This is a beautiful pair of Derby porcelain figures of Mars and Minerva, made between 1759 and 1769, which was the Rococo era. The pair is one of Derby's famous figure pairs. This particular pair is very finely made and in fabulous condition. 
The Derby Porcelain factory has its roots in the late 1740s, when Andrew Planché, a Walloon Huguenot refugee, started making simple porcelain toys shaped like animals in his back yard. In 1756 Staffordshire enameller William Duysbury and banker John Heath started a new porcelain factory with Planché and this was to grow out to the largest factory of its time, buying up the bankrupted Chelsea and Bow factories, as well as the stock of several other workshops including that of James Giles. The combination of various traditions, porcelain making skills and sophisticated clients enabled Duesbury to create one of the best porcelain factories of the 18th and 19th Centuries, which after many ups and downs is still operative today.
The Mars figure is after a famous Meissen figure of 1746, made by J.J.Kändler. Derby has made these figures since 1752 and this is their second version. Mars was the god of War, son of Jupiter and Juno. He was not popular among the other gods and usually appears either by himself, with Venus (whom he fathered Cupid with), or with Minerva, the other great military strategist. In this version Mars is represented as a centurion in a cloak and chain armour, a crested helmet, a thonged kilt and sandals. He his holding the hilt of a sword over a flag, an oval shield by his feet.
This Minerva figure was made after a famous garden statue by John Cheere. She is stood in a cuirass, thonged skirt and sandals and wears a crested helmet. She is supposed to hold a spear in her right hand but the spear went missing; in her left hand she holds her shield with Medusa's head on it. Minerva was born as a peace loving goddess who would use military might wisely only when needed. She taught Perseus how to slay the Gorgons by going after Medusa; he had to never look at her directly but only at her reflection in his shield. Perseus was thus able to slay the Gorgons and rewarded Minerva by giving her Medusa's head to place on her shield. Like Mars, Minerva was a goddess of war and military strategy.
These figures were used to adorn the dinner table when dessert was served; groups of figures could serve to express something about the host, the guests, or to direct the conversation. One popular topic was of course the figures of classical mythology and Derby made representations of all the major Roman gods and goddesses.
The figures are unmarked but they have three patch marks on the underside, suggesting a date of between 1759 and 1769. They have labels of their provenance: the G Cope Collection.
CONDITION REPORT: The figures are in perfect condition without damage, wear or repairs. The only flaw is that Minerva's spear went missing - if desired we can get a new one made. It is very rare to find these figures in such good condition, without extensive restoration!
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.
DIMENSIONS: Height ca 17cm (6.75").

Derby porcelain figures of Mars and Minerva, ca 1765



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