January 24, 2013

To Giles or not to Giles:

James Giles is a well-known, well-respected and well-priced name in the world of Antique Porcelain. Dealers like to add his name to a ticket, as it helps to sell.....
However, he's not always responsible for the piece attributed to him on the label.
A recent purchase of pirs was a pair of plates, Chelsea-Derby circa 1770. They are superbly decorated in a style traditionally associated with James Giles, and he is known to have sometimes used Chelsea-Derby porcelain- certainly he sold it as part of his stock.

The details are amazing: all fruits or vegetables, plus butterflies.

The cut fruit are distinctive, and often seen on Giles- although the ripening strawberries are something new- they have only reddened up one side!
Chelsea-Derby fruit specimens - note the red & yellow pear!

The butterflies are brilliant, and kept company with a cicada.
Chelsea-Derby butterflies

Chelsea-Derby insects

So are they Giles?
Yes, according to Coke who illustrates two examples in his 1983 'In Search of James Giles' book, p187- a Worcester example and a Chelsea-Derby example from a mixed service. These are curious in that they have exactly the same pattern- and repeating the pattern is not associated with Giles, where the elements of a design are usually mixed and refreshed for each piece.

Coke's book - in search of James Giles - illustrates a mixed Worcester & Chelsea-Derby service by the same hand.

He also illustrates a Liverpool bowl, now known to be Seth Pennington of Liverpool, which he claims is by the same hand, ie Giles. This has since been discredited, due to style and technique differences when compared against accepted Giles work.

These Seth Pennington pieces are addressed in Maurice Hillis's amazing 2011 book on Liverpool Porcelain- (one of the finest books on ceramics ever published, in my opinion).
Comparing the details with our Chelsea-Derby, it is clear they are another artist with a different painting style- but similar subject matter.

The Chelsea-Derby plates are a group on their own. They do not compare favourably with the accepted Giles repertoire, as defined by Hanscombe in his catalogue.
These plates are all by the same hand, on Chelsea-Derby porcelain but not factory decoration.

Stephen Hanscombe in his 2005 catalogue (for an exhibition on Giles held at Stockspring Antiques, London, and the definitive text on the subject at the moment) illustrates a related Chelsea-Derby dish from the same repeating service Coke showed, as seen above. This chapter is titled SOME POSSIBLE GILES PIECES, for while the flamboyant style, the use of cut fruit, and the odd vegetable all suggest the Giles studio was responsible for these interesting pieces, the details suggest otherwise. As Hanscombe points out, repeating patterns are rare (as in the mixed Worcester & Chelsea-Derby service linked to these plates) , the double line dentil rimis not seen on other Giles pieces, and the butterflies are quite different to established Giles versions.
James Giles features do not compare to the Chelsea-Derby cut fruit painter being discussed.

The conclusion we can make is that while not definitely Giles, they are of the same type, so one of the other decorating studios in London in the latter 18th century is the likely candidate, perhaps an unknown artist who had spent time in the Giles studio, where he picked up the unmistakeable flamboyance of the master- but with his own idiosyncrasies.

Unfortunately, Giles is the only name who has facts to flesh out his story: the other decorators are just brief mentions and guesses......

This plate will be a part of our upcoming 2013 Exhibition of Recent Acquisitions.

January 23, 2013

More Italians.....

My last blog involved the lovely little white porcelain figure. It links in nicely with another item earmarked for our 2013 Exhibition, a pair of giltwood figures.

In an embarrassing double-up, they'll be at the same exhibition wearing the same hat!
Left: Naples porcelain figure,  Right: Italian giltwood figure, both late 18th century.

They are an interesting pair, and possibly once had gesso leaves- or perhaps gilt brass foliage- behind them, rather like English figure groups of the 18h century. The small holes visible below are the clue - they obviously had something attached to the back of the figure with small metal pins.

They date to the later 18th century, and are of interest to the ceramics enthusiast because of the link to porcelain figure production:
Many ceramics were based on the more prolific wood sculptors work, and indeed Kandler, the master sculptor of Meissen fame, was discovered by Augustus the Strong as an apprentice wood carver, and moved to the King's porcelain factory. He went on to direct the factory, and produced some of the finest ceramic sculpture ever made.

This lively couple of Italian giltwood figures will be part of our 2013 Exhibition, to be held 23rd February in our Geelong premises.

Mystery solved. It's Italian!

It's always encouraging to get 'closure' on a mystery piece of antique porcelain.
In this case, it is a small white figure. I bought it on a hunch, liking the feel of the piece. I had no idea what or where, but I believed the when was 18th century.

Standing 14cm tall, it's a sentimental group of a lady& child: mother & son? Or nurse?
She holds his hand as if to stop him running off- a familiar scene to all parents! Her left hand definitely looks chastising.

She wears a broad rim hat, a very distinctive style. Her coat is also very stylish, and spoke of the 18th century to me.

