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Samuel's beasties

In my previous career I had the pleasure to work for a school that was located at St Donat's, one of Britains' best medieval castles in Wales. They had an original Tudor-era "Beastie Garden"; a rose garden with a circle of heraldic beasts on high plinths. I was told that if you would stand in a place where any of the beasts would not be able to see each other, you would disappear and never be seen again. So you can imagine I am a little bit fascinated by this wonderful 1840s "griffin" vase by Samuel Alcock!

Samuel Alcock was one of the finest Rococo Revival porcelain makers, and the shapes of his vases in particular are incredibly original and imaginative. This is a beautiful vase with an acanthus foot, a beautifully bulging belly and a perforated neck that can double as a potpourri if fitted with a lid. And most amazingly, it has two handles in the shape of griffins. Griffins are mythical winged beasts with a lion's body and an eagle's head, the lion of course being the King of Animals, and the eagle King of Birds. Griffins have been around in many cultures for thousands of years and were thought to guard treasures; the Egyptians, Persians and Greeks all had them, and today they are still present in heraldic symbols and folklore.

But the griffins on this vase are no ordinary griffins; their hind bodies are made of a fish tail instead of the usual lion's body with claws and a sweeping tail. What inspired Alcock to divert from the usual shape of a griffin - was this a special order that turned into a popular design that he made for years, or was it just the fancy of the designer? We will never know.

The vase is painted with a gorgeous landscape of a river cutting through high mountings, a dreamy ancient church with grazing sheep at the water. The colours of the painting are very autumnal, which is usual for these paintings; it probably has to do with the fact that browns are easier to fire so it was less risky for an item that had already gone through a difficult firing process because of its shape.

Talking about risky firing... the vase is a tiny bit lop-sided as it sagged a bit in the kiln, and it also has a firing crack in the neck; this often happened and obviously the Alcock factory did not see this as a reason to throw it out, and approved it for decoration and sale. It just makes it more charming if you ask me!

You can find the vase here in my shop, and you can see all my vases and other ornamental items here. And if you always want to see the latest additions, follow me on Instagram... I post pictures and a story every single day 🌺🍃🌸

Enjoy your weekend!


This week's new treasures:​



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