(Picture from John's current stock)
Omitting John Howard's fabulous antique Staffordshire pottery bust of Princess Charlotte from my last blog posting was a major oversight, so I show it below.
(Picture from John's current stock)
This bust captures Charlotte as she was--not a dainty princess at all! Had she survived child birth, I fear this large rather coarse lass might not have lived up to the public's image of her. The bust, on the other hand, is really rare and rather special and won't disappoint The only other like it that I have seen is in the Brighton Museum's Willett Collection. Oddly enough, I have noted a slightly different bust of Charloote, below, that is clearly from different molds.
What of Charlotte's husband of short duration, Prince Leopold? We see him with her in this pair of porcelaneous busts made by John and Richard Riley, active from 1802 to 1828.
Antique Staffordshire pottery figures sometimes belong on walls--and when they are formed as plaques, that certainly is the case. The pair of pearlware figures below sit in very high relief within plaques, and they are stunning. They stare out from within very deep gilded frames, and are as realistic as can be.
The couple in question are the ill-fated Princess Charlotte and her husband, Prince Leopold, shown above in a colored print of 1816. They married in that year, and Charlotte died in childbirth a year later. The story is a well-known one that I will not belabor here. In brief, although King George III and his queen had dutifully produced fifteen children, Charlotte was their only legitimate grandchild. On her death the nation plunged into deep morning. “It really was as if every household throughout Great Britain had lost a favourite child,” wrote the politician Henry Brougham. With Charlotte’s death, it was as if the British nation had lost its future.
This pair of plaques was made around 1816, at the time of Charlotte's marriage. Charlotte is identifiable by her trademark hairstyle--those flowers in her hair. The plaques were bought from John Howard about ten years ago, and they are of the high quality associated with John's fabulous stock. Prince Leopold is not otherwise captured in figural form in the pre-Victorian era.
Charlotte's death inspired a slew of commemorative ceramics--everything right down to cups and saucers mourn her passing. I have always thought this jug of Princess Charlotte to be rather a lovely remembrance. Her features here have the distinctly Hanoverian heaviness they had in real life. I hate to burst your bubble, but she was a particularly ungainly lass...not at all a fairy tale princess.
This jug was copied in the early twentieth century, so beware of later versions. You may find one quite reasonably from a seller who knows not what he is selling. I have seen the jug described as anything from a Bacchnalian jug to Queen Caroline!
Also portraying the Princess in a regal role is this plaque, with the words “THE LATE AND MUCH LAMENTED Princess Charlotte of Saxe Cobourg Who departed this life Novemberr 6.th 1817” on it. A lovely remembrance is it not? I have to wonder what will be saved to note Princess Diana's passing. A cheap coffee cup? A tee shirt? How much is our generation creating that is worthy of saving???
I often think about the many antique Staffordshire pottery collectors who simply buy something that they like when they stumble upon it, and I envy their uncomplicated collecting journey. Our collection is a little different. I like to buy unusual and unrecorded figures that I didn’t even imagine existed. In addition, I keep a mental list of known figure models I want to own and wait for a good example to come up. This divine pearlware figure, a shepherdess with vase, has been on my Most Wanted List for ten years. It was made by James Neale & Co., circa 1785, and has the Neale mark impressed beneath.
A decade ago at a meeting, I watched a collector with a similar vase ask a dealer what it was. He was puzzled, but I knew what it was, even though they were standing across the room with it. This was not genius on my part; rather, the figure was easily identifiable because it is of the same form as one on the dust jacket of Diana Edward’s Neale Pottery and Porcelain.
To compound the collective ignorance on display that day, the dealer who had sold it was present, and he had not known what he had sold. And to make the story even more implausible, the figure was marked! Admittedly, the mark was not boldly impressed beneath; rather, it was impressed on the ground to the side of the shepherdess. The owner of the vase was delighted to learn she had a marked figure, and an especially early one at that. I thought it lovely, but I wouldn’t have wanted to own that particular example because it had been heavily overpainted and restored. So I added it to my Most Wanted List and waited.
