Dear Helaine and Joe: I would appreciate learning the value of this soup tureen. The piece is marked in red: "Entirely Hand Painted by Le Tallee of Paris. Made in France for C.D. Peacock." I have enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope for the return of the photographs. Thanks. — J.L., Fort Lee, N.J.
Dear J.L.: We appreciate your reading our column, but unfortunately, we cannot return the photographs of the pieces published in the newspaper. We save them in our files in case they are needed, and we do apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
It is sometimes hard to read handwritten marks on porcelain, and J.L. came close, but the name on the bottom of his piece is actually "Le Tallec," which refers to Camille Le Tallec, who was born in France on Nov. 9, 1906. He graduated from the prestigious Ecole du Louvre (the famous Paris museum) in 1929.
In 1930, Le Tallec took over the family china-painting business, located in Belleville, a suburb of Paris. Atelier Le Tallec prospered by lavishly decorating porcelain made in Limoges and became a world-class operation, supplying porcelain to Queen Elizabeth II and other potentates.
Reportedly, the company began to collaborate with Tiffany & Co. in the early 1960s, and Tiffany acquired the French firm in the early 1990s — some sources say the acquisition occurred in 1990, others say 1992. In any event, Camille Le Tallec died in 1991, and his company's products (mainly dinnerware and giftware) are still sold at Tiffany stores.
This particular Tallec tureen, however, retailed at a C.D. Peacock jewelry store, probably in the Chicago area. Elijah Peacock, a watch and jewelry repairman, founded the Illinois firm in 1837. Chicago had just 4,000 residents at the time, and the new store was a real prestige booster to what was then little more than a frontier town.
Often referred to as the "House of Peacock," the firm survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 with all its precious merchandise locked in a fireproof vault. The company passed to Charles Daniel Peacock, and the name was changed to C.D. Peacock in 1889.
The piece belonging to J.L. should have a date code on the bottom, along with the initials of the decorator. Le Tallec pieces have been so marked since 1941, and there is a chart online — just search the Internet for "Le Tallec marks." This piece is post-World War II, and has an insurance-replacement value of $750 to $1,000 if in perfect condition. It would have been significantly more valuable if the piece had been elaborately decorated with polychrome enamels.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of "Price It Yourself" (HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 27540, Knoxville, TN 37927. Or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.