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18th Century English Earthenwares

Four Fresh pieces of English Earthenware, 18th century, just added to stock.

Creamware

Creamware is the term for an English earthenware body with a definite ‘cream’ tone, popular in the latter half of the 18th century and replicated across Europe. It emerged from the experimentation of Staffordshire potters seeking a local alternative to expensive Chinese porcelain around 1750. Their innovation yielded a refined cream to white earthenware with a lustrous clear lead glaze, prized for its lightweight construction and pristine finish, making it ideal for household use.
It was not expensive to produce when compared with porcelain, but also not as robust; replacements were probably a necessity if you were using Creamware tea wares or tablewares. After its heyday in the 1780’s, Creamware remained popular well into the 20th century despite competition from other ceramic types. Today, it is valued for the pleasant off-white body and refined shapes often decorated with bright spontaneous on glaze enamel flowers.

Salt glaze

Salt glaze refers to a distinctive ceramic made by the English potters in the mid-18th century, with an ivory-white stoneware body lightly glazed with a clear covering having a texture resembling orange peel.
This forms on the white high-fired stoneware body when common salt is introduced into the kiln at its highest temperature. During firing, sodium from the salt reacts with silica present in the clay, resulting in the formation of a glassy sodium-silicate coating. This glaze can exhibit a range of slight hues, usually colourless but also found in shades of brown (due to iron oxide), blue (from cobalt oxide), or purple (from manganese oxide).

The result is a glistening white product, usually slip-cast and very lightweight & thin, yet also very tough. Forgive me for making the comparison, but it could be mistaken for a plastic! The glaze is transparent, and fits tight and thin against the body, meaning any moulded decoration is as sharp and crisp as the clay beneath. It has become a highly desireable field to collect in the English Earthenwares field.

Redware

The Chinese were fond of a red clay sourced near the city of Yi Xing, on the Yangtze River Delta. When Europeans started trading with them in the 17th century, the ‘Yixing Stonewares’ were a popular item. Naturally, the local European potters were keen to provide versions of this suddenly popular ware, and the potters of Delft, in Holland produced a ‘clone’ of the Chinese – often with the same decoration – in the latter 17th century, followed by the Eeler Brothers, Dutch silversmiths who came to London in the 1680’s and produced the first English redwares. Meissen was a latecomer, with J.J.Böttger discovering a fine high-fired red ware body now named after him in 1706. By the mid 18th century, the potters of Staffordshire and elsewhere were making Redwares.

Wedgwood c. 1820

Characterized by its rich reddish-brown hues derived from iron in the clay oxidising in the firing process, English Redware exemplified both utilitarian functionality and aesthetic charm. Crafted with meticulous attention to detail, these pieces often featured simple yet elegant designs, at first copying the imported Chinese wares, but soon reflecting the prevailing tastes of the era. Commonly used for everyday household items such as teapots, jugs, and mugs, English redware found its place in both rural cottages and aristocratic homes alike. Despite its widespread popularity, redware production faced challenges from the emerging dominance of porcelain and other fine ceramics. Wedgwood brought it back to the tasteful table in the late 18th- early 19th century with a refined version they called ‘Rosso Antico’, and other firms through the Victorian era continued to make ‘redwares’ in small numbers. The original 18th-century English redware remains a testament to the skilled craftsmanship and enduring legacy of the era’s pottery traditions.

Jackfield

Jackfield Teapot close-up
Jackfield Teapot close-up

Jackfield is largely a generic name for a class of black/brown bodied earthenwares with a glossy ‘black’ glaze. I emphasise ‘black’ as close examination reveals it is actually made up of mostly dark brown tones, which combined with a dark-toned clay body appears black to the naked eye.

Jackfield Teapot
Jackfield Teapot c.1780

Traditionally this type of ware was said to be made at a pottery works located at Jackfield, near Coalport in Shropshire – which became the name for the type. But excavations and other evidence suggest that at the same time, such pieces were also made in Staffordshire and at other ceramic centres. The shapes and mouldings are often closely related to the other bodies detailed in this article, showing the black products were made alongside red wares , cream wares and salt glaze. Perhaps ‘black wares ‘ would be a more accurate name, but the ‘Jackfield’ name persists.

Decoration was hard, as the black surface didn’t allow for the usual decorative technique. Rare ‘cold-painted’ examples show that some were decorated in colourful oil paints, often with dedications and dates, painted onto a piece to order by a retailer, independent of the potteries.
Today, it is collected for the dramatic impact it makes in contrast to the usual white or off-white alternative wares.

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Rarity in Miniature: micro-carved Ivory Rococo scene, c.1795

Micro-carved ivory plaque,

Micro-carving describes the feat of creating miniature artworks, with the favourite material being ivory due to its compact nature which carves easily and displays well. Set against the burgundy silk, this example is a splendid example of the technique.

Stephany and Dresch attributed micro carved ivory plaque, circa 1795, Moorabool Antiques Geelong
Stephany and Dresch attributed micro carved ivory plaque, circa 1795, Moorabool Antiques Geelong

The technique is very reminiscent of the contrasting ceramic reliefs made famous by Wedgwood’s Jasperwares, and of the carved shell cameos with similar contrast. However, this ivory carving was magnitudes  harder to achieve; the carving is independent of any support until it is attached to the backing. This piece consists of small number of pieces mounted together, with a separate roundel border. In order to lighten the appearance of the urn and its plinth, they have cut out straight lines, with several together only measuring a millimetre – some features such as the stems of the roses in the border garland are the thickness of a hair!

Stephany and Dresch attributed micro carved ivory plaque, circa 1795, Moorabool Antiques Geelong
Stephany and Dresch (attributed) micro-carved ivory plaque, circa 1795.

Some of the best of the Georgian era were Continental emigrés, G Stephany and J Dresch. They established themselves in Bath and London, catering for the wealthy clients who were after miniature novelties for their snuffbox collections, or pieces of jewellery, or framed works suitable for a cabinet or wall.

Stephany and Dresch attributed micro carved ivory plaque, circa 1795, Moorabool Antiques Geelong
Stephany and Dresch attributed micro carved ivory plaque, circa 1795, Moorabool Antiques Geelong

They promoted themselves as  ‘…the most eminent sculptors in ivory in Europe who will execute any design for Rings, Bracelets, Lockets, or for Cabinet pieces’. Their work was ‘so fine that a glass is necessary to discover its beauties’. They exhibited a number of times at the Royal Academy, and were presented with a Royal Warrant by George III, titled ‘Sculptors in Miniature on Ivory to their Majesties’. The Royal Collection still has three pieces, portrait profiles of George III, Queen Charlotte, and the Princess Royal, Charlotte.

This superb micro-carved plaque is quite possibly by this premium English firm, or a Continental carver of similar talent.

An example in the Bath Museum: https://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/QuVHVbowTFypssTZHk949Q

'Grand Tour' fan, Views of Rome, Italian c.1785
‘Grand Tour’ fan, Views of Rome, Italian c.1785
micro carved ivory Grand Tour fan, Italian c.1785 at Moorabool Antiques, Geelong, Australia

A sensational example of micro-carved ivory can be seen on this Neapolitan ‘Grand Tour’ fan of the 1780’s. It depicts a French-style Rococo ‘folly’, and shows great skill in keeping the sticks strong enough to still stand up to usage.

See this item here >>

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A Tournai Sauceboat

Tournai Sauceboat c.1770

This extraordinary example of Tournai porcelain shows the quality they were able to produce.

Tournai Sauceboat c.1770
Tournai Sauceboat c.1770

Dating to circa 1770, the elegant form with robust yet stylish handle, and boat-shaped stand, is a premonition of the Neoclassical simplicity which comes to dominate French design in the last decades of the 18th century. While this aspect looks forward, the decoration is the opposite. It is taken from a print published mid 18th century, after a painting by Francois Boucher, and is the essence of the Rococo style.