Recently, my patience was rewarded with the beautiful example above. It has been well documented, having been illustrated in publications going back to 1929. In 1991, Jonathan Horne showed it at his annual London exhibition. At that stage, Jonathan had the damaged bocage leaves restored, and the difference in color to the leaves on the left and right, I have concluded, reflects the way the vase was made.
Both shades of green are evident on other parts of the vase, so the painter seemingly used both for the leaves too. Generally, Neale figures are painted with particular care. The enamels are the yummiest the Potteries ever produced, and they are almost silky to the touch. Yet despite this great care, there doesn't seem to have been much concern about matching. For instance, I have noted again and again that pairs of Neale figures do not match very closely on the mounds on their bases.
I have noticed the same type of mismatch, especially on bases, on figure pairs from other pot banks.
Pairs like these have led me to think that the figures were painted by different people---but my Neale vase compels me to rethink. Perhaps Staffordshire's potters weren't as matchy-matchy as we are today and they thought such small differences in shade inconsequential. Add to that, there was no artificial lighting, and on a gloomy day could you tell the difference between two close shades? Most of the difference in coloring you see in these pictures, taken in the harsh glare of huge specialty lightbulbs, is not particualrly obvious when the figures sit on a shelf. Even those leaves on the Neale vase don't catch they eye at first or even second glance.
Antique Staffordshire pottery figures of Newton and Chaucer are far more readily seen in museums than on the market or in private collections. Many found their way into institutions a good century ago. For example, the Victoria and Albert Museum has a titled pair that has been there since 1874! Strangely, this pair is the only pair I have recorded, but individual pearlware figures of one or other of these gentlemen are in important museum collections. Chaucer, however, seems to be particularly uncommon outside of museums, and I can't recall seeing a single example of Chaucer in a private collection.
Figures of Chaucer and Newton almost always have attributes denoting a Ralph Wood attribution. This means that they are really early figures, having been made between 1782 and 1795. Aside from the Victoria and Albert Museum's pair, I know of no other true pair, and so it was interesting when this very true--and, I might add, quite glorious--pair changed hands recently.
The cherry on the top is that both figures have the impressed numbers associated with Ralph Wood on the back of the base. As might be expected, Newton is 155 and Chaucer is 137.
Add to that, Chaucer is titled on the back of the base--a title, if present is normally on the front! Something went wrong in the pot bank that day, and I suspect the title was painted on a Monday, when hang-overs from the weekend's imbibing were commonplace. This is one of those quirky touches that we collectors enjoy. We all feel like idiots often enough (I certainly do), so when we see another's fault staring us in the face 230 years later, we know just how that painter felt when he realized what he had done.
A really unusual antique Staffordshire pottery figure popped on the site of Bob Moores at Nestegg Antiques in the last few days, and it is one I cannot recall ever seeing in a dealer's stock. The lady in question is Lucretia,
The enamel colors are typical of the pre-1800 period, so this figure is earlier than most.
Who was Lucretia? According to Ovid’s Fasti and Livy’s History of Rome, in 509 B.C.E., the son of the king of Rome raped Lucretia, and she committed suicide out of shame. “The Rape of Lucrece,” a poem by Shakespeare, and Baroque art revived the tale. In earthenware figures, Lucretia’s face is concealed to indicate her shame.
The figure’s design source is not known, but if you have any doubt that she is indeed Lucretia, cast your eyes on the titled version below, marked Wedgwood and thus also made in the late eighteenth century.
The Victoria and Albert Museum holds not one but two figures of Lucretia. The example below again uses a typical late-eighteenth century color palette.
The V&A's other example uses harsher colors, and the green looks like it may have had chromium added to it, which would date it to post 1805, but I wouldn't like to bet on it having been made very much later than that.
If you want to own Lucretia, it doesn't matter which of the examples above you like best because only one is for sale. I have been researching several classical figures lately, and I am struck by how difficult it is to find good examples that have come to market in recent years. On the other hand, museums are well stocked...sometimes too well stocked!
In the realm of antique Staffordshire pottery figures, mysteries abound. In preparing Staffordshire Figures 1780-1840, I thought I would go crazy trying to sort out the small figures of girls with baskets made by the "Sherratt" pot bank. As you see in the pair below, the girls' heads are different.
