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Figure

  • Place of origin:

    Derby (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1770-1775 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Derby Porcelain factory (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and gilded

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Herbert Allen

  • Museum number:

    C.193A-1935

  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 139, The Curtain Foundation Gallery, case 9, shelf 4

The earliest porcelain figures were made for the dessert course of grand dinners and replaced the sugar paste and wax figures made since medieval times for royal feasts. Originally intended as expressions of dynastic power and to celebrate political allegiances, allegorical themes had been introduced into these table settings by the 16th century. By the 18th century many were entirely decorative. Meissen in Germany was the first factory to make porcelain figures for the dessert. It set the sculptural conventions followed by porcelain factories elsewhere.

In the 1760s, at the Chelsea, Bow and Derby factories, porcelain figures acquired a leafy bower or ‘bocage’ and moved from the table to the mantelpiece where they have remained. This figure, one of a ‘Pair of Moors’, was produced at Derby around 1770-75. It depicts a black woman in richly decorated clothes wearing a headdress to which three feathers are attached. Her right arm is raised and she holds an apple in her right hand. Black Africans offered exotic associations and were a marker of luxury in Western European households. In the 18th century about 10,000 Africans are estimated to have been living in England, for example. Many worked as, often unpaid, domestic staff.

Physical description

Figure in soft-paste porcelain painted in enamels and gilded of a black woman standing, and wearing a flower print fabric buttoned once at her chest and wrapped around like a skirtcloth. She wears a headdress formed of a band and three feathers and her right arm is raised, holding up an apple.

Place of Origin

Derby (made)

Date

ca. 1770-1775 (made)

Artist/maker

Derby Porcelain factory (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and gilded

Marks and inscriptions

Patch marks

Dimensions

Height: 31.8 cm

Object history note

One of a pair with C.193-1935.

Descriptive line

Figure in soft-paste porcelain painted in enamels and gilded of a black woman, Derby Porcelain Factory, Derby, ca. 1770-1775.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Twitchett, John. Derby Porcelain. London : Barrie & Jenkins, 1980. pl. 54.

Materials

Soft paste porcelain; Enamels

Techniques

Painted; Gilded

Subjects depicted

Woman; Apple

Categories

Black History; Ceramics; Figures & Decorative ceramics; Porcelain

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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