The mark is always misunderstood: ‘crossed swords are Meissen’ is the usual assessment, however this piece is clearly soft-paste porcelain, not the hard-paste of Meissen. As a vast number of other makers ‘borrowed’ crossed swords, it is easily attributed to one of these fraudulent makers, like Samson of Paris.
However…. this mark is well documented on Tournai porcelain. In the underglaze blue & white products, it is not uncommon. Gold on glaze is rare, but does appear on their better decorated pieces, suggesting it was a mark for their ‘premier products’.

There is a single example in public collections, not published in the literature. This is a sauceboat in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (id=#1968-172-1) , documented on their website. It lacks the stand, but has the same lavish decoration – with a few variations.

A stunning recent discovery shows Tournai porcelain at its best - a Sauceboat & Stand with Cherubs after Boucher, c. 1770
In the fore is our example; the back shows the Philadelphia Museum’s slight variation.
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Some Stunning Sèvres

Sèvres lotus-moulded dish, compotier rond, flower sprays, dated 1764

There’s a splendid pair of Sèvres dishes fresh to Moorabool.

Sèvres Porcelain, 1764
Sèvres Porcelain, 1764

This shape is a compotier rond, and was a component of the large services, used alongside other shaped serving dishes in the centre of the table. A setting for a dozen might have two compotier rond, while the larger services, such as the massive Service Camaïeu Carmen de Fontainebleau (used by the Royal Family) had several dozen of this elegant dishes available.  

Sevres 1764. Moorabool Antiques, Australia
Sevres 1764. Moorabool Antiques, Australia

The moulded pattern allows the beauty of the moulded porcelain to show in a way the more painted patterns cannot. 

The elegant lotus flower design is borrowed from Chinese Export origins, where lotus-moulded dishes were a common sight in the early 18th century. 

Sevres 1764. Moorabool Antiques, Australia
Sevres 1764. Moorabool Antiques, Australia

One of the dishes simply has the crossed ‘L’s’ mark, enclosing the date letter ‘L’ for 1764. The other example is the same, but also has a painter’s mark: ‘L’. This allows us to put a name on the painter of the flowers: Louis-Françoise Lécot . He appears in the factory wages lists in 1763, after possible earlier unpaid work as a pupil from about 1761. He worked as a flower painter in 1764 – but is then absent from any reference the following year, giving him the working period 1763-4…. a perfect match for this dish. He does re-appear, after spending 6 years somewhere else, when he is documented as a hard-paste artist in 1771 (as opposed to the soft-paste that was the only body available at Sèvres in the 1760’s). His work is then remarkable and distinct, specialising in dramatic imitation lacquer pieces, with gilt or platinum/silver chinoiseries painted in the highest Rococo manner, or the exotic ‘Etruscan’ grotesques inspired by discoveries in Italy during the 1770’s.
These styles were the latest fashion for the French aristocrats, and bring to mind the lavish productions of the high-end Paris firms competing with Sèvres for the top-end customers. As Sèvres was the King’s factory, he enforced a monopoly on the industry, where colours & gilt decoration was exclusive to his own factory; the loop-hole found by eager factory owners was to attract an aristocratic patron to protect them – Clignancourt was under the protection of the Comet de Provenance (the future Louis XVIII) and Rue Thiroux was under the protection of the Queen, Marie Antoinette. Both produced very high quality hard-paste products in the 1770’s, and would have eagerly employed a Sèvres-trained artist such as Lécot. Locré & Russinger, otherwise known as La Courtille, was another such factory, minus the aristocratic protection; they ran afoul of the King’s Sèvres monopoly, with 2,000 pieces of illegal coloured & gilt porcelain being seized in 1780 – indicating they were producing a large amount of high quality hard-paste wares. Despite this set-back, they continued to make superbly decorated pieces as if nothing had happened….

Could Lécot have spent his time in some such Paris porcelain manufacture, learning the technique for decorating the hard-paste porcelain body? While he was away, Sèvres purchased the recipe for pâte tendre (hard paste) from Pierre-Antoine Hannong, the youngest son of Paul-Antoine Hannong, whose father had established the faience works in Strasbourg in the early 18th century . As often happens with generations, Paul-Antoine made a success of the firm when he introduced the first hard-paste porcelain production in France, in the mid-1750’s. He died in 1769, and his son, Pierre-Antoine became head. Two years later, he sold the secret of Hard-Paste to the Sèvres factory. They took a while, but once the right ingredients were sourced, Hard-Paste was made (alongside Soft-Paste) from the mid 1770’s onward.