The girl facing right has a sleek head, while the girl facing left has a puffy head. Turns out that "Sherratt" made the girl looking to her left with no less than THREE different heads; and the girl facing right was made with two!
Here is the girl facing right, and she has either a a sleek or puffy hairstyle.
And the girl facing left has either a tight cap, a puffy hairdo, or a puffy cap (no, it is not just the puffy head painted to look like a cap!)
These oddities are not so surprising and confirm two of my beliefs:
Given that I have recorded a reasonable number of single "Sherratt" basket girls, I thought the odds of finding a true pair were somewhere between remote and non-existent, but I got lucky recently when this twosome came up at auction.
As you see, they are a very true pair in that both seem to have been painted at the same time by the same hand. Note how the petals of the right hand flower have been painted on each--the quite unusual coloring was deliberate.
My husband is somewhat mystified as to why I had to buy this true pair, when we already own the enchanting little pair at the top of this blog article. I didn't try to explain! But don't let the existence of the lone true pair deter you from buying an assembled pair. My first pair has given me much pleasure, and if you assemble or buy your own pair you will love it too.
Antique Staffordshire pottery lions are so very English. You can quickly distinguish an early Staffordshire lion from a lion made in some other country because the modeling differs. English lions are human in an odd sort of way, and I find myself drawn to them. I was happy to come across this little pearlware lion this summer. He really is quite small, just around 5 inches high.
Nice, isn't he? He also happens to be an unrecorded model that can be attributed to the potter John Dale. Those floral clusters on the base are the give-away, as are the bocage flowers with twelve petals (six short petals alternating with six long).
There is, on the whole, a consistency in the style of each pot bank, and Dale is no exception. I find Dale figures second only to "Sherratt" in their appeal. That bright apple green that Dale favored is such a happy color, and the glaze is just right. Oddly, Dale made many of his felines with wide-open mouths painted red. You see that again on the tigers pulling the splendid Dale chariot below--and note the use of that bright apple green color on the base.
And you see the same gaping red mouth again on the Dale felines below--and yes, they both have apple-green bases.
Like the little lion, the big tiger immediately above has those distinctive Dale flowers on the base. And notice the distinctive tooling, sort of like teeth marks, on these bases. This is another Dale feature.
As I said, the little lion I discovered this summer is unrecorded, and I do wish I had found him before the publication of Staffordshire Figures 1780-1840. I have also since discovered in a private collection a small camel that can be attributed to Dale. He is a sweet little thing, probably also around 5 inches tall, and I know of no other like him. Note he has the same bocage leaves and flowers as the little lion.
Next year, I intend expanding my web site--or perhaps doing a completely new site--to illustrate the figures I have discovered since the publication of Staffordshire Figures 1780-1840. And I will be adding Pratt ware figures and color glazed figures to that site too. So if you have something that you would like included, please send it to me at email@example.com.
I check auctions obsessively in my determination to find unusual pearlware figures, and so it was that I came across a lot, listed without a picture, that included an "antique Staffordshire pottery marriage group with sheep." Somewhere in the wording, the group was described as early nineteenth century, and I knew something was wrong because I have yet to record an early marriage group that included sheep. I requested a picture, and look what I found!
This petite couple is not at the altar. Rather, they are a dandy and dandizette going about the business of being fashionable, albeit with a sheep, a goat, and two dogs at their feet. I have never seen anything quite like it.
The condition report that I requested stated that a small animal might be missing from the base, but I decided to go for the group anyway. I am NOT a morning person. The hardest thing I do each day is get out of bed, but, despite that, I was up at 4 a.m. US Central time to bid on the mid-morning auction the UK. I was successful, but also had to acquire two tacky Victorian figures and a sweet little yellow ware cup that the auction house lumped into the same lot!
When my parcel arrived, I could not wait to open it. The dandies group was covered in a black sooty like substance, all except for the center front of the base. This was sparkling clean because the auction house had rubbed it in an attempt to see if the two specks of clay/kiln dirt in that area indicated a missing beastie. Fortunately, nothing was missing. All was as it should be, as you see below, with the two offending bits of clay well glazed over..
