February 25, 2010

A Chelsea Treat

Our recent trip overseas turned up this superb piece of Chelsea porcelain. Made in London around 1755, it is a very rare octagonal form, and has been decorated in a restrained manner with scattered flowers with a brown line rim.  
below: the flower sprigs - note the black line at the edges of the enamels

These flowers are particularly interesting, as they are very much in the Meissen style. Meissen porcelain from Saxony, Germany, was the most costly & desirable porcelain of its time, and it is little wonder the newly established Chelsea factory sought to imitate them.
below: a Meissen Deutsch Blumen flower sprig, 1740's 

This style has its origins in German woodblock prints, botanical works from the late 17th and early 18th century which were copied directly by the early Meissen artists. The black line which defines each bloom by tracing the outside edge is an artifact of the woodblock prints, where the hand colouring of the prints produced the same effect. We know this style as Deutsch Blumen (German Flowers), and by mid century it had evolved to a more flowing style without the outer black line. This style was copied extensively throughout European porcelain manufactories, and even in the very popular Chinese Export products of the same period.
below: Meissen etui with Deutsch Blumen flowers, C. 1750

below: a lively bug from the Chelsea cup & saucer. Note the shadow. 

The bugs also have a story to tell. They have  Meissen origin also, being very close to a style pioneered by an artist by the name of Johann Gottfried Klinger, who worked at Meissen 1726-46, and later at Vienna. They are distinct with their 3d- like quality, achieved by placing a subtle shadow beneath the body and legs. Once again, their original source was German woodblock prints of the late 17th century. Bugs were literally 'bugs' in many cases, as often their very reason for being on an early ceramic work was to hide a problem; a bubble, an iron spot, a speck of kiln dirt..... the artist merely gave them legs and made them a legitimate part of the decoration! The artists often had flaws in this pioneering period of porcelain manufacturing, and their clever disguising of faults made the pieces salable - and proved that the best place to hide is indeed in plain sight!

below: a Meissen dish from aroun 1735, painted by Klinger. 
Note the shadows beneath the bugs, and the black lines around the Deutsch Blumen flowers.

All items illustrated here are from the stock of Moorabool Antique Galleries.
The Chelsea teabowl & saucer will be part of our 2010 Exhibition,  due to open on May 1st, 2010, in Geelong, Australia. A catalogue will be available on www.moorabool.com