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Chelsea Porcelain Works [London] (c. 1745-69)

Set of four oval dishes 1752-56

Soft paste porcelain and gilded decoration | 4.2 x 32.3 x 26.1 cm (whole object) | RCIN 58784

China Corridor, Windsor Castle

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  • A set of four oval porcelain serving dishes with a shaped green rim and inner border of gilt flecking; border moulded with four gilt and blue-edged foliate cartouches painted with insects, sprays of fruit in between; painted at the centre with a fruit bouquet.

    Although the Chelsea Porcelain factory was never under royal patronage, and was set up and run independently by entrepreneurs and financiers, one member of the royal family was associated with the manufactory. In a letter of 1751 from Sir Charles Hanbury-Williams, ambassador to Dresden, to Henry Holland, the Duke of Cumberland is mentioned as a patron: ‘I find also that the Duke is a great encourager of the Chelsea China and has bespoke a set for his own Table’. It is possible that the service described in the letter was this one, which bears the red anchor mark of c.1752-8.

    This service was one of the first from Chelsea to employ this shape of plate, probably based on a silver prototype with a scalloped rim interspersed by shaped reserves, here painted with fruits and insects. The shape was used again by Chelsea for the so-called Duke of Cambridge service – in fact a service thought to have been created for William, Duke of Gloucester, brother of George III (1742-1805) and later bequeathed to Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge (1774-1850) . The Duke of Cambridge service also bears a similar style of decoration – employing vibrant colours, in a limited palette – and of subject matter, of English fruits and small insects. It seems that the two services are closely related, and rather rare outputs for the Chelsea factory. In the Daily Advertiser of 1750 Chelsea announced that the forthcoming spring sale would ‘consist of a Variety of Services for Tea, Coffee, Chocolate, Porringers, Dishes and Plates, of different Forms and Patterns, and of a great Variety of Pieces for Ornament in a Taste entirely new’ , suggesting that the factory still saw itself as experimental. The style of decoration was taken up by the Worcester porcelain factory to greater success in the 1770s.

    Both this service and the Duke of Cambridge service would have been outsourced to decorators and it is clear that the services are not decorated by the same hand. The leaves of the Royal Collection service show a greater variety of shape and freedom in the painting, and the porcelain is more densely covered overall. James Giles (1718-80) has been credited with decorating certain wares in this style and it is possible that his workshop undertook both services for Chelsea, outsourcing them in turn to different artists, although he is not known to have worked with Chelsea wares.

    Text adapted from The First Georgians; Art and Monarchy 1714 - 1760, London, 2014.
    Provenance

    Part of a part dessert service possibly commissioned by William, Duke of Cumberland; first recorded in the Royal Collection in 1857.

  • Medium and techniques

    Soft paste porcelain and gilded decoration

    Measurements

    4.2 x 32.3 x 26.1 cm (whole object)

  • Place of Production

    Chelsea [London]