The English pottery and porcelain industry is one which has always been delightfully diverse in nature, and where there is diversity, so too is there a chance for the discerning collector to carve out a niche interest of their own and the private collection of Parian in this auction encapsulates just that notion. Composed over two generations of family and a number of years, the collection demonstrates some of the best of what Victorian ceramic artists and designers could achieve.
The origins of Parian can be traced to the biscuit figure modelling tradition throughout Europe in the eighteenth century. The first English factory to produce such was were Derby from the 1770s onwards. As Derby’s popularity and manufacturing resources began to decline, ready to fill the gap were a number of forward thinking potteries who were keen to both reproduce the best pieces and use the new bone china material which had recently become available. Potteries represented range from the likes of Copeland and Minton, both exceptional and popular producers, to the lesser known factories such as John Adams & Co.
There is no doubt that, once launched on the market, Parian was a great success. Just as they sat adorned the mantels and sideboards of a Victorian collector, equally, their timeless design means they can easily sit in any modern home and are a beautiful investment for both the decorative factor and talking points. On a personal note, I find one of the most attractive things about Parian to be its place within cultural subtext and biographical history. Just as it relies on bisque porcelain for its origins, a great number of the figures and groups represent everything from the mythological, to the religious, or the important – creating an essential ‘who’s who’ of Victorian society and history.
Busts of famous figures were perhaps the items most widely reproduced throughout all of the potteries, and this auction is no stranger to such pieces.
One of our own local heroes, Captain Matthew Webb is even commemorated (lot 102).The first man to swim the English Channel in 1875, and a Shropshire man by birth, his achievements were well recognised throughout England and as such, forever immortalized in the form of a bust.
Less common on the market are the larger groups of two or more figures, and perhaps the most dramatic of those within this auction is the Minton group of Cain and Abel (lot 91), designed by Albert Carrieur-Belleuse who was one of a number of French modellers working in the English potteries, and which was shown to great acclaim at the International Exhibition in 1861.
One of the most definitive examples of the almost endless scope of artistic design in this period can also be seen in the small collection of Martin Brothers’ pottery (lots 114-119).
Almost polarized in nature to the Parian, which remained consistent throughout a long time period, this particular family of brothers instead took an enthusiastic part in the fast-changing fashions and movements of the era. From early vases and jugs modelled on much earlier medieval forms, to inspiration taken from Japanese Art Pottery, their catalogue was wide, and varied. Items of note in this sale are most certainly the four jars and covers in form of birds, including an exceptional tobacco jar and cover (lot 118).
Birds have been a common feature in English pottery, with perhaps the most traditional representation typically being that of an owl. Rather than relying on accepted forms, Robert Wallace instead used his creative imagination to mesh human and animal characteristics as one, the ultimate result being a range of highly anthropomorphic and above all, characterful, birds. Although often referred to as tobacco jars, contemporary sources attest to the aesthetic value of these humorous statuettes having always been more important than any practical aspect. Indeed, owing to their size and design, not even the smallest of hands could use as functional jars. Although originally designed in the 1870s, demand for such wares never diminished, as is demonstrated by the late date of manufacture of the bird jars in this auction, the earliest of which dates from 1907.
This sale offers buyers the chance to snap up their very own piece of Victorian art pottery history, and the estimates are varied enough that there is something to suit all price brackets without any compromise on style or quality. As such, I hope for a successful sale, and look forward to welcoming you to the Halls saleroom.
Summer Fine Art Auction
Wednesday 23rd May 10am
For all auction and bidding information click here to go to our event page