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

Melon Tureen and Cover c.1755

RCIN 107345

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Melon tureen and cover. It has a stalk handle with moulded foliate and flower terminals, and is naturally decorated in green and yellow.

In the mid eighteenth century the Chelsea Porcelain Works produced these three-dimensional tureens, intended as dessert-course novelty items. Many of them take the form of fruit and vegetables that would have been particularly exotic and expensive to grow. Despite the difficulties inherent in finding fresh models, the tureens are modelled to scale and are easily identifiable. The vegetable shapes may have been taken from a plaster mould from fresh vegetables purchased at a market, but this reduced-size melon must have been taken from an original in a greenhouse such as that at Chelsea. Although prototypes for this three-dimensional botanical ware could be found in Meissen porcelain and in contemporary silver, the range, ingenuity and accuracy of Chelsea’s playful pieces were unprecedented.

Text adapted from Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden, London, 2015.