Have you noticed this figure on Andrew Dando's site? He is a chimney sweep--a memento of the days when children crawled up chimneys to clean them.
Below are two more version of this far-from-common figure. The figure on the left (Brighton Museum Collection) is almost certainly intended to be a sweep. Look at his dust-smeared face. But the figure on the right is a lot cleaner. Is he perhaps a representation of Winter? I am not sure.
Courtesy Elinor Penna
Seems that the mold for our sweep was multi-purpose, to put it mildly. We find the same mold used for this figure titled Clown
, and yes, you guessed it: the figure is attributable to Ralph Wood. You will find it here
, numbered A5.
Courtesy Elinor Penna
Apparently Ralph Wood put this mold to good use yet again. This time, the figure has a bocage and is titled Sloth.
See it here
in our Ralph Wood archive, numbered A5.
I was intrigued to find a figure of a similar form in Woolley and Wallis's upcoming auction (lot 584, October 12). The figure is described as possibly personifying Winter. It is white glazed. In other words, it was glazed like the figures above, but no enamels were painted atop the glaze. We find some English figures thus--but in this case the figure is not English.
Figure personifying Winter. Fulda, ca. 1775. Woolley & Wallis, October 2010, lot 584.
The figure was manufactured by Fulda, one of the finest European porcelain manufactories. It was established in today's Germany by the Bishop of Fulda in 1764. The manufactory was adjacent to the Bishop's palace, and although its wares were highly prized in their day, the manufactory ran at a loss. But no problem: episcopal funds subsidized operations! Even in the days before the Green Movement, there was concern that the Fulda kilns' need for the finest beechwood for fuel was destroying neighboring forests. Despite it all, Fulda might have survived had not numerous church dignitaries and their families helped themselves to the finest Fulda wares, without payment. So in 1789, Fulga was dismantled.
What's the relationship between the Fulda figure and its English counterparts? I think the Fulda figure is the source of the English figure. Ralph Wood seems to have made the earliest English versions of this figure. Ralph Wood was active from 1782 to 1795--a period that included the final years of Fulda production. Prior to 1782, Ralph Wood was a merchant in Bristol. Here he must have seen the finest European porcelain figures displayed in city shops for an affluent clientele. I believe one or other of these inspired Ralph's modelling of the English figure.
Those of you trying to view my blog using Internet Explorer are frustrated. I am sorry! I have contacted Weebly support to get things fixed. No response yet, but I guess that's because its a weekend. Very unAmerican not to supply support on the weekend:(
As a work around, I have posted new material on the site in two places. Firstly, the output of Ralph Salt that Malcolm Hodkinson and I have worked on has now been added to the MAKERS tab on the top menu bar. Secondly, I have featured another figure on the Figures page. I had been reserving this space for killer figures, usually with killer price tags (deservedly). But I want to broaden it to show figures that are still fabulous, but often at humbler prices. I believe collecting is accessible to anyone with a few pennies to spare, and the Figures page is intended to inspire us all.
As always, I will keep updating the blog each four days. By next entry, I hope you will all have easy access. BTW, If you are looking for a GREAT web browser, I ditched Mozilla recently and installed Google Chrome. It is lightening fast....and yes, it will automatically import all your bookmarks.
The first Staffordshire pearlware bocage figure group that I ever saw was the one sometimes titled Perswaition. It was in a dealer's stock, but I was very young, very intimidated, and lacked the courage to enquire...but the group stuck in my mind and pushed me along the path to collecting. Perswaition remains one of my favorite groups, and Roger de Ville now has what appears to be a particulary attractive Perswaition group in stock.
Staffordshire figure group known as 'Perswaition' from the stock of Roger de Ville.
I love this particular bocage, which is not seen too frequently on Perswaition
groups, all of which originate from the same pot bank.
We call this group "Perswaition
" because the Fitzwilliam Museum has an example titled Perswaition
in a little yellow tablet on the base. Think you want a titled example? I believe the Fitzwilliam's example may be the only one. You can see it on page 64 of my book, People, Passions, Pastimes, and Pleasures: Staffordshire Figures 1810-1835.
