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Blue and White Painted Pearlware and Creamware

Nic Saintey, Head of the Ceramics Department, turns his attention to blue and white painted pearlware and creamware, which he likes for its somewhat varied and quirky qualities that lend naive charm to such pieces which is often lacking in porcelain.

A pearlware plate attributed to Liverpool showing a typical candy stripe bridge.

A pearlware plate attributed to Liverpool showing a typical candy stripe bridge.

Until relatively recently research into blue painted decoration on earthenware has been something of an overlooked subject perhaps because the decoration can be somewhat varied and quirky and the quality of these wares can on occasions be dubious. To me, these qualities lend them something of a naïve charm that can be lacking in porcelain.

A busy and nicely painted, but as yet unidentified creamware plate.

A busy and nicely painted, but as yet unidentified creamware plate.

Following the evolving fashion for 'top end' blue and white Chinese porcelain during the latter half of the eighteenth century, this earthenware equivalent is almost exclusively painted in the Chinese idiom, albeit with rather Anglicised Oriental figures and landscapes.

More refined than the previous coarser and less resilient delftware, it was the finer potted creamware and pearlware bodies that found favour with painters and allowed them to produce porcelain 'lookalikes' with a greater degree of success. However, as alluded to, although the painting could be executed with a high degree of precision, it could also on just as many occasions be seen as charmingly loose, bordering on slapdash. There could be several reasons to excuse this ranging from the difficulties of painting directly onto the raw, but dry clay (before it was dipped into the glaze), through to the pressures of consistent painting on commercial volumes of plates and pots. It was probably these inconsistencies in scheme and colour that eventually lead to the use of transfer printing as the favoured means of decorating blue and white earthenware.

A pearlware and a creamware plate in the Pagoda and Fence pattern attributed to William Greatbatch.

A pearlware and a creamware plate in the Pagoda and Fence pattern attributed to William Greatbatch.

Unlike the Oriental market which it was trying to imitate, it wasn't shipped half way around the world, but tended to be produced domestically, primarily for local consumption. Towns that have been positively identified from extant marked pieces and from factory wasters and archaeological finds include Leeds, Liverpool, Swinton, Bovey Tracey and various Staffordshire concerns such as Wedgwood, Davenport and William Greatbatch. Many of these owing to pioneering work by Lois Roberts now have a checklist of stylistic architectural features, flora and typical schemes.

A pair of 'Three Dot Group' plates in the Long Eliza pattern, note the differences in vegetation and fence panels.

A pair of 'Three Dot Group' plates in the Long Eliza pattern, note the differences in vegetation and fence panels.

There are also a number of wares that fall into recognisable groups, that suggest they emanate from a single stable of painters or from an unidentified geographical location amongst these are the so called Three Dot Group, the Sponged Tree Group and the Bizarre House Group. Despite advances, there is still a substantial volume of blue painted creamware, pearlware and in some cases salt glazed stoneware that is yet to be positively attributed.

Generally, these pieces are not expensive to purchase, perhaps because most like to know what they are spending their money on and much of this ware currently defies identification. Whilst the producers aimed to provide highbrow items for a clientele who couldn't afford the real thing, they did in some cases succeed, but in many others they produced nuanced and often naively decorated earthenware that seem to have a life and character all of its own. In short these blue and white decorated pieces aren't perfect, but to me they are much better than that.

Tags

  • Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood
  • Pottery Auctions
  • Creamware
  • Pearlware

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About the Author

Nic SainteyNic Saintey
Ceramics and Glass

Nic Saintey is a Director of Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood, with responsibility for marketing and advertising. He is also Head of the Ceramics and Glass Department.

Nic Saintey's first career was in the Armed Forces where he served both as a military parachutist and paramedic in Europe, North America, East Africa and the Middle East.

He joined Lawrence’s of Crewkerne in early 1995 before moving to their Taunton branch as a general valuer and saleroom manager.

Nic joined Bearne’s in June 2000 to head up the expanding ceramic department, before joining the Board in 2003. His effervescent nature and wide experience has seen him regularly appear as an expert on the BBC’s Bargain Hunt and Flog It programmes.

He undertakes regular talks and contributes articles to both Devon and Cornwall Life magazines. His interests particularly include pottery in general, but especially that produced in Donyatt and North Devon, he is a keen runner and has recently taken up motor sport at a local circuit.