- Most collectors are familiar with the lovely figures that Neale & Co/Wilson made in the late eighteenth century. You will recall that Robert Wilson operated James Neale's manufactory--first when Neale owned it and later on his own behalf. The figures made by Neale & Co can be indistinguishable from those made by Wilson. They have a common "look" and are often on bases banded with a pink line. Below is a set of Seasons, the only set I know of with the WIlson mark. Seasons with the Neale mark look much the same.
Neale/Wilson figures of the Seasons, although far from common, are well documented. Other pot banks also made sets of figures depicting the Seasons, as well as sets depicting the Elements. So what of Neale/Wilson Elements? Hitherto, none has been recorded. That's right, not a single Neale/Wilson figure of Air, Water, Earth or Fire was known to me until recently. And then, this rather battered lady turned up on eBay.
She symbolizes Air, and for that reason, holds a horn in her hand. Despite the ravages of time, she remains lovely. Her face is interesting, and her hat has a splendid plume. Lest you doubt my identification, look beneath. The title AIR is impressed, as is the Wilson mark, G with a crown.
I was delighted to 'win' this figure on eBay for a modest amount and couldn't wait to see her in the flesh. When she arrived, I was a little surprised by her size. She is larger than I had imagined. Here you see her between a marked Neale tambourine player and a Neale/Wilson figure of Ceres.
My new purchase, in some ways, saddens me. WHERE are her companion figures of Water, Earth, and Fire? I bet that Neale/Wilson made them, yet today none is known. Lost for all time? Probably. On a day when sun streams through the window at my kitchen sink in the early afternoon, I will give AIR a good wash and assess her condition. Maybe I will let her nose scuff have a restorer's gentle touch, but otherwise I shan't do anything with her except enjoy her in her slightly tattered glory. After 230 years, she is entitled to some age spots. It goes without saying that I live in hope that some day her companion figures appear.
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