18th Century Bow Porcelain
Bow porcelain figures of actors, c.1750, each shown on the left of its printed source of design.
What is Bow porcelain?Bow was one of the earliest of English porcelains. Its first patent was taken out in 1744 by Thomas Frye who continued as the artist-manager of the factory until his retirement in 1758. English porcelain differed from other European production in that it was bound to succeed by its sales in a free market. The contemporary porcelain industries on the Continent were founded and supported by royal patronage. The quality of Bow declined after Frye's retirement but continued in production until just before the American Revolution.
A soft-paste porcelain was made at the Bow factory in Stratford-le-Bow, Essex. After the 1750 patent, bone ash, or calcined bones were used by Thomas Frye, a gifted Irish portrait painter and engraver His partner was Edward Heylyn.
Bow underglaze blue wares and overglaze polychrome ones were produced in great quantities. Unpainted figures and tablewares also were popular, some in imitation of Chinese blanc de chine. About 1755, Bow tablewares were among the first English porcelain to be ornamented with transfer-printed decorations, many from the copperplates of Simon-François Ravenet and Robert Hancock. From its earliest years Bow produced figures in great quantity, some of considerable originality-for example, those representing statesmen, generals, and, in particular, well-known actors and actresses in favorite roles.
What is Bone China?The phosphatic content in the formula for Bow porcelain actually derived from pulverized oxen bones. The technology has changed considerably, but to this day, English porcelain is pleased to call itself "bone china". Actually, the generic term "china" can pertain to porcelain or pottery (earthenware).
What is Porcelain?The technology for making hardpaste porcelain was not known in England (or France) at mid-18th century. Consequently, they made a softpaste porcelain more kin to glass than to true Chinese porcelain which employed china clay (kaolin) and china stone (petunse) and was fired in excess of 1350 degrees C. Great artistic expression was achieved in this difficult low-fired material in the earliest years of porcelain production. Porcelain differs from pottery (earthenware) in translucency and utility and in other respects.
by Raymond C.Yarbrough
The newest book on Bow porcelain is written by an inveterate collector who illustrates some rare objects and discusses them in their aesthetic context. The book has been hailed for its innovative look into this the largest, most interesting, most English of the fledgling European softpaste porcelain factories.
Among the rare objects are: the only known polychrome figure of Quin as Falstaff, a previously unrecorded plat menage of ten shell dishes, a very rare centerpiece in famille rose with original six cups, five white Muses with eleven other rare figures by the Muses Modeller, an apparently unique pair of Mongolian busts, and a bagpiper (puppeteer) with two marionettes en planchette, plus several other objects previously unpublished.
The author is concerned chiefly with the early sculptural products during Thomas Frye's brilliant leadership. A distinctive feature is the inquiry into the lives of men and women who influenced style and design at Bow. Along with Frye were David Garrick, William Hogarth, Henry Fielding, James Quin, Kitty Clive, Moses Mendez, George Frederick Handel, Henry Woodward, the Rev. Richard Knightly, plus others such as Thames watermen, or street criers, or entertainers.
The author was one of the founders of the San Francisco Ceramic Circle and its first president. He has been a member of the American Ceramic Circle and the English Ceramic Circle.
The size of the book is 8 X 11 inches, 154 pages with 175 illustrations plus 23 in color.
Previews of the Manuscript
Early releases of BOW PORCELAIN AND THE LONDON THEATRE: VIVITUR INGENIO have elicited the following comments:
"....It's fascinating and a most welcome corrective to the Meissen-biased thinking that has dominated. You have quite balanced out the Italian Comedy, and given the Bow figures their due independence! And of course, I'm enthralled by your theatrical stories and illustrations."
".....I cannot tell you how much pleasure your Bow and the London Theatre has given me ; it really would make a fascinating exhibition, particularly if it could have the prints, books, textiles, etc. to go with the china."
"....I have much enjoyed reading your paper and found many points of interest (as well as much useful bibliography) in your fresh approach to the subject."
"....I was unaware of the porcelain related to the (English playing cards) and will be fascinated to hear more."
"....Congratulations on the Bow Falstaff ......Yes, I think that all you conclude about the matter is essentially correct......"
"..... How beautiful and intelligent it is.....so significant an effort ... your Bow Porcelain and the London Theatre."
".....I would like to congratulate you on a superb piece of research. Your catalogue is a delight to read and brings forward significant new work on Bow. Your work on the London theatre is of great importance and will be referred to in my book."
The comments listed above were evoked from authoritative museum curators and other specialists. They are offered here anonymously because the statements were taken from correspondence and not solicited for publication. It is hoped that the reader will weigh each for its own burden of truth and need not depend on the prestigious names or offices of the ones who wrote them. The author is naturally grateful for the encomia and chooses to present them in lieu of a guest-written Forword.
For ordering information contact the author at the following address:
or fax 906-482-6765
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