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This is a wonderful and very rare pair of figures of Arlecchino and Columbina, made by the Bow Porcelain factory in about 1758. These figures formed part of a series of the Commedia dell'Arte, a very popular series of theatrical figures that served as decoration at the dinner table in the 18th Century.


The Bow Porcelain Factory was one of the first potteries in Britain to make soft paste porcelain, and most probably the very first to use bone ash, which later got perfected by Josiah Spode to what is now the universally used "bone china". Bow was the main competitor of the Chelsea Porcelain Factory, but where Chelsea made very fine slipcast porcelain, Bow made a different soft paste porcelain that tended to be softer and could be pressed into moulds. Bow served a larger public generally at lower prices. The factory was only in operation between 1743 and 1774, after which the tradition got incorporated into some of the later famous potteries such as Worcester and Derby.


These figures were used to adorn the dinner table when dessert was served; groups of figures served to express something about the host, the guests, or to direct the conversation. The Italian Commedia Dell'Arte, a comical form of masked theatre, was very popular in those days and Bow copied many figures of the German Meissen series that were brought out in the decades before.


This pair dates from about 1758, which was at the height of Bow's ability to make beautiful figurines often copied from Chelsea or Meissen. The pair is modelled after a Meissen pair by Kaendler. The porcelain is translucent with a beautiful milky glaze - Bow was probably the first pottery using bone in its porcelain recipe. Arlecchino (Harlequin) is playing the bagpipes, dressed in an odd costume of mismatched chintz and playing cards and wearing a funny black trumpet hat. Columbina is seated next to him, playing the hurdy gurdy and dressed in an equally intriguing outfit with playing cards on her skirt. They both have very finely painted and adorable faces.


The figures are unmarked, which is not unusual for Bow figures of this era. These shapes can be found in Peter Bradshaw's book on Bow Porcelain Figures as number B2, page 115.


CONDITION REPORT The figures are in very good condition for their age without any major damage or restorations and all their original fresh colours. Both figures. have minor losses (Arlecchino's fingers and tip of his flute, Columbina's bow and a chip to her hat). There is a crack all around Arlecchino's head - it may have been off and neatly stuck back however there is no trace of glue even under UV light so it might just be a crack.


Antique British porcelain is never perfect. Kilns were fired on coal in the 1800s, and this meant that china from that period can have some firing specks from flying particles. British makers were also known for their experimentation, and sometimes this resulted in technically imperfect results. Due to the shrinkage in the kiln, items can have small firing lines or develop crazing over time, which should not be seen as damage but as an imperfection of the maker's recipes, probably unknown at the time of making. Items have often been used for many years and can have normal signs of wear, and gilt can have signs of slight disintegration even if never handled. I will reflect any damage, repairs, obvious stress marks, crazing or heavy wear in the item description but some minor scratches, nicks, stains and gilt disintegration can be normal for vintage items and need to be taken into account.


There is widespread confusion on the internet about the difference between chips and nicks, or hairlines and cracks. I will reflect any damage as truthfully as I can, i.e. a nick is a tiny bit of damage smaller than 1mm and a chip is something you can easily see with the eye; a glazing line is a break in the glazing only; hairline is extremely tight and/or superficial and not picked up by the finger; and a crack is obvious both to the eye and the finger. Etcetera - I try to be as accurate as I can and please feel free to ask questions or request more detailed pictures!


DIMENSIONS 12cm high (4.75").

Bow pair of figures, Arlecchino and Columbina, ca 1758



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    We always aim to have happy customers so if you have an issue with or questions about your item, please contact us and we will do anything we can to resolve the issue with you! 

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