Derby teapot-stand and covered sugar-bowl decorated in gold; also a coffee-mug with band of apple green and gold. This porcelain bears the puce mark are exquisitely modelled, the poise of the figures and the delicate sharpness of outline proclaiming an artist of high order.
Figures of the Bloor period are generally more heavily moulded and are characterised by large heads, out of proportion to the bodies.
Coffee was another skilful modeller employed at Derby, whose principal works were rustic groups and figures. Early plinths and stands were rococo in form, and were ornamented with scrolls in Chelsea and Bow style. Later on, natural objects, such as stumps of trees, shells, and rocky ground, were used.
The colours upon pieces of early Derby porcelain will be found to be paler in shade than those in use in later times. A favourite blue, known as turquoise, was at first of a delicate greenish tint, but later a full lapis-lazuli shade took its place.
Influence of Sevres-there is no doubt that many of the patterns used at this factory came originally from Sevres, especially those used in the decoration of services. These take the form of wreaths, bouquets, and sprigs of flowers, and foliage sometimes entwined with drapery. A border of pale turquoise, sometimes edged with fine gold tracery, is frequently met with as sole decoration upon fluted tea-services; it was also used in connection with small flowers scattered over the surface.
Upon some services a landscape in monochrome occupied the centre of plates and appeared in panels upon other articles. This was surrounded by a ground colour, generally in a pink shade of buff or in yellow, which was enclosed in a floral and gilt border. Coffee-cups were shaped as mugs, with handles finely gilt.
The "Chantilly Sprigg" is one of the best known designs used at Derby. This was composed of blue cornflowers, sometimes used singly with gold foliage, but generally in association with small pink flowers and foliage, and surrounding a central pink flower. Occasionally a red poppy takes the place of the pink flowers. The blue in this design was always painted by women. William Longden was employed upon the pattern for many years, and, we are told, gave himself great airs upon what he chose to consider his masterly execution of it. In an old book of Derby patterns the following directions occur: ' To hide any faults or spots on the china where these patterns do not come over, to paint over them only little roses or rosebuds." The artist is warned, however, not to cover too many spots in this way, as this may appear more disagreeable than half a dozen specks." These small roses are frequently found to have been painted upon the backs of plates and saucers to hide imperfections
The 'prentice Plate
Amongst Derby flower painters, William Billingsley holds first place. It was here that, as an apprentice, he painted that wonderful plate upon which a centre vase and rose are surrounded by a lovely border of exquisitely painted full-blown roses of every shape and form. This plate may now be seen in the museum at Derby, and is known as the 'prentice Plate. It is said that Billingsley first made his mark when, as a boy, an order was received at Derby for some articles to " match a Chelsea plate, with a single plant in a curious style from nature." The order was entrusted to Billingsley, and his work, we are told, " gave great satisfaction." William Billingsley, whose life began with such promise, is one of the most pathetic figures in the history of English ceramic art. He was, perhaps, our greatest potter. Certainly, the body which he invented in later years has never been surpassed; his flower-painting was unrivalled, and yet he was doomed to a life of wandering poverty and to troubles which would have broken the spirit of a stronger man.
Derby coffee-cup. beautifully painted with flowers and foliage in natural colours
Magnificent vases were a feature of the Derby factory. These are famous for their beautiful ground colours and the excellence of their painting. Blue, green, and yellow were generally used, but a wonderful claret colour became famous, and excited great admiration, both in this country and abroad. Flowers, birds, and landscapes were painted by celebrated artists, Zacharia Boreman and William Pegg being amongst their number.
Some beautiful and costly services were made at this factory, amongst them a dessert service for the then Prince of Wales, a service decorated with views for the Duke of Devonshire, and one painted with fruit subjects on a green ground for the Earl of Shrewsbury.
The best known Derby porcelain is that called Derby-japan. Of this there are many renderings, known as "Old," "Witches," "Grecian," "Rock," "Rose," "Exeter," and several others. This style of decoration was introduced by William Kean, and was afterwards copied at Worcester and by Spode and the Davenports. The colours are blue underglaze (always painted by women), green, red, and gold, for which men were employed. The design is always more or less Oriental in character, and it is said that it owed its great popularity to the fact that it was considered a "good candle-light pattern."
The first authentic mark is the combined D and anchor of the Chelsea-derby period (1770-1784), which was used at both places. A jewelled crown was added in 1773. This is found above the anchor, or without the anchor and above the D. About 1782, two crossed batons and six dots were added under the crown, and the D, or a monogram, D K, signifying Duesbury and Kean. Chinese stands and tables in underglaze blue are found as marks on some pieces of Derby porcelain. The D alone occurs upon earl), pieces. All these marks may be found in gold, blue, puce, brown, green, or black. The mark in red belongs to the later period, and the word Bloor, enclosed in a circular or oval strap, was used from 1811 till 1844, after which time a Roman D, surmounted by a crown, came into use.
The Costliness of Derby China
Derby china has always been costly. Dr. Johnson remarked on his famous visit to the works in 1777 that he could buy silver for the price that was then charged for good specimens of this porcelain, and things have not altered very much since his day. Genuine examples of a good period command large prices when a collection comes to the hammer. For instance, at the sale of the Barry Barry china, a service of this porcelain realised nearly £500; and at the Kidd sale, in 1903, sums varying from three and a half to fifteen guineas each were easily obtained for such pieces as plates and dishes.
Specimens, however, of the Bloor period are comparatively cheap, for this period was one of undoubted decline as regards artistic value. The object of the manufacturers seems to have been that of a large output of specimens rather than the production of beautiful work, and the inevitable Nemesis of loss of reputation and inferior custom followed this short-sighted and suicidal policy.
Marks found on Derby porcelain. The first authentic Derby mark is the combined D and anchor of the Chelsea-derby period. 1770-1784