Lécot decorated garniture, 1775-6 Christies 2000
A Lécot decorated Sèvres garniture, 1775-6 – sold at Christies NY in 2000 for $1.1 million US….

When he returned in 1771, Lécot was able to paint on the new Hard-Paste body. He worked on some truly impressive hard-paste orders, and all major collections seem to feature his dramatic 1780’s Chinoiseries. This early example of his Soft-Paste work from his brief appearance at Sèvres in 1763-4 is a lovely rarity.

ref. Rosalind Savill, The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Sèvres Porcelain, London, 1988, Vol. III, pp. 1043-4 for more on Leçot.


Jean Bouchet, active at Sèvres 1757-93

Sèvres coffee can & saucer, scenic panels by Jean Bouchet, dated 1781
Sèvres cup & saucer, scenic panels by Jean Bouchet, dated 1781

This lovely cup and saucer are a ‘recently married’ pair. While the saucer has been in the Rosenberg Reference Collection in Geelong for a while as a fine example of Sèvres, the cup is a recent acquisition; remarkably, it is the same artist at work at Sèvres in the same year, 1781. While there is a difference in the details, the overall harmony makes them a delightful rarity. And of course, they have a story to tell…..

The artist is Jean Bouchet. He used a pictorial mark, a ‘tree’. While in the factory records – and the subsequent publications that used this as their source for what the marks looked like – he carefully drew a realistic tree with roots, trunk and layered foliage, while in practice he simplified it into something that looks like a furry lollypop…. This would have taken much less time & concentration!

The cup and the saucer are both 1781, dated with the same ‘DD’ in a distinct cursive script, the hand-writing of Jean Bouchet; there is also his distinct mark, a tree symbol. He is recorded as active at Sèvres 1763-93, a painter of human figures, landscapes, and flowers. He is very well represented in major collections, with his small landscapes being very appealing to original customers and present-day connoisseurs alike.

Jean Chauvaux jeune‘s ‘bead’ borders

The cup has another painter’s mark also – ‘IN’, the mark of Jean Chauvaux jeune, a gilder active 1765-1802. As there is not a great deal of gilding on the cup, we would suggest he was responsible for the unusual ‘bead necklace’ painting of the borders, where they are given highlights & shadows to make them appear rounded.

The incised workman’s marks 36 & 48a are both recorded by Saville in the Wallace Collection’s catalogue, vol III pp1130&1133. ’36’ is recorded 1770-90’s, while ’48a’ is recorded 1777-92. There are no names associated with these individuals.

In the British Royal Collection, both ’36’ and ’48a’ are present in several assemblages, including a set of very similar cups & saucers from the same period.

Sevres Cup & Saucer By Bouchet 1781
Sevres Cup & a Saucer by Jean Bouchet, 1781. Moorabool Antiques, Geelong

See our cup & saucer here >>

A complete déjeuner by Jean Bouchet, in the V&A Museum, London

It’s rare to see a complete group of porcelain from this era still together. This set in the Victoria & Albert Museum, South Kensington, is a fascinating rarity to study. It was bequeathed to the museum in 2015, and leading expert Rosalind Savill has identified it as one of four déjeuners bought by Christian IV, Duke of Zweibrücken, on the 14th June 1775. This was just 3 days after the event of the decade in France, the coronation of Louis XVI which the Duke naturally attended. Their cost was 840 livres, the equivalent of tens-of-thousands in today’s currency…. an expensive souvenir!

Marks correspond to the piece above. Note no date letters, and only a single artist’s mark. See this at the V&A Museum here >>
1777 Sevres Plate by Michel - explainer -©Moorabool.com
1777 Sevres Plate by Ambroise Michel- see below. ©Moorabool.com

The marks on Sèvres should follow the rules and be very logical, but in practice they can be quite random. The system was there to provide the company with a way of tracking the various production steps and those responsible for the work: in a perfect scenario, the répareur, or workman who puts it all together, incised his particular mark, and both the artist and the gilder would include their mark. Then the factory mark, the crossed ‘L’s’ for Louis were painted, and inside them the code for the year it was decorated.


