcroft was heading Macintyre's art pottery studio and developing lines in the art nouveau taste that were often decorated with specially colored glazes and raised slip (liquid clay piped through a tube) designs. Moorcroft developed his famous "Florian" line, which was entirely hand-decorated. His work won a gold metal at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.
Much of Moorcroft's work at Macintyre's was sold in London at the famous department store Liberty & Co., and in New York at Tiffany's. Moorcroft's work was soon overshadowing the other products of Macintyre and Co., and his art pottery studio at that company was closed in 1912.
With financial backing from Liberty & Co., Moorcroft established his own art pottery at Cobridge in 1913 with many of the former Macintyre employees. Moorcroft's son Walter took over the Moorcroft pottery when William Moorcroft died in 1945. The company is still in business.
Around the turn of the 20th century, Moorcroft developed a line of pottery called "Hazeldene," which generally featured slip outlined trees in a landscape rendered in various shades of blue and green against a cream background. There can be variations in this color scheme (including some in shades of red), but the vase in today's question is a typically colored example. At 12 inches tall and 4 inches across the base is a large and highly desirable piece.
Some pieces of Moorcroft's Hazeldene were dated, and some had a "Made for Liberty & Co." stamp on the bottom, but your piece appears to be lacking both marks. The signature is "W. Moorcroft des." We believe the "des" stands for "designer" or "dessinateur," and the "Rd No 3979664" is the English registration number or patent for the design.
We believe the vase is circa 1905 and at auction would sell in the $3,500 to $4,500 range. Its insurance replacement value would be in the $6,000 range.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques.