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History Of Pottery And Porcelain:
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Introduction To Porcelain
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English Porcelain
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English Porcelain

( Originally Published Late 1800's )



Hard and soft paste porcelains are produced by a different treatment of similar materials.

To produce hard paste the base material, prior to the glazing process, is subjected to slight heat, and after the glazing is added, is then subjected to a higher tempera ture; to the obtaining of a soft paste the process is exactly reversed.

Hard-paste porcelain is seldom without irregularity in its lines, and is more or less covered with small specks orbits of infusible sand. Soft-paste, on the contrary, is al ways true, even and of exceeding purity, consequently the decoration is generally better, and soft-paste ware has come to be of more value to the collector-not owing to its rarity, for it is still employed, but for the reason that in most cases it was the chosen medium for artistic work of the most excellent character. We have seen to what an advanced stage England carried her pottery-making; so far, indeed, that it almost reached the transition state to porcelain. It may be that the potters advanced by easy progressive steps from their first work to the higher order, reaching it somewhere about the years 1740 and 1743, not soon enough however to dispute priority with Bottcher ; indeed England stands significantly alone, and independent so far as regards her fictilia. The first works were those of Bow, regarding which little record remains. The painting generally consisted of flowers, accompanied by embossed devices, and the pieces are somewhat curious, owing to the fact that each one has upon it an embossed bee, which is regarded as the mark of this ware. The factory was situated at Stratford-le-Bow, in the county of Essex, and ceased producing early in the eighteenth century. Chelsea is another manufactory which presents no authentic record. It was established by some Dresden workmen, who were brought over by Francis, Marquis of Hertford. Like nearly all the Occidental workmen they commenced by reproducing the old designs and decorations of the East-Nankin and other Chinese work, yet this had the advantage of beingsoft paste. Between the years 1750 and 1765 it reached its greatest degree of excellence, rivalling the work of Dresden and Sevres. So highly was it esteemed that one set was sold to the royal heads for $6,500. It was by them presented to the Duke of Mecklenburg. The paste of Chelsea porcelain was exceedingly soft and would not bear heating after once being finished, consequently all the decorated ware of this manufactory is in its original state, no decoration having been subsequently added, as in the case of many other wares. Many of the first forms were copied from the French. " The colors," says Mr. Marryatt, " are firm and vivid, blue de roi, apple-green, and turquoise, and especially claret-color, which appears to be peculiar to Chelsea."

Birds, insects and landscapes were used as subjects in the decoration, and most excellently treated. Relievo ornamentation was introduced upon vases and other appro priate pieces. The artists, however, did not confine themselves to stereotyped forms, and the better method for identifying Chelsea wares is by the marks.

In the year 1769 the Chelsea works were purchased by Duesbury, the owner of the Derby works, thus forming the largest porcelain manufactory in England at that time. The Chelsea and Derby wares were not dissimilar, but the latter had the advantage of superior fineness, and the former a superiority in its figures and statuesque ef fects. The peculiarity of Derby decoration is " a beautiful bright blue introduced on the border or edge of the tea-services; the ground is generally plain." Printing upon the Derby work was introduced about the year 1764 ; this can always be distinguished from the ordinary decorative work by the lines of the engraving, or other evidences of mechanical work. The first mark was a D ; the anchor was next introduced with the letter. The letter D, surmounted by a crown, in gold, is known as indicating the crown Derby. Similar characters were employed upon the Derby-Chelsea work.

The first and only manufactory of hard-paste porcelain in England was established by Wm Cookworthy, at Plymouth, in the year 1705. Here is the first instance that we find of an American interesting himself in the progress of porcelain-work. The words of M. Jacquemart best describe our countryman's interest: "William Cookworthy, qui avait vu entre les mains d'un Americain des pierres a porcelaine trouvees en Virginie, se mit a etudier le sol Anglais, et decouvrit, pres d'Helstone, en 1755, du Kaolin veritable; peu apres, Saint Austell lui fournit le petuntse, en sort que, vers r76o, il put monter une usine a porcelaine dure, dont lord Camelford avait fait les frais, et qui obtuit en 1768 une patente speciale."

" The usual ornamentation of this porcelain," says Mr. Marryatt, "consists of flowers, butterflies, birds and monsters, in rich colors, and sometimes much gilding. A greater proportion of this china manufactured is blue and white; the blue of a black tinge. The Plymouth china has become very scarce ; upon the colored specimens the principal mark is the sign of the planet Jupiter." In the year 1772 the manufactory ceased. In point of artistic merit Cookworthy's work is not entitled to a high position; most of the specimens are so imperfect and so roughly done as to bring them into unfavorable comparison. Their principal feature is the hard paste.

