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( Originally Published 1963 )
Fine blue and white porcelain vases were imported from China in the early 1700's. Meissen, Chantilly, Worcester, Coalport, and other factories where porcelain was made produced magnificent ornamental vases and ewers during the eighteenth century. Many faience vases were almost as elaborate. Potters and artists copied the Chinese style, form, and decoration and then went on to develop their own, with landscapes, figures, and groups of flowers or applied modeling of garlands, heads, and flowers. Colored glazes, hand-painting, and gilding further enriched the decoration. Many of these elaborate vases, first made in the eighteenth century, stand more than a foot tall and have their own fancy covers. Ewers proved, if not by their elaborate and colorful decoration then by their narrow necks and impractical spouts, that they were meant to be ornamental.
Toward the end of the eighteenth century, Josiah Wedgwood made some huge vases with lids from jasperware. Fortunately many of those made in the nineteenth century are smaller and more usable. By the late 1800's, the greatest amount of jasperware was Wedgwood blue or celadon green. Jasperware vases are still being made. In contrast to the simplicity of jasper, many majolica and stoneware vases of the Victorian era were quite wondrously decorated.
Vases that were more suitable for flowers began to be made about 1850. Some kind of vase was then an essential ornament for both the mantel-piece (where a pair was preferred) and the whatnot (which had room for several), and perhaps also for the center table. Many were simple enough to hold a bouquet without detracting from either the vase itself or the flowers. By the 1880's, many china vases borrowed shape, color, and decoration from the newly popular art glass. jasper-ware, stoneware, Delft, majolica, and many other pottery vases that appeared during the Victorian era are worth cleaning carefully if found today.
Jardinieres and cachepots also were made during the 1700's. There arc fine porcelain ones as well as those of stoneware and earthenware from the 1800's still around. Cachepots usually were made and sold in pairs. Many, even those of faience, show fine work and beautiful, restrained decoration. Chinoiserie was characteristic of early cachepots. As the palm and later the Boston fern became an essential ornament in the parlor, jardinieres became more common than cachepots. These were made to hold a large potted plant and usually were quite heavy. They were made of stoneware and all kinds of pottery, and a few of them can still be considered attractive.
Many vases, urns, jardinieres, and the like were produced at the Rookwood Pottery Company, which was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1880 by Mrs. Maria Longworth Storer. Much of the Rookwood, which is an art pottery, is still attractive by present-day standards of taste. Rookwood Pottery is still in business, and twentieth-century items should not be confused with those made between 1880 and 1900, which might be classified as antiques now.
Some Rookwood pieces always have been signed by the designer or artist, and these were not duplicated. Soft coloring and mellow tones, simple and classical forms, and a good deal of naturalistic decoration became hallmarks of Rookwood pottery. During the company's history a variety of glazes has been used and some biscuit ware also produced. This pottery's experiments with glazes led, in 1884, to the famous crystalline one they called "Tiger Eye."
Candleholders could no more not have been made of clay than of various metals. Potters probably could not resist turning their skill to different types of candleholders. Many delightful chambersticks were made of pottery, from jasper to Quimper. Comparatively few wall sconces were made. Chambersticks and candlesticks of various heights were made of hard-paste and soft-paste porcelain. Often porcelain candlesticks showed floral decoration, and an English chamberstick had a socket formed like a tulip, attached to a leaf base. Candlesticks made in both Germany and France also displayed dainty, encrusted blossoms. Bolder flowers were painted on pottery.
Figures, like vases, have been an almost constant product for two and a half centuries. Certainly they were much more important during the 1700's and 1800's than they are at the present time. Meissen led all other factories in the making of beautiful porcelain figures, which are particularly noted for action poses and coloring. Many figures and groups were made of faience in France and Delft in Holland. In England the Worcester, Chelsea, Derby, and Bow potteries made outstanding figures and groups. Wedgwood made figures of animals and birds first from black basalt, later from jasperware, and babies from all kinds of ware before 1800.
