Elsmore & Forster: Their role in sleepless nights

Published 13th January 2009

I don’t know about you, but I often wonder what singular piece of inspiration caused the first person to consider using ground up swim bladder to clear wine. What arbitrary series of events occurred in the mind of the individual who mixed tobacco spit and urine because it made a ‘nice pattern’ on Mocha Ware – a man could lose sleep over things like that.

So it is with Lot 365 in tomorrow’s sale. I have nothing against pottery jugs, how could I, they are inoffensive enough and are often beautiful works of art in their own right? Elsemore & Forster were a rather small concern based in Tunstall between 1853 and 1871 that made useful objects in Ironstone (a sort of robust pottery that has some of the characteristics of porcelain). Don’t get me wrong it is a great jug, a little on the large size, probably on the edge of being practical when full, but who in their right mind conceived the decorative scheme on it. Who stood back and said yep that’s good, I’m pleased with that?

elsmore & forster grimaldi jug

Often referred to as a ‘Grimaldi’ jug in deference to the two passable portraits of the late great celebrated British Clown it also has a rather sweet if eclectic series of  domestic and wild animal portraits that a nightingale, cats, frogs, bears, zebras, tigers, a race horse and others including a rather distressed beached whale. It looks like the kind of jug a Victorian child might covet, a pleasant distraction that had the advantage of passing educational value.

That is it would have been had not the design department of Elsmore & Forster considered that the ideal decoration for the rim was a series of cock fighting prints that include gory images of the ‘Knock Down’ and ‘The Kill’. Was this just a collage of spare or off cut transfers,  it seems not, several similar have come to market in the last few years? Was this a jug for grown ups – maybe? However this jug has a name and a date 1860 which indicates it was a present for a youngster, perhaps for a birthday. I wonder if master Joseph Morgan had nightmares, whether he grew up to be a pillar of society, or whether he sought solace in pulling the legs off spiders?

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