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The many faces of Neptune

You know I love Derby porcelain figures from the 18th Century; to some they may look like kitsch at first sight because there have been so many bad reproductions and imitations in the 19th and 20th Century, but in fact they are little master pieces. They were not made to, say, stand in the glass cabinet of your old auntie, but they were used to decorated the dining table, forming a talking point and sometimes being part of a spectacular display including gardens and fountains, or in this case, a water basin signifying the sea.

I had been looking around for a good figure of Neptune for a long time, and as we say in London: "It's just like the London buses"; one moment you desperately hope they show up, the next moment there are three that rock up together...

So meet Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, which the Greeks call Poseidon. Derby's Neptune is riding a dolphin with a big open toothy mouth, spouting water. Neptune is a mature character carrying a trident, a crown and dressed in a beautiful robe, as he is one of the most important gods in the Pantheon.

Derby's Neptune was probably inspired by the Meissen figures, like many other figures. But Derby did a particularly nice Neptune, and interestingly re-designed him several times, always using the same shape for Neptune and his dophin, but slightly varying the size and the base.

So after looking for a long time, I suddenly had three Neptunes. One is from about 1765, Derby's second design, which was placed on a tall Rococo base with fabulous encrusted shells, the whole figure painted in bright and wonderful colours. I also had a very similar one, but slightly smaller, that was fired in the same era but then stored and forgotten, and finally decorated in 1830 in the cobalt blue and gilt that was fashionable at that time - this one is now sold. And then I got another one from about 1785, the design of which goes back to the very first design from 1755 with Neptune standing on an open shell rather than a rock. That very first undecorated design standing on a shell recently sold at Bonhams for more than £8,000. But the one you see here was made thirty years later and painted in the colours that were fashionable around that time.

In Greece, Neptune is still a very well-liked god; you see his images and name everywhere. When in Greece, I often go for long morning swims a long way out into the sea. One summer I would often swim toward a fishing boat that was left moored in the middle of the sea between the fishing trips at dawn and dusk. I would hang onto it for a bit to rest, and then swim back. Inside the boat was always a coffee mug with Neptune, which made me chuckle every morning - the fisherman obviously would go fishing at dawn bringing a flask of coffee, and had his morning coffee from that mug.

Two of the Neptunes here are still available. They are fabulous collectors items, in excellent condition, and would make great gifts to someone who loves the sea.

Where to find things

You can you can find both available Neptunes here. You can find all my available items here, and if you want to stay up to date with new additions, find me on Instagram, where I put up pictures with a story several times a week.

Happy weekend, and see if you can find Neptune anywhere! 🔱🐬⚓️


Two Neptunes, and this week's new treasures:​



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