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Casket - War and Peace

War and Peace

  • Object:

    Casket

  • Place of origin:

    Stoke-on-Trent (plaques, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1915-1917 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Birks, Lawrence Arthur (maker)
    The Vine Pottery (made)
    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oxidised silver and copper, porcelain and pâte-sur-pâte

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Margaret Birks

  • Museum number:

    C.30-2013

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Pâte-sur-pâte literally means 'paste on paste' and involves the laborious method of imposing liquid porcelain onto a porcelain body freehand, in a process of building up numerous layers that are then chiselled and brushed back to form a sculpted multi-layered effect. The finished piece is then fired and the result is an exquisite translucent glass-like form on the vessel with very fine detail.
The pâte-sur-pâte technique was a decorative style fashionable during the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Figurative decoration in a delicately rendered Neo-classical style was particularly popular, and was applied to a variety of useful shapes, such as vases, but also to decorative plaques. In France pâte-sur-pâte was developed by the Sèvres porcelain factory whilst, in England, Minton employed the technique to great success.
Lawrence Arthur Birks (1857 - 1935) worked 22 years for Minton, apprenticed to the great pâte-sur-pâte artist Louis Marc Emmanuel Solon. He left Minton in 1894 establishing L. A. Birks & Co.; 1900 Birks Rawlins & Co., The Vine Pottery, off London Road, Stoke-on-Trent. The pottery mainly produced fine bone china tablewares, but Birks continued to produce pâte-sur-pâte when production allowed. This work required a high level of skill and Birks's pieces were described by the Pottery Gazette in 1902 as examples of the most difficult class of fine art ceramics comparable to the wares produced by Solon.
The last major work Birks completed was this 'War and Peace' casket which was displayed by the Vine Pottery at the 1917 British Industries Fair, London. The oxidised silver and copper frame of the casket is in the Art-Nouveau style in which are mounted very fine quality blue pâte-sur-pâte plaques depicting female figures, masks and trophies representing 'War' and 'Peace'. On top of the casket is a figure of a child, holding its arm outstretched with an apple(?). The subject matter would have been particularly poignant to visitors at the Fair in 1917 occurring during the Great War (World War I). An image of the casket was subsequently used as a cover illustration for Vine Pottery catalogues.

Physical description

Oxidised silver and copper casket in which are mounted blue pâte-sur-pâte plaques; front - depicting a winged female figure surrounded by birds (Peace); back - flying female figure of Medusa (?) holding firebrands, representing War; left - mask surrounded by trumpets, arrows, quiver, spears and shield; right - mask surrounded by a hoe, scythe, vase and foliage; on top of the casket is a figure of a child, holding its arm outstretched with an apple(?).

Place of Origin

Stoke-on-Trent (plaques, made)

Date

ca. 1915-1917 (made)

Artist/maker

Birks, Lawrence Arthur (maker)
The Vine Pottery (made)
Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Oxidised silver and copper, porcelain and pâte-sur-pâte

Marks and inscriptions

'L. A. BIRKS'
Inscribed in pâte-sur-pâte on the front of the larger plaques.

'LAB'
Stylised monogram inscribed in pâte-sur-pâte on the front of the smaller plaques.

'BIRKS RAWLINS / PATE-SUR-PATE / No.4'
Written in ink on a paper label adhered to the base of the casket.

Dimensions

Height: 30.2 cm whole, Width: 39.4 cm whole, Depth: 28.1 cm whole

Object history note

The 'War and Peace' casket was displayed by the Vine Pottery at the 1917 British Industries Fair, London. An image of the casket was subsequently used as a cover illustration for Vine Pottery catalogues.

Descriptive line

Casket, oxidised silver and copper 'War and Peace' casket in which are mounted blue pâte-sur-pâte plaques, made by Lawrence Birks, Vine Pottery, Stoke-on-Trent, ca. 1915-1917

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

Goodfellow, Peter S., 'The Vine Pottery; Birks Rawlins & Co.' 2006. pp.44-46. pl. 62-65.
Bumpus, Bernard, 'Lawrence Birks & The Vine Pottery' pp. 43-47, Ars Ceramica vol.7, 1990.
Bumpus, Bernard, 'Pâte-sur-Pâte', 1992. p.166.
Pottery Gazette, April 1917, p.371.

Materials

Porcelain; Silver; Copper

Techniques

Pâte-sur-pâte

Categories

Ceramics

Production Type

Unique

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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