For a long time, collectors believed that Jane Austen's novel "Persuasion", published in 1818, inspired pearlware Perswaition
groups. Instead, this glass picture bearing the title "Persuasion" and dated 1809, is clearly the figure's design source. So Perswaition
can date to as early as 1809. Obviously dated design sources are invaluable in guiding the dating of our figures.
Reverse glass picture. The print is titled PERSUASION and dated 1809.
Did I eventually acquire a Perswaition group? Yes! But it took 20 more years for me to find one that I thought was simply delicious. Along the way, I passed on some very nice examples, but I wanted great glaze, pretty enamels, wonderful expressions on the faces, and minimal restoration. If being a picky collector is not punishment enough, life got more difficult when FedEx lost Perswaition enroute from the UK. All ended well, and my Perswaition gives me endless pleasure. When you find the one that is right for you, carpe diem!
In the early 19th century, courtship for the 'better' classes was a high-stakes game that was primarily about money. Collectors of pearlware figures are familiar with two well-known, rather formal Courtship groups. These elaborate groups command good prices....as they should, because they are glorious objects.
Far rarer, however, are groups giving us less formal glimpses of courtship. John Dale of Burslem made such a courtship group. You can see the only known marked example in my book. A similar, unmarked example is also attributable to Dale--again, you can see this figure in my book . Both these figures are rare. I have recorded only one example of each. They are pictured here
on the page of Dale figures from the photo archive that Malcolm Hodkinson and I have compiled.
And today I found a third Dale courtship group. Better yet, this charming group is for sale on Madelena's site.
Staffordshire pearlware courtship group attributed to John Dale of Burslem. Available from Madelena Antiques.
How do I attribute this group to Dale? Firstly, this couple have those positively round faces typical of Dale figures. Secondly, there is "combing" (little parallel teeth marks) on the base--another Dale feature. And lastly, we have recorded the same group impressed with John Dale's mark..
You can see detailed images of this figure on Madelena's site by clicking here
And you can learn all about those very rare Dale figures here
How do I convey rarity? "Once in a blue moon" doesn't cut it because a "blue" moon (the second full moon in a calendar month) is really quite common. So how about "as rare as hen's teeth?" Well, if you think hen's teeth are rare, think again. It seems scientists have created mutant hens with teeth. You can read about it here
if you must---but please tell me why anyone should want to create hens with teeth. Where is this taking mankind?
As always, writing this blog teaches me what I don't know, but I do know that this figure group, which sold in London recently, is very very rare.
The group is pearlware and depicts two young children sharing food with an old tramp, so possibly it was intended to convey the theme of charity. I was excited to see the group come on the market because it is unique, to the best of our knowledge. This particular example has only been known to me from a small picture in a Christies South Kensington catalogue of May 1996. I am told that the group never sold at Christies but was withdrawn before the auction. Apparently, it had been stolen and its appearance Christies enabled the rightful owner to reclaim it.
The group has probably been loved and enjoyed by that same owner because it only reappear on the market this month. Again, it has gone into a private collection, and I hope to be able to see it within the next year. So isn't the bocage superb? The subject may not be to everyone's taste, but the quality is yummy. The enamels are pretty-pretty, and the group is in totally orginal condition, with absolutely no repairs or restorations. And definitely rarer than either hen's teeth or a blue moon!
It is fabulously exciting when a unique figure group appears on the market. We all get a chance to look at it, and some lucky person becomes its custodian for the remainder of his or her days. Please remember to put your figures back on the market when you no longer need them. Figures languishing in museum storage or on the shelves of museums in remote locations just don't get the attention they deserve.
If you read the comment left by Kevin Lowe, you will note that he finds the frond on the base of this figure similar to one he has on a figure of Elijah. Perhaps the figures are from the same potbank....too early to tell with just one shared feature. The bocage on our alms group is unusual. I have found it on only a few other figures. .
This superb pearlware figure of St. Peter is in the Hanley Museum. The bocage is the same as that used on the alms group, above, and the enamels are similarly pretty. Both figures are reminiscent of wares marked WALTON. But many other potters made similar figures and as yet there is no basis for attributing either St. Peter or the alms group to Walton. Time may change that!