As you can see in the dejéuner set examples above, this isn’t always the case: of the nine components of the existing set, just a single example has a painter’s mark, here the ‘tree’ of Jean Bouchet, and none have a year mark! It is only the monogram found on the tray, along with the factory records recording Bouchard’s work on the commission, and the solid provenance that allow this remarkable set to be dated. This helps explain the number of non-conforming Sèvres items we come across, which have no date code or artist’s mark. They were quite probably part of a set where only a few items were marked.

Reference:  Savill, Rosalind: A Sèvres Porcelain Tea Service in the Victoria and Albert Museum with Surprising Credentials, French Porcelain Society Journal, Vol. II, 2005, pp. 39-46.

Of course, fraud is always a concern, and later-decorated pieces can often be non-conforming – but usually, a date code is part of the deception, with the first years ‘A B C’ for 1754, 55 & 56 being the favourite – the trouble is, the style of decoration & object type was often not yet invented at that date, a dead giveaway!


Our Sèvres Stock

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Early Vienna Figures

Early Viennese Porcelain Figures
Vienna Figure Group
Vienna Figure Group circa 1765

The second porcelain manufacturer in Europe after Meissen (1709) was in Vienna, in 1718. While the initial establishment of private businessman du Paquier ultimately declined, it was revived by the state itself in 1744 when Empress Maria Theresa bankrolled the Imperial State Manufactory, Vienna. The blue shield mark came shortly after (sometimes called a beehive, as when viewed upside down it resembles one….).

Vienna figure circa 1765
Vienna figure of ‘Autumn’, circa 1765

This remarkable figure dates to the 1760’s, and along with others in the same theme, would have been part of a grand table decoration for the banquets of an important household. The figures depict idealic ‘pastorale pastimes’, such as the harvesting of grapes seen here, and show us a favourite occupation of the Rococo courts in Europe: dress-up balls.  

Marie Antoinette as a shepherdess is an image well remembered in the present, and such themed events were a common occurrence in the 18th century. Grand balls were held with attendees all dressing in ‘pastorale’ costumes, imaginative interpretations of the life of the ‘common folk’. Imagine such a ball, with an associated dining experience included. Sitting at the table in one’s costume, there was a splendid representation of the pastoral ideal in the form of the colourful figures spread down the tabletop between the guests. They were the perfect conversation starters, and with the lively & expressive interactions of the characters seen in these Viennese figures, no end of witty comments would be possible. 

18th century Viennese Table Figures in use
18th century Viennese Table Figures in use
Vienna Porcelain c.1765
Vienna Porcelain c.1765

This example is one of a group of four figures depicting the seasons. With the grapes being harvested, it is Autumn; in the same Prague collection are two other figure groups matching (the key difference being 3-figures on a single oval base) – ‘Reaper as allegory of summer’ and ‘Ice skater as allegory of Winter’. Missing is a figure of spring; presumably the ladies depicted will have baskets of ‘spring flowers’ or fruits. 

Viennese Porcelain c.1765
Viennese Porcelain c.1765

The modeller who incised ‘Q’ is well represented in any collection with early Vienna figures. 

This example differs very slightly in the construction of the components, with the kneeling woman’s hand resting under the man’s armpit rather than on his coat tail, and her other hand not actually grasping the tool. The colour palette is the same yellow, pink, blue, and tones of green & brown, but the Prague example also includes two instances of gold being used. 

Left: Prague collection Right: Moorabool Antiques, Australia
Left: Prague collection Right: Moorabool Antiques, Australia

The definitive book on these early figures ‘Ceremonies Feasts Costumes : Viennese Porcelain Figures during the reign of Maria Theresia’ is a splendid 2007 publication with large clear illustrations, detailing hundreds of Vienna figures from the 1740’s until the 1780’s. A private businessman, Du Paquier, had started the porcelain works in Vienna as early as 1719 ( making it the second true porcelain manufacturer in Europe, after Meissen), but by 1744 he was financially struggling, and the Viennese State purchased the works. This was of course ruled by Maria Theresia, the Empress of Austria, and she loved a good party… the porcelain works were an excellent source of the needed table wares, and this included table figures.

