So the first issue that drove me nuts when I looked at this is HOW did the painter paint black on the slab all the way under the figure without sloshing it up onto the figure itself? The figure is enamel-painted, and painting black enamel so as to evenly cover every scrap of space under the figure without getting black where it was not wanted would be impossible.
- assemble the figure on the clay slab. Fire it.
- paint clear glaze on the figure and then paint black glaze (not enamel!) on the slab only. Glaze is somewhat runny, so it would have run beneath the figure. At the same time, it gets absorbed quite quickly into the porous pot, so it would not have created a sloshy mess and gone where not intended. Instead, it would have done just what we see here. Fire it.
- Paint the pretty enamel colors on, with great care. You can see where the hand slipped just a little at the bottom center.
The black appears to be colored glaze rather than enamel. In some parts it has run over the edge of the slab just like colored glaze does, i.e. with the black separating into a black-brown as it oozes.
If the black were indeed enamel, the slab and the figure would have to have been made separately....but then a high-temperature firing to meld them together would have destroyed the enamel colors!
So who made this gem? I have no way of attributing with certainty, but when I look at that face, it screams Ralph Wood.
This is the finest plaque I have ever seen. It is attributed to Ralph Wood, and it is decorated entirely in colored glazes. Unlike the slab with the girl, it is molded in one piece. If you turn it over, there are hollows in the back that correspond to the raised figures in front. A large, magnificent object, and a true treat to hold. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
P.S. Look at the center of the Lover's hat, near the hair line. See how the black has run into brown as it thinned out over that area. You see the same dispersal pattern on the edge of the black clay slab, and that supports my belief that the black is indeed colored glaze.