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Russell-Cotes Ceramics: Connoisseur or Conned?

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The museum’s founders, Merton and Annie Russell-Cotes, were avid collectors of European and Oriental ceramics.

Genteel amateurs, rather than scholarly curators, the Russell-Cotes travelled through the Empire and Far East, picking up ceramic wares at bazaars, department shops, and antique stores. When in Bournemouth, they added to the ceramic collection via auction houses, and independent dealers.

Like many contemporary Victorian middle-class ceramic enthusiasts, Merton and Annie collected eye-catching pieces which were intended to be displayed in the public show rooms of East Cliff Hall, adding to their self-identity as patrons of the arts.
Merton believed himself to be a self-taught connoisseur. As with his extensive art collection, he appears to have targeted high-status ceramic production factories including Sѐvres, Wedgwood, and Worcester. However, an academic survey of his ceramic collection has challenged our perception of his power of discernment, as several items are in fact reproductions, factory seconds, and fakes.
In this exhibition we invite you to put yourselves in the shoes of the expert, and see if you can spot the originals amongst the replicas.

Can you tell the fake from the authentic item?

Are you able to outwit Merton? 

Will you be conned or the connoisseur?

With research from Art Historian and ceramics expert Anne Anderson, this exhibition has been made possible by the Heritage Lottery fund and our volunteers.


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24th March 18 - 26th August 18