I was in Boston this week and first stop was Charles St, to visit the numerous antiques galleries I had browsed last March when I lectured to the China Students Club of Boston. Surprise: most have gone. Sign of the times, I fear.
Next, I popped into Skinner, where I handled the Wedgwood figure of Charity in the blog posting below. The labels under the figure gave me goosebumps. Lots of people have really cared about that figure. The earliest label read "Colln. Frank Falkner." Mr. Falkner was one of the most prominent early 20th century collectors; his book "The Wood Family of Burslem" (published in 1912) is on my shelf and is much used. On the label beneath the figure, in Mr. Falkner's own exquisite script is "Modelled by Mrs. Landre in 1769 for Wedgwood." This I did not know. How wonderful that Mr. Falkner could tell me the design source for this figure, almost a century after his death.
And it gets better. Mr. Falkner felt the need to add more information to this figure. So another round label was added. Again in beautiful pencil script, he wrote "A valuable example of Josiah Wedgwood's early work. Illustrated in Miss Meteyard's "Memorials."" Eliza Meteyard wrote several books on Wedgwood and his work, and now I shall hunt down the one with an illustration of 'Charity' and read her thoughts.
It still doesn't end here. The figure also bears a collection label for the Elizabeth Chellis Wedgwood Collection, as well as Mrs. Robert D. Chellis's address label. At some point the figure went through auction, and an old catalog listing is also pasted to the rim of the base beneath :
383. A 9 in. Early Specimen of a Wedgwood Decorated Group, "Charity" (reputed to have been modelled by Mrs. Landre) with impressed name.
There is still room for the new owner's collection label and I do hope that one will be added, so the figure can go through life with it's history.
Later that day, my husband and I popped into the Museum of Fine Arts to view the wonderful Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese Exhibition. WOW! Fabulously unforgettable. Do go if you get a chance. Afterward, we walked through the European Galleries and glanced at the cases of European porcelain. Exquisite items, but now captive behind glass. Taken off the market forever. No-one will experience the thrill of touching them, or the innate pleasure of ownership. No-one will peep beneath for a collection label. The donor's names were displayed somewhere on the case labels, an empty tribute to the vanity that often inspires donating to museums. Giving in this way does not buy immortality. It just robs future generations of the joy of collecting. And what about English pottery? I didn't see a single example on display that day. I expect the museum has plenty, but it is probably in storage--most museums own far more than they can ever display.
So collectors, stick labels under your figures. And know they will continue to give centuries of pleasure to people who will treasure them just as you have. Don't consign them to museum storage, where they (and you) will be quickly forgotten.
This fascinating Staffordshire figure is formed as a pipe. It too bears illustrious labels. It was once in the Earle Collection, one of the most famous collections of English Pottery. Major Cyril Earle's book, "The Earle Collection of Early Staffordshire Pottery" is a classic. I am not sure what happened to the collection, but this figure's label reads "Earle Collection Hull Museum." I expect that Hull Museum acquired the collection and later parted with it. Thank you, Hull Museum! I have come across quite a few figures from the collection over the years. The impressive figure of Mars, for sale on the Showcase page by James M. Labaugh Antiques, was my most recent Earle "find." In this case there was no label, but close comparison with the large photo in the book confirmed that this handsome figure is indeed the same one that Cyril Earle owned.