The details are actually rather fine- but hidden under a thick, glassy glaze that pools to a blue colour where thick.

So where was she made? There was enough clues to suggest a Bristol or Plymouth origin- slightly naive, hard-paste and unmarked.
While researching another piece I stumbled across this photo.

Suddenly it all made sense- 18th century Naples porcelain- Fabrica di Napili.
There were a whole series of figures with the same style dress, even the child:

These pieces of early Naples are rather rare. Often marked with a crown over a N, the same mark was unfortunately used on a flood of later pieces. Our piece is fortunately unmarked and genuine!

The figure above is from Francesco Stazzi's book 'Italian Porcelain', and is said to bear the likeness of Emma Hamilton! There is most definitely a possible link, as follows:
In Naples, Ferdinand IV came to the throne. His father, Charles III was of course responsible for the original Naples factory, the Capodimonte factory. When he had moved to Spain, he had moved his porcelain works also, becoming the Buen Retiro works in Madrid in 1759.
Ferdinand followed in the footsteps of his father, and in 1771, he began building rooms for a factory onto the royal palace. Production began slowly, but by the 1780's was producing an impressive range of wares.
Ferdinand was married to Maria Carolina of Hapsburg, the sister of Marie Antoinette. She was extremely good friends with the English Ambassador and his wife, none other than William Hamilton and Emma Hamilton- famously connected to Admiral Nelson. The queen was fond of her husbands porcelain factory, ordering special presents to give to her mother - Empress Maria Theresa- and other favoured people, much the same as Marie Antoinette did at the French Sevres factory her husband owned! So it is not inconceivable that the queen had her beautiful friend immortalised in porcelain.

This item will be release for sale along with hundreds of other rarities, in our
2013 Recent Acquisitions exhibition,
23rd Feburary 2013.

January 13, 2013

Rare Birds from Berlin

Every so often, a mystery piece comes in that communicates on some subliminal level. In this case, it is a pair of birds, beautifully detailed. They were from a fine collection- their companion was a Meissen group of kissing doves by Kandler, c.1745, and they had a certain feel about them that suggested they were nice and early.
left: Billing Doves, by Kandler, Meissen c.1745  right: mystery Partridges

They are two of the same, meaning they came from the same mould. They stand 16.5cm high, around life size. I believed them to be white quail, but have changed to 'partridges' after viewing many photos of quail, all of which lacked the longer necks shown here. Note the superb detail to the moulded feathers, and the subtle use of touches of grey to highlight & give depth- another characteristic of 18th century porcelains.

Underneath, there is a central circular hole, to let the hot air vent from the interior during firing. There is an old collection number - unusual in that it is leather, stamped 132 and then gilt, suggesting a very exclusive and old provenance, alas now lost. And there is an incised mark on each piece..... both have a 4, while one is clearly 1/4, the other could be T4. This mark would surely reveal the maker - but no clear solution could be found.

After several days of fruitless search, they were put back on the shelf. Cataloging of more obvious pieces went ahead, and of course right when least expected, they turned up in a photo!

The book is a 1960's paperback, little used and rather brown, being printed on cheap paper: George Savage's Penguin publication, 'Porcelain through the Ages', first printed in 1957. It's a great general read, although I rarely open it- the info is MOSTLY more readily accessible in other more recent books, and the photos are black & white and very average. The only reason I chanced to open it was it was at the front of a group of books I wanted to investigate- I flipped the pages, and the 'partridge' leapt out at me!

Trembling with excitement, I read the caption- Berlin c. 1755- and suddenly it all made sense. Somehow, the clues- the mark, the details, the old collection number- all fit. How extraordinarily rare.
Berlin Partridge, Wegely period 1752-57, alongside the example illustrated by Savage. The seedhead on our example has been restored; in the photo, it is broken off at the same place.

Turning to the marks section, he illustrates a perfect match:

The pair belong to the rarest possible Berlin group, the early porcelain factory of Wegely.
Wilhelm Kasper Wegely was a Prussian cloth manufacturer by trade. The Prussian monarch, Frederick the Great, was a porcelain addict. He eyed the neighbouring Saxon Meissen factory of Augustus with green-eyed jealousy, and indeed when he had the chance in the second Silesian was of 1744-45, he directed his soldiers to take as much Meissen porcelain from the factory as they could. They also were to secure workmen and materials, as Frederick realised he could jump-start his own ambition of owning a working porcelain factory in his territory. However, Augustus was one step ahead, and had removed all key personnel from the Meissen works, securing them within another of his strongholds. They placed their raw materials in secret rooms, which they bricked up before leaving, meaning Frederick's men found nothing but the stock at hand. They emptied the storerooms of thousands of pieces of both decorated and white Meissen, which they brought back to Berlin- where many pieces still exist.

