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Liberty & Matrimony

You will have seen various Bow figures in these blogs - I love the 18th Century figures for their originality, elegance and innocence, and I particularly love Bow. The factory was among the first in Britain to produce porcelain, and the fact that they were located in East London just a couple of miles downstream along the River Lea from my stock room, makes that I love them even more.

Liberty & Matrimony

This week I am showing a very elegant pair of figures from about 1760 that gives me mixed feelings. On the one hand, this lady and gentleman are so elegant and beautiful, with their colourful frocks and innocent faces. The woman holds a gilded cage, the gentleman holds a nest with little yellow chicks, another nest filled with eggs precariously placed at his feet. Surrounded by a bocage of flowers, they look at each other lovingly.

Shifting notions

The point of this duo is to portray marriage, as it was seen in the 18th Century; the woman would give up her freedom and voluntarily cage herself to become a wife; but the cage is equally there to cage the husband and make him give up his adventures in order to care for a family, here in the form of birds nests full of eggs and chicks. He literally can't put a foot wrong - it would crush the precious eggs. This was the 18th Century of course - nowadays many of us would have some trouble with this notion, as the meaning of marriage has shifted over time.

As a happily married person myself, these two made me ponder: did I give up my freedom? In one sense, yes - but not in the way I would have had to in the 18th Century. I live exactly the way I want to, I built my own business, I have my own friends and I wouldn't dream of sharing my bank account. I think my husband should have the same freedom of self expression and I encourage him in every way I can. Yet, at the same time, there are many things I would not do now that I might have done before - because I value our bond and nurturing that has made my preferences shift. So yes, perhaps we are still dealing with exactly the same questions around freedom and happiness. But as a modern person the question arises: why would I put liberty and matrimony in opposition to each other?

The function of porcelain figures

Porcelain figures had a clear function in the 18th Century; they were not just decoration, but formed part of the dinner table decoration and served as focal points. They could be used either to show off the host's wealth, or to make a point; if you would invite the parents of the gentleman who was courting your daughter, for instance, and put these figures in front of them, it would be clear what the conversation over dessert should be about.

Did any marriages get agreed over a dinner 250 years ago featuring these two in some beautiful home? I'd love to think that it was a happy one. This pair surely expresses the beauty of marriage; the look in love, are dressed fantastically well, and clearly are in the prime of their lives.

Where to find stock

You can find this beautiful pair and all other decorative pieces here; and you can find all my available stock here. If you always want to see the latest additions, follow me on Instagram... I post pictures and a story several times a week.

Happy weekend! 👩‍❤️‍👨👩‍❤️‍👨👩‍❤️‍👨


This week's new treasures:​



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