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A rare find

Not long ago I had a very lucky find at an auction: a rare porcelain figure made by the Bow factory in about 1760. I had never seen this one but could tell immediately that it was a genuine Bow figure - Bow figures are my favourite!

Slip cast or press moulded

What's so special about Bow figures? They are made of very early English porcelain. Bow experimented with bone china so these are a bit whiter than most porcelain of that era. And what I love about the Bow figures is that they are not slip cast (which means the liquid porcelain or slip is cast into a mould) but press moulded by pressing the clay into a mould. Sometimes you can see some thumb prints on the underside. This method limits the dramatic power of the poses; Chelsea figures of that era tend to be much more dramatic for instance, but there is something soft and human about these figures.

Due to the limitations of press moulding, Bow figures can be a bit more simple than the famous Chelsea and Derby figures. But they have a freshness and innocence about them. The dogs are cuter, the faces have an innocent expression of wonder and grace. The main colours are often a beautiful puce or green. And the bases tend to be elegant yet rather straightforward Rococo scrolls.

One more reason I love Bow porcelain is that the factory used to be just down the river from me in East London - I can see the area where it once stood from the window of my stock room.

Bellona - goddess of war and valour

But now Bellona. First I thought this was a Minerva figure. The only Minerva figure made by Bow was a huge one 37cm tall (see this picture here, and yes she does look as if she's taking a selfie in the mirror!). But the one I found was a small figure. I searched the internet and found absolutely nothing. Then I searched everywhere in the very excellent book by Peter Bradshaw, and I found a reference to this one - but no picture! It seems that there are hardly any around the world.

The reference was that of a Bellona figure made in 1760, probably for the accession of King George III. That one had "GR III" painted on her helmet and she had an owl beside her to give her sound advice. The one I found doesn't have that, but clearly is the figure referred to.

And quite a lady she is! Able-bodied she stands there with her spear, ready for battle, holding a shield with Medusa's frightful head on it. She wears a helmet with stupendous plumes, has a coat of mail painted in puce and gilt, and wonderful strapped sandals. But all the battle gear in the world cannot hide her femininity; she gracefully looks into the distance; calm, peaceful and determined.

So who was Bellona? She was the Roman goddess of war and valour. Her name is of course derived from the Roman word for war: bellum. She was the daughter of Jupiter, the god of thunder, and Juno, the protector of the state. Bellona lived in a hermetically sealed palace in Rome and by way of declaring war one of her priests would throw that big spear of hers over the palace wall in the direction of the relevant country; this would be the starting shot for a war.

So what about that scary shield? Well, that's a bit of a mix up. Medusa, the frightful Gorgon, was beheaded by Perseus and her head with worms for hair was given to Athena (Minerva to the Romans). She placed it on her shield in order to ward off evil. Here at Bow, Bellona got mixed up with Minerva, who was the goddess of war and good judgment, but higher placed in the hierarchy of gods.

This beautiful little figure received some loving touches from a restorer and is now on her way to her new owner. I would have loved to hold onto her for longer but she was sold before I even had her back from restoration - a rare find doesn't last long in my shop unless I get better at keeping it secret!

Where to find things

I have some more figures in my shop, and several will join the family in the next few weeks. You can find them all on their own page here, and all available items are here. If you always want to see the latest additions, follow me on Instagram... I post pictures and a story every single day.

Wish List ❤️

Don't forget, you can now create your own profile on the site and keep a wish list. Click on the Log In icon at the top right of each page.

Happy weekend, and stay friends with Bellona! ⚔️🛡💪🏽


This week's new treasures:​



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