Refer p148 of this book for an example of the above figure, also the frontispiece of the book; fig. 228 “Wine grower as an allegory of autumn”, c. 1765 (Decorative Arts Museum, Prague).

Viennese Porcelain c.1765
Viennese personalities of the 1760’s.
18th century Viennese Table Figures
Moorabool’s selection of Viennese Porcelain figures, 1760’s.
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Asian Special – Fine Japanese Antiques

This stunning cabinet is known as a Shodana, and is seen here being used as intended – it’s a ‘curio cabinet’, to store your precious objects in.
What makes this example so interesting is the architectural element – the central portion contains two three-shelf corner partitions, the lower one having four sliding screen doors – miniature versions of the Japanese house doors – and the entire segment hinges outward, to leave the interior space clear. Above is another larger shelf section with four similar sliding doors. The open fretwork on these is amazing for its fineness and accuracy, true miniatures of the full-sized house doors in Meiji Japan. Add to that the rich wood inlay, and this is a truely spectacular piece of Japanese Meiji period craftsmanship.

Suzuribako writing box

A fine quality Japanese piece fresh to stock is this Japanese Suzuribako writing box. The lid has an intricate panel of quail and a maize plant, modelled in high relief with various woods and bone, the rest of the box adorned with an intricately carved cell pattern, the interior lined in jet black lacquer with gilt foliage to the inside of lid, fitted with a full set of writing instruments, including silver butterfly Suiteki inset within a silver dish, a carved slate ink-stone with gilt rim, two brushes, a bodkin with lacquer sheath & a matching steel blade with inscribed maker’s inscription, and two gilt-decorated ink blocks.  

Meiji period, 

Circa 1870 

23.5cm x 20.5cm, 6cm high
blade 6.5cm, in sheaf 19cm

An Inro Treasure

This is an ‘Inro’, a small box with cord to carry at your waist. Standing just 8cm tall, it was intended to contain ‘medicine’, via a series of segments that seal tightly together, a small usable compartment in the base of each.

Japanese Shibayama Inro
Japanese Shibayama Inro
Japanese Shibayama Inro
Japanese Shibayama Inro


The quality of this piece speaks for itself, with a very finely detailed continuous scene – probably from a popular play – depicting two gracious ladies seeing off a bare-foot bald-headed Samurai, clutching his sword. They were enjoying a quiet picnic in the woods a moment ago, as can be seen by the red rug with picnic box, wine bottle and cup….. and the intruder on the other side, a wizen old Samurai warrior with his sword, is receiving a good telling-off by the startled ladies. No doubt it’s illustrating something form a popular play of the period – if anyone knows, please send us a message!

Shibayama | Shokasai marks


There is a signature to the base of the lowest segment, which is interesting as it bears to parts; first, an inlaid mother-of-pearl plaque with ‘芝山’ , and second, three characters in gold lacquer “松花齋”. These signatures reveal the origins of this piece; the lacquer case and landscape is by Shokasai, a well known & respected Edo lacquer artist, while the fine inlaid figures is by the fabled Shibayama artists, made as a joint effort & hence signed by both.

Japanese Shibayama Inro
Japanese Inro, signature of Shokasai in gold to the left, for the lacquer; Shibayama on the inlaid plaque for the inlay work.

Shibayama: this Japanese family workshop of artisans was founded by Shabayama Dosho, also known as Senzo. He was a farmer from Shibayama who became a famous artist in the 18th century after moving to Edo to practice his trade. He had many descendents, such as his grandson & successor, Shibayama Naoyuki, who continued the workshop’s tradition for fine inlaid work into the 19th century. Records are not distinct when it comes to the later Edo period Shibayama artists, as they all used the simple signature “‘芝山” , for ‘Shibayama’.

Shokasai:

ref. Bonhams NY 19 Sept. 2008, lot 5036 for a comparable example.

