Welcome all to this 5th Special Edition newsletter from Glamorgan antiques.We
hope that it will appeal to all, whether newcomers or more experienced
Collectors.Anyway, the learning process in Antiques never ends,we all
get to be more experienced but we never stop learning.
Foreign Sources of influence on English Porcelain..
English Porcelain derived it's materials and it's methods from the experience
gained in foreign countries.These early inspirations and designs were
developed from studying imported products from the Orient and Europe
The earliest English factories were started around 1745-1750, at this
time there was only 3 types of porcelain.These were as follows:
A. The oriental Porcelain imported by the India Companies.
B. The Porcelain,(true Porcelain) of Dresden or Meissen.
C.The artificial Porcelain of France.
All these kinds of porcelain were greatly admired by the connoisseurs
and collectors at that time..The English people were always more workmen
than artists, and the natural tendency was to copy the great pieces
that were so highly prized and sought after, copied as best the English
workers could at that very early time.
At this period , native English Pottery was in it's first early stages,
and in an area that was remote from the Capital, so at Bow,Chelsea and
Worcester there were really no trained workmen or decorators who had
any hereditary or acquired skills, and to say that English porcelain
was in it's infancy would certainly not be an understatement.
Bow for example advertised as follows >"Painters brought up
in the snuff-box way,japanning,fan-painting, and so on, well these may
have the opportunities of trial, wherein if they succeed, they shall
have due encouragement."
NB." At the same house, a person is wanted who can model figurines
in clay neatly".. This advertisement appeared in the Birmingham
gazette in 1753.
Also at Chelsea, it was stated in an advertisement that >"a
nursery of 30 lads taken from the parishes and charity schools and bred
to designing and painting - arts, very much wanted here now!" This
was in the Public advertiser in 1756.
Therefore, we can see that the proprietors and directors of these earliest
of factories were absolute pioneers, and, if their pieces sometimes
appear to us to be childlike even silly,then the fault is probably due
equally to the want of sound taste of the buying public as much as the
inexperience of the potters themselves.
However, in many cases the influence of Foreign products were openly
acknowledged by the titles given to their new productions,such as the
Bow items being called >"New Canton". and those at Worcester
>"Newly established Tonquin factory".Then similarity,at
the first sale of Derby porcelain, the pieces were advertised as "After
the finest Dresden models". Also we read the following in the catalogue
of 1784, at the sale of Duesbury's Derby and Chelsea porcelain >"Items
of the most delicate approved patterns and shapes, finished in a style
of superior richness and elegance from the choicest specimens of the
Sevres,Dresden,Berlin and Monsieur manufactures"..After all of
this it is easy to understand the plethora of forged marks, or in the
least, marks calculated to deceive the buying public.It would be easier
to acknowledge which of the English factories used the marks of the
crossed swords of Dresden or the double "L's" of Vincennes
or Sevres, and those that didn't!
Out of all the imported Porcelain those of the Orient were the most
highly prized.Every collector is familiar with the beautiful white Chinese
items where the quality of the glaze and the paste are shown at their
very best.This is why among the products of Bow and Chelsea, you will
see many items of white ware, in which the early glassy porcelain of
these factories was made to reveal it's quality in the same way.Oriental
blue and white items were also copied greatly.In some cases every effort
was made to obtain the closest approximation to the original both in
drawing and in colour.However, the English bodies and glazes were so
different from the Chinese that even had the touch of the painters been
comparable, the final result would have been strikingly different.The
most successful results were obtained at Worcester in the early period
of the soapstone body, when the quality of the blue and white produced
was remarkably good..It has often been claimed that the painters at
these early English factories were so expert in copying Chinese figurines
and designs that their work is indistinguishable from the Chinese originals.But
this is completely wrong..The way in which the Chinese "blue"
is "floated" on,is in complete contrast to the way the English
painters added the blue.The Bow dragon ,for example, is well painted,
but not nearly so well as the Chinese dragon.The many coloured decorations
also furnished our painters with many telling designs. The designs of
Kakiyemon, a skilled potter from Imari in the province of Hizen, seem
to have held a particular fascination for the painters at Bow, and the
famous partridge or quail and wheatsheaf patterns are copied almost
exactly from his Japanese pieces.But,they were also copied profusely
at Chelsea,Worcester and Bristol.Many of these early pieces are charming,
and are a total delight.Later designs that were inspired from Japanese
work, were also made at the Crown Derby works, here we must note that
in many cases, the work was by now superior to the actual earlier Japanese
patterns.The harmony of colours was better than the Japanese originals.
If Oriental copying gave the first impetus to the English Painters and
designers,then the influence of the European potteries was soon also
felt , and ultimately became paramount.From 1750 onwards, the English
potteries studied most carefully the shapes and decorations of both
French and German Porcelain.Eventually reproducing them.It must here
be noted that many of the Continental factories were subsidised by their
own Royal families..British counterparts did not enjoy this unique patronage.They
had to depend on their success by meeting the taste of the public, for
example in copying Dresden figures, raised flowers and delicate lacework,Sevres
roses,intertwining ribbon borders and elaborately painted figure groups.However
from 1780 to 1800 the utmost confusion of styles set in and Chinese,Japanese,French
and German shapes and designs were thrown together into a most incongruous
mixture...To finish this tale of disaster, we must add that Bow,Chelsea
and Bristol were abandoned.Also, Dr Wall of Worcester died but the Derby
firm became more commercial in spirit, and in place of a number of small
factories the trade was absorbed by a few of the larger factories that
were managed by men who were for the most part,were"commercial"
by instinct and training.This re organization of the early potteries
led in time to a more technically perfect production on the whole,but
from the artistic point of view the immediate results were disastrous.
For more than 60 years,English porcelain remained under a cloud so far
as any real artistic spirit was concerned, and it was left to the great
19th century "modern" factories to show that
it was possible to produce pieces worthy to rank with the best artificial
Porcelains of the 18th century.
It must also be noted, that during this same period 1780 -1850,the Continental
factories also suffered a very similar eclipse, so that it is not surprising
that the earlier English porcelain items have received such enthusiastic
commendation from connoisseurs and are now so highly prized by collectors
©Glamorgan antiques. October 2002.
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