We have an addition to our list of numbered enamel-painted Ralph Wood figures: an example of Dr. Franklin, impressed 43, is now posted
New collectors are often intimidated by the potential price of purchases. The thought of only being able to afford to collect the crumbs off the table is not very encouraging. So I remind collectors that you can buy a very nice figure for less than the price of a night in a London or New York hotel. I have just bought one, and I am pleased with it.:)
Early 19thC Staffordshire figure, pearlware, depicting a broadside vendor.
This little figure represents a broadside vendor. In the early 1800s, much printed material was sold on long rectangular strips of paper, aptly called 'broadsides'. They might contain the news of the day (salacious news boosted sales), a popular ballad, or whatever the printer thought would entice customers to part with a penny. Newspapers in those days were costly, heavily taxed items--so broadsides provided the most affordable reading material for much of the public, or at least for those who could read!
Early 19thC Staffordshire figures were made in the days before photography was invented. As a result, they capture in clay images of everyday life that would otherwise not have been recorded. My little broadside vendor is such a case, and, because social history is at the heart of my collection, I had to have him.
I have seen only one other example of our broadside vendor. That example can be seen alongside--and also on page 308 of my book
and among the figures attributed to Ralph Wood
on this site. Interestingly, this little figure has S. F BURDILL written on his broadside. That is, no doubt, intended to read S.F. BURDETT, and the news was probably all about the radical reformer Sir Francis Burdett.
I especially like my version of the figure because it is in spiffy condition, with great enamels and glazes. Just how I like my figures. A dealer friend has long maintained that black lines on the base indicate that a figure was a reject or a second. But my figure is banded with two black lines and he was made to perfection. Certainly no second. So I rest my case.
PS: Since writing this, I have located one more example of this figure form. It sold at Lawrence, Taunton, the Reed Fitt Collection, Feb 2000, lot 7.
I have again added to MAKERS on the top menu bar. By following the drop-down menu (or clicking here
), you will see that the Staffordshire figures made first by Neale & Co and then by Robert and David Wilson are now listed as a separate 'family' of figures. Preparing this array of figures revealed gaps in our collective knowledge that I hope to plug with further research. We are all forever learning!
Above all, working on the Neale/Wilson figures reminded me how very scarce these figures are. Consequently, there are gaps in our photo archive that I hope to fill with future updates. If any of you have Neale/Wilson figures, please share.
The Dog Days of 2010 are almost behind us, and with the advent of cooler weather the antiques market usually picks up. Sure enough, new items are starting to trickle out. The fun of collecting is never knowing what will come up next. As I looked around the Internet today, a few things caught my eye.
I like this pair of Neptune and Venus, offered by Paul Vandekar. Neptune and Venus are ordinary subjects, so if you want to own them, own a special pair. Here, I love the naive appearance and yellow enamels are always particulary pretty.
How about this awesome figure of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, offered by Roger de Ville? This is the only Sherratt-style figure on a blue base that I have ever seen. This figure is rare, impressive and gorgeous. Simply a stunner.
Martyn Edgell has added this pearlware castle to his stock. Lovely, isn't it? The flower-strewn base is quite eye-catching.
Nick Frost has this pearlware figure of a farmworker with his scythe. It is on that gray base that I am investigating. Interesting and appealing, at a modest price.
And Andrew Dando has an exceptionally nice example of what is usually quite an ordinary pair of figures--and, believe it or not, these are a true pair! Here the cobbler Jobson and his long-suffering wife Nell are on marbled bases. I find most figures on these bases to be of really fine quality. I really want to know who made them, and perhaps I will find out as I continue working on piecing together the 'links' between our seemingly motley array of early Staffordshire figures.
Talking of piecing together links: next week I hope to add my research on Neale & Co and Wilson figures to the MAKERS tab. Meanwhile, happy shopping as you add to your collections. As you can see, there is something for every pocket. Those of you who will be in London at any point, remember to pop into Grays Antiques Market. Pottery is, at last, well represented there because Simon Westman has moved from Kensington Church Street to this more central location. Stop and say hello to Simon. Perhaps he too can help you add to your collection.