Japanese Woodblock Prints

Japanese artists began to print in the 17th century, and technological advances meant that by the 18th century they were able to produce large & colourful images. For the multi-coloured images, a different wood block was carved for each, and carefully lined up consecutively to create the multi-colours image.
They were initially commissions by the wealthy Edo period patrons to illustrate calendars, which they gave as New Year presents. Subjects were often beautiful courtesans, actors, or illustrations of popular opera scenes. Scenic splendour and historical events followed. They were hugely popular in Japan, and specialty shops existed just to sell ‘the latest’ from the famous artists. Collectors would be inclined to ’collect the series’ by a particular artist, storing them away in specialty wooden boxes. In many ways, it was just like the present day Comic Book scene!
The simple lines, and the bright separate zones of flat colour were the result of the techniques used. They were very important factors in the development of Western Art, once collectors discovered them in the later 19th century. In fact, it’s well documented that the great ’fathers of Modern Art’ such as Gauguin and Van Gogh both collected and were inspired by Japanese Woodblocks, as they set about their quest for a break with the traditions of Western Art.

We have a selection of these vivid prints for sale, some shown below with more to come shortly.

This Satsuma vase was no doubt directly inspired by a woodblock print of the time.
Vase: Kyoto Satsuma, featuring rare ’Gosu Blue’ enamel, circa 1880

Satsuma

Satsuma is a favorite Japanese decorative item, and is distinct & unique

The Allure of Japan

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The Ultimate Irony? Danton lampooned in pottery.

Danton's Last Words banner
Danton's Head?
Danton’s Head?

Often mis-labelled a ‘Toby Jug’, this is an early version of a comical jug that becomes popular in the latter 19th century, sometimes identified as ‘Puck’. We believe this head jug is a distinctive character, and as it belongs to the period of the French Revolution, his identity must be found in that timespan. His appearance matches that of Georges Jacques Danton (17591794), an important public figure of the late 18th century in France, and the perfect candidate for a slightly humorous head mug like this. 

Contemporary French depictions of Denton give you a good idea of his appearance:

Danton was President of the Committee of Public Safety, a part of the Revolutionary Government whose purpose was to protect it’s seat of power. As such, he was able to achieve dictatorial power for the committee; however, he soon found himself in trouble as the whole scheme got away from him. He be came noted for his corruption, and mocked by the general population. The infamous ‘Reign of Terror’ was fatal for him; beginning in 1793, preemptive executions of anyone suspected of being an enemy of the government took place, directed by the sinister Robespierre. Danton became a moderate, disgusted by the slaughter, and tried to calm things down. However, this very action led to his arrest and trial on April 3rd, 1794.

Hauled before the Revolutionary Tribunal with several other political moderates, he put up such a fight that it was feared he would sway the tribunal with his rhetoric. However, the decision had already been made. The acused were denied the right to have witnesses appear on their behalf, and then two days later the verdict was passed in the absence of the accused, who had been removed from the courtroom to prevent unrest among the trial’s observers. Their execution was scheduled for the same day.

Danton's Execution 1794
Danton’s Execution, with his head fulfilling his last wish, 1794

Dragged to the guillotine with several others, he was executed.

“I leave it all in a frightful welter,” he said;

“not a man of them has an idea of government.

Robespierre will follow me; he is dragged down by me. Ah, better be a poor fisherman than meddle with the government of men!” 

The reference to a poor fisherman’ was probably a reference to Saint Peter, as Danton had reconciled to Catholicism. His last words to the crowd were, “My only regret is that I am going before that rat Robespierre.” 

Danton’s true last words, however, were addressed to his executioner:

“Don’t forget to show my head to the people – it’s well worth seeing” !

Danton’s Last Words

Events went as Danton foresaw. The committees presently came to quarrel with the intense opinions of Robespierre. Just three months after Danton’s execution, The Reign of Terror was ended when Robespierre was himself executed. His assent to the execution of Danton had deprived him of the single great force that might have supported him against the Revolutionary committee.

This remarkable head mug dates to this period of political upheaval. He wears the red, white & blue around his neck, in the high collared fashion of the time.

