Winter is coming (at least in my part of the world)... and then spring!
Today I am drawing your attention to a beautiful pair of 18th Century Derby figures that have recently come in and that are now available in my shop. These figures are among the best I've had.
We see Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, shivering in the cold, clothed in a purple cape with fur lining. He is warming his hands above a fire that burns in a brazier at his feet. Vulcan is supposed to be a very big strong chap forging metal over a blazing fire, but here he looks pretty miserable. On his side is a putto chopping wood to keep the fire burning (sadly the axe got lost).
The other figure is Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers and spring, enjoying the fragrance of a bunch flowers that she is holding to her nose, dressed in a colourful garment, a putto with a basket of flowers on his head next to her. Flora is all ease and elegance, although the putto looks a little burdened.
Vulcan and Flora represent Winter and Spring, and form part of an original set of the Four Seasons. Most potters of the 18th Century made these series: the first was made by Elias Meyer at the German Meissen factory. Derby copied the Meissen series, but Chelsea and Bow had their own versions.
Flora in the Villa Arianna in Naples, 1st Century (credit: Napoli, Museo Archeologico Nazionale)
I have written before about how these figures weren't just for every-day decoration, but were used to decorate the dining table when the dessert came on. It must have been a fantastic sight to have a delicious dessert comprising of fruits, cream, sauces and nuts served on one of the stunning dessert services of that period (there are several in my shop, have a look!) with these figures spread across the table.
The figures could just be decoration, but they could also contain an unspoken message... was there business to discuss? Did the host want to emphasise his her her character, seriousness, erudition, fun? Was there a marriage to be arranged? There were series of Seasons, Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, funny Italian Commedia dell-Arte characters and of course all the shepherds, shepherdesses and farm animals that would keep the discussion closer to the English countryside.
The original Meissen Four Seasons figures (credit: Woolley & Wallis)
In 1753 Horace Walpole joked in a letter to a friend: “Even in England jellies, biscuits, sugar-plums and creams have long given way to harlequins, gondoliers, Turks, Chinese and shepherdesses of Saxon china.”
18th Century dessert table (credit: Waddesdon Manor, www.historicfood.com)
It is easy to discount these figures as the much cheaper copies that were made in the 19th and 20th Centuries, but they deserve a good look. I always find them moving. There is an artistry and innocence about them. They are gracious and genuine in their expression. I love having them at my desk - they have real character.
These two are in great condition without any repairs, which is very rare. If desired I can get the axe added again by a fabulous restorer I work with, however it would take some time as there is a waiting list for porcelain to be restored (and if you want a career in porcelain restoration, this is the time to train up and join the trade as there is a lack of restorers these days!).
Where to find things
You can find this beautiful pair here in my shop; all my decorative items here and all available stock here - and watch this space as I will be bringing out lots of new stock in the next few weeks. If you always want to see the latest additions, follow me on Instagram... I post pictures and a story every single day.
Wish List ❤️
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Happy weekend, and enjoy the whatever season you are in right now! 🍁❄️💐🌞
This week's new treasures: