Today I am introducing a very special and rare set of three vases, or garniture, made by Royal Worcester in the years 1872 and 1873. It has two square tall vases and one moon flask in the Aesthetic Movement style, inspired by the Japanese Satsuma style. The vases have gorgeous surface moulded images of the various stages of ceramic production, shaped by master modeller James Hadley and painted by the equally famous porcelain painter and gilder James Callowhill.
A set of these vases was made for London retailer Thomas Goode, who exhibited them at the London International Exhibition of 1872; I found an image in the catalogue on page 151. And a very similar pair is on display in the Victoria & Albert Museum (item no. 845A-1872).
The original Worcester factory was founded in the mid 18th Century and belongs to the group of famous pioneering potteries in Britain. It went through various changes and take overs, and in the mid 19th Century it merged with Chamberlains and Grainger, both earlier split-offs, taking the new name "Royal Worcester". The factory distinguished itself with its extremely high quality of artwork, hiring the best artists and always coming up with very vivid designs full of flowers, birds and fruits. It was in operation until the early 21st Century but eventually succumbed to the changing times.
These vases are from the Aesthetic Movement era, when Japanese designs were very much en vogue. They are shaped in a classic Japanese style, each vase looking as if they were lacquered and with an imitation carved stand. Both tall vases have extremely realistic imitation brass handles in the form of lion's heads holding rings in their mouths - I had to tap them to find out if they really weren't made of brass! The scenes on the vases depict the process of ceramic production, all the way from the extraction of kaolin to the sieving, mixing and casting the slip. A vase showing the bottle kiln is missing, but we do see the process of decoration, with a studio full of decorators, as well as a master painter working on a large piece.
How charming are these pieces...? And equally stunning in their detail, good taste and craftsmanship. I can only imagine what it must have taken to create these vases.
They were designed by Royal Worcester's chief modeller James Hadley, responsible for many of the beautiful late 19th Century shapes. The paintwork in various shades of brown and gilt was done by James Callowhill, a famous and exceptionally talented gilder whose skill was unequalled by any of his contemporaries at Royal Worcester.