Sea shells, feathers and a lion
A while ago you might have seen a wonderful set of plates similar to these, made by Chamberlains in Worcester in about 1815. That set was sold right away as they are so very rare - but I was lucky enough to get a second lot of the same service. So today I am introducing these to you.
This set is a bit bigger (12 plates instead of 8) and it has two wonderful oval serving dishes. All plates are deep plates, so I guess this was meant for a wet kind of dessert... trifle? Something with lots of fruit and ice cream, or a royal amount of cream? 🍧
Sea shells, feathers and a lion
The design is stunning. There is of course the amazing orange ground colour, which was very difficult to achieve in those days as orange was risky to fire in the kiln; if the temperature was only slightly off, everything would come out brown. It was therefore a colour that was reserved for only the best items. Then there is the rich vermicelli gilding - such a wonderful idea as it makes the whole set gleam!
And then the images... sea shells, feathers, flowers, landscapes, and even a strange wolf-like cat, which was probably meant to be a lion. Why these images? Well, this was the era when young gentlemen of wealthy families would travel to southern Europe to be educated in the arts and history (and probably a few other things that every gentlemen had to learn before getting married! 😉) and they would bring back collections of exotic sea shells and feathers. And they perhaps also came back with tall stories about a lion they might have seen in Italy, as they were kept as zoo animals there - the UK didn't have zoos yet. Staffordshire porcelain artists would have had access to books and collections in the large houses around them to copy the shells and feathers, but they would have never seen a lion, so they had to go by the exaggerated descriptions the young gentlemen gave them... hence this strange creature that ended up on a plate! 🦁😂
The Chamberlain factory was founded in the 1780s by Robert Chamberlain, who was responsible for the decoration department in the famous Worcester pottery during the Dr Wall period. He set up his own factory with his son Humphrey, initially buying up stock from Turner's Caughley factory for decoration, but then around 1794 they started to produce their own porcelain. By the year 1800 they had built up a strong reputation, producing wonderful tableware for the British and European nobility and becoming a mighty competitor of the Worcester/Flight & Barr factory, as well as its later offshoot the Grainger factory. In the 1840s the factory merged back with Worcester, which later also bought Grainger and was formed into the later Royal Worcester - so in the end all three factories, so intimately related, would become one.
The paintings in the central reserves on these plates are attributed to Humphrey Chamberlain, namesake of Humphrey Senior and a nephew of Robert Chamberlain. Humphrey died at a relatively young age (33 years old) and was one of the best painters at the factory - in fact his paintings are regarded on a par with those of Thomas Baxter, however often they are wrongly attributed to Baxter, who lived longer and therefore became more famous. Humphrey's name was usually not mentioned in the pattern books, probably because much of the time he only worked for nominal wages given that he was part of the family. So it is hard to know what he painted, however there were other items in this dessert service that were uniquely in the style of Humphrey, so these plates probably are as well. They are of sublime quality, in bright yet subtle colours and with the finest brushwork.
This set has provenance; these plates were originally part of a much larger dessert service that came from a private American collection. The owner of these plates had regular visitors (and possibly users?) such as John F. Kennedy, Iain Fleming (the James Bond author) and many other famous people. It is very possible that they have eaten off them at one of these famous dinner parties.
Where to find things
You can find this service and many others here in my shop. 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 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 read the column you can subscribe to the magazine, which is delivered all over the world.
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 watch out for lions! 🦁🐕🐾
This week's new treasures: