Published 27th January 2013
For the uninitiated porcelain must be a minefield, it seems difficult enough to sift the Japanese and Chinese from the multitude of European ‘usurpers’ decorated in mimicry. Although I have used it before the matched Japanese and Chelsea porcelain tea bowl and saucer is a good example.
A Chelsea porcelain teabowl circa 1752 and a protoype Japanese saucer (FS17/60)
However, it can become more perplexing when one gets ‘subsequent’ European decoration on Chinese blanks (undecorated porcelain). With over decorated blue and white it is straightforward as the decoration becomes an amalgam of the original Oriental (often less than perfect) that is almost obliterated by heavy and opaque colour that is hiding the underlying flaws whilst remaining broadly true to the original Chinese scheme. But with a blank you can start from scratch and paint anything – as long as it is a seller and sometimes the results are glorious, just look at the bees on the saucer below.
A London decorated Chinese porcelain saucer circa 1760 (FS17110)
James Giles is perhaps the most admired 18th century porcelain decorator, operating out of the same workshop in Soho, London from 1743 until 1777. Initially buying undecorated Chinese porcelain at auction he eventually purchased most of his blanks direct from Worcester. However, if you believe he was buying seconds and ‘tarting’ them up with second class decoration you would be wrong. His work speaks for itself, he was in business for over three decades and his ledger book was something of a role call of royalty and the titled. Below is a James Giles London decorated Worcester porcelain saucer with pseudo Meissen marks – work that one out if you can.
A Worcester porcelain saucer decorated by James Giles circa 1765 (FS17/101)