Derby figure of St Thomas, by Agostiono Carlini, C. 1756


Rare Derby figure of Saint Thomas, represented as a barefoot man in Roman dress, a yellow lined turquoise cloak and a flower decorated purple robe, a broken orb and sword at his feet representing the lack of Roman law in his manner of death, on a circular base decorated with rococo scrolls. Circa 1756.


good condition, some minor faults


26cm high


Originally a dry-edge period figure from 1755, this example is from a few years later, from the ‘pale family’ period C. 1756-9. The finger has a firing flaw, and there is a section of the cloak rim damaged in the firing; perhaps because of this, the figure was sold to an outside decorator, who decorated it in luxury colours, rather than the saintly tones expected for such a religious figure. Bradshaw explains the situation in ‘Derby Porcelain Figures’ p63; apparently such colourful figures were once identified as King Lear, but a set of pottery versions with original labels show their intended identity. The bright colours therefore show the painters unfamiliarity with the intended subject, hence the conclusion of an outside decorator at work. Religious figures in any early English factory are unusual, and cannot have been popular sellers; perhaps the ‘un-sainting’ of a figure such as this was intentional, in order to sell an otherwise ‘slow mover’. ref. Bradshaw ‘Derby Porcelain Figures’ D31 & D32 (also B28 & 29) for illustrations & p29 for a write-up on these interesting figure types. An example sold BOnhams, part of the Crane collection 31 March 2010, with the footnote: These fine models are likely to have been sculpted by Agostiono Carlini, see J.V.G. Mallet, 'Agostiono Carlini and Dry-Edge Derby', British Ceramic design, 1600-2002, published by the English Ceramic Circle (2002). Carlini has now been identified as the sculptor of many other masterly early Derby figures. Another example of St Philip is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, see Peter Bradshaw, Derby Porcelain Figures (1990) p 42.

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