How ironic that his last words were lived out in clay, with an enterprising potter making a mug of his head, for all to see and remember the remarkable Danton, the moderate who tried, and failed to tame the Revolution.

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Stunning Sèvres discovery, by Antoine-Joseph Chappuis (l’âiné), 1765

Sevres socketed cup & saucer with birds by Chappuis, 1765-15584

A SÈVRES CUP AND SOCKETED SAUCER

(GOBELET ET SOUCOUPE ‘ENFONCE,’ 1ERE GRANDEUR)

The Royal French porcelain manufactory at Sèvres was well patronized by the French court, and the pieces they created were meant to be the most flamboyant and impressive luxuries imaginable. This pink ground cup & saucer certainly qualifies.


Sevres socketed cup & saucer with birds by Chappuis, 1765-0
Sevres socketed cup & saucer with birds by Chappuis, 1765
Sevres socketed cup & saucer with birds by Chappuis, 1765-15598
Sevres socketed cup & saucer with birds by Chappuis, 1765

Important Sèvres cup and saucer, goblet et soucoup enfoncé, premiere grandeur , superbly painted by Antoine-Joseph Chappuis (aîné), with four panels of birds in landscapes, framed within rich tooled gold borders against a ground of blue and gold oeil-de-perdrix on a pink ground.

Crossed ‘L’s’ mark,

also date letter ‘M’ for 1765,

‘cp’ for artist Antoine-Joseph Chappuis (aîné),

incised cup repairer’s mark ‘00’ & ‘ae’


Madame de Pompadour was probably responsible for the inception of this unusual form of saucer, with its deep well ensuring the cup cannot be easily upset. The form appears in 1753, and as she was failing in health with tuberculosis, a socketed saucer negated the risk of spilling her drink due to a shaking hand or coughing fit. Factory records show that all examples of this type made were purchased by her until her death in 1764. The next recorded sale was in October 1765 to Princess Louise-Marie of France, youngest daughter of Louis XV. Its present whereabouts are unrecorded, and this example has a high possibility of being the goblet et soucoup enfoncé, premiere grandeur in question.

 

Sevres socketed cup & saucer with birds by Chappuis, 1765
Sevres socketed cup & saucer with birds by Chappuis, 1765

They were one-off products, and examples vary wildly in decoration. An example in the Getty Museum is thought to have belonged to Madame de Pompadour. It has a saucer with an unknown repairer’s mark (00), the same as on this cup. The gilding appears on numerous examples from this period, often with small inconsistencies such as can be seen in the above detail, where the gold doesn’t quite cover the ground.

The artist Chappuis ‘l’aîne’ was a long-term employee at Sèvres, being apprenticed as a répareur (maker) in 1756, became a painter in 1761, became the deputy ‘head of kilns’ in 1782 , and  in charge of the kilns for the final year of his life in 1787.

His wonderfully vivid birds are distinct amongst the Sèvres artists repertoire, and a piece such as this important  goblet et soucoup enfoncé, premiere grandeur show Sèvres at its best.

 


Provenance: The Antique Porcelain Company, NY

References:

Similar gilding can  seen on a can & saucer in the British Museum, #110 in Dawson’s book ‘French Porcelain in the British Museum’, also #112.

An écoulle, cover & stand with the same decoration was sold as part of the Giuseppe Rossi collection, Sothebys London 1999 lot 518

A coffee can & saucer with similar ground, also with birds by  Antoine-Joseph Chappuis (l’âiné), 1766,   at the Victorian & Albert Museum, South Kensington

Similar items at auction:

A cup & saucer with the same ground, very similar birds by another artist, Aloncle, 1765, at Christies London 2015.

A wonderful teapot with the same unknown repairer’s mark (00), also painted by the same artist, Antoine-Joseph Chappuis (l’âiné), 1765, sold by Bonhams London in 2014.

A cup & saucer of the same form, birds by Aloncle, 1763, sold at Christies NY 

Sevres socketed cup & saucer with birds by Chappuis, 1765-15579
Sevres socketed cup & saucer with birds by Chappuis, 1765