25 April 2017

Parian: 'The Bride' and 'The Mother'

Parian bust of 'The Bride' 1861
In the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge there is this wonderful photograph of a Copeland parian bust, 'The Bride', from their collection.

It is a stunning piece of ceramic manufacture in a body called parian. The fabric folds seem almost real. In about 1845, Copeland's parian, then a new ceramic body, was described by sculptor John Gibson RA (1790-1866) as 'Decidedly the best material next to Marble'.

'The Bride' is also illustrated in 'Parian: Copeland's Statuary Porcelain' by Robert Copeland. There are several excellent books on parian ware but this has to be the go-to reference book about parian figures from the Spode factory. In it Robert Copeland explains that 'the original marble sculpture of this subject [The Bride] was executed by Raffaele Monti for the Duke of Devonshire and was known as the 'Statue Voilee'. Monti's figure also seems to be known by many other names on the web...
'Statue Voilee' by Raffaele Monti now at Chatsworth House 
On October 11th 1860 Alderman W. T. Copeland, then owner of the Spode company, paid Monti £10 for 'a model of a small veiled head representing The Bride, and the copyright of it'.

In 1871 another parian bust was made called 'The Mother'. This was also from an original marble sculpture by Raffaele Monti (1818–1881). It is interesting to see that negotiation was made directly with the well-known and revered sculptors for various parian figures from W. T. Copeland. Papers relating to the arrangements are in the Spode archive.

'The Mother' was sold as a companion to 'The Bride' - not a matching pair but two associated subjects usually referred to as 'Companions'.
Parian bust of 'The Mother' c1871 in the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
Parian bust of 'The Mother' from Copeland's book
Cover to Robert Copeland's excellent book on parian
Frontispiece of my copy of the book with Copeland's lovely dedication 

06 April 2017

Spode's pattern 2789

Dessert plates, bone china, pattern 2789 c1819
Knowing my interest in botanical subjects on early 19th century Spode wares, a correspondent kindly told me about two square dessert plates which were up for sale online*.

These bone china plates from Spode were once part of a large dessert service, made for use, not simply for display. In the early 19th century Spode dessert wares were particularly fine; produced in the most expensive, fashionable styles; and sold to the wealthiest of customers.**

Pattern 2789 was first recorded in about 1819. It has a border design of mainly cobalt blue and gold - a combination of 2 of the most expensive materials for decoration - with a touch of red. The centres are handpainted with a pair of botanical subjects. Every piece of the service would have had a different pairing of flowers making for an amazing sight when laid out together with all its matching serving pieces.
Backstamp on the convolulus plate  - note the form of the figure 8 in the pattern number 2789
My original correspondent wondered if the flower subjects were taken from Curtis's Botanical Magazine which I have studied over the years, matching the magazine illustrations to Spode patterns. When I started doing this research at the end of the 1990s I used the original 18th century Curtis's Botanical Magazines, which are in fact books, in the Spode archive.
A volume of Curtis's Botanical Magazine 1780s
It was painstaking work, carefully turning pages, lifting the tissue covering the print to see if a flower matched a Spode piece. Many years on these magazines are now online. Hoorah! I use the fantastic Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) digitisations here. You can follow BHL on Twitter @BioDivLibrary.

It is still painstaking work but much quicker and much easier to share. A simple botanical subject on a Spode piece is fairly straightforward to find. You can see this in the example of the daffodil or, as Curtis describes it, 'Narcissus Major or Great Daffodil'. Here the Spode design of about 1808 is a direct copy of the magazine illustration of 1788.
Curtis's Botanical Magazine, Vol 2 plate 51, printed and hand coloured 1788 
Spode dessert plate, bone china, pattern 1100 handpainted centre with gilded border c1808
It gets more difficult for me to identify the source of the flowers when the Spode designs are more stylised, rather than a true botanical subject, such as in pattern 2789 featured here; and also the fact that 2 unrelated flowers are put together on each piece.
Dessert plate, pattern 2789, Tagetes and Bluebell
Curtis's Botanical Magazine Vol 5 plate 150, 1791
Dessert plate, Tagetes and Bluebell (detail)
I spent a long time looking at the illustrations in Curtis's Botanical Magazine online to see if I could find matching subjects for these 2 dessert plates but was only partly successful. I looked through the first 12 volumes and found a Tagetes, described by Curtis as 'Tagetes Patula. Spreading Tagetes, or French Marigold', which could be the source of one of the flowers but did not find the bluebell it is paired with.
Dessert plate, pattern 2789, Convolvulus and probably Delphinium
I also found the probable source for the Convolvulus described by Curtis as 'Convolvulus Nil or Azure Convolvulus'. I did not find its pair which I think is a Delphinium.
Curtis's Botanical Magazine Vol 6 plate 188, 1792
Dessert plate Convolvulus and Delphinium (?) (detail)
I confess I was rather relived there were only 2 plates to research, not a whole service of dozens of pieces...

Teawares were also produced in this pattern again with each piece having a pair of flower subjects. The flowers are as you would expect on the saucers but for the coffee cup and teacup the design is adapted so a flower appears on the outside of the cup - one on each side.
L-R: Coffee cup, saucer and teacup, pattern 2789
Saucer, pattern 2789
*With thanks to Jayo Emms Antiques England for the images of the 2 dessert plates which inspired the blogpost.

**For more about dessert wares from Spode on this blog please use the Search box/page and enter dessert.

20 February 2017

Spode and a Coffee Cup & Saucer

Spode coffee cup, earthenware, London shape Cracked Ice and Prunus c1821
Cracked Ice and Prunus is the name of a pattern produced by Spode in the early 1800s. It was derived from an 18th century Chinese porcelain design. The earliest pieces from Spode were probably those transfer printed, underglaze, in one colour - blue.
Detail of Spode's pattern, transfer printed in blue c1821
The oldest written record of this pattern from Spode was first detailed in about 1821. The pattern books in the Spode archive record several versions of this design - different colour combinations, a bit of gilding, sometimes not as an 'all-over' design, or sheet pattern, but simply as a border.

The coffee cup and saucer illustrated here is printed in grey and then hand coloured in blue. It was found in a charity (thrift) shop by Andrew Goff from the USA. He kindly provided me with the photos. And we both love it!

I think the soft colour combination is very elegant and, combined with Spode's very beautifully-proportioned London shape, makes for a gorgeous piece.
Backstamps on coffee cup
The only other piece I have seen in this colourway is elsewhere on this, my very my own blog! I first wrote about the pattern Cracked Ice and Prunus for a blog post in May 2015. The design represents the coming of spring. The elements of the design show cherry blossom petals (prunus) falling on to the background of thawing ice.
Saucer to the coffee cup
Backstamps on saucer
The backstamps show the Spode company name which, in this style, was used up to 1833; a workman's mark for the printing team; a workman's mark for the person who painted the blue; and, in the case of the saucer, an impressed 4 which would have indicated which workman made the piece from the clay.

You can find more about Spode's Cracked Ice and Prunus pattern history and more images by clicking here>.
Barrel Scent Jar with a pierced cover over a (not visible) flat lid to hold pot pourri c1821