Of all small antique Staffordshire pottery figures, those of animals command a price premium. We collectors do cartwheels at the prospect of tucking a petite feline, mouse, or elephant onto our shelves. But what of bears? When it comes to bears, or at least enamel-painted bears, there is a gaping deficit. That's because only two models are known. One is in the Brighton Museum's Willett Collection, and I have always thought that tiny treasure to be unique. Wrong again! To my delight, another crossed my path recently.
This sweet little fella can't be more than three inches across. Yummy, is he not? But I mentioned two enamel-painted bear models. What of the other? Alas, I have yet to see the other in person, but I know it from an old auction catalog image.
All other stand-alone bears seem to have been decorated under the glaze in the limited range of colors available for this coloring technique. They tend to be cheap little trinkets...or they were cheap at the time they were made. Some can be quite crude.
Usually, I only buy enamel-painted figures, but the little bear below, decorated in underglaze colors, caught my eye and now lives on my shelves.
The mother of all bears is the beauty from John Howard's archive that now resides with a lucky collector. Is it not gorgeous? I drooled over it for some time, but, as I said, my emphasis is on enamel-painted figures, and I must stay focused.
Coming back down to earth, I noticed this sweetie at Hertford Avenue Antiques on eBay. The modeling is so very sharp. I am not sure if it is decorated in underglaze colors or running glaze....the former, I suspect.
Martyn Edgell has a somewhat similar underglaze-decorated bear that has more personality than we associated with the run-of-the-mill lumpy, bumpy, ill-defined bears decorated in this manner
Whether you like cuddly-looking teddy-bear-like bears or fiercer models, there is an early Staffordshire bear that is ideal for your collection. The only model I personally detest is the large bear usually found in the white that was used as a shop window advertisement of sorts.
But if you like chunky white polar bears, don't let my distaste for this model stop you. Collecting is a very personal thing, and the world would be a dull place if we all wanted the same objects.
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