Compared with lavishly decorated Continental wares, early English porcelain may seem relatively unsophisticated – but to many collectors this simplicity is fundamental to its appeal.
English makers tended to be much slower than their Continental counterparts in discovering how to make porcelain. One of the first English porcelain factories – Chelsea – was established by a French silversmith, Nicholas Sprimont in 1745, nearly half a century after porcelain had first been made in Germany and France. Wares made by Chelsea were mainly intended for the luxury end of the market and are among the most sought-after of all English porcelain. During this eighteenth century the practice of factories selling their ware, white and glazed, to men with decorating establishments of their own was very common. These workers were known as ‘outside decorators’, because their workshops were unconnected with a particular factory. Chelsea was one of the most famous places for this kind of activity.
Shepherd and Shepherdess, Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory, circa 1760-1769. Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.
Among the other famous names which became established soon after are Bow, Worcester and Derby. Bow was the largest English porcelain factory in the mid-18th century, specialized in Oriental-style wares.
Several of the English factories used the glassy type of soft paste. In seeking to improve the recipes two other basic types of soft paste porcelain were made in England. One type used soapstone (soapy) in the mix and the other used bone ash (bony). Thus the three basic English can loosely be called glassy, soapy or bony.
The best way of learning how to recognize the wares of different factories is to study and handle as much porcelain as possible. This way you will become familiar with the styles, colors, glazes and shapes used. As with almost any type of porcelain, marks are often spurious – they can be a help but should never be relied upon.
A Chelsea porcelain ‘Hans Sloane’ botanical oval platter, circa 1755, estimate 30,000—50,000 USD
A typical feature of Chelsea is the way the specimens are painted on a larger scale than the flowers. The shadows given to the leaves are make them stand out more dramatically. Despite a small crack, the high quality painting makes this one of the most valuable types of botanical plate.
From the book Bow, Chelsea, and Derby Porcelain by William Bemrose (1898):
– 1, 2, 3 – Earliest Derby Marks, generally in blue (some examples are known where the Crown and D are used separately, probably an oversight by the workmen).
– 4 – Crossed swords, crown, and D, and 6 dots, carefully painted in blue, later in puce, used from about 1782.
– 5, 6 – Ditto, less carefully painted in red.
– 7, 8, 9, 10 – Later Duesbury Marks, generally in red.
– 11 – Duesbury & Kean, seldom used, circa 1795 to 1809.
– 12, 13, 14, 15 – Bloor Marks, commence 1811 to 1849.
– 16, 17, 18, 19 – Quasi Oriental Marks used on several occasions in matching, and to use up seconds stock by Bloor. No. 17 is an imitation of the Sèvres mark.
– 20 – Dresden Mark, often used on figures.
– 21 – Derby Mark, supposed to have been used by Holdship when at Derby, about 1766. Rare.
– 22 – Stephenson & Hancock, King Street Factory, 1862, same mark used afterwards by Sampson Hancock, and now in use, 1897.
– 23 – Mark used by the Derby Crown Porcelain Co., Osmaston Road, from its establishment in 1877 to Dec., 1889.
– 24 – This Mark adopted by the above Co. when Her Majesty granted the use of the prefix “Royal” on Jan. 3, 1890.
A Worcester leaf shaped dish, naturalistically moulded, in bright enamels with a parrot perched within a leafy bower with fruit and flowers in famille rose style, the border a rich band of flower heads and leaves. c.1760-65
Small Mug, Bow, soft paste porcelain, c.1765
This small Bow mug is attractively painted with two floral bouquets, scattered floral sprigs and a flying insect, in the Meissen idiom. The lower handle terminal is moulded in the form of a heart shape, and the border is decorated with an elaborate iron-red scroll and loop design. The grooved loop handle is similarly painted with iron-red scroll motifs.
A very rare Derby Salt Pot and Cover with ‘U’ shaped masked handles, the cover with a flower finial, painted with birds and flowers – c.1755-1758.