Back to our Birds: he never lost his dream, and in 1751 granted permission for Wegely to establish a porcelain factory in Berlin. With the help of Johann Reichard, an alchemist with experience at the factories of Höchst and Fürstenburg,he was able to produce a brilliant white hard paste porcelain. In appearance, it was very similar to Meissen, and indeed the clay was sourced from the same location at Aue that Meissen used.
Production was never great, and apparently Frederick was hard to please: he still preferred Meissen. When he came to occupy Meissen again at the outbreak of the Seven Years War, Wegely hoped to receive raw materials and workmen to boost his concern. Instead, Frederick gave the charge of the Meissen factory to his Army contractor Schimmelmann, and Wegely found his enterprise failing. He closed his doors in 1757.
Berlin porcelain plates, the first two circa 1790, the third circa 1870.

Of course, Berlin porcelain was re-established, and came to be one of the top European porcelain factories for the remainder of the 18th and the19th centuries. This second factory built on what Wegely had begun, and obtained the ear of Frederick- who actually lived in Meissen 1760-62, a neighbour to the great Meissen sculptor Kandler himself! As the occupying ruler, he was able to prise away the artist Meyer and several decorators and workmen. With this help the new concern of a gent named Gotzkowsky was able to be successfully established in1761, although it soon found itself in trouble, and he sold it to Frederick in 1763. As King, Frederick could ensure the financial future of the factory, for example making any Jewish person in his kingdom buy an expensive service of porcelain from his factory if they wished to have a marriage license! So the Berlin factory became state owned, and has continued to operate as such right down to the present.
The plates above are from the Berlin factory, marked with a blue sceptre.

These marks put them in the late 18th century, while the one in the distance is from the 1870's.

The birds, and these plates, will be released for sale as a part of our 2013 Exhibition & Catalogue of recent acquisitions, to be held late February in our Geelong premises.

A James Giles Surprise.

My last 'Giles' piece turned out to be factory decoration, as outlined in my last post.

When I first examined this dish, I thought of it as Bow: the bright colours are typical Bow, the soft paste porcelain full of small flaws, also typical of Bow. However, the shape is not Bow: it was made by Worcester and Caughley, the latter omitting the curious 'snail' moulding near the handle. The dish is therefore Worcester.

While researching the supposed Giles bowl outlined in my last post, I came across a Worcester plate, in the 2008 catalogue & exhibition by Stephen Hanscombe.

There is a difference between the two in the shape, an also our example has a green & yellow edge, while the illustrated has just green: but what caught my eye was the large butterfly: it's identical to our butterfly!

Above: on our dish
Below: the illustrated definitive example of Giles

The form of the bug is the same, the technique also, the main difference being the colours are swapped between the two.

This bug, his body painted in two tones to make him appear iridescent, also appears on other Giles pieces.

The fig & red currents also have direct comparisons amongst confirmed James Giles pieces.
So while I was disappointed with the bowl in my last post, along comes this surprise, a magnificently decorated James Giles Worcester dish of the 1760's!

This item will be part of our upcoming 2013 Catalogue & Exhibition of recent acquisitions.

January 09, 2013

Cataloging like crazy!

It's coming close to our 2013 exhibition, where we will release our 2013 catalogue (some time late February). There are a few hundred choice pieces of antique pottery and porcelain to research, so very busy times.

We have had some excellent James Giles decorated pieces in recent years. Giles was a London porcelain decorator from the 1750's into the 1770's. His wares were expensive back when they were commissioned, and have remained desirable and rare, meaning expensive. Some recent publications and exhibitions have increased the interest in his work, and I have always kept my eye out for examples.

When I found this Worcester bowl, I instantly though of Giles. The colours are so bright, the flowers so vibrant- not something typical of the factory decorated flowers.

When I looked at the mark, I was convinced: it has a mock Meissen mark of crossed swords, along with a 9. This mark is often seen on James Giles pieces of Worcester porcelain. In the older books, you will see this mark as a Giles characteristic - almost as if he ordered his pieces from the Worcester factory with this mark- a blatant attempt to pass the ceramics off as Meissen!

So I thought I had found a rare James Giles decorated piece. How wrong I was.

This was what I had in mind- Meissen style flowers by Giles, these examples painted into Chinese porcelain. The 2008 catalogue & exhibition by Stephen Hanscombe has many examples of this type of decoration. But as I went through them, my unease grew: the Giles pieces were all very close to each other- and didn't share enough characteristics with my bowl.

These rosebuds were one feature. None appear in published Giles pieces, yet they do appear on Worcester factory pieces.

This teapot, and the sucrier below, are factory decorated, and bear a close resemblance to my bowl. The bowl is not Giles decorated, but Worcester original decoration. The crossed swords mark, used 1765-75, was obviously not a definitive Giles feature, but occurs on Giles pieces by chance. The fact that it appears here on a Meissen style piece is particularly ironic!

Above is a blue flower from the Worcester bowl; below is an example from a Meissen cup & saucer, circa 1745 (also in the 2013 exhibition at Moorabool Antiques). This shows clearly the direct influence of Meissen on Worcester in the 1760's.