Pocillovists enamored with whimsical egg cups

Farm Forum
Francois-Xavier Lalanne often used animal motifs in his modern, minimalist sculptures. His porcelain eggcup with a chicken's head, wings and tail sold for $2,080 at Palm Beach Modern Auctions.

You've heard of philately (stamp collecting) and numismatics (collecting currency and medals), but what about pocillovy? Derived from the Latin words for "little cup" and "egg," "pocillovy" is the word for collecting eggcups. Eggcups are said to have originated in France. King Louis XV (1715-1774) made them popular. Later, they made their way into Victorian dinner services, where nearly every type of food had its own specialized dish and utensils. 

British manufacturers quickly realized that these small ceramic cups would make excellent souvenirs, and people started collecting them. Eggcups are still made and collected, and have adapted to changing styles in ceramics. 

This eggcup with a stylized chicken's head, wings and tail, called "Coquetier Poule," sold for $2,080 at Palm Beach Modern Auctions in Florida. It was designed by Francois-Xavier Lalanne, a 20th-century French sculptor, whose designs were often made to look like animals. Along with his wife and collaborator Claude, he often made whimsical, surreal sculptures. His playful, modernist style is seen in the plain white color and stylized features of the eggcup. 

Question: About 20 years ago, my wife and I inherited a grandfather clock. It's about 7 1/2 feet tall. Part of the upper face of the clock rotates around with different scenes as the time ticks off. At the very top of the face are the words "A. Willard Boston." The clock is wound with a key that raises two weights. It needs to be wound once a week and keeps pretty good time. Its gongs match each hour. Can you give us any information on this clock? 

Answer: Three generations of the Willard family made clocks. Benjamin Willard learned how to make clocks and opened a workshop on his farm in Massachusetts in the 1740s, where his four sons, Benjamin Jr., Simon, Aaron and Ephraim, learned clockmaking. The three older brothers opened shops in Boston: Benjamin Jr. in 1770, Aaron in 1785 and Simon in 1788. Simon was the most well-known and patented several inventions, including the banjo clock. Aaron, the maker of your clock, made hundreds of banjo clocks, shelf clocks and tall case clocks (another name for a grandfather clock). They sell at auctions for a few hundred to several thousand dollars. If you're thinking of selling your clock, you should contact an auction house that has had recent sales that include grandfather clocks or a shop that sells expensive clocks. The rotating dial with scenes adds extra value, so your clock should sell for a high price. 

Q: Twenty years ago, I bought three sets of clothbound Japanese block print folders. One of them has a dealer's note that says "Rikka Shinan (an introduction or a guide to the art of flower arrangement)" and "the date 1688." All books consist of very thin parchment-type paper. Who would be interested in these, and what might they be worth? 

A: Rikka is the oldest form of ikebana, the classical art of Japanese flower arranging. The term means "standing flowers." It includes flowers, branches and leaves in tall, vertical arrangements. The book you mentioned is listed on the International Society of Ikebana Research website (ikebana.link). The society may be able to give you some information about the books and their value. 

Q: My mother bought a glass vase from France in 1918. It's marked "Veritable Dolhain Wirths." I've searched for information about the maker and found none. Can you help? 

A: Not much is known about the maker who used this mark. "Veritable" seems to be meant to imply the authenticity of the piece. Sometimes the words "genuine" or "echt" (which means "for real" in Dutch) are used on the mark instead of "veritable." Dolhain is an area in Belgium that is part the city of Limbourg. "Wirths" could be the name of the company, but there is no record of it. Names that can't be identified were used on fakes sold in gift shops or flea markets. Words like "veritable," "genuine" or "real" were used to fool the customer. Important pieces are usually marked with a known name. Pieces by unknown makers sell for low prices. Vases with this mark have sold for $10-$25.

TIP: Tradition says the best place in a home for a grandfather clock is where it can be seen as soon as you enter the house.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer readers' questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object and a closeup of any marks or damage. Be sure your name and return address are included. By sending a question, you give full permission for use in any Kovel product. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We do not guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at collectorsgallery@kovels.com.