Note that the base is rather unusual in that it is has a dish-like recess on the top to accommodate the cast of characters.
I always look beneath a figure first thing. I love the way the light plays on the unpainted but glazed surface. It never fails to please me.
I am thrilled with my new acquisition. Once again, it reminds me that the best things so often come in small parcels!
Early enamel-painted Staffordshire figures of milkmaids are most commonly small, pretty much on the lines of the milkmaid with cow below (attributed to the "Patriotic Group" pot bank.) But don't think for a moment that groups like these are easy to find. They are not, and more so if you want an example in good condition.
On the other hand, Pratt ware milkmaids with cows are found more frequently. Usually, they are in the form of cow creamers, but sometimes not. In the pair below, a milk maid stands with a large cow and calf. This model, like the companion gentleman with cow, consistently occur decorated in underglaze colors and were made in Yorkshire, rather than in the Staffordshire Potteries.
I have only encountered this particular cow model decorated in enamel-colors once. Was the enamel-painted milkmaid group alongside made in Yorkshire or Staffordshire? I don't know.
Of all the groups incorporating a milkmaid, the one below is my favorite. The group is unique. The scale is quite large, the little cow on wobbly legs is adorable, and the bocage is stunning.
The prize for being the most unusual and, to my mind, the ugliest, milkmaid is the figure below. It is in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Staffordshire's potters created the milkmaid above as a copy of a figure by the Imperial Porcelain Factory of St. Petersburg, alongside. This perhaps accounts for its un-English appearance.
Another large and unique milkmaid-with-cow group, currently in the stock of John Howard, is below. I like the simple, bold design.
At the opposite end of the size spectrum is the unique little group below. This sweet group is actually impressed MILK MAID on the front of the base. Sadly, it has a fatal flaw: the milk maid's head is replaced, but I live in hope of finding a perfect example.
It may take you a while to find a fine milkmaid to add to your collection, but know that the best things are always worth the wait!
I am rather fond of the perfect Staffordshire pottery figure below, which I have owned for many years. Her body is pearlware. She is known as "the hay maker" because examples occur titled thus.
This hay maker was made by Ralph Wood, circa 1785. She holds an ale barrel because in that era of polluted drinking water, ale was the standard water-substitute/refreshment (yes, even at work!). The mold number "31" is impressed beneath the base; and a red band is around three sides of the base only--a typical Wood feature.
Every hay maker needs a gentleman companion, so Ralph Wood made a rather pensive male mower to stand alongside the hay maker. But I have yet to see a true mower-haymaker pair from this pot bank. I believe these Ralph Wood figures were sold individually, and that is why true pairs are so elusive today. Like the hay maker, the mower was made
We collectors tend to overlook the impact that Ralph Wood's modeling had on Staffordshire figure styles. Ralph Wood established the "look" of many familiar Staffordshire figure models, and for decades after his death in 1795, other modelers emulated his work. Thus, figures of Elijah and the Widow made in 1835 are derivatives of those made by Ralph Wood circa 1790. And so it was with the mower and haymaker too. They also lived on is the Potteries for many more years.
The Dudson factory was established not too long after Ralph Wood's death, and it made mower and hay makers that are VERY like Ralph Wood's (below). In fact, I suspect Dudson acquired Ralph Wood's molds. This pair was made circa 1810.
The unknown pot bank that I have dubbed the "Leather Leaf Group" pot bank also made mowers and hay makers in much the same style. I believe the stunning pair below was made around 1820.
And the so-called "Gray Base Group" pot bank also made mowers and hay makers both with and without bocages, as you see below.
And a pot bank that I have not named made mower and hay maker derivatives, with a petite bocage sprig to the side.
Ralph Wood got a lot of mileage out of his mower and hay maker models, but it didn't end there. In an era when there was apparently no copyright protection on a design, a great idea clearly went a long way. These are not the only pot banks that made mowers and hay makers in the Ralph Wood style, but, lest you glance at these many images and conclude that such figures are plentiful, let me assure you they are not. Today, a fine single is difficult to find, and a pair is almost impossible. So if you see one, carpe diem!
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