Rare Swansea Porcelain shell-shape inkwell, flowers attr. Billingsley, c. 1814-17
Rare Swansea inkwell in the form of a shell, the exterior left in the white, the flat internal surface with inset inkwell holder & twin shell quill holders, well painted with a covering band of wildflowers, probably by William Billingsley, within a gilt line rim to the edge inside & out.
9x10cm, 6cm high
staining inside only, the lower rim of original liner repaired, shell quill holder with some touch-up evident, otherwise with only slight signs of age. Lid absent.
These inkwells were a unique Swansea creation, and appear with both 1 quill & 2 quill holder ‘shells’ on the upper surface, and in several slight size variations.
Billingsley’s distinct hand is at work, ref. Jones & Joseph ‘Swansea Porcelain’ p224, #4 for a plate with the same composition & flower types by Billingsley – this inkwell rim is a scaled-down version. It shows the lightness of Billingsley’s work, and the depth achieved even in this miniature painting by his method of ‘wiping away’ paint to reveal the porcelain beneath and create a graduated highlight.
An example dated 1814 sold for £9,600 at Bonhams, Bath, in July 2008. It was the same size as this example, with the same double spouts. If we assume this is Billingsley decorated, a date of 1814-17 can be established, as Billingsley left Swansea in 1817 for Nantgarw.