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SPODE CHINA - C. 1789 TO PRESENT DAY (Copeland's)
HISTORY. Not long after the middle of the eighteenth century, Josiah Spode the elder or "Old Spode," to quote the name by which he is often known, established a pottery near Stoke-on-Trent and produced a great variety of earthenware of beautiful quality. He was a man of cultivation, intelligence, initiative and sound business enterprise and, in the latter part of the century, he entered upon experiments in making porcelain. Although it is impossible to say precisely when the first Spode china was produced, there appears to be good reason for believing that it may have been as early as 1789, In any event, the testimony of the old pattern books shows clearly that porcelain of a fine type was being made by 1794.
Josiah the Elder died suddenly in 1797 and his son, Josiah the Second, assumed the direction of the business. A post for which he was peculiarly well fitted both by h: ~ intimate knowledge of all the processes involved and by his good taste and ability in the realm of decoration. The business prospered exceedingly, thanks to the wisdom displayed in its conduct and the good judgment evinced in the matter of decoration, and Josiah Spoce left it on a firm basis to his son and partners. The same business continues to-day under the name of Copelan".
THE BODY. Although bone-ash had been used in making English china before "Old Spode" entered the field of porcelain manufacture, it was at the Spode factory first that a correctly determined formula of calcined bones in combination with china clay and china stone was used, and this produced a body which, from the late eighteenth century, became the standard for nearly all subsequent English pastes. At one time Josiah Spode the Second made a venture in what he called "Felspar China," adding pure felspar while reducing the proportion of china-stone, but the previously determined bone porcelain remained the standard and the "Felspar China" was ultimately abandoned, even the formula being dcstroyed or lost.
The Spode body is a paste of rich tone, white and translucent, without being glassy.
THE GLAZE. The glaze is clear and transparent without being cold and glittering like some of the hard German glazes.
ARTICLES MADE AND CONTOUR. The articles produced consisted chiefly of tableware and the usual decorative accessories, although a number of "important"vases and cabinet pieces were made. Nor should we overlook the great variety of smaller objects such as inkstands, wafer boxes, bird baths and dishes, charming miniature sets, open work baskets and small figures.
The contours to a great extent followed the precedent of earlier-established factories and also reflected the NeoClassic taste that was paramount when the factory was founded.
TYPES OF DECORATION. One of the most distinctive types of decoration employed in the early days of the Spode factory was what is sometimes known as the Crown Derby Japan Pattern, although the evidence of the Spode pattern books shews that Josiah Spode was devising Anglo-Oriental designs of this type long before the flood of Japanese designs with which the name of the Derby factory became so closely associated. These patterns, with their deep velvety blues and rich gold, were derived, as already pointed out, from the Japanese Imari porcelain.
Josiah Spode the Second was himself an accomplished designer and his well-matured judgment led him to a preference for a preponderance of Chinese design as appropriate for the decoration of china, although he by no means eschewed other types. The purely English type of decoration, and the French type were both represented very fully in the products of the Spode factory. In the interpretation of Spode Oriental designs there is often observable a strongly English flavour.
The decorations employed on Spode china include floral subjects, fruits, birds , landscapes and figures, along with rich gilding, and were used both in connexion with ground colors and on china without ground colors. Transfer printing was also much used in black, blue and other colors and bat-printing was likewise employed in black and in colors. In not a few instances outline designs were transfer-printed and then filled in with color by brush. This was particularly the case with much of the "Stone" china.
The ground colors frequently used on Spode china include dark blue, scale blue, apple-green, yellow, grey, marbled brown, turquoise, striped red and gold, crimson, marbled blue, salmon, green, lavender, canary and blue, solid gold and dotted or stippled gold, and gold scale on a blue ground.
In an enumeration of the types of decoration must be included raised flowers and birds, the willow pattern, flowers in Chinese taste, apple-green grounds with flowers in panels, views, raised fruit in colors on white grounds in the Dresden taste, bouquets of flowers on white stippled grounds, birds in the Chelsea manner, hunting scenes, bouquets and scattered flowers, numerous adaptations from the Chinese famille rose and famille verte, adaptations from the Japanese Hizen porcelain, landscapes with raised white flowers as accompaniment, medallions, vine leaves and grapes, butterflies, landscapes in grisaille, monochromes in sepia with gold borderings or maroon with gold borderings, and monochromes in other colors also, moulded decorations of various sorts amongst which must be mentioned the white flowers and other small motifs in low relief against such colored grounds as pale lavender or green, Persian motifs, arabesques and seaweed patterns, blue and white willow designs, gold fruit and foliage on a royal blue ground, Van Hysum flowers, fruit in a salmon and gold setting, Classic figures inspired by the designs found at Pompeii and Herculaneum, clouds and cupids, Capo di Monte figures, "Mandarin motifs, raised flowers, birds and figures in mat gold on colored grounds, and the inimitable Billingsley roses and other flowers naturalistically painted on stippled gold grounds or plain gold grounds, besides the other forms of decration before mentioned.
Spode "Stone China" is not porcelain and strictly has no place in this volume but it was so near an approximation to porcelain and from 1805 onwards, when it began to be manufactured in company with the real china, it exercised such a profound influence and was popular on account of its beautiful decoration, that it would be both unfair and ungracious not to give it at least a passing mention.
Spode's "Iron Stone Ware," as it was usually called, received colors and preserved their brilliance in a manner surpassing all other stone ware. Furthermore, it was a semi-porcelain and frequently translucent. It had a beutiful white body and the superiority of the products and their comparative cheapness built up their popularity the Continent to such an extent that the French faience makers were well nigh driven out of business.
To a great extent Chinese designs derived from the famille rose were used for the decoration of the "Stone china" , and such patterns as the Peacock design, the Parrot design, the Peony design, and others of similar character, all of which were truly remarkable for the beautiful freshness of their coloring and well balanced composition, earned well merited favour and become justly famous.
THE MARKS. The marks on Spode china are plainly displayed and shew the various changes in the constitution of the firm at different dates.