The subjects for figures were mythical and allegorical, such as the Three Fates and Triton, and everyday persons from pastoral or military life and the like. Birds also were a favorite. Most of the factories that made figures and groups also made busts. These were not only of famous people but also of unidentified ones. Meissen, for example, made busts of children only 31/2 inches high - charming ornaments. During the Victorian lusterware period, some English potteries covered busts with a luster so they would appear to be made of bronze instead of china.
Groups in porcelain, faience, and other kinds of pottery were made in England, Europe, and the United States during the 1800's. Any groups, statuettes, and busts found now are likely to have been made in the last century. China groups from Germany and Austria were the most ornate ones, but all countries made groups with at least three figures and often more.
Like figures, groups could be based on allegory and mythology. They also showed court figures and common people. Usually a group was posed in the act of doing something, such as playing musical instruments or crowding around a person at the piano.
The hard-paste porcelain figures produced in Germany and the soft-paste ones that came from Chelsea, Bow, and Derby in England, Chantilly and Sevres in France, faced competition from a new technique developed with clay during the 1700's. Porcelain that is fired but left unglazed is called biscuit or bisque, which proved most suitable for figures and was something different that had great appeal. Bisque could be either hard-paste or soft-paste and, truly, it is impossible for anyone but an expert to tell one from the other. Soft-paste examples tend to have a creamy tone, hard-paste ones are dead-white or sometimes chalk-white, depending on the factory. At some periods bisque was colored with pastels. Biscuit figures were a French innovation about 1769 and were soon being made in other countries; the majority were free-standing but at least a few small ones were made to be used as ornaments on clocks, for example. Since biscuit figures had to be not only sharply modeled but also flawless to be salable, less than perfect ones often were glazed and enameled so that they could be sold, too.
The Parian ware of the nineteenth century was another kind of biscuit, so called because it was believed to look something like Parian marble. Parian ware was developed and introduced by Copeland in England about 1846. It was soon being made throughout the Staffordshire District. In the United States, Bennington Pottery produced Parian figures and statuettes, pitchers and vases.
Bisque or Parian ware was especially popular from 1850 to 1900. Much of it was quite undistinguished, consisting of sentimental-looking heads of children, animals, and slippers. After all, something had to be displayed on those whatnots.
Not all the statuettes and figures of Victorian days were Parian. Glazed and colored pottery and earthenware ones continued their hold on people. Between 1875 and 1900, the Royal Bayreuth factory in Germany became noted for apple, tomato, and other fruit and vegetable figures and also for creamers and various dishes shaped like a fruit, vegetable, bird, or animal. Staffordshire figures were immensely popular throughout the Victorian age.
None of the figures were more popular than the Staffordshire dogs. Staffordshire factories made cats and other animals, too, but no animal figures were more frequently displayed or loved in more homes than the Staffordshire spaniels. It's interesting to note that the spaniels varied little in expression, whereas the cats were decidedly individual in expression and pose. Whatever their size and color, the spaniels were always posed sitting on their haunches.
Staffordshire spaniels were made in matching pairs from 31/2 inches tall to almost life-size. Some were black and white, others russet or a shade of brown and white. Occasionally, the coloring was done with lusters. Each dog wore a collar and chain. During the 1890's, Boston bulldogs were as popular in china as in reality. The Bennington Pottery also made some brownglazed animals in addition to their Parian figures.
In a class by themselves are Toby jugs. They have been made by almost every English pottery, beginning with Whieldon and including Wedgwood, since the early 1700's. Royal Doulton and probably some other places still make Toby jugs today. During the nineteenth century some were made in the United States, notably at Bennington, with a brown glaze. The English Tobies are more colorful.
A Toby is a small jug, mug, or pitcher shaped like a short, stout man who wears a cocked hat. Small ones were used for ale, larger ones as pitchers out of which liquid could be poured from the corners of the cocked hat that forms the rim. Tobies portrayed general characters such as the "Night Watchman" who carried a lantern, as well as specific characters, many from the novels of Charles Dickens. A Toby also might honor a hero or a statesman. In recent years, for example, Royal Doulton has produced Toby jugs in honor of General Eisenhower, General MacArthur, and Winston Churchill, among others. A female Toby is rare. An eighteenth-century Toby usually showed the full figure, foreshortened, but late-nineteenth-century ones showed only head and shoulders.