Not currently on display at the V&A

Candlestick

ca. 1770 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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, by the 16th century allegorical themes had been introduced into these table settings. 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.

This figure of a kneeling black woman is probably modelled after a Meissen original and has the practical function of serving as a candlestick (with its pair 414:16-1885). The figure wears a long floral robe and a blue sash around her waist. Her arms are raised to a white veil from which flower petals emerge, forming the greasepan of the candlestick. At least 10,000 people of the African diaspora are estimated to have been living in 18th century England, most working as enslaved people used as exoticised motifs as domestic servants for elite families. For their affluent owners these people of the African diaspora were othered and aestheticised, presented as homogenous status symbols who were used to make their hosts look cosmopolitan and global in appearance. She represents a highly exoticised, racist and homogenous view of Africa from a male-dominated colonial Western perspective.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Soft-paste porcelain painted in enamels and gilded
Brief Description
Candlestick of soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and slightly gilded, of a black woman kneeling on her right knee with her arms raised to fountain plumes emerging from her peaked white veil, made by Bow Porcelain Factory, London, ca. 1770. This object aestheticizes the exploitation of black people, this is further emphasised by the fact that she is shown in a vulnerable and subservient position.
Physical Description
Candlestick of soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and slightly gilded, of a black woman kneeling on her right knee with her arms raised to fountain plumes emerging from her peaked white veil that forms the grease-pan, and she wears a long floral robe with yellow sleeves, open at the chest, with a blue and gold sash tied around her waist, and she is supported on a rococo-scrolled base with applied flowers and foliage.
Dimensions
  • Height: 15.9cm
Taken from accessions register
Credit line
Given by Lady Charlotte Schreiber
Object history
One of a pair with 414:16-1885 (Sch. I 95); but see also below.

One of the pair was purchased by Lady Charlotte Schreiber from Eyers, London, for £14 in 1867, and the other was given to her by a Mr Martin in the same year
Subject depicted
Summary
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, by the 16th century allegorical themes had been introduced into these table settings. 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.



This figure of a kneeling black woman is probably modelled after a Meissen original and has the practical function of serving as a candlestick (with its pair 414:16-1885). The figure wears a long floral robe and a blue sash around her waist. Her arms are raised to a white veil from which flower petals emerge, forming the greasepan of the candlestick. At least 10,000 people of the African diaspora are estimated to have been living in 18th century England, most working as enslaved people used as exoticised motifs as domestic servants for elite families. For their affluent owners these people of the African diaspora were othered and aestheticised, presented as homogenous status symbols who were used to make their hosts look cosmopolitan and global in appearance. She represents a highly exoticised, racist and homogenous view of Africa from a male-dominated colonial Western perspective.
Other Number
Sch. I 95A - Schreiber number
Collection
Accession Number
414:16/A-1885

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdMay 5, 2006
Record URL