At Bristol a manufactory of china was established; it endured but briefly, however. The principal marks are a cross, and also the letter B, with the figure 7, in color.

One of the most interesting and productive of the English porcelain manufactories was that of Worcester. The first sale of Worcester ware took place on the 20th day of September, 1752, and the records of the manufactory from that date to the present time are most complete. These have been collected and published in Mr. Binns' excellent book, " A Century of Potting in the city of Worcester." In the year 1751, an enterprising gentleman by the name of Dr. Wall, induced several of his acquaintances to unite their interests with his and erect a porcelain factory. In speaking of the Worcester porcelain, Mr. Binns says: " The proportions of the Worcester body were the result of Dr. Wall's scientific investigation, and it is a remarkable fact, of which we may be proud, that no other artificial porcelain of the period can be compared to it, either for closeness of texture, translucency of paste, or perfect homogeneous union with the glaze. The latter is a distinguishing feature of Worcester porcelain." "The Chelsea glaze was very soft, it consequently gave great richness to the ware and colors; but it was easily scratched, and, from flowing readily in the fire, formed in those green patches and tears which are frequently considered as proofs of Chelsea manufacture." It is worth the while of the connoisseur to notice these distinguishing features. The Chelsea and Derby wares frequently exhibit what Mr. Binns terms crazed features; these are never found upon any of the Worcester pieces. So excellent was this Worcester ware that M. Brougniart, the able director of the Sevres manufactory, mistook a piece of it for original Oriental work, and was not convinced of his error until he had tried it with a file,-the soft paste immediately proved its English origin. " The principal colors for which Worcester porcelain is remarkable are the rich cobalt blue, maroon or ruby, opaque green, turquoise and a bright enamel blue." The first blue employed was of a blackish tint, but further experience gave to this color a more intense and beautiful shade,-it is a feature of the Worcester porcelain. All those pieces of Worcester ware marked with a blue anchor, and those unmarked, are repetitions of the blue porcelain of China ; these are among the earlier specimens, no attempt apparently having been made to introduce designs more in harmony with English ideas of art and taste. After these first attempts no great length of time elapsed before characteristic innovations commenced to assert themselves. Among the earlier productions of the Worcester manufactory there are no large pieces. The marks immediately succeeding the anchor were a crescent, and a W ; these, however, were retained for only a brief period. "Very small cups and saucers were soon followed by others of more reasonable size, but still small as compared with those required by modern taste. Of these we have a great variety of patterns, but all painted in blue, with flowers, landscapes and figures." Two methods were employed in producing these cups: some were " thrown on the wheel and then turned on the lathe," while the other variety was moulded, and of these latter some have a most beautiful flower embossed entirely over the surface of the cup and saucer, except at the outer edge; sunk and raised fluting was also employed. The next mark was the fretted square, in blue, which was copied from the Chinese and employed upon all the Worcester wares of elaborate Japanese patterns,the gilding designates its origin. We have noticed in the chapter upon English pottery, the art of printing upon fictile wares ; this also was used upon the Worcester porcelain; this printing was done in colors as well as black, and the monogram of the artist who performed the work is frequently found accompanying the Worcester mark. The mark of the Dresden crossed swords, as well as copies of the Dresden decoration, are also found upon the Worcester work.

The porcelain of Caughley, Coalbrook, and Coalport was manufactured more for use than ornament; under the superintendence of Thomas Turner, an eminent solicitor and gentleman of wealth, it reached, however, considerable eminence. The Caughley ware is frequently marked with an S in blue, sometimes the S and cross swords; then the crescent, in blue, with the word Salopian impressed underneath.That of Coalbrookdale is generally marked C. D.; on the ornamental China a monogram C. B. D. The Coalport ware is marked with the name, and again with a rose in red.

The porcelain of England is of the utmost interest to the collector. The Worcester ware in particular, beside being much sought for, is sufficiently rare to command an exceedingly high price wherever it is found. During the latter part of the last and commencement of the present centuries, whole sets of white porcelain were not infrequently purchased in the Oriental market and then conveyed to Worcester to receive decoration. A most exquisite set of porcelain, presumed to have been treated in this manner, was recently sold at the Butler sale in Philadelphia. The decoration is of draped vines and garlands, birds and knotted ribbons; the only colors employed are red, green and orange, of various shades.

One or two of the pieces have upon them a very small picture, which the observer would at once identify as "The Children in the Wood." The whole decoration is done with the utmost delicacy and grace ; none of the pieces, however, are marked, although its identity seems well established. The set is in possession of Mr. S. L. M. Barlow, of New York.



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