10 March 2019

Spode, Parian, Sir Walter Scott and a Dog

Visiting Edinburgh recently, I found it was absolutely impossible to miss the The Scott Monument in Princes Street.
The Scott Monument, Princes St., Edinburgh in 2019
This enormous, elaborate Gothic building, designed by architect George Meikle Kemp, is perhaps not to everybody's taste, but it is a magnificent memorial to one of Scotland's most revered figures. Its construction began in 1840 and it is described by Edinburgh Museums as 'the largest monument to a writer anywhere in the world'.
Plaque on the Scott Monument 
On approaching the monument I soon saw the beautiful and very large marble statue in its centre and immediately recognised it as the same as a Copeland parian group with which I was familiar - hence this blogpost!

The parian group of poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott and his dog belonged to my Spode mentor and colleague Robert Copeland (1925-2010). I seem to remember it was his favourite parian piece.
Copeland parian group, Sir Walter Scott with Dog 1850
The statue in the Scott Monument was sculpted by Sir John Steell from a single piece of Carrara marble weighing 30 tons. It took Steell 6 years to complete. An impressively large work it is almost dwarfed by the Gothic monument around it.

The Sir Walter Scott with Dog parian group was first made by the Spode company in 1850 under the ownership of W. T. Copeland.

Parian (originally called Statuary Porcelain) is believed to have been developed and introduced by the Copeland pottery manufacturer. This beautiful new body was described, in about 1845, by sculptor John Gibson RA (1790-1866) as 'Decidedly the best material next to Marble'.

The quality of Copeland's parian is always outstanding, in the body itself, its design and in an often direct association with the original sculptor. This is the case with Sir Walter Scott with Dog where Steell was responsible for the model of the 'reduced' parian version. Pieces are  usually impressed 'J. Steell Sculp Edin 1850' along with a Copeland backstamp and sometimes a date code.

Sometimes sculptors approached Copeland's, other times Copeland's approached the sculptor either directly, or a third party, such as the Art Associations, would be the contact.

Today we would probably refer to this as a parian figure but in papers in the Spode archive statuary porcelain 'figures' are divided into statuettes, groups and busts. So this is a group as there is more than one figure in the composition - it includes Scott's favourite dog, Maida, lying at his side.
Front cover, Statuary Porcelain Catalogue 1851
Incidentally it seems that Copeland also produced busts of Sir Walter Scott - possibly 5 different versions! Some may also have been in association with Steell.
Copeland parian bust, Sir Walter Scott
On March 13th 1850 'The Scotsman' newspaper contained an announcement that the Edinburgh Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts intended to commission 100 'statuary porcelain' copies of John Steell's statue in Scott's Monument. The copies were to be distributed among their members in the following July. The group was also to be reissued at a later date. So this was originally a private commission from the Association rather than an item originated by Copeland's for general release.

The group was exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 described as follows:

'Sir Walter Scott, reduced copy by John Steel [sic] R.S.A from the original colossal statue on Calton Hill, executed for the Edinburgh Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts'

In the Spode archive the earliest recorded price for the piece is 57 shillings. Further records show it was still being offered in 1928 where it is referred to in the 'Making Books' priced at 8 shillings. By this time its copyright with the Edinburgh Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts would have lapsed and it could be sold more widely.
Catalogue, 2 busts of Scott listed at bottom of page 1876
All about Copeland statuary porcelain (parian) here:

In 'Parian Copeland's Statuary Porcelain' by Robert Copeland, the parian group Sir Walter Scott with Dog has ref no. GP61 and the bust of Sir Walter Scott had ref no. B70. This book includes much of the company's production of parian, Robert Copeland's detailed and painstaking research into the origin of the subjects, ceramic recipes for parian, and discussion of which manufacturer made it first!

Pubd: Antique Collectors' Club, 2007 ISBN 10: 1 85149 499 5 and ISBN 13: 1 85149 499 6

Click/tap booklist for more books.

As well as mentions above there are also papers in the Spode archive which include recipes, images, catalogues, correspondence and agreements between Copeland's and the sculptors in relation to parian.

01 February 2019

Spode, a Slipper & Tumbledown Dick

Occasionally I like to concentrate on one gorgeous Spode pot for this blog - something that I think is beautiful and worthy of an in-depth look.

This delightful little pot fits the bill. It is a slipper inkwell. It is just a few inches long.
I have written about them and other ceramic shoes previously on this blog here: Spode, Shoes and Slippers.

This slipper inkwell (from a private collection) would have been part of a desk set. Only the wealthy, who were also educated, could afford and had need of these items which meant they were of the highest quality in ceramic body, surface decoration and shape design.

This one is made from bone china and is decorated in a pattern with a lovely name - Tumbledown Dick. Select the pattern name to take you to my Spode ABC for more.

Several versions of Tumbledown Dick were made in different colourways. This is in cobalt blue and gold - one of the most expensive combinations of decorating materials at this time. Like most of the pots in this sort of style at this period this would have been fired at least 5 times in bottle ovens during its different stages of manufacture.

It has pattern number 3967 which was first recorded in about 1824. Together with the Spode mark in this style this gives a date range of c1824 to 1833.
Handpainted backstamp on the 'sole' of the shoe
The 'sole' of this slipper inkwell is painted to resemble leather. I love it!
The large hole at the front was used to fill the inkwell with ink and would have had a matching, gilded bone china stopper, now missing. Unfortunately these tiny stoppers for inkwells, perfume bottles, hot water plates etc often get lost.
Spode slipper inkwell showing the stopper in place