Partners in Battle
You may know that I love a good porcelain figure... not the gaudy figures that you can find in a charity shop, but the true masterpieces made in the 18th Century by Bow, Chelsea or Derby. Because there are so many bad imitations around we have been conditioned to discard them as kitsch, but if you look closely at the masterpieces you will see that they are far from kitsch: they have an innocence and strength about them that is moving. And they were made so well, particularly considering how difficult it was to create porcelain figures.
Today I am showing you a wonderful pair of Derby figures of Mars and Minerva, made between 1759 and 1769. These partners in battle are among Derby's famous figure pairs, and this particular pair is not only very finely made, but also in fabulous condition.
Figures like these 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 classical mythology, and Derby made representations of all the major Roman gods and goddesses.
The Mars figure is after a Meissen figure of 1746, made by the famous porcelain artist 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. If you look at his face you have to admire him: a grey beard and a very determined look on his handsome face; this centurion means business.
The Minerva figure was made after a famous garden statue by John Cheere. She is stood in a chain armour bodice, 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 first Medusa and then 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. This Minerva is feminine and elegant, but the Medusa shield and her chain armour bodice express her military might; equal to Mars, this girl is not to be messed with! These beautiful figures are for sale in my shop... and although I am a bit low on figures at the moment, there still are several other figures as well. If you want to see new additions, keep following this blog as I have some exciting ones coming my way in the next few weeks and months!
Where to find things
You can find these pieces on my decorative objects page here, and all my available stock here. If you always want to see the latest additions, follow me on Instagram... I post pictures and a story every single day.
Free Copy of Homes & Antiques
Do you want to find out about the history of British porcelain? Follow my monthly column in Homes & Antiques! You can order a free copy here; it contains an interview with myself alongside 5 other collectors. If you want to follow the story and read the monthly column you can subscribe to the magazine, which is delivered all over the world.
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Happy weekend, and honour your gods! 🔱 🏛🏺
This week's new treasures: