The Collection of 270 pieces of oriental ceramics is important, containing Chinese wares along with a small number of Korean and Japanese pieces. The earliest pieces in the Collection belong to the Shang (1700 –1028 BC) and Zhou (1027–221 BC) dynasties. Ceramic experts, Steven Moore and Anna Westin, have advised that the Collection is a rare and rich resource for students, academic researchers and professional practitioners. Below: Dave Parkes, Former Associate Director of Information Services, examines a piece from the collection.
Lyon & Turnbull handled the sale of the Thornhill stem cup. The Ming Xuande (1426-35) mark and period blue and white stem cup is an excellent example of its type and is virtually unseen outside museum collections. This rare masterpiece is part of the Ernest S. Thornhill Collection of Asian Ceramics, comprising of some 270 pieces belonging to Staffordshire University, where it was bequeathed in 1944. The Stem Cup sold at auction in Hong Kong in May 2016 for over £3 million.
Little is known about Ernest Thornhill, other than that he was a pharmacist, living in Clapham, London, who was an avid and knowledgeable (if not extravagant) collector of Oriental ceramics. He donated a total of six pieces to the British Museum in 1926 and 1933. It seems likely, therefore, that he chose to bequeath his collection to the institution because of its location in the Potteries and its importance as a provider of ceramics education.