This is a beautiful Chelsea-Derby figure of a lady with a lute made in circa 1770. This figure had been issued previously by Derby (in the early 1760s) and this is a re-issue from the early period when Derby had bought the Chelsea factory. The figure was made in Derby but then decorated in Chelsea, which is visible from the delicate yet fresh colors and the quality of the porcelain, enhanced by the recent incorporation of the previously secret Chelsea porcelain recipe. The lady is one half of a set; originally she had a male companion playing the bag pipes.
The Crown Derby Porcelain factory has its roots in the late 1740s, when André Planché, a Walloon Huguenot refugee, started making simple porcelain toys shaped like animals. Local entrepreneur William Duysbury took an interest in his skills and worked with him to improve the quality of his wonderfully shaped items. Together they laid the foundations of what would become a very refined tradition of figure making at Derby. In 1769 Duysbury bought up the bankrupted Chelsea factory, incorporating their reputation for high quality figures and tableware; this combination of traditions, porcelain making skills, sophisticated clients and available work people created one of the best porcelain factories of the 18th and 19th centuries, which after many ups and downs is still operative today.
This figure is beautifully shaped with fine detail in the way the clothes fall, the hands play the lute, and the expression on the faces of both the lady and the lamb; the lady looking quite serious, the lamb thoughtful and slightly melancholic. The lady is seated against a simple bocage that is just there to give the figure support and prevent it from collapsing in the kiln; the previous versions of this figure had a large overhead bocage.
These figures were used to adorn the dinner table when dessert was served; groups of figures served to express something about the host, the guests, or to direct the conversation. One popular topic was an array of romantic rural characters, and this shepherdess is from one such series. A beautiful young shepherdess stands on a Rococo scroll, slightly stooping down to a lamb that is stood up to her in loving embrace, a flower garland around its neck. The figure looks like it previously had a shield of bocage behind its back, but this has either never been attached or it disappeared with the breaking point neatly painted and glazed over.
The figure has an incised "N" at the bottom, as well as three stilt marks from firing. There also is an incised "2".
An example of this figure can be seen in plate 292, page 352 of Peter Bradshaw's "Derby Porcelain Figures 1750-1848". It is Derby figure no. 307.
Condition report: The figure is in beautiful condition with no visible damage or wear. The plume on the head and the head of the lute have been replaced and the veil has been repaired, but this has been done to a very high standard and is not visible without UV light. The colors are fresh and natural and the gilding is all intact.
Antique British porcelain is never perfect. Kilns were fired on coal in the 1800s, and this meant that china from that period can have some firing specks from flying particles. British makers were also known for their experimentation, and sometimes this resulted in technically imperfect results. Due to the shrinkage in the kiln, items can have small firing lines or develop crazing over time, which should not be seen as damage but as an imperfection of the maker's recipes, probably unknown at the time of making. Items have often been used for many years and can have normal signs of wear, and gilt can have signs of slight disintegration even if never handled. I will reflect any damage, repairs, obvious stress marks, crazing or heavy wear in the item description but some minor scratches, nicks, stains and gilt disintegration can be normal for vintage items and need to be taken into account.
There is widespread confusion on the internet about the difference between chips and nicks, or hairlines and cracks. I will reflect any damage as truthfully as I can, i.e. a nick is a tiny bit of damage smaller than 1mm and a chip is something you can easily see with the eye; a glazing line is a break in the glazing only; hairline is extremely tight and/or superficial and not picked up by the finger; and a crack is obvious both to the eye and the finger.
Dimensions: Height 17cm (6.75").