Billingsley s style From Mr. Alex. Duncan's collection
Mr. Robert Drane, the greatest authority upon Nantgarw and Swansea porcelain, uses these words in describing Billingsley's work in Mr. Turner's book, "The Ceramics of Swansea and Nantgarw" : "The petals of the tulip have the very sap of life in them. The rose has the soft bloom of youth and floats into being, not by the agency of his brush, but by the painter's volition. . . . No man in the history of porcelain ever painted roses as this man did !"
Thomas Pardoe, who was also employed at Nantgarw, copied Billingsley's style; but whereas Billingsley's rose is painted in broad, soft washes with no hard lines, and is the colour of a freshly gathered flower, Pardoe's shows hard lines of shading, and is the colour of one which has been in water and has faded. Then Billingsley's butterfly is instinct with life, whilst Pardoe's is a mere suggestion of this insect, and is frequently incorrect in drawing.
William Weston Young, who helped to finance these works, painted his flowers upon Nantgarw porcelain as botanical specimens in the style adopted by him upon the Swansea. "opaque china" described in another article.
Latham painted sprays and groups of natural flowers, and frequently one flower - a rose, or it may be a large tulip - protrudes beyond the rest of the group. W. H. Pardoe painted flowers and birds upon branches. Another painter at Nantgarw treated flowers in the French style. His work bears a strong resemblance to that of Sevres, but his name is unknown.
The owners of country houses in Monmouth, Brecon, and Glamorgan financially assited Billingsley, and it is in these houses that a large quantity of the finest Nantgarw porcelain may still be seen. It is said that the county families were so anxious to secure this beautiful porcelain that they waited in their carriages at the oven's mouth till it was cool enough to be carried away.
A great deal of Nantgarw porcelain was bought in the white by Mortlock, and was painted by artists in London. Such pieces are generally more elaborate in decoration than those painted at the factory, and some might be described as purely cabinet specimens.
Some Nantgarw service's were decorated with scroll patterns, flowers and other devices moulded in low relief, and used as borders. These remained in the white, flowers being painted in the centre and upon and between this raised border; but as the same form of ornamentation was used at Swansea, Coalport, and by Spode, it must not be looked upon as a means to identification.
Coffee-cups were shaped as mugs, and were sometimes supported on three feet, the handles were of an ornate description, placed high upon the rim of the cup. Dessert-dishes frequently had a fan-shaped handle at one end only, and sucriers were oval in shape, with double gilt handles rising above the rim.
The illustration below gives a very good idea of the decoration found upon Nantgarw porcelain, and of some of the shapes used. The round plate in the centre is painted with roses and other flowers and foliage, and is the work of William Billingsley.
The dessert-dish is a specimen painted in London, while the coffee-cups and saucers at either side of this were the work of Thomas Pardoe. The large dishes to right and left of the Billingsley plate are painted by artists unknown, the small cup and saucer and coffee-mug on the same line being the work of W. H. Pardoe, who is also responsible for the coffee-mug below, painted with birds. In the centre at the bottom is a beautiful cup and saucer painted with flowers and foliage by Thomas Pardoe. The names of the London artists who decorated the remaining pieces are unknown.
After Billingsley finally left Nantgarw, in 1819, the works were carried on by William
Weston Young till 1822; but of the porcelain made at this period nothing is at present known.
Some typical specimens of Nantgarw porcelain. This ware is very glassy and translucent, and its decoration generally takes the form of flowers, roses, auriculas, and tulips being the most popular
From Mr. Alex. Duncan's collection
It will be readily understood that a mark upon this porcelain cannot be looked upon as a guarantee that the piece so marked was a finished product of the Nantgarw factory. Indeed, it would seem that the mark was used equally upon porcelain sold in the white and decorated in London and other places and upon pieces which were decorated at the factory.
As at other places, a proportion of the porcelain made here was unmarked. The word "Nantgarw" printed in red is a mark to which connoisseurs give a wide berth. A rare mark sometimes met with is a crown, under which is the word "Nantgarw," both being painted in puce.
Marks found upon genuine Nantgarw porcelain. The most usually seen is that marked 2 in the illustration. Much of this ware was unmarked
The name Nantgarw printed in large gold letters, surrounded by a line, is also a somewhat uncommon mark, the one most frequently used being the name Nant-garw, impressed in the paste under which appear the letters C.w. These letters were at one time said to denote Billingsley's son-in-law, but as his name was Samuel Walker, the story was a bad one. In these days they are taken as meaning "China Works," which seems much more likely.