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.