Antiques Roadshow: Expert refuses to give valuation for ‘magical’ Clarice Cliff mask

In Falmouth, Antiques Roadshow expert Steven Moore was brought a Clarice Cliff Art Deco mask by a woman who had a special connection to the piece.

It transpired there was a family link with the mask and Steven was delighted with the story on the BBC show.

“Now looking at this mask closely, I can see two names,” he began. “We’ve got a name most people know, Clarice Cliff but there’s also this other name here ‘modelled by Esme M. Bailey.’”

“You can tell me who that is, can’t you?” he asked of the contributor.

She explained: “Yes. That is my mother in fact, she was 18 when she modelled this. She went to art college and her father, my grandfather, had a shop in Bristol which sold Clarice Cliff wares.

“She was taken up to Stoke-on-Trent for about two weeks and went to Clarice Cliff’s workshop and was given a lump of clay and said ‘get on and make something.’

“She made four masks, then came back home and about two or three months later it arrived back with the other three and mum looked at them in the box and thought they were awful because of the bright colours. She thought the colours were so garish, she didn’t like them.”

“She was responsible for the model?” Steven questioned. “Clarice Cliff then chose the colours?”

“Finished them for her,” the guest confirmed.

“And mother didn’t approve?” Steven queried as the guest replied: “Not at all, she wanted more subdued colours.”

“What happened to the ones Clarice Cliff sent?” Steven asked.

The guest retorted: “Mum put them in a jumble sale. So I’ve grown up with this story all my life.

“I’ve got a photograph of her here, this is in 1931.”

Steven continued: “Your mum must’ve been quite a groovy lady to be given what we’d call an internship today with Clarice Cliff who was really at that time very famous, very very fashionable.”

“It was the contact with my grandfather, they were quite friendly and he was selling a lot of the bizarre ware at the time,” she said.

“How come you’ve got this one?” Steven probed.

How can you put money on those memories

Steven Moore

She explained: “She regretted all her life, not actually keeping them, and in 1998 she had a phone call from a friend saying one of the masks was in an auction so my brothers and myself said ‘You’ve got to go down, you’ve got to buy it no matter what it costs, you’ve got to buy it.’

“So 67 years later mum went in her wheelchair with a friend and bought this mask back in auction.”

“What did she pay?” Steven said as the guest replied: “£1,000.”

He continued: “Well, I think £1,000 is a fair price but how can you put money on those memories?”

“You can’t,” she stated as Steven went on to add: “That’s a very magical, special object and thank you for sharing the story with us.”

Antiques Roadshow continues Sunday at